There are some mangas with debatable stories and dubious topics...and then there's Niichan. I'm writing this review as a sort of a vent for myself and a warning to people planning to read this abomination of a story.
So last night, I was reading some yaoi manga, as usual and I thought of giving this a try since Harada is a pretty good mangaka, the art looks stunning and ...then I saw the summary. "..a young boy in grade school who often goes to this Niichan's place" made me go "Hah! Surely, they wouldn't draw a sex scene with a grade schooler! That's freaking disgusting! SURELY they wouldn't, right?" I read the other reviews and thought that it really can't be that bad. I mean, I've read Killing Stalking. Can't be much worse than that...
I was already a bit tired when I started reading it and completely unprepared for what I was about to witness. The first two chapters made me feel so disgusted and uncomfortable. We are introduced to the main character, Yui who feels lonely because his parents work all day and don't spend time with him. He doesn't get along with his classmates because his parents don't allow him to play video games. He meets a stranger who offers him both of these things seemingly out of goodwill. Yui, of course as an undoubting innocent child, accepts his offer and starts visiting him after school. Unfortunately, Niichan has ulterior motives which will lead to an unraveling of some very unfortunate events.
As uncomfortable as this story made me feel, the characters are written very well and precisely for that reason the reader is able to feel their emotions and understand their way of thinking. The ways Yui reacts to Niichan's advances, are things a child would say to someone like that. He is so innocent and obedient and has the naivety and the blind faith in adults that only such young kids could have. And the way Niichan uses those emotions makes me sick to my stomach.
What I appreciated is that the characters were not made to be likeable even though they do bad things, like some other BL works make them out to be for the sake of fetishizing criminals/bad people. This story manages to realistically portray the way a pedophile would persuade a child to do things they want them to do, which not many works manage to do well in my opinion. Niichan isn't made to look like some kind of an ultimate demon who feasts on the flesh of innocent shotas just for the sake of it. And despite readers wanting to blame everything on him - he isn't the only one at fault. He is given a background and the reason why he became such a despicable person. Sow hate and you will reap violence. It's a vicious cycle. This is something majority of works covering this topic overlook or don't explain.
Both main characters develop quite a lot during this short story, but I do think it could have been done a bit better if only it wasn't 6 chapters long. We can see how the events from first two chapters affect Yui later in life and how the older Niichan gets the more he doubts himself and his actions as opposed to when he was younger. There's really only one supporting character whom you will probably not like very much at the beginning, but with the background and development she gets, you might end up liking her and relating with her the most in the end.
Overall, would I recommend this manga? It's a very debatable thing. I liked how the psychological part of it was done, but I sure as hell would prefer to have stayed untarnished by this sinful story. If you are able to read about something like this and stay unfazed or if you generally don't sympathize with fictional characters, I envy you and by all means, I recommend reading this when you get a chance. Otherwise, I would rather stay away. Go read something that won't make you stay up until 6am thinking about how disgusting humans truly are.