[REVIEW] Tsuki no Namae by Haruno Mami

Tsuki no Namae (月の名前) by Haruno Mami (春野まみ)

Japanese publisher: Tokuma Shoten, 1997

Warnings: jailbait protagonist and two main characters with annoyingly similar names.

N.B.This review is based on the complex Chinese translation of the manga《月亮的名字》published by 東立出版社 in 1999. Please also note that I don’t have furigana available for the characters’ names, so the romanization may be incorrect.

Premise

After the death of his parents at a young age, Izumi is taken in by a family friend and the man’s twin sons, Tsukasa and Ibuki. Often plagued by nightmares, Izumi’s sole consolation are the precious nights when Tsukasa sits by his bedside until he falls asleep. As the years pass, Izumi’s feelings for Tsukasa evolve into romantic love, but will Tsukasa ever unbend enough to respond to him?

Commentary

If I had bothered to read the blurb of this manga I would never have read it, as it contains two of my least favourite manga tropes: the stepbrothers-become-lovers scenario and ― shudder ―  an angst-ridden love triangle. Not only that, two of the main characters are twins with predictably contrasting personalities. Tsukasa is a salaryman and a stick in the mud, plagued by his feelings of responsibility towards Izumi while simultaneously trying to repress the secret passion he harbours for the teenager. His twin brother is gregarious and easygoing. And, predictably, also hopelessly in love with Izumi. But for all the ill-concealed infatuation and regret saturating the trio’s house, Tsuki no Namae’s cover leaves the reader with no doubt as to the final pairing.

As it happened, I didn’t read the blurb, and I did read the manga. And the strangest thing was, I ended up liking it ― and not just because of its retro 90s yaoi charm. I am a total sucker for uptight, anal retentive characters rendered helpless in the face of love. Despite Ibuki’s likeable and affectionate personality, it is the officious nagger Tsukasa who Izumi truly loves. Go figure. Actually, most surprising was the fact that Ibuki, the loser in love, gets nothing close to a satisfying story resolution. No convenient new love interest pops up at the last minute to sweep him off his feet, and in the end he becomes semi-estranged from his twin brother and Izumi. In this way, any readers who sympathised with Ibuki during the course of the story will no doubt be disappointed by its conclusion. (Personally, I didn’t care that much).

As with many BL manga of this period, the sex is minimal; it’s actually confined to one page, or strictly speaking, one rather blurry panel. But as far as I’m concerned the fade-to-black technique suited the manga’s delicate style and relationship-centred storytelling.

Recommended? Yes, but I enjoy restrained 90s yaoi and stern semes ― if neither of these things float your boat, this manga will probably be a yellow-paged disappointment.

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