Koi to Gunkan
An unconventional love triangle–How much is real? How much is imagined?
I like Nishi Keiko. That much is obvious enough around here. But I wasn’t sure how much I liked her. Is she top tier? Second? Occasional indulgence? Should I automatically buy any and all of her works? After reading Koi to Gunkan (Love and a Warship), I’m starting to think–yes, yes I should. She has a very distinct style, both in drawing and in the interactions between characters and I like them very much~
I briefly covered Koi to Gunkan before, but it’s good enough to warrant a more detailed look. Koi to Gunkan is currently serialized in the shoujo magazine, Nakayoshi. There’s a common theme to the internet chatter–shock that this story is “allowed” in Nakayoshi, which often carries fairly light (shallow sounds a bit harsh, but true?) shoujo manga that focus on school life and budding romance of young girls. Honestly, Koi to Gunkan really isn’t that different. It’s just different because the romantic interest might already have an established relationship–with another man.
Endou Kana is a kind-hearted middle school girl, but she has trouble making friends. She’s a bit awkward and other students avoid her since she transferred and there’s rumors floating around about her family situation. Her parents are separated and she lives with her grandmother. Despite her situation, Kana is very bright and bubbly, bolstered along by her secret love. However, her love is not another boy from her school…
The town once bustled with activity during the war when it manufactured parts for warships, but now it’s small, secluded, and quiet. Its mayor, Minato Kouichi, is the picture of delicacy, diplomacy, and kindness. Kana’s chance encounters with him are all too rare, but they are about to increase after she stumbles across an odd, secluded house in town while running around alone at night. There’s just one problem.
The foreigner’s appearance is a bit scary to the sheltered young girl: blond hair, scruffy face, a pierced ear, tattoo on his chest, and he smokes. However, beneath all that is the same lemony scent Kana remembers from the mayor. Maybe he’s not such a bad person?
Being a curious young girl, Kana returns to investigate, but this time she has support from her classmate, Akira. Akira is an interesting girl herself–she’s guarded about the idea of friendship and is never seen hanging around other girls. However, she wonders if this “Iriichi” man is the ero-mangaka, Alexander Iriichi, who is rumored to live in a secluded area of Japan. Yup, she’s a closet manga fan (including some naughty manga), so naturally she must confirm this and goes along with Kana.
Even together, he’s certainly intimidating. But then the shining white knight appears. And it seems the two men are great friends.
The mayor, Kouichi, and the scruffy oyaji, Sasha, seem very comfortable around each other. Despite Sasha’s protests, Kouichi invites the girls back, as long as they can keep it secret. The two girls continue to visit, but notice something a bit odd about the two men. Particularly Akira notices “evidence” beginning to pile up: Kouichi doesn’t act like a guest and often stays the night, they share bath robes, wear the same scent, she couldn’t confirm if there was a guest bedroom, Kouichi often cooks and even removes the ingredients Sasha dislikes from his plate. Kana notices too–they just have different conclusions:
Kouichi says they’re just friends, but Akira isn’t buying it. She has her own brand of wild imagination and even sneaks into the house one day to see what the two men are doing.
Of course, she interrupts them and Sasha says she needs to calm her wild imagination. Yet again, Akira doesn’t learn anything conclusive. But does it really matter? Perhaps to Kana’s wild fantasies of becoming the mayor’s lover when she’s older… it’s an odd love triangle and we’re not exactly told who’s playing for real.
The thing that I really love about Koi to Gunkan is just how natural the two men act. They just exist comfortably together.
There’s nothing forced about this, which makes me wish Nishi Keiko would draw BL manga again (it’s been.. like two decades since the last). She’d be so fabulous at it! I enjoy her romance manga and now I’m seeing all this potential. Please, please write another some day. One thing I love is that we get the best of both worlds: an elegant, gentle man that hides something troubled underneath and a surly, rough man hiding his own brand of kindness. And they are both hot oyaji~
So are they together? Yes. Are they lovers? That’s a guarded subject around the children. You can’t help but feel sorry for their situation–being the mayor of a small, rural town means it’s not the best idea to be open about your relationship with the dubious male foreigner. Even just as a friendship. With almost 30 years between the two, it’s hard imagining Kana’s dream come to fruition, but I think she’s a good person and would be happy for her prince if it didn’t work that way. Either way, I think she’ll learn some important lessons about love.