We left Nana and Hitomi in Volume 1 of Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo, (くちびるためいきさくらいろ) as a couple and, at least a little aware of the fact that their road will not necessarily be an easy one.
Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo, Volume 2 begins with a step back to them attempting to reset their internal compasses. No man is an island, Donne said – and no couple is, either. In the first few heady months of a new relationship, we tend to cling to our lovers obsessively, because they and only they can understand us. This is typical, but it is dysfunctional. For straight couples, this particular dysfunction is allowable. People smile to see young men and women joined at the hip.
For young women who have not yet broken out of the limited confines of school and family, it can be rather more nerve-wracking. My mother confided in me recently, that she was worried, 30 years ago, that my wife and I were *too* close. Well, of course we were, I replied, all couples are at first. She laughed and agreed and the conversation ended. But I didn’t tell her how terrified I was 30 years ago. Every moment with the woman I loved was torture – we might be discovered, outed, separated, isolated at any second. Nana and Hitomi would understand this feeling.
So Hitomi’s secret is “discovered” by her friend on the basketball team and, in a surprising turn of events, she starts off sympathetic, only to end up being dismissive. And here, at last is what *I* wanted to see. Six years have passed since this story original debuted and many things have changed in the world. Many things – but not the legal and social status of same-sex couples in Japan. How would Morinaga-sensei present this situation?
IMHO, Morinaga-sensei did a great job. Her area of strength is not darkness. Her characters may brood for a while, but in the end they find happiness. Hitomi is required to stand up for her relationship and make a point that is subtle, yet critical. She makes her point and find she now has an ally. Hitomi tells Nana what a relief having someone to talk to is and Nana guesses, correctly, that Abe is a fellow traveler on this particular road. But Abe is not in the same boat at all, and Nana is left without a lifeline. (How I wish there had been some mention of the Internet at this point.)
Then comes the final crisis. I was fascinated to see how this played out. As I say, Morinaga-sensei specializes in handwaves of happiness. Hitomi and Nana manage to have three crises, one between them, which initiates a conversation about gender roles, and two with the outside world, and all of them are sufficiently resolved so that we can just smile and be happy for them.
Here’s the thing, Morinaga-sensei does not do deep social commentary. For her to have addressed things like emotional support, gender roles and family support at all is kind of extraordinary. And I, for one, am pleased that she has. Sure, it’s all a big handwave at the end. But by taking the position of showing how it *ought to be* Morinaga-sensei sets the stage for how it *can* be.
The ending of Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo is how it should – and can – be, if we all make the world work right. ^_^
Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 10
Service – 5
Overall – 9
This collection includes two more of the one-shot stories drawn for Yuri Hime magazine.
I know Morinaga-sensei has moved on to deal with her long-awaited police story, but if she ever wants to revisit Nana and Hitomi, I wouldn’t say no. ^_^