Tatsumi Kaiya fans will find a lot to like. Those who have previously dismissed her works may want to take another look.
Writer/Artist: Tatsumi Kaiya
What They Say
I first met the cool and handsome Narusawa in college. Interested, I approached and said to him half-jokingly,"Let me do you next time." ...that very same day, he was the one who ended up doing me! Then, just when I thought I'd talked myself into believing ours was a purely physical relationship, I came to a sudden realization-I was in love with Narusawa! But I'm always the one calling to see him, and never the other way around. The booty-call has been our only connection-so how can I tell him,"I love you," now...?! -Kurata
Tatsumi Kaiya's restrained artwork has served her low key approach in the past by never allowing her environments to overtake her characters or the small things that influence their lives . However, there is a bit of a change here with more sense of place, more elaboration in detail. None of this detracts from the main focus of Kaiya's stories, which happens to be the interactions of her characters, and readers who previously found the graphics level too sparse might find this more satisfying. The text reads well with subbed sfx. Only one instance of clumsy English halted the reading flow.
In this group of short stories, one of the characters makes the comment that "moments of happiness don't necessarily have to be dramatic". Much the same thing can be said about my reaction to this collection. I've come to appreciate Tatsumi Kaiya's low-key approach, and the lack of histrionics only makes the issues that these romantic couples confront more accessible, sincere and serious. The stories in this volume, with one very notable exception, continue in her signature style of letting small moments and events carry great personal weight for her characters.
The stories include the nicely introspective "Physical Attraction" which shows the misdirection of a couple whose only relationship is a sexual one, and "February Rain" , a story about a man who finds that life off the streets can be just as mean as on them when he rescues a young man who procedes to take over his apartment and his life. "Let Me Knock on the Same Door", a story of a game designer whose poor prospects are overturned by a graphics designer in love with him, is probably the weakest of the lot. It's not a bad story, but its low key vibe reads more as low pulse, and I was wishing for just a bit more meaningful interaction between Imamura and Toyahara. No such problems with "Anti-Dramatic", a story that delivers on its name. This tale of the everday give-and-take of an established couple demonstrates that even when we readers reach "The End" in the story of a couple's initial bonding, there can be quite a bit of story left.
While "Physical Attraction", "Loving Attraction" and "Anti-Dramatic" give us Tatsumi Kaiya at her best and most typical, the real gem of this collection is the story that is a departure in both scope and tension and the one that closes out the volume, "Cooled Passions". In most of her stories here, with the exception of "February Rain, the events that drive the story do not exceed the timeline of the story itself. This story of a one-time foreign ministry employee, now investigative reporter, and his interaction with a politician and Diet member with whom he has had an unspecified relationship in the past is confrontational with hints of past political transgressions and murder. There is non-consensual sex here; it's aggressive with overtones of hatred and revenge. And the reaction to said act is even more surprising! Not having the back story and motivation for all that transpires is at once a fault and a virtue for the reader is left absorbed and engaged by the situation and its unknowns, yet unfulfilled by the abrupt ending. This is one story I'd love to see Tatsumi Kaiya revisit.
The best Tatsumi Kaiya collection released so far and fans will not be disappointed. Those who may have failed to appreciate Kaiya's approach in previous works may want to take a look at this one for it is her representative best.