There're many reasons 28 year old performer Tagashira Shinichi wants to die, but mostly, he's just stopped caring about life. Then he bumps into Yuu, a former classmate and friend. When Yuu pushes Shinichi to see his little brother again things get more complicated. Can Shinichi find something to live for?
“You should go outside and try looking at the sky - it’s far away”
With these words Shinichi receives a rude awakening that spells the end of his youth. It’s when he arrives at that point in life when he realizes that no matter how hard he tries reaching for the sky, he may never be able to touch it.
Failing to achieve one’s dreams, accepting that fact, and moving on with life. This is a common everyday story, but there’s not much fiction around this subject. Possibly because it’s too close to home for so many people that it would
make an uncomfortable read. Or maybe because of the notion that it’s morally wrong to discourage others from their dreams, no matter how far-fetched they seem, or that those failures shouldn’t be glorified by fictionalizing them. ‘The End of Youth', originally a light novel written by Konohara Narise with illustrations by Miyamoto Kano and later adapted into manga form by Miyamoto-sensei herself, is one of the rare works that deals with this subject.
Romance takes a back seat in this unusual BL manga. Instead, the focus is on the turmoil Shinichi faces as he struggles to fulfill his decade-long dream of becoming a famous musician. A dream for which he abandoned his friends and love. A dream that he stubbornly pursues, even while it leaves him feeling empty and wishing to die. To make matters worse, he is forced to face his past when he meets Yuu and Chikara, whom he had betrayed years before. While Yuu is more than happy to meet Shinichi, Chikara is not about to let bygones be bygones.
This blast from the past gets Shinichi into reminiscing mode, and correspondingly, the narration shifts back and forth between the present and ten years earlier when the characters were high school students. It’s a style that works well to emphasize the contrast between Shinichi’s current desolation and his happy, hopeful youth when everything seemed attainable. For Shinichi, this puts the reality of his situation into a more absolute perspective - he’s essentially a failure as a musician.
Yet he obstinately refuses to let go of that dream. Maybe it’s admirable that he’s really tenacious in chasing after his dreams, but I found it frustrating. Even more so when details about his relationship with Chikara came to light. By then, it was obvious to me that it wasn’t music he was chasing, but salvation. He seems to have some deep-seated belief that by achieving fame, he could somehow justify his cruel betrayal of Chikara.
That tenacity may be Shinichi’s biggest redeeming quality; after all, his hubris and self-serving personality makes it hard to like him. He does, however, come across as a real person trying to make it in this world - fragile and insecure, trying to remain optimistic despite feeling the weight of his futile endeavors. His flaws and his dark and sometimes ugly thoughts are reflected in his inner monologue, but there is no malice in him, which is why it’s hard to hate him for doing what he does to Chikara. While the story is about Shinichi, Chikara’s complexity makes him stand out as a character. While he’s usually self-centered, overbearing, tactless, inconsiderate and uncouth, he turns docile and clingy in front of Shinichi. In contrast to those flaws, there’s a gentle, pure, honest side to him that draws Shinichi towards him. This curious attraction gives the impression that their relationship is not one borne out of love, but rather the need to fill the void in their lives.
Miyamoto Kano’s drawing style is perfect for this story. Her gorgeous art intensifies the brooding sentiments in this manga tenfold. The editing of the images, the downcast eyes and the prevalent gray tones convey the desperate, miserable, hopeless feeling really well.
This is not the most enjoyable manga to read, honestly, and I can see why some people wouldn’t like it. The characters aren’t exactly lovable, and it’s not fun watching someone’s dream being trampled upon. It is, however, a reflection of how sometimes things just don’t work out in life. When that happens, though, the world keeps turning, and you move on. You’ll live. How you live is up to you, even if it’s not exactly the ideal life you’d imagined.