I have more to say about the specifics of these two single volume stories, but if the pandemic and/or other woes are getting you down and what you are looking for what the kids might call a “wholesome,” good read, this shounen ai* may be for you.
Restart wa Tadaima no Ato de (which, if I were the translator, I’d’ve said means: A Restart after Returning Home, which is just a less clumsy version of the literal translation official English title: Restart After Come Back Home.) The only reason I bother talking about what the Japanese means is that the story is basically contained therein.
Our hero, Koduzaka Mitsuomi returns to his small town/village after a disastrous attempt to make it big in Tokyo. Unfortunately for him, everyone in town has him pegged as that loser-guy who has ‘bad eyes’ (by which it seems to mean he has a bad resting bitch face) and a tendency to speak his mind (when he shouldn’t.) So, when the story starts Mitsuomi has lost yet-another job–his part time gig at the local grocery store–and he is feeling like a complete loser.
Literally, in strolls, Yamato Kumai, the one guy in town who has no preconceptions about Mitsumi, beyond the town gossip he’s picked up being the happiest of happy-go-lucky bumpkins ever to grace small town life. He’s all bright smiles to Mitsuomi’s grumpy growls.
It’s the classic odd couple/opposites attract set-up and I’m into it.
Mitsuomi finds himself generally drawn to this big galoot and they form a solid, realistic friendship… with an undercurrent a.k.a. sexual tension.
Mitsuomi notices early on that he just relaxes around Yamato and… other people notice it, too. Like, one of my favorite moments in this is that the guy that you’re totally expecting to be the town bigot, is actually the one who first suggests to Mitsuomi that maybe he’s MORE than really protective of his friendship with Yamato, maybe he’s INTO him.
And this just continues to grow–a kind of a slow burn as the kids say. There’s drama here and there, and, early on, Mitsuomi thinks he can get away with a stolen kiss when Yamato seems to be asleep on an overnight, but… yeah, no Yamato has been thinking about what that kiss meant just about as long as Mitsumi has been wondering what possessed him to try it on.
This is a kind of hard to classify yaoi, because it is really very much a character study and a celebration of how you can tell the love of your life by the way that they make you a better person.
Like, generally, even when they’re having their first fight and trying to figure out how to be a family in the second installment Restart wa Onaka wo Sukasete, I was only sad because I hated them even doubting their love for a second because it was pure and wonderful and they are both such precious cinnamon buns??
What I found both wonderful and somewhat unbelievable was the way in which this tiny-ass town comes to accept these two. I mean, Cocomi-sensei does a good job selling it to me. Like, I buy it in story? But, part of me–specifically the part of me that fled a small town BECAUSE I was gay–is, like, mmm, I love this but it is clearly wish fulfillment. Not a single person throws a slur at either of them at any point in this story, which is GREAT, but I noticed it? Does that make sense? That’s why I feel like this is a perfect story if you’re feeling down. And I don’t hate it??
The second manga is fascinating because it is one of the first I’ve read that includes a reference to a relatively new partnership option available for gay couples in Japan (same sex marriage is not yet legal there.)
It’s also one of the few manga I’ve read where the couple seriously considers a future where they might adopt a child. It comes in really naturally in this story because one of the main issues is that Yamato is actually not as happy as he appears on the surface–some of that is a front that he’s learned to put on because he was orphaned and spent a lot of time bouncing around the foster care system and orphanages before ending up in this village. But, because he was adopted, the thought that they could adopt a child of their own is totally second nature. The scene in which they consider it is one of the sweetest parts of the already amazingly tear-jerking ending of this ridiculously adorable, sweet story.
This story is ridiculously adorable.
I should note that even though I found this by looking down the “New Year’s” tag on Baka-Updates, it only relates to New Year’s eve in the omake of the final chapters.
The Restart franchise has been optioned for live-action film, which doesn’t surprise me? It’s kind of the gay Hallmark movie we all ACTUALLY wanted?
* I am considering the merits of talking separately about yaoi and shounen ai, despite the fact that I feel like this very much marks me as a Western reader. Thing is? I am a Western reader and it would be helpful to have an easy way to tag the yaoi that are almost entirely romance (and smut free,) which these stories definitely are.
I could also simply start marking these as: PG, PG-13, R, and X, provided that most of my audience here is familiar with the American movie rating system.
I will ponder this question… and then decide if I want to go back in time and mark ALL my reviews this way.