Greetings everyone. The other option in the poll I did two weeks ago was The World’s End by Akagawa Sagan, and really, the results were almost tied. The first time I came across this title was through Chil Chil. As always, I fell in love with the cover and actually shared it with you in a Tuesday manga cover post. It’s been a year, time sure flies by! We finally got it licensed in English by Animate International and it took my secluded corner of the internet by storm ever since.
And today, I’ll be reviewing it for you. Judging from how bewitched people are with this collection of short stories, but especially the one that gives the series its name, I should give you a heads up before I get your hopes up: My feelings for this title are lukewarm at best and to answer some of you, it didn’t make me cry, let alone feel emotional. Then again, I didn’t cry over Rengoku in the Mugen Train movie either, so maybe the problem lies with me. Huh.
Title: The World’s End
Author & Artist: Akagawa Sagan
Status: Completed, 1 volume.
Where to read: On Animate’s Linktree, you can find your preferred platform to purchase the volume.
Before the why’s, I should probably provide a quick summary, but as I’ve said it’s a collection of different stories. Plus, due to their ‘editorial standards’, one of the stories is cut out from the English release, hence we are actually left with two. Disappointed, but as always, not surprised.
The Frog Prince focuses on two high school classmates, one is widely popular due to his pretty face and the other is blatantly left alone because he’s interested in bugs. You might think Nishino has it easy but his pretty face has brought him insecurity and misery more than privilege or anything positive. He’s reached a point where when someone calls him pretty, he hurls. Quite literally. Whereas his classmate Iida is too busy being engrossed in bugs that he doesn’t even spare a single glance Nishino’s way. The Frog Prince is the straightforward and sweet high school BL story an avid reader should’ve encountered at least once.
What really grabbed the hearts of many is the second story, The World’s End, which centers around Shin, who’s been living on a different space object (planet?) for the past three years as part of a terraforming project. He’s growing plants and although he’s the only person on the said planet, he’s checked up on by his scientist friend Rukiya every day, keeping track of Shin’s well-being from Earth.
I mentioned how sci-fi is not exactly common in BL before, adding it can either be because it truly isn’t common within the genre, or they may not get licensed as much, hence I can’t confidently offer my guesses. Which is interesting; when you look at it from a literary perspective, SF and fantasy are two genres under speculative fiction that welcomes queer voices and stories more easily due to their flexibility in world-building and reality-bending. Whatever the reason behind it, for me, SF is an always welcomed variety in BL.
And the idea behind The World’s End is quite compelling. Having to spend 3 years all alone, save for his daily check-ups with Rukiya through a screen and yearning for someone’s touch so desperately that asking the cube Rukiya designed for him to take the shape of his friend. Sounds almost like how I spent my last 2 years in the pandemic. Such a setting is fresh and captivating; paired with an interesting style of paneling that enhances the static routine of life on the planet and the overall simplicity, and maybe a tad emptiness, of the panels create the certain kind of mood this story needs.
However, there is something fundamental this story lacked, in my opinion.
And that’s walking us through the emotional stages of the story. A lot of the things we should be experiencing to a certain degree with the main character is told to us with a line or two and that’s it. Sure, Shin has been living isolated on an otherwise empty planet all by himself but we just meet him and don’t have the necessary emotional connection to feel that desperation yet. I can, with some common sense, guess what he might be feeling and think of a range of emotions that should correspond to such a setting, but I personally need to have an established emotional bond or have to spend some time to actually feel sad over what’s happening. The twist that involves Rukiya at the end of the chapter is dropped so out of blue and without us spending enough time with Shin and the cube, the scene was more funny than sad. So it’s essentially a depth and length problem in the end. Because if someone were to empathize with Shin, I think that should’ve been me.
The World’s End is the second work I’ve read from Akagawa Sagan. The first was Shikabane to Hanayome and I had also written my first impressions about it over Twitter. Because it feels more “complete” as a story I think I preferred that, but The World’s End is still an interesting title that’s gorgeous to look at, plus it’s licensed in English! Even though the execution didn’t turn out to suit what I prefer in storytelling, it’s still a joy to read something different. Akagawa sensei will definitely be an artist I’ll keep an eye on in the future because the ideas behind their stories are interesting to ponder on, and I can never get enough of those beautiful pages.
Would you be interested in reading more sci-fi BL? Or do you think the two wouldn’t mesh well? Let me know what you think if you’ve read The World’s End or whether you’d be inclined to pick up. Thank you for your patience with this post and for your votes, see you next week!
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