*slams down the door and barges into your room* What’s up! I hope everyone is fairly okay and is ready to wind down once the weekend comes. I’m mentally going through what the kids call a rough patch, hence the reason I wasn’t able to read what others have been putting out. I’ll probably get to them before this post meets you. Anyways. I’ve finished reading the first volume of Even Though We’re Adults by Shimura Takako last week and wanted to talk about it so that’s why I’m here.
I love the romance genre, if it wasn’t already apparent from all the shipping and BL manga I’m consuming and writing about. Over the years, I’ve thought about an answer as to why this is the case considering I’m so not a romantic person. Whenever I got into a relationship, my friends would jokingly say that me and my partner look like we’ve been married for 50 years. Less romance and more comfort. Maybe that’s exactly the reason why, because all the over-the-top romantic gestures, life-long promises, diabetes-inducing happiness, or the possessive jealousy that make you cringe only work on paper. At least, for me. In real life, I can’t help but laugh or feel annoyed when I overhear or see such situations or expectations.
Last month, I made my first purchase on Bookwalker and seeing the GL tag, I was already interested in Even Though We’re Adults (ETWA from here on) for some time. Shimura Takako is probably best known for Hourou Musuko and Aoi Hana, and the original character designs they’ve done for Aldnoah.Zero. ETWA is an ongoing series with 4 volumes, and 2 of them currently can be read in English. It tells the story of Ayano, an elementary school teacher in her 30’s, meeting Akari, a bartender at the bar they are drinking at. They start chatting casually and as they get more comfortable with each other, Ayano even kisses her and they end up exchanging numbers and the desire to see the other again. The next time Ayano visits the bar, however, she brings along a surprise gift with her: her husband. The plot thickens.
I’ve only read the first volume but I’ve fairly enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. So I went over to Baka Updates to see what is the current situation of the manga in Japan and to read what other people have written in the comments section. I was baffled to see so many 1’s out of 10 because even for a dislike, one wouldn’t give such a low score and there was nothing that devastatingly bad in the manga. The only comment below enlightened me on it: because it contains cheating. And, well. It made me think.
There’s a heated discussion around ‘problematic’ content, and lots of other bloggers have previously written on the topic, both on the word ‘problematic’ itself and its relation to the audience who engages in it, much better than I could. I’ll try to link the ones I’ve read later on. I’m personally on the “media doesn’t affect us as straightforwardly as some people think” camp, noting the mainstream media holds the power to carve certain stereotypes and norms or amplify the existing ideas that may be harmful to some. And it’s usually the minorities who get the shorthand of the stick. Not just in terms of the stereotyping or portrayal, but when it comes to regulations and bans on erotic content as well.
And to be fair, I was surprised to see a topic as cheating had created such a strong reaction in people that they’d rate it a 1 star even though the work itself doesn’t deserve it. This can also extend to some readers writing big chunks of paragraphs on how these fictional characters should’ve acted instead of how they did just now under every chapter of romantic series I’m keeping up with on online platforms. Both characters should be open to each other and talk about their struggles! They shouldn’t cheat! They shouldn’t feel insecure and do bad stuff out of jealousy or whatever!
I’m not here to promote unfaithfulness to your partner(s) or psychologically manipulating them into submission. Unless that’s your thing and there’s consent involved. And I wholeheartedly agree with the advice above, healthy communication is essential in life. However, expecting every piece of fiction to be as spotless as the commentators describe feels a little too sanitized. Because if fiction is to be an exploration of the human psyche and the world we inhabit, I sure know plenty of people who act in ways that clash with what they utter to be correct. Including me.
I had a friend who disapproved of cheating as much as he couldn’t find another way out and beyond approving or disapproving, I understood the helplessness of my friend’s situation. Or I had an experience where no amount of sitting down and talking could resolve buried resentment or past uncommunicated and accumulated feelings. All that time, I thought I was able to communicate and talk things out, but in the end, my 5+ year-long relationship crumbled away. There’s no way of micro-managing every small detail in life, and they sometimes snowball without you noticing into a giant boulder that could crush you any moment. You might go about 40 years of your life without being able to find an appropriate name your sexual identity and live in denial, only for things to click with one surprise encounter. Beyond right or wrong, there are periods in life where you just… have no idea what’s going on with you or anyone else.
On the other hand, I don’t necessarily think a healthy romance makes a boring story either. As I’ve mentioned in my entry review for The Idaten Deities maybe creators should think twice before throwing actions that have serious repercussions like rape into the story just for the shock value or to create conflict. There’s still lots to explore or lots of ways that can create conflict in an otherwise healthy relationship or politically correct/inclusive settings. In the end, I’m always in favor of variety where people have room to make choices, instead of either/or. And depictions that may be deemed as ‘wrong’ can resonate with some people’s personal experiences or help them form an idea around the said topic from a safe distance (*). Similar to death, or extreme violence, but these two are so normalized that we usually don’t bat an eye.
I can’t say whether Even Though We’re Adults deserve a high praise or not as of now. I have just started reading it. But although the series contains themes like breakups, family-related problems, or cheating, it has that signature calmness to it that is quite similar to the other works from the mangaka. And it definitely has a unique enough setting that I can’t wait for how the exploration will go from here. I’ll get to the second volume over the weekend and 3rd volume is already up for preorder. I heartily recommend it for people who are already familiar with Shimura Takako’s works and love them, or the ones who are looking for a romance series that deals with more complicated problems than your crush eating lunch with your love rival at the school rooftop during recess.
What do you think? Have you ever felt like keeping your certain preferences to yourself, afraid of what might the response be? Had any experience that was hard to take the ‘correct’ stance on? Do you think Even Though We’re Adults might resonate with you in some way? Let me know in the comments! Otherwise, I’ll meet you tomorrow for another BL review. Have a nice day!
(*) While the video isn’t up on Fujocon’s Youtube channel, I enjoyed this presentation a great deal that talked about the experiences of BL fans, their engagement with the genre, and the fandom. This presentation, among other discussions I’ve read on Twitter, was the source.
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