By a stroke of fate, today is both International Read Comics in Public Day and the release date of a bunch of new Yamane Ayano works, including the novel Finder no Rakuin. So in honour of Yamane-sensei and graphic novels in general, I’ve decided to do a recap of the special book released in 2007 for her lesser-known manga, Ikoku Irokoi Romantan (published in English as ‘A Foreign Love Affair’). My copy of the book is a Chinese translation I bought in a Taipei manga store specialising in BL. The book contains one page of character profiles, a recap of the tankoubon’s story, a 24-page comic and an atogaki.
Starting immediately where the manga left off, Ranmaru wakes up in Val’s Italian mansion to find a strange man leaning over him, apparently infatuated by his appearance. The besotted stranger turns out to be Val’s father, Carlo — who is even more of a Japanophile than Val! Carlo has also brought Kaoru, Ranmaru’s wife, along with him. (I love Kaoru, and I really wish Yamane Ayano would write more kick-ass female characters like her in this male-dominated genre).
It seems Ranmaru has once again deserted his entourage in order to be with Val. Now that he’s been tracked down, his crying underlings demand to know if the rumours are true — that Ranmaru plans to desert his position as the heir to the Ohmi yakuza clan in order to be with a man!
Realising the potential for international fallout if he admits his relationship with Val, Ranmaru laughs the idea off — and Val backs him up with surprising composure. Still, Ranmaru feels terrible for the deception, believing that lying is an ‘unmanly’ trait (and, really, he also feels shitty for denying his true feelings and roping Val into his lie).
Ranmaru wants to leave immediately in the wake of this awkward confrontation, and rebuffs Val’s attempts to make him stay. The perceptive Kaoru demands they stay the night at Val’s place, and Ranmaru locks himself away in a room while Val and his father play hosts to Ranmaru’s rambunctious entourage (along with their political rival Gondoh, who is in love with Kaoru).
Alone in a room, Ranmaru begins to wish he’d never come to Italy and hopes to return to Japan as soon as possible. His morose thoughts are interrupted by Carlo, who remarks that Ranmaru looks lonely. He advises the younger man to be honest with himself, and that if he leaves Italy with regrets, then he will be unable to return in the future. Unfortunately, Carlo voids his own good advice by succumbing to his lust as he attempts to disrobe Ranmaru.
Ranmaru flees (right past Val, who had come to check on him), and picks up Carlo’s own souvenir katana. He threatens to attack if Carlo comes any closer and, spotting a very drunk Gondoh nearby, asks for backup. But as the half-naked Ranmaru grabs him, Gondoh is struck by a spontaneous (and highly inebriated) gay crisis. Tugged between Val, Carlo and Gondoh, Ranmaru snaps. He bursts through the doors onto the nearest balcony and jumps onto the railing, announcing to Val that he can’t turn his back on his family and that his and Val’s worlds are too far apart.
Val quickly agrees, desperate to get Ranmaru away from a three-storey drop to the ground. But before he can grab hold of the younger man, Ranmaru’s foot slips and he goes plummeting off the balcony. Val leaps after him.
Ranmaru survives with minor injures, but Val suffers a broken arm. Patching him up, Kaoru tells Ranmaru that although they’re married, she doesn’t care whom he romances — theirs is a political union, after all. But no matter his feelings, he still can’t just give away his position in the Ohmi clan. In his mind, Ranmaru knows things can’t go on as they have been.
Ranmaru visits the bedridden Val and apologises for his reckless stupidity. He says that although he wants to stay behind and look after Val, he must nevertheless return to Japan as soon as possible. He also reasons that staying by Val’s side would only cause the other man trouble.
Val remarks that this soft speech is out of character for Ranmaru, but that he shouldn’t worry — Ranmaru can return home in peace because Val will be able to forget him. Ranmaru lowers his head and bids Val a gloomy goodbye. But almost at the door, Ranmaru is overcome by a surge of anger. He storms back to Val and grabs him by the collar, saying that Val must be kidding if he thinks Ranmaru will just walk away after everything that’s happened between them.
Val admits that he was lying about being able to forget Ranmaru, and confesses his love. In truth, he says, he doesn’t want to let Ranmaru go at all — he knows that no matter how long he lives, he will never meet anyone else like Ranmaru. (Cue smex). Afterwards, Val tells Ranmaru that no matter how far apart they are in the world, Ranmaru will remain in his heart.
3 months later, Ranmaru is back in Japan, drinking alone in a bar. But not for long; Val appears in his uniform, complimenting Ranmaru on his choice of watering hole. Ranmaru smiles back at him. In this way, it seems their romance will continue and remain strong, meeting each other in ports around the world.
For such a short comic, Yamane Ayano manages to pack in a lot of plot, humour, angst and romance. I honestly consider this to be Ikoku Irokoi Romantan’s epilogue, as it posits a much more realistic future arrangement for Val and Ranmaru than we’re left with at the tankoubon’s conclusion. For any fans of A Foreign Love Affair, I can’t imagine this special book being anything but a satisfying addition to any collection of Yamane-sensei’s works.