“The moment we held hands for the first time, I understood–
I’m sorry, but I don’t love you.”
There are two manga that I absolutely adore, but are inexplicably absent from my blog: Natsuyuki Rendezvous and &. What do they have in common? The strength of these manga is that the artwork itself conveys the story and emotion. In & in particular, the most important exchanges between characters involve no words. And it’s done so well that you get it and feel it. Beautiful, but perhaps hard to explain using this medium. So I’m settling for an image heavy glance at what & has to offer instead.
Aoki Kaoru is a 26 year old woman who has never had a boyfriend. Her severe adversity to physical touch causes misunderstandings and as a result, she keeps others at a distance. Normally unattached and unmotivated in her own life, Kaoru decides to start up a nail salon as a side business in addition to her regular job as a medical clerk. She stumbles across an old college underclassman friend, Shiro, and convinces him to loan her space in his own business’s building. Shiro is very talented, handsome, has liked Kaoru this whole time, is a bit awkward, but somewhat endearing. It’s a standard setup for an incredibly…. boring and predictable romance story. And it’s not why we’re here.
Yagai Kouga is a 45 year old doctor that works at Kaoru’s hospital. Yagai is a talented, but infamous doctor. He’s blunt, arrogant, and a bit crude, but still manages to command the respect of others. He’s just not exactly the refined, older gentleman that you’d expect in a romance manga.
What starts as Yagai merely teasing Kaoru develops into something else–what exactly that is neither party can identify (or refuse to admit!). In spite of his sometimes jerk-ish and childish behavior, there’s something that draws you in. He’s rude, ornery, but also sweet, vulnerable, and fabulous. Kaoru’s fascination grips you and drives the very powerful chemistry and body language between the two.
& is all about touch: people who hate being touched, people too scared to touch, people learning to communicate through touch, people suppressing the desire to touch… this is where & comes alive.
As you can see above, Shiro gets Kaoru’s typical icy physical response. But this literally melts away when she tries to identify the growing, but very foreign feelings towards Yagai–desire, passion, love?
Yagai has his own reasons for pulling away, even though it is obvious he’s denying himself something he really wants–and a partner who is more than willing. He pushes her away, insisting it’s just mutual physical attraction between the two. Kaoru doesn’t care what he calls it as long as she can experience more. Thankfully, we get to watch that!
Again, it’s the art that does the talking between the two, so here’s a bit more. This particular scene literally went on for an entire chapter and drove me into a frenzy!
But then it all comes to a grinding halt. And not the good kind~ Yagai is afraid she actually cares for him and flatly rejects her as a result. At the same time, he can’t completely pull away and continues to draw her attention, basically taking her feelings for granted while not being honest about his own. Kaoru herself is frustrated, not knowing how to resolve these unfamiliar desires and emotions. All the while, is Shiro planning a comeback? Yagai better get it together and fast.
If you can’t tell by now, I absolutely adore this manga. Having one of the hottest oyaji out there certainly helps. I’m also emotionally invested in the characters–I will FLIP out if it doesn’t work out between Yagai and Kaoru. FLIP. It will be a while though–it sounds like Volume 3 (not due out for months) will focus on Shiro becoming a true threat. But this is admittedly necessary so Yagai can emerge from his own rut–before it’s too late.