Tohru Tagura’s Koimonogatari: Love Stories is a boys love manga that takes a more true-to-life approach to its characters and storyline then the average title in this genre, something that I’m glad to see attempted… even though I have mixed feelings about the result.
When Yuiji accidently overhears a conversation that reveals that his classmate, Yamato, is gay, he feels both guilty that he learned Yamato’s secret without the other boy’s knowledge and kind of uncomfortable with being around him, especially when he notices that Yamato seems to have a crush on his friend, Kyousuke. But when Yuiji ends up in a study group with Yamato and starts to get to know him better, he realizes that he’s a good guy and regrets his earlier uneasiness. That’s when Yuiji decides to become someone with whom Yamato can speak openly about his troubles and their relationship starts to develop into a supportive friendship, with Yuiji acting as the trusted confidant that Yamato sorely needs.
Koimonogatari: Love Stories is a quiet, almost wistful, manga that eschews the heightened emotions and melodrama that’re a staple of teen romances and instead adopts a reflective tone, focusing on themes of isolation, communication and the importance of being able to be your true self.
Yamato feels guilty about not telling his friends about his sexuality, but doesn’t feel ready to come out. Instead, he puts on a show at school and tries his best to get along with others, all the while feeling fake and alone. When Yuiji finds out the truth about him and accepts him, it’s a tremendous relief to Yamato; having a friend that he can be completely honest with makes a big difference in his happiness and helps to give him hope. Now he can talk through the things that are worrying him with someone, instead of just stewing about them on his own. Sometimes, simply having someone to listen to you can be hugely impactful and I appreciate Koimonogatari: Love Stories for highlighting this fact. The manga also addresses the importance of having people in your life who can more directly relate to what you’re going through, as one of the most significant developments in the book involves Yamato making friends with another gay teen and how this makes him feel less alone. While I can’t relate to these experiences personally, I can appreciate how meaningful this would be and it’s nice to see a boys love manga taking a grounded approach to it’s narrative and tackling topics that feel authentic to the experience of being a queer teen.
On the other hand, a quieter and more realistic narrative, in this instance, also means a slower narrative. While I think that this manga is well written and was interested in the story, both Yuiji and Yamato spend a lot of time ruminating on various things and there were a few places where I found myself feeling a bit bored and like not much was happening. Also, the romance, if one is forthcoming, is moving at a glacial pace. So far, there hasn’t been so much as a hint that Yuiji and Yamato might feel anything for each other besides friendship! It’s apparently a slow burn romance, so hopefully we’ll see some more development on that front in future volumes.
Despite having some pacing problems, what ultimately makes Koimonogatari: Love Stories worth checking out is the fact that Yamato and Yuiji’s friendship is super sweet and fun. I found all the scenes where they were goofing off together, hanging out or having serious conversations to be very compelling and I think they’d make a great couple, assuming that we ever see some sparks start to fly between them, that is. At any rate, I’m tentatively optimistic that the story will start to pick up in the next installment and I plan to continue with the series.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10
For more information on this series, visit Tokyopop’s website.
What did you think of this manga? What’s your favourite slow burn romance in manga or anime? Let me know in the comments.