I talked about this manga in my previous post, Ten Count by Takarai Rihito. Manga is serialised in Dear+ and still ongoing. Takarai Rihito has a special place within me because of her story telling and artistic style. I always go back reading her works. After the next paragraph there will be spoilers all over so if you are interested even a tiny bit, I suggest you read manga first and hopefully see you again after you finish.
First character we meet is Shirotani. He is a misophobic (has fear of bacteria) and works as a secretary in a company. His
boss is aware of his condition and thankfully understanding. Because of his misophobia, Shirotani always wears white gloves, doesn’t let anyone touch his personal belongings or himself, cannot eat or drink outside, cannot even buy a book and by the time he gets home, first thing he does is to disinfect himself.
One day when his boss gets off the car to talk on the phone, Shirotani sees a truck coming over. To warn his boss, he reaches out but hesitates to touch the handle and his boss involves in a little accident. While Shirotani struggles with his feelings, someone passing by takes the boss to a hospital nearby. Even though the boss tries to repay this person’s (Kurose’s) good deed, Kurose avoids the questions and flees off. Shirotani is sent after Kurose but not really happy about the issue, gives his contact information. Kurose sees through the misophobia and expresses his opinion about how Shirotani should consult a doctor about the illness. Shirotani gets mad but after coincidentally learns that Kurose is actually psychiatrist in a clinic, working with children. Kurose offers Shirotani help as a friend and they make a list of actions that Shirotani has problems doing, with number 10 being the hardest to do and 1 is rather easy. After that they try to accomplish actions in the list step by step together.
Story gets more interesting from here on. We are reading the story from Shirotani’s point of view and him struggling with his illness on one hand, trying to get to know the feelings that are new, trying to get to know Kurose really keep reader in waiting. It is obvious that these feelings are new for Shirotani; he gets nervous from time to time saying “My heart gets uneasy, I wonder if I am sick…” but he is also aware that this uneasiness is different from the anxiety he feels outside. Also sensei seems to pick the names on purpose. Shiro means white and as the name, he seems like he is trying to open up a new page in his life -excuse the cliche phrase. With Kurose (kuro:black) looks like something is always hidden in the dark, no matter how small. Much less is exposed about Kurose and his past, I am dying to know more about him.
The most controversial chapters are through 9 to 12th chapters and you can guess the reason; is it rape or is there consent? This is a tricky debate because in this manga the character hates to be touched but tries to overcome this situation at the same time. In these 4 chapters, we can say that Shirotani’s perspective is as follows: addressing the obsession as a problem, trying to overcome and actually managing it rather easily is thanks to Kurose. I think Shirotani does his best in return to do daily activities ‘as only two normal co-workers’ in his own words. The reason behind rejection and fear of sexual intercourse is in fact Shirotani not wanting to get Kurose dirty. Shirotani is not sure about his feelings -whether it is love or a sort of dependence- as Kurose but still tries to say what is on his mind/in his heart and I really like his honesty.
However, a lot of people badmouth Kurose. : ) I do not think that his behaviour fits in “You’re going to be my property eventually, just give in.” category. In 11th chapter he says that he tries so hard to press the urges. He pushes Shirotani’s limits and when he sees that his behaviour has negative effects he pulls back and apologizes. This is really important because in the clinic, what Kurose does to Shirotani clearly has a NEGATIVE EFFECT and you can see something is wrong there. Kurose is not the prince charming we expect of him to be either, he makes mistakes, he resents, sometimes pushes too far but all these remind us that he is a human being, he has his own feelings and expectations out of their relationship. Later on when they are in Kurose’s room, he seeks Shirotani’s consent before touching him.
Still, because I never experienced this kind of illness my logic works like this: Sick —> doesn’t like to be touched —> we do not touch. After wandering through online manga reading site’s discussion boards or different anime/manga forums, I read opinions of people who has misophobia or a different kind of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and I value their opinion more.
First of all, people with misophobia or OCD state that the portrayal of the disorder is pretty realistic, the recovery pace is fast but it doesn’t seem forced to them. They seem to agree on this: Since they are obsessed they do not want to do anything but cannot go on in daily life so they have to force themselves out of their comfort zones. At this point what Kurose does is first identify and then push the boundaries little by little. In one of the comments, it is said that of course Shirotani will hate to be touched and reject Kurose but if Kurose wouldn’t force Shirotani, there would be no improvementsin his illness or in their relationship whatsoever. I think Kurose refuses to sit and wait for Shirotani to heal himself magically and as I’ve read this is not harassment, rather it is the right thing to do. I can see that Shirotani is not a shallow ‘feign reluctance today, accept later’ kind of character. On the contrary, when Kurose says that he will not kiss him until they clear out ‘sharing drinks’ item on the list, Shirotani himself tries to overcome that obstacle. Recent chapters link Shirotani’s condition to a childhood trauma and story continues to build up.
About the recovery pace, I understand that OCD patients do not get better this fast, recovery is a long and hard process. However, for manga to go smoothly, Takarai sensei may choose to put recovery in fast forward because rather than skipping forward in time, witnessing the process together with the characters is more ‘fluid’ in terms of timeline.
Sorry if the article seems long and written by a squeeking fangirl (I am squeeking, though…) but the pace and complexity of the story gets me on the feels train. How does Takarai sensei expect us to wait one whole month for the next chapter??