MY TOP BL MANGA OF 2021
Restart – Harada
A one shot about two fuck buddies and their complicated relationship.
Restart is a one-shot by Harada whose style I’m getting more familiar with. Like One Room Angel, this features MCs who are typically outside society.
Miki and his unnamed lover started off as a “make-believe relationship” or as Miki puts it “fashion relationship“. Then he dashes off to Thailand with the intent to become a woman because he wanted to bear children. He gets hit by a tuk-tuk and returns home with a faulty memory.
His lover started thinking deeply about their relationship when Miki got excited about Japan’s new same-sex partnership law. It was sweet how Miki’s lover takes care of him. He tries to maintain the carefree nature of their relationship and I love that he lets Miki be himself.
This is a deeply nuanced psychological story about homosexual relationships and being different. The art almost has an unfinished look to it. The characters are dressed with edgy fashion, tattoos and piercings, reflecting their status as outsiders. The two are seen holding hands in public and we see the reactions from other people.
The mangaka’s stories usually has shades of angst, sadness and bittersweet endings. This one is no different but has a lighter, more hopeful feel to it because the two lovers were happy and still together (and alive) till the end.
MANGA: One Room Angel
One Room Angel – Harada
When one door shuts, another opens.
There are a lot of things that Kouki doesn’t have – no hobbies, no friends, no lover, no stable job, and no will to live. So when a random tussle with some kids gets him stabbed, he thinks maybe this is finally his ticket out of this crappy life. But just as he’s about to pass out he sees a beautiful “angel”… How is Kouki supposed to cope when less than a month later, he’s mysteriously healed, has astronomical bills to pay, and suddenly has the same beautiful angel as his amnesiac roommate?
This is the kind of manga where you know it would end bittersweetly once the realizations set in to twist the story. I never saw them coming.
One Room Angel is the story of down-on-his-luck, perpetually penniless, part-timer Kouki who lives in a one room studio apartment. He has a scary face, fabulously messy hair (love his hair!) and a prison record that made it hard for him to land a decent job.
One day, Kouki was stabbed and as he lay dying, he saw an angel descending from the sky. Later on, he saw the same angel appear in his room. Thinking this is the luckiest he could ever get, he took the angel in and tried his best to make him comfortable.
The angel turned out to be blunt and bratty but I love that he never failed to point out that Kouki is a good person. Especially during moments when the man was being too hard on himself. Despite his intimidating appearance, Kouki struggled with his self-esteem. He is also dealing with guilt about his past and how his brother was badly injured and ended up as a yakuza because of him.
Another unconventional character here was Arisa, Kouki’s mother. She is impossibly youthful and very beautiful but has the personality of a delinquent. She runs a bar. She’s tough but she cares. She sometimes sends Kouki money when he’s down to his last penny.
This is one of the purest, gentlest, slow-burn love story out there. I don’t even think of it as romance. It is really about two disparate individuals who shared small kindnesses, developed a strong connection and saw the good other people overlooked. It also a deeply nuanced story about one man’s eye-opening journey to find things worth living for.
Yes, this might end in tears but luckily, we are gifted with chapter 8.