Aoi and Sato have been together for years. Yet as close as they are, some problems are still too personal to share. In point of fact, Aoi, whose career as a voice actor necessarily relies upon his vocal cords, has been struggling with throat irritation. But when Sato asks about it, Aoi insists the growing discomfort and difficulty with speaking is merely a head cold. Sato wants to help and has no problems offering time and support to his boyfriend. What Sato doesn’t know, however, is that this is more than just a problem with his throat to Aoi. Aoi sees his voice as his identity and it was his voice that gave him a means to support himself and stay off the streets after his parents disowned him when Aoi came out as gay.
Sato is trying his best to be the family Aoi needs, but it’s hard when Aoi doesn’t share his fears. Nevertheless, when Aoi elects to have surgery for his vocal cord problems, Sato sets out formalizing his and Aoi’s relationship—no mean feat in a country that offers no state-sanctioned status for same-sex couples. Going through the act of legally tying their lives together gets Sato wondering if and how he can reinforce his commitment to Aoi beyond a last will and testament. And just when the time seems ripe to pop the question, Aoi’s estranged parents sail back into Aoi’s life in the most unbelievable way.
Year Three is what seems like the final installment in Tasukada’s Would It Be Okay To Love You series. I chose this for the Diverse Books Week challenge because it features Japanese characters and is set in contemporary Japan. The back matter in Tasukada’s book expounds upon Sato and Aoi’s struggle to find a way to formalize their commitment to each other with respect to the law. Based on my own experiences in and studies about Japan, I feel like Tasukada captures the insufferable reality faced by same-sex couples in Japan. (Note: In early 2019, the Japanese supreme court heard arguments from same-sex couples hoping to marry, but the court decided to uphold the status quo: civil unions are enough. NB: Civil unions are granted by municipalities, but not all municipalities offer them and such unions are not recognized as such outside the granting municipality. Bonus fact: There is no federal level of government, so unless or until the civil code changes or is reinterpreted, same-sex couples are stuck.)
Overall, I found this a pretty satisfying read with our established couple. The rhythms of Sato and Aoi’s “opposites attract” relationship are well described on page. The men often share banter based on their respective lives (Aoi as a fan of and voice actor for “boys love” media; Sato as a fan of and accountant for an anime studio that produces giant robot programs). I thought the way Aoi downplays his throat issues and obsesses over the *possibility* of losing what he views as his only means of employment created some angst. As a reader privy to both Aoi’s and Sato’s thoughts, I had a lot of sympathy for Sato. He just wants to be there for his boyfriend, but Aoi isn’t confiding any of his fears with Sato…not about the nature of his throat trouble, or how Aoi is loathe to lose his employment and be made to rely upon Sato financially. This aspect of the story rather made it feel like Aoi was more of the main star and rendered Sato more of a side character to me. The bulk of Sato’s scenes are shared with Aoi and all Sato’s scenes seem to be directly related to the issues Aoi’s addressing in the book.
That said, Sato does get to be the focus of a delightful scene about comeuppance. And we, the reader, do see Sato grapple on page with the fact that Aoi isn’t being straightforward with him. Plus, there are a couple cute/hot love scenes that help reinforce these two as a committed couple, and, of course, Sato mulling over the marriage question a time or thee. These tidbits help keep Sato close to the action, even if he’s not front and center for a lot of it. Still, the story as a whole feels much more Aoi oriented than I, personally, would have liked.
If you are a fan of the series or interested in a contemporary story set in a decidedly non-Western setting, I cannot recommend this book (or the whole series) highly enough. Having watched Sato and Aoi’s slow burn romance develop this into a life-long commitment to one another has been truly satisfying.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Diverse Books Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of six $20 NineStar Press gift cards from the fabulous folks at NineStar Press! Commenters will also be entered to win one of our three amazing Grand Prize book bundles. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Diverse Books Week here.