“Bokura no Negai” by Yamamoto Kotetsuko
okay so I’m way behind every other bl/Yamamoto Kotetsuko fan in reading this, but I finally got around to rereading all of Mankai Darling (…and some other Yamamoto Kotetsuko works in the process) and then moving on to Bokura no Negai. Admittedly I’ve been putting off reading this because it’s tagged as a tragedy, and if there’s a sub-genre of bl I hate it’s ‘tragedy’. But I honestly believe tagging this as ‘tragedy’ is deceptive—which I’ll talk about later on—and I’m glad I gave this one a chance because I’m admittedly really enjoying the slow-build development with both the characters as well as their relationships.
the story revolves around four brothers who only have each other. Ryou, the oldest brother, joined the family through marriage—a hard working boy who has a tendency to shoulder too much by himself. Then there is Kento, the second eldest, who has a bewitchingly pretty face that he uses to hide nearly his entire self. The third son is Hayato, serious and brilliantly smart; he wants nothing more than to be able to help his older brothers support the family and to become someone they can rely on. Finally there is the youngest, Masato, small and innocent and upbeat.
along with those four there are also important relationships in their lives. Namely Masato’s good childhood friend, the bizarrely tall and mature (for his age) Take. It seems like a fairly innocent set-up—five young men trying to make a place for themselves in the world. But life would only be too kind if that’s all it was. Their love lives are convoluted and unsure and, in some cases, taboo. Their identities and preferences aren’t always what one would consider ‘normal’. But first and foremost, the family you have and the bonds you build will be what hold you up when it seems like everything else is about to come crumbling down.
anyway, quick warning: from this point on the review will contain SPOILERS!!! That’s probably not a huge deal since, like I said earlier, most people have read the series before me anyway. Also I admittedly feel none of the ‘spoilers’ are really spoilers anyway since they’re pretty obvious from the beginning. Well… except maybe Take lol I don’t know if I saw that coming from the very beginning.
anyway, the relationships are really what make this story—the familial love between the four brothers, the platonic affection of the friends and coworkers they meet along the way, and lastly the romantic attachments they find themselves entangled in. Ryou, Kento, Hayato, and Masato are brothers but Hayato is in love with Ryou; Kento is already an adult but he finds himself the subject of his youngest brother Masato’s best friend’s affections; Kento is a closeted gay man who carries a complex about his sexuality until he slowly comes out to his family and finds acceptance in himself; Hayato was insecure and simultaneously running from his feelings while secretly nurturing them until he got a job with two people who just aren’t the type to stay at an arm’s length.
all these relationships run together to build a very lovely, warm, bittersweet series that’s essentially a slice-of-life about love and growing up in a world where you and the people you love don’t really fit the mold. Which is exactly why I think labeling it ‘tragedy’ is a bit much—when reading comments on the series so many people noted that the tragedy aspect ‘moved too fast’ and ‘didn’t hold much punch’ but I really don’t think the intention was for there to be that much emphasis on the parents’ deaths—more just to highlight the fact that they’re now gone. It was an important factor strictly in that it showed how quickly it was going to force the boys to grow up, how they didn’t even get a chance to adjust to being a new family before they lost the ones leading them into it. So if you haven’t read Bokura no Negai yet, please don’t do it expecting a legitimate ‘tragic’ story—it’ll do both you and the story itself somewhat of a disservice. Because nothing can ruin a story more pitifully than incorrect assumptions and expectations.
as for my personal feelings and thoughts on the series, I’m sincerely enjoying it more than I expected to. As soon as I was past expecting a tragedy, it started feeling more like a proper Yamamoto Kotetsuko story: a bit silly, a bit sweet, and very heartwarming. There are a lot of bittersweet moments in this story—particularly because of the two main romantic relationships and their very taboo connotations—but it’s nothing too horrible or heart-wrenching. There haven’t been any moments where I’ve been emotionally distressed or nervous to keep reading. It is somewhat of a deep story, but Yamamoto still tries her best to keep it moderately lighthearted.
as I was saying on twitter earlier, I really expected this story to be more ‘family-friendly’ lol. Well, as ‘family friendly’ as comics that often involved sexual content would ever be. But considering both the romantic relationships are very taboo, and both things that would often squick people, this was definitely not what I was expecting a story about a family of young men to be about. I was expecting maybe the love between the step brother and one of his step siblings. But the story of Take and Kento and their illicit underage love affair—Take being thirteen iirc when they initially start dating, while Kento has already graduated high school—was very much unexpected.
I must say, though, that it doesn’t feel as uncomfortable as one would expect. Possibly because of Take’s incredible stature, or possibly because he’s very mature for his age. (There’s an underlying but barely-touched backstory of his parents being quite neglectful of him.) Plus Kento vows plenty early on that he has absolutely no intention of touching Take sexually until Take is at least in high school. Though they do kiss and hold each other intimately regardless, which may make some uncomfortable. So take note of that.
overall I think the relationships in the series are handled very nicely. It still has a very ‘bl’ feel to it, but none of the couples just ‘snap’ into place like they often would in other quicker-build stories. It is treated as very, very strange for Hayato be be in love with Ryou, and Hayato goes through a terrible amount of anxiety and self-loathing and confusion because of his feelings. Kento as well—he initially rejects and pushes Take away (as it’s Take who approaches him first) not only because of his own insecurities about his sexuality but also because Take is so absurdly young that the idea of dating him—regardless of his height and maturity level—is unthinkable.
plus even the non-romantic relationships are handled so wonderfully. Even though I’m truly enjoying both of the main couples, my favorite relationship and scene is probably Kento and Ryou—when Kento came out to Ryou and Ryou cried because he could feel Kento’s pain but didn’t know what he could do to help him, that was probably the most beautiful moment. Followed then by Kento realizing how much lighter to felt to be able to open up about his sexuality with someone he cared about. Followed by their little secret mini-party where they celebrated Kento’s coming out with only the two of them knowing. Little details like that are what I live for in bl, even if they don’t have much at all to do with the actual romance plots.
and I haven’t even mentioned the characters from Mankai Darling yet, Manager and Takashi. Admittedly whenever I find out characters from other series cameo in a new series, I expect it to be pretty cheesy and unnecessary. But I live for all of Hayato’s interactions with Manager—how Hayato tries to hide so much but Manager can see right through him. The scenes where they’re together are often my favorites.
(plus I love Takashi and Manager so it’s fun to see more of them!)
the sexual aspects of the series are still pretty muted, since neither of the couples really can have sex yet—as of chapter twelve (which is where the scanlation is up to—I’m not sure about the story itself) Ryou and Hayato are not together at all (yet? hopefully?) and while Kento and Take are dating the age issue is still going strong and they still have a year in-story before Kento would be comfortable crossing that line. So the only sexual content thus-far has been some masturbation scenes and some scenes with Kento and non-romantic partners.
overall, I do recommend this story. Yeah, there are a lot of aspects to the plot and relationships that might be uncomfortable for some to stomach, but I personally feel they’re handled quite respectfully and are still worth a shot. I’m already pretty emotionally invested in both couples, so it’ll be a bit distressing for me if either relationship doesn’t have a happy ending lol. Fingers crossed. ;;