Kinukawa Yuusuke is a gay patissier and part-time piano player. Sometimes he plays in a small jazz club at night. He notices one of a group of regulars, a young yakuza guy named Fukami Hikaru glancing his way often and ends up as Fukami's private piano instructor. Friday nights he'll go there and teach Fukami piano. Slowly Yuusuke gets drawn into Fukami's dark and dangerous Yakuza lifestyle. He falls in love, but after traumatic experiences in prison Fukami has ended a homophobe. Yuusuke decides that he wants to be around him though - even if it is just to play piano for him.
Negai Kanae Tamae
had been sitting on my waiting bench for a long time and I was always reluctant to read it. For one reason it's tagged as drama and I am always afraid to read a manga that could end badly - or even just not happy. I really want happy ends. The couple can struggle, bad things can happen - no problem but I don't like it if the couple I want to be together doesn't get to be together at the end - and I am downright afraid of sad ends with dead characters and tragedy all over. Another reason that made me initially not too keen on this is that the art is not to my taste. I'm sooo glad, that I was brave enough to read it ... and to everyone who is hesitating for the same reasons - get to it!
Negai KT serves one of my favourite kinks - the disturbed personality kink. The Yakuza boss Fukami is an emotionally cold man with the cheerful disposition and social abilities of a potential mass murderer. He's cold, blunt, violent, grumpy and bad tempered - basically he ought to have been admitted to a mental institution in chapter 2. Lucky for me though that the mangaka gave him free reigns and let him act on his mental disturbance to his hearts content. Fukami has been in prison and has been raped there, which left him behind with somewhat more than the normal abhorrence of gays. He's doing drugs and using women with the same consideration that normal people give their toothbrush - my favourite type of guy actually. His character is deep enough to lose your way in the labyrinth of his heart. He's strong, he's hurt, he's scared, he's tattoed, he's beautiful - I can't help but feel for him. While occasionally there's a short scene showing Fukami alone, we are never inside his head, thus the mangaka preserves a big portion of his mysterious side throughout the story. But he's more than just the broken, cold guy, he's also cute at times, funny and can have an infectious smile. It's like underneath the messed-up Fukami there's a second Fukami who shows us what he could be. He has the potential to flip and go berserk, but he also has the potential to make it on the "good side".
Yuusuke on the other side is a gay who's out of the closet more or less. We see most of the story from his side. He is the only one who's thoughts we can read over the storyline. Apart from being gay and falling seemingly at random for a yakuza in his audience he seems pretty much your average guy - the man who lives down your road, the guy who works at the shop you visit. He's a good guy, well-meaning and has a caring, playful disposition and a likeable character. His seeming mediocrity and friendliness make it easy to connect with him or to put yourself in his shoes. Yuusuke sheds part of this averageness, he grows within the story and reveals sides to his character that he himself had not thought could be actually part of him. So he's very loyal and can be surprisingly gutsy - definitely not a weak character.
Actually the art is really not really my thing, it's mediocre, sometimes even wooden or flat and has an outdated feeling. There's one happy exception: Fukami. Fukami is a very good character - even in the design, he looks attractive and you get to understand why people feel attracted to him despite his disagreeable character. Other than that I can't really find anything good or even outstanding to say about the artwork other than that I have seen far worse and that it is very straight forward. It did not matter so much to me, it was the story and the characters that drew me in here. Nishida Higashi's mangas almost always apply to our club rules. She creates yaoi with men, her characters are strong, sometimes like here the uke is even stronger than the seme. She spins great tales of love and fate, she makes characters that can compell you ... but she isn't exactly the worlds greatest artist. I still came to love her and count her amongst my auto-read mangakas, because her stories are just too good to miss.
There's sex in Kanae NT, this is definitely yaoi - don't doubt it, even if you have to wait for it. But don't be too surprised that a lot of the sex you see in this series involves the kind between a man and a woman (or two). Fukami constantly wants to emphasize how very straight he is, he even listens to his underling Kudo's business reports while having sex with a woman and after he's finished he kindly offers her to a red-faced, sweating Kudo. There's also sex between men in NKT, some of that of the non-consensual variety. And even the gay sex between the main couple is no happy sex, but feels dark, more like an obsession, not like something they enjoy, more like an act of desperation or need. Oh ... and this is a manga were you can't be sure about who's uke and who's seme ... or if you are sure of it maybe you'll be shocked (or maybe you guessed right) ... the roles definitely don't fulfill the usual stereotypes of the genre. And Negai KT has in my opinion one of the un-girliest uke ever!
The story is dark and has painful moments, but there's lots more to it than just drama and angst. It has adventure, romance, slice-of-life ….. and even short glimpses of comedy (like Fukami in the supermarket or when he visits Sano in hospital). The plot is captivating and absolutely not foreseeable. You don't know what will happen. You don't know how the story will go or even end.
The end is slightly open to interpretation, some parts of how the story ends are not fully spelled out. Whatever way, while this is by no means a comfortable and light-hearted, pink-dyed happy-end, it's still way more positive than I had expected.
This review was written as a of the "Anti Girly Uke Yaoi Club" special read feature. Go check out the original review there and join the ensuing manga discussion.