|Yuki yo ringo no ka no gotoku by Ichiho Michi and illustrated by Takemiya Lala
||[May. 29th, 2009|09:29 pm]
I am utterly in love with Yuki yo ringo no ka no gotoku by Ichiho Michi and illustrated by Takemiya Lala. It is exactly the kind of story I adore, with flawed characters who manage to find each other and make lots of light talk--sometimes filed with deep meaning, but usually filled with silliness. It's a bit dry and detached, yet not so much so that I can't empathize. It's about a high school student and a high school teacher, and when broken down is rather cliched. It's the author's style that makes it seem so much better than the sum of its parts (tsundere younger uke, slightly broken older seme, traumatic pasts, etc). Also, there's a really great *female* side character! At least, I think she's great. I really can't be objective on this one, it's been a while since I've been so bouncy over a BL novel like this...
Yuuki Shiho is an uptight high school student obsessed with studying to take a transfer test. He'd wanted to attend his dad's alma mater, but had failed to take the junior high and high school entrance exams due to ill-timed illnesses. He went to school early and studied in the library in the morning, then attended prep classes after school. One morning he runs into his Japanese teacher, Katsura Eiji, crying over a book. Katsura is very carefree and loose, and popular with the students. Katsura tries to get Shiho to read the book, first by just recommending it to him, but then by trying to force him by pointing out that Shiho is always studying other subjects in Katsura's class. When Shiho continues to reject him Katsura threatens to report him, but Shiho tells him to go ahead because he won't be around next spring and leaves the library.
Shiho goes to his classroom and meets with his childhood friend Ogawa Rika. Her club practice had been canceled due to the rain. Shiho is embarrassed to talk with her (in that teenage boy way about girls they'd grown up with). He can't even call her by name. He feels silly calling her by her first name as he'd been doing, but he feels stupid calling her by her last name after all these years. Instead he calls her "Hey" or "You." When Shiho asks Rika if she'd ever seen an grown man cry, she mentions that her dad cries over everything.
Shiho's first class that day turns out to be Japanese. Katsura walks around the classroom as he reads from the text, instead of standing at the front of the classroom like he usually does. Shiho knows it's because of him and doesn't bust out things from his other classes. Instead he thinks about what he needs to do, then this mind wanders. He's caught not paying attention by Katsura and braces to be scolded. Instead, Katsura continues to read and writes in big letters talking up an entire page of Shiho's textbook in red chalk to not be so scared. Shiho can't believe that Katsura, a teacher, had scrawled graffiti in his book. He sits there dumbfounded for the rest of class.
Katsura writes in Shiho's textbook.
When Shiho gets home after prep classes late that night, his mother checks to make sure he doesn't need dinner. He is brusque and hates himself for being that way, while his mother treats him gently. He wishes he wasn't the way he was, and thinks about how Katsura is so open and free.
The next morning when Shiho nervously enters the library he sees Katsura again. Katsura, not a morning person (he'd moved close by to school so that he could get up later), explains his being at school early by saying there's construction being done in front of his home. Shiho brusquely tells Katsura that he's in the way, but Katsura offers to teach Shiho in exchange for weekly manga magazines. Shiho tells Katsura to leave if he won't shut up. He takes out some math homework and starts working on it. Katsura can't make heads or tails of it and is amazed that Shiho is able to easily solve it. Shiho responds that he can't easily solve it, which is why he has to study so hard. When Katsura asks why, Shiho tells Katsura that he'd failed his exams twice. Shiho can't believe he'd told Katsura his deep shameful secret and focuses on his work. He desperately doesn't want to be comforted or pitied. Instead, Katsura gets up. He has a staff meeting to go to, so he leaves, petting Shiho's head. When Shiho finally looks up, there is an envelope left on the seat Katsura had been sitting on.
The envelope is addressed to Katsura from some unknown person in Sapporo, kind of nearby Shiho's grandma's house. Shiho doesn't have a chance to give it back to Katsura all day, so in the end he decides to put it back where he found it. He's kind of embarrassed at going to see Katsura, after that morning. But when he gets to the library Katsura is there. Katsura is looking outside, his face stern and almost cold-looking. He seems very alone, and very different from his usual happy-go-lucky self. Shiho feels out-of-place, but he makes a noise that brings Katsura's attention to him. Shiho points out that Katsura lied that morning. There hadn't been a meeting. When Katsura asks if Shiho had come to the library just to bitch about that, Shiho hands him the envelope. Turns out the envelope contains a picture of a 10-year-old kid in a school uniform. It's Katsura's younger brother, living in Sapporo with Katsura's divorced mom. Katsura is proud of his cute brother, but Shiho asks if he's not embarrassed about having a younger brother so far apart in age. When Katsura asks if Shiho is an only child, Shiho responds that he is right now. He's going to have a little brother or sister soon. Katsura finds Shiho's response very cute and congratulates him. He thinks Shiho is brusque because their situations are very similar, but Shiho explains the whole business with him failing to get into his dad's beloved alma mater. His father had consoled him after the first time by saying he could try again for high school, but the second time his father didn't say anything like that. Instead, he was told that he was getting a younger sibling. Shiho felt betrayed, like his parents had been having fun while he'd been studying so hard. Katsura asks what Shiho wants to do. When Shiho responds that he's going to take the test to transfer to the school, Katsura thinks he'll end up with Ebola or bird flu. Katsura points out that Shiho is just making himself miserable with his stubbornness, since he doesn't even have a good reason to get into the school. When Shiho complains that Katsura is talking like a teacher, Katsura responds that he is one. Shiho complains that he feels unneeded and unwanted, after all of his efforts...Katsura asks if Shiho will hate his sibling. When Shiho says he doesn't know, Katsura asks if Shiho would be happy if his parents aborted the baby because their children would be too far apart in age. Shiho responds that he wouldn't be happy, and Katsura takes that as an indication of Shiho's feelings. He pets Shiho and tells him he's a good boy. Katsura points out that Shiho loves his parents very much. That's why he tried to hard. And because he tried so hard he's sad and angry. But Katsura assures Shiho that Shiho's parents love him more than he knows. When Shiho says you can't know that, Katsura tells Shiho that it's his life and his youth to worry over and live. Go ahead and do whatever. He offers his shoulder to cry on when Shiho is tired from all that trying. Shiho tells him he's stupid and gets up to leave. Katsura asks why Shiho had shared his secret. Shiho replies that he feels like he'd glimpsed Katsura's secret, something Katsura hadn't wanted to show anyone. That's why he thought he'd make things equal between them.
Katsura shows up every morning, lounging around and reading various things. Shiho hasn't decided on whether to not take the test, but he figures it can't hurt to study. He's used to it. One day he bitches that Japanese is meaningless and ambiguous. He prefers the straightforwardness of math and science. Katsura tells Shiho that Japanese can be very clear, and tries to write in Shiho's notebook. When Shiho objects, he writes on the desk. He brushes aside Shiho's objections saying that the desk is already covered in scribbles. He writes a tanka by Hakushu, which he'd learned in high school himself: 「君かへす朝の舗石さくさくと雪よ林檎の香のごとく降れ」. It's about the poet seeing a lover off in the morning, and how the footsteps in the snow sound crisp like an apple being eaten (I tried finding a translation of the poem but couldn't. I did find lots of explanations of the poem, however). Katsura marvels at the choice of "apple" and how right it is. Shiho notes that the poem is about lovers, and comments that they seem very happy. Katsura smiles and agrees.
Shiho accidentally runs into Rika on the way to school and takes the train with her. Rika notices that Shiho has changed recently. He's become softer, less taut. She speculates that he has a girlfriend or at least someone he likes, both of which he denies. Rika had been sure that'd been the cause of his change, and wonders if Shiho is just holding out on her. Shiho asks her if she has someone she likes, but she won't respond. Shiho is surprised because he was sure she'd say that she didn't have anyone like that. Though he's never seen her in that way, he's a bit sad and lonely at the thought that she might like someone.
Shiho asks Katsura if he has a girlfriend one morning. When Katsura asks which one, Shiho is exasperated and tells him never mind. Katsura asks Shiho what's up, bringing up Rika and commenting that they seem awfully close. Shiho tells Katsura that he doesn't like Rika in a romantic way, and explains that they are just childhood friends. Katsura continues with his idea about the two and thinks the childhood friends turn into something more situation is so cliched, so Adachi Mitsuru. Katsura grabs Shiho's face with his hands and brings his face close to Shiho's. Shiho had never had someone else's face so close to his. He notices little details about Katsura. Katsura asks if he's the person Shiho likes. Shiho feels like his heart had been grabbed, like he's going to die. The next moment Katsura pulls back and laughs, claiming that he was joking. Shiho calls Katsura names and grabs his things to leave. Katsura stops Shiho and tells him that since it's the end of the term and they will go into exams, he won't be in the library in the morning anymore. By the beginning of the next term the construction will probably be over, so Shiho realizes this will be the last time. Katsura also tells Shiho that he won't ever have a girlfriend, for the rest of his life. He says it so calmly but so decisively, Shiho, who has his back turned towards Katsura, wonders what the look on Katsura's face is. But he's too afraid to turn around. He instead wonders what kind of experience Katsura must have had to have come to such a conclusion. He can't even begin to imagine what it could be.
During summer break, Shiho decides to go to a local festival with a fireworks display. He runs into Rika wearing a yukata. When she asks how she looks, if she looks odd, Shiho comments that she's gotten darker. Rika gets mad and storms off, regretting having even asked Shiho. Shiho then runs into a friend from elementary school, back when he actually played and did fun stuff. They talk story, until the friend mentions seeing Rika with some guy. Shiho excuses himself. He wants to catch a glimpse of this guy Rika likes, maybe tease her a bit. He finds Rika with Katsura. He sees her speak to Katsura, looking at her profile and thinking how pretty she looks at that moment, expressing her feelings to the person she likes. Katsura can sense that Rika really likes Katsura. Katsura, on the other hand, is expressionless. He speaks coldly. Rika's face crumples and pales, until she finally covers her mouth with her hand and flees. Shiho immediately goes after Rika.
Rika explains that she met Katsura at school and had asked him if was going to see the fireworks. She'd bet to herself, that if Katsura had come with a woman she'd give up, if he'd come with a guy she wouldn't say anything, but if he'd come alone she'd confess....Shiho tells her she's an idiot, knowing how alone by choice Katsura is. Shiho asks what Katsura had said to her. She responds that Katsura had told her she knew nothing about him and that it was just a shallow crush on a teacher by a student and it's just a hassle to him. She asks Shiho to let her go home by herself. Shiho jumps on his bike and heads towards Katsura's apartment, knowing the address from the letter with the picture. He needs to know why Katsura had been so cold to Rika, especially since he'd been so gentle with Shiho.
When Katsura answers his door, Shiho immediately demands that Katsura apologize to Rika for being so utterly cruel to her. But his heated words don't reach Katsura, who smiles and jokes and makes light comments. He can't comprehend the gap between the time they'd spent together in the library and this chasm gaping between them. But Katsura won't respond to Shiho's demands that he apologize, and instead offers Shiho use of his shower. Shiho is dripping with sweat from biking so hard. Katsura marvels at Shiho's concern for Rika and jokes that he'd stolen Shiho's childhood friend. Shiho denies that he loves Rika romantically (they grew up together, like siblings). Instead, he says he loves Katsura. The words just kind of fall out, and Shiho can't help but feel bitterly satisfied at Katsura's dumbfounded face. He tells Katsura he doesn't need to use the shower and leaves. He gets a call from his grandmother saying that his mother had given birth to a little girl, who has been named Minatsu.
Shiho, mad at Katsura, demands Katsura apologize to Rika.
On the first day of the new term, Shiho finds Katsura in the library. Katsura touches Shiho on the chest to see if he's actually a girl raised as a boy, like in manga. Katsura asks if Shiho is still mad. He is. Katsura then asks if Shiho still likes him. He does. Katsura then asks if Shiho needs a reponse. Shiho says he doesn't since he knows the answer. Katsura asks if Shiho can't give up on his feelings, but Shiho says he can't. He doesn't even know how he fell in love, how is he supposed to fall out of love? Besides, he knows Katsura won't respond so he doesn't expect anything. Katsura tells Shiho he's too green, that people will want to get closer to the thing they want even if they know they can't. Shiho asks if Katsura thinks Shiho will assault him. Katsura laughs his head off. How is skinny Shiho going to assault him? Katsura asks if Shiho remembers what he's said before. When Shiho says yes, Katsura says that's how it is. Shiho can't understand why Katsura couldn't have been nice to Rika too. Katsura explains that it's better if he's mean and they end up hating him, so that they completely give up. Katsura tells Shiho that he should change schools to escape if it becomes too much for him. He doesn't always have to face everything, confront all things.
Katsura stops showing up to the library in the morning. He talks to Shiho "normally," but won't meet his eyes (but does it in such a natural way no one but Shiho notices). Shiho feels that Katsura is subtly reminding him that he won't return Katsura's feelings with every interaction. Shiho starts to feel like a pebble on the side of the road, that is just there but not something to ever be looked at. It's not like his feelings can be switched off, but time marches on. Mondays follow Mondays, the weeks pass, and he feels like he's just going with the flow. Shiho wonders if he'll eventually become exhausted and be able to truly give up. Will it be gradual, or will he just fall in love with someone else and his feelings automatically switch to focus on another person? Shiho wonders if that uncertain future is hopeful or hopeless. If Katsura is waiting for it.
Shiho arrives at school one day, noticing the strong wind and overcast sky. As he looks at the preparations for the school festival to start the next day, an arch to be placed at the entrance is blown over. Luckily, it doesn't hit Shiho squarely, though he does injure his hand. As Shiho worries over the arch, Katsura comes running over. There is a typhoon on the way and school is closed. Shiho had missed all the signs, from the news on TV, the lack of students on the train over, the shut school gate. Katsura can't believe Shiho's cluelessness. He had been watching for any stupid students that show up to school since he lives nearby. Shiho laughs and comments that his showing up has given Katsura's vigilance meaning and purpose. He notices that Katsura is only wearing one shoe. Katsura had lost one while running. Shiho tells Katsura that he shouldn't step on the heel of his shoe and should wear them properly. Katsura tells him to shut up, and takes him to his apartment to take care of his injured hand. As they stand in the elevator in Katsura's apartment building, Shiho feels Katsura's tight grip on his hand. He senses Katsura's quickly beating heart, and suddenly feels bad. He'd been troubling Katsura with his feelings, possibly more than he'd been suffering himself. So he says sorry. Katsura thinks he's talking about showing up to school like an idiot and getting injured, but Shiho corrects him. He's sorry for having fallen in love with him. Katsura is like WTF? and hugs Shiho tightly, calling Shiho an idiot. He won't let go even after they reach his floor, continuing to call Shiho an idiot. Shiho silently lets Katsura hold him.
Katsura finds Shiho at school even though its closed due to the coming storm.
After Katsura treats Shiho's hand, he hands Shiho an album. It is filled with pictures of Katsura's younger brother. Shiho comments that no other family members show up. Not a mother, not Katsura. Katsura responds that Shiho is too observant. He tells Shiho about his past. He'd fallen in love with a teacher in high school. She had a fiancee, but he was young and stupid and in love. He wanted to just run away with her, forgetting about school and everything. When Shiho asks if he'd run away, Katsura tells Shiho that the kid in the picture is his son. He explains that things got pretty bad when the pregnancy was discovered. His father had beaten Katsura up, his mother had started praying to some weird altar, and the teacher...had tried to commit suicide by cutting her wrists. Seeing her sleeping in the hospital, pale and wan, Katsura realized for the first time that he'd done something crazy and horrible. He almost killed the woman he loved and his own child by being so wrapped up in his own feelings. He couldn't face her, but her fiancee could. He went to her and offered to marry her and take care of her and her child. The teacher quit her job and they moved to Sapporo, where she gave birth to a boy. His name is Yuuki, the same as Shiho's last name. She sent Katsura pictures of his son every so often in exchange for his promise to never come to see them. He hadn't been able to run away with her, or even apologize to her. He could only stand there, silent. Trash. Katsura tells Shiho that's why he should stop. He tells Shiho that seeing Shiho all young and awkward and tunnel-visioned made him remember his youth and it scared him. When Shiho asks why Katsura had told him his story, Katsura explains that he had nothing else to offer back for Shiho's feelings. Shiho asks if Katsura still loved the teacher. Katsura tells Shiho not to be stupid. Shiho thinks, that's not an answer, but instead asks who had taught Katsura the tanka Katsura had told Shiho. Katsura responds that it's the person Shiho is thinking of. Shiho leaves to go home. He goes to a bookstore when he finds out the next train has been delayed, and finds a Hakushu anthology. He looks at the poem again. It is still beautiful, and it hurts. Shiho then reads the explanation. Hakushu had written the poem while in prison for having an affair with a married woman. It hadn't been simply about the morning after a happy night spent together. It had been about lovers who couldn't stay together because the woman had to go back to her husband. Shiho remembers commenting that they seem happy and Katsura agreeing. Katsura must have known the true meaning of the poem, and yet he smiled and agreed. What had been going through his mind? What had gone through Katsura's mind back in high school?
When Shiho gets home he goes to see his sister. He had avoided her until then, but he watches her sleep. He whispers to her that he's her older brother, who'd been turned down by the same man twice. He marvels at how he can see the resemblance to his parents in her, and wonders if she will someday fall for a worthless guy as well. She suddenly wakes up. Shiho worries that she'll start crying, but instead she stares at him and grabs his finger. He looks down at her and starts to cry. He is filled with love for her, for this small life that will grow up and someday fall in love. He knows it won't be all happiness and joy, but he wishes for her all happiness and no sadness. He wonders about Yuuki, Katsura's son. Is he happy? He is seized with the urge to see for himself.
Shiho pretends to go to school and instead goes to Sapporo. Unfortunately Rika calls him, demanding to know where he is. She had wanted something from him, but he hadn't been at school. When she'd called his house his mother had said he'd gone to school like normal. They had called his cell phone but hadn't been able to get through (it was probably when he was on the plane and his phone was off) and they'd worried that he'd been in an accident or something. He begs Rika to just tell his mother that he's well and will apologize when he gets home. She agrees if he tells her where he is. When he replies that he's in Hokkaido, she tells him not to catch a cold. Rika tells Shiho that Katsura had apologized to her. He had told her that Shiho had scolded him very severely. That made Rika happy, happier than being apologized to. Katsura had told her, "You're so loved." Shiho comments, "how stupid." Rika responded to Katsura that she loved Shiho too. Shiho calls Rika stupid as well. Rika cooly says that she is indeed stupid, and then says that Katsura earnestly wished he could go back to high school. Shiho wonders what Katsura would do if he could go back. Keep his teacher and his child with him? Just make sure she doesn't get pregnant? Or give up on his love from the first? The only thing Shiho knows is that if anything had been different for Katsura, Shiho wouldn't be here. He turns off his cell phone, burying his guilt about worrying his mother with promises of being a really good son later.
He makes his way to Yuuki's school. He researched the elementary schools in the area and matched the uniform Yuuki wore in the pictures with the right school. He figures catching a glimpse at school would be easier and less suspicious than trying to find Yuuki's house by memory and loitering around. He waits in the cold for Yuuki to get out. It turns out to be a day when parents attend their children's school. Shiho gets up to move closer so that he doesn't miss seeing Yuuki, but his shoelace is untied. As he's tying his shoes he catches a glimpse of shoes worn with the heel squashed and thinks that it's the same as Katsura. He looks up and sees a child in the distance. Though he can't see the face well, he recognizes Katsura in the child's stance, the way he walks, his habit of squashing the heel of his shoes. He's amazed at the power of blood. When Yuuki's mom appears Shiho looks down. He's afraid to look at the face of the woman Katsura had loved and who had borne Katsura's child. As it starts to snow and he listens to the very ordinary conversation between Yuuki and his mom, Shiho is reassured that both Yuuki and his mom have a place, a family to return to. Shiho decides to go home as well.
As Shiho stands in line at the airport to buy his ticket, he hears his name called. It's Katsura, wearing nothing warm enough for the weather, looking kind of lost and dazed. Shiho points out that Katsura is not wearing warm enough clothing. Katsura says he couldn't help it, he'd come straight from school. Shiho points out that Katsura's house is very close to school. Katsura tells Shiho to shut up, it's all Shiho's fault anyway, Shiho should lend him his jacket. Shiho looks down and laughs. Katsura is not wearing his shoes properly, he's squashing the heels of his shoes. He asks Katsura why he'd come without any proof of where Shiho had gone and any assurance that he could find Shiho even if he was right. Katsura replies that he felt that he'd be even more of a piece of trash if he ignored the situation. Shiho tells Katsura that he'd seen Yuuki. He was cute. He asks if Katsura doesn't want to go see him, since he's come all the way up here already. Katsura says that though he desperately wants to he won't, because he'd promised. Shiho thinks he's being awfully good about it, but Katsura says it's not because he's being good. He's afraid that if he did see his son, he'd destroy what had been built these last ten years and try to gain Yuuki. Shiho calls Katsura an idiot. He tells Katsura that Yuuki looked happy. He points out that Katsura may be an idiot, but without the idiot Katsura Yuuki wouldn't exist. He can't help but think that there is no such thing as something that is pure stupidity and error in this world. Katsura doesn't respond. Instead, he looks lost and dazed again. Shiho realizes that this is Katsura, this lost person who'd turned his eyes away from and his back to people. But Shiho's found him. So he tells Katsura that he'd tried really hard, even harder than when he was studying for the exams...And he asks Katsura if he can continue to love Katsura. He starts to cry despite himself. Katsura calls Shiho and idiot and hugs him. Shiho points out that everyone is looking at them, but Katsura doesn't care. He won't be coming back here again. Shiho, as he wraps his arms around Katsura, thinks that it's not the same for him (since his grandmother lives up here)...
Shiho and Katsura embrace in the airport.
They go to a hotel. Katsura calls Shiho's mom and tells her some BS about Shiho getting all anxious about getting a little sister and that Shiho will be staying with him that night. When he whines that he'd be fired if the school finds out about the situation, Shiho points out that Katsura is the one that said "lets go to a hotel." Katsura replies that he's a bit shocked that Shiho just said "okay." Shiho explains that he wants to lie down somewhere because he's tired. They then make insinuations, jokes, and jabs around the subject of sex. Katsura admits very simply that he loves Shiho. He doesn't know when he fell in love, but he knows that he's definitely madly in love now. He asks Shiho to make him happy. He says he wants to have lots of sex, but won't. Not until Shiho graduates. Shiho hears the determination in Katsura's voice and remembers that Katsura is a stubborn and awkward man. He reminds Katsura that it'll be two and a half more years. Katsura knows, but he says that the time after that is even longer. He instead asks to sleep next to Shiho. He hadn't slept next to someone for a very long time, and wonders if it'll be okay. Shiho says yes and pats Katsura's back. Katsura relaxes and starts to fall asleep. He asks if he can kiss Shiho when he wakes up. If he does it now he'll get too excited and won't be able to sleep. As Shiho wonders how he should respond, he starts to get sleepy as well. He closes his eyes and wonders if the snow will have stopped falling by tomorrow morning.
The cover insert. No clue where this pic is supposed to be from.
The sad thing is that the above summary is only HALF the book. It took me hours to write up, and it'll take me hours to write up the second half. Which is also very awesome. I need to post first and write more later...Especially since I don't think I can stop myself from getting too detailed. ^^;
This is definitely one of those books where a summary just does not do it justice. Half the fun is the rhythm of the conversations, which obviously can't come across in a mere summary. Oh well.
I think one of my favorite details is Katsura not wearing his shoes properly. And his son being the same. One of my favorite moments is when Katsura asks Shiho to make him happy instead of declaring that he'll make Shiho happy.