|Tasogare ni hana by Kifu Kaname and illustrated by Miki Ebishi
||[Aug. 27th, 2008|08:53 pm]
Tasogare ni hana and Tasogare ni hana ga mau by Kifu Kaname and illustrated by Maki Ebishi are about a middle-aged has-been low-level manager and a young, promising salaryman. Iwai had been a very promising salaryman himself, but after a series of unfortunate events in his thirties he's given up on life and is just plodding along. His course is altered when he has a run-in with Odawara, a shining young man (who happens to be a protégée of Iwai's former rival who'd actually succeeded). Sounds like something right up my alley, so I bid for it at auction since the first book was not in print. Unfortunately, Kifu-sensei took an interesting premise and killed it. She crushed it under inanity and pointlessness. She also should've shoved everything from the two books into one. I don't totally hate these books, but I man am I dissatisfied. It could've been so much more! I love the whole "worn-out middle aged salaryman gets a new lease on life with gay love" concept and would've been pretty forgiving of pretty major flaws—I just couldn't ignore the glaringly huge, universe-sucking ones in these books. Yet she couldn't deliver, only providing a frustrating set of books in which it feels very little happened. Such a pity.
Iwai had been good-looking, talented, married with a son, the protégée of a high ranking official at the big bank he worked at. However, in his mid-thirties he'd collapsed from overwork. His mentor had died, and he'd been sent to a small subsidiary thanks to the machinations of his rival. He became impotent and his wife left him. Instead of doing anything about the situation, he became resigned. He presided over his department filled with OLs who'd never have gotten jobs anywhere without their father's connections, amazingly able to last ten years without going nuts or getting sick because he was able to just go with the flow. Ironically, though his spirit is old his looks have remained. He looks like a much younger man, still quite attractive.
He runs into Odawara, his former rival's protégée and darling of the bank (the subsidiary managed the headquarters of the bank so he worked in the same building as before), handsome and vibrant and talented, when Odawara is obviously unwell. He takes Odawara to the company health room and urges Odawara to take care of himself because he knows all too well from experience that you can destroy your body and your future by overwork. Odawara thinks that Iwai is delighting in seeing Iwai's former rival's protégée weakened and makes snide comments. He decides he needs something dirty on Iwai, so he initiates sex. Iwai struggles but is no match for the young and powerful Odawara. He is fucked thoroughly.
After that Odawara pushes and pushes to insinuate himself into Iwai's life. He also declares that he will fix Odawara's impotence. His persistence is sort of rewarded in that Iwai doesn't just cut him off. Iwai has a soft spot for Odawara because Odawara reminds him of his younger self so much. At the same time, he's not interested in a new "gay love" at this withered stage of his life and tries to keep some distance from Odawara. He knows he's not really good for Odawara, no matter that Odawara is thoroughly gay. He's an old has-been, after all.
Iwai manages to not get fucked again through the rest of the two books—which seems completely unbelievable after the "quickie in the health room" beginning. Odawara seems pretty content with cuddling half the time, apparently he likes being indulged like a little kid. There's one funny exchange from the first book I really liked. Iwai finds Odawara's similarity to younger Iwai and basic childishness at times cute and pets him on the head. Odawara tells Iwai that he'd be happier if Iwai kissed him instead of petting him on the head. Then Odawara goes on to say that he'd be happier if Iwai gave him a blow-job instead. Obviously this does not happn.Only at the very end of the second book does Iwai's fundamental attitude toward Odawara change and he contemplates a relationship with Odawara (I gather this from the fact that he's willing to think about actually taking Viagra instead of faking swallowing it as part of the Odawara's attempt to fix Iwai).
These books were actually rather depressing. I've read about the the salaryman's insane work schedule in many other books, but this is the first where you really see someone who's been through the grind and has actually been ground up. The books are full of politicking, backstabbing, using and discarding employees, etc. at the venerable institution Iwai used to be employed with. Only the ass-kissers get ahead, all useless and/or total jerks. The good guys either turn bad or go nowhere. Or get destroyed. Iwai has a shitty job with shitty employees and knows it. He's just waiting for the years to pass and things to come to an end.
Though when you learn about Iwai's life before his downfall, it doesn't sound all very good either. He didn't seem to care a whit about his wife or son. He was the classic dad/husband who worked all the time and missed everything important. Even after he lost them, he didn't seem to miss them much. He just wants his son to come visit him when he's grown up, but doesn't seem to particularly long for it. How sad is that?
The really huge negative of these books (besides the fact that the relationship doesn't really develop much over TWO BOOKS) is Kifu-sensei going too far with the absurd and making a mockery of her own books yet again. Iwai's shitty subordinates are truly shitty. One OL constantly cooks in the office break room so that she can keep her boyfriend and get married. When he dumps her (after getting married to someone else) she goes nuts and decides she needs bigger breasts to catch a man. She thinks that drinking beer will do it, so she starts drinking beer all the time. She brings beer to work to make meals with beer in it to share with her coworkers. Another OL regularly destroys office equipment. How many computers/printers/faxes/copiers/whatever can you utterly break before there are more consequences beyond your boss (Iwai) getting yelled at from the supply department? I think the other OLs weren't as bad, but I really don't think they worked much. Plus, none of them ever made a decent cup of tea. Kifu-sensei spent a lot of time on Iwai's problems with his OLs, spending so much more time on that than onhis "relationship" with Odawara. At least, it felt that way. The final big event in the second book was actually a get-together arranged by Odawara between his subordinates (and other single men looking to marry) and Iwai's subordinates—Iwai had asked Odawara to do it for him because he desperately wants his OLs to get married and quit. Iwai doesn't actually go, but the entire last part of the book revolves around it. The only consolations were the amusement I got from the fact that Odawara had taken Viagra before the get-together and had an erection for days and exasperated "satisfaction" when Iwai finally decides maybe he can do something other than figure out ways to escape Odawara's plans for him.
I think if Odawara was as aggressive towards Iwai as he should've been considering how he's made out to be one aggressive bugger at work, things might have been different. It just felt silly that they never had sex after the first time. Isn't Odawara a young man full of vitality? Why doesn't he push a little to get some? Or are we to believe that Iwai still had enough in him to somehow prevent things from going there…Hard for me, since we're told over and over how Iwai is just so faded. *shrugs* Whatever.
I would've at least scanned the covers of the books (though I'm not fond of the art—this artist tends to squish heads so that they look flattened), but I can't find my scanner. :P