Review: Year One by Amy Tasukada

Year-OneRating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Short Story


Aoi had been determined to keep himself off the dating market for a year so he could focus on his voice acting career. He never imagined meeting a nerdy businessman like Sato in an anime shop would waver his resolve. Try as he might, however, the unassuming and downright wholesome Sato was everything Aoi didn’t know he wanted in a partner. Sato, on the other hand, was perfectly resigned to have nothing more than a casual friendship with the petite and extraordinarily attractive actor. Ignoring Aoi’s characteristically highly suggestive banter was hard, but he was willing to endure for the sake of having one true friend.

Naturally, they drew together like magnets.

With the “hard part” of getting together out of the way, Sato and Aoi are free to pursue their relationship. Despite living on opposites sides of Tokyo, they alternate weekends at each other’s apartments. Sato enjoys the home cooked meals Aoi miraculously puts together in his postage-stamp sized kitchen; Aoi enjoys the actual furniture in Sato’s larger studio. Sharing living space means opening up, too. Sato learns Aoi is concerned about the effect being a desk jockey is having on Sato’s health. Aoi learns that Sato wants to come out to his parents and isn’t concerned what they may think.

As much time as they spend together doing mundane things like shopping for new Gundam models or climbing Mt. Fuji, their respective jobs keep them apart. Now that Aoi’s career is picking up steam thanks to an extremely popular series in which he plays a sex slave, they are apart more and more often. Sato is supportive of Aoi, helping him practice his lines and listening to Aoi gripe about his jerk of a co-star. Despite the hectic schedule, Aoi is willing to put up with both long hours, lots of travel, and a bad co-star to earn enough money so that he and Sato can finally move in together.

The extra solidarity in their relationship and the one-year anniversary coming up help convince Sato now is the right time to come out to his parents. Although is older sister has known for more than a decade, his parents still ask about any ladies in his life. Sato asks Aoi to accompany him, wanting the love of his life to be by his side when he finally confesses. Except Aoi knows first hand what it feels like to be rejected for coming out. His own parents turned him out when they discovered a gay magazine in his room when he was all of 16. Aoi reluctantly agrees to accompany Sato, but will he be able to support Sato’s confession? Or talk him out of making one in order to save Sato’s relationship with his parents? Does Sato even want him to?

Sorry for the junk write up. It’s actually pretty difficult to figure out where to start when this sequel to Would It Be Okay To Love You is a series of vignettes between the two main characters. It’s structured to show little snippets of Sato and Aoi’s life for the first year of their relationship after initially getting together. That means that there isn’t a big overarching theme here (the first book was obviously about them getting together). Instead, there are several little things that crop up, which is what I tried to mention in the write up. Each little story is built around a little facet of their life together. So the opening vignette is just Sato waking up in Aoi’s apartment as Aoi makes a delicious smelling breakfast, but Sato is only served cottage cheese with sliced banana. This is because Aoi’s worried about Sato’s health, but I liked they way Aoi mentions it, tying the need for a healthier lifestyle to their sex life.

Unlike the first book, there was less focus on how different these two are. I like this because it makes me feel like their relationship has developed beyond the point of everything hinging on what’s “exotic” or different about them. Of course, there’s always going to be the little jokes about height difference and scenes where one is indulging the other’s personality quirks (buying Gundam models, practicing anime lines). Without the clutter of their differences being mentioned, I feel like I got a much more personal view into these two as characters.

Again, each of these little vignettes focuses on their day-to-day lives and jobs (well, more Aoi’s job than Sato’s). We see them dog- and cat-sitting for friends, which brings out extra details about the characters. Sato is something of a germaphobe and Aoi’s allergic to cats. We see them being intimate with each other, both in a classy fade-to-black style where the reader gets to imagine all that goes on, and in an explicit fashion. We learn more about their idiosyncrasies, like Aoi enjoying honey-and-cheese pizza or Sato’s jealousy over Aoi’s fans.

The highlight of the book was the last official vignette for me, though. This is the one where Sato and Aoi go to Sato’s parents house so Sato can finally come out to them. Sato is convinced now is the time and Aoi reluctantly agrees. Of course, he tries to talk Sato out of it given his own experience being kicked out of his parents home when he was 16. Still, we know from the first book that Sato’s got a pretty good relationship with his parents. Sato’s own sister is supportive and she’s been an avid fan of the genre of manga/anime that Aoi works in for years. The best part about this particular vignette is how Aoi handles his own mixed emotions about Sato’s decision. I was proud of him for the way he handled himself and I was proud of Sato for making the decision to come out.

As much as I loved the first book, I find myself very taken with the sequel. I loved the short-form story telling and the way some vignettes felt like totally self-contained episodes where others were continuations of a theme. Having the focus taken off the will-they-or-won’t-they really opened up the characters for me because we see them living their lives and falling more in love with each other. I also appreciated that, despite there being some drama (and even some pretty significant drama), none of it felt melodramatic.

My only two “huh?” moments came from the fact that we STILL don’t know what Sato’s first name is. This is sort of eschewed because Aoi has come up with a nickname for Sato, but still seems sort of odd that at this point, the reader still doesn’t know. The other question mark stems from the artwork that’s slipped in at the start of each chapter. The artwork itself is beautiful and there is one water color in particular (most of them are pencil sketches) that I just had to stare at for a few moments…but I cannot understand why a story set in Japan about Japanese characters has artwork with Korean captions…not a detail that most would care about, but it struck me as weird.

All in all, this is a fantastic follow up to Would It Be Okay To Love You and I would recommend this series to anyone who is interested in Japanese contemporary life and culture, and what it’s like being gay in Japan (ugh, I didn’t touch on this, but in a nutshell, I’d say it seems more or less accurate if a white woman’s experience in the country is anything to go by).

camille sig

 

Comments

  1. I hadn’t read your review for the first in the series, but reading this one and going back to read the other one, I need to add these to my list. I’m on a strict buying moratorium or I’d be snapping them up now. (Oh, but I see the first is only 99 cents…hmm. I’m so weak.) I remember Tasukada’s Yakuza series sounded good, but that’s been on my list for awhile. It’s mafia thriller, though, so nothing like this.

  2. This sounds really interesting! I’ve never heard of this series, so thank you for this great review!

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