Illumination by Yamashita Tomoko


When everything sucks and then you’re gay, this is the manga for you.





Illumination is a play in three acts, each of which is a character study. We start with Mikita Ryuuji, 29, public servant/drunk.  Ryuuji is a serious curmudgeon, maybe all those years working in government office, but he’d really like to just be left alone to drink.  “He thinks personal relationships are nothing but a hassle.”

Enter childhood best-friend Koya Naomi.  Even though Ryuuji isn’t gay, he’s pretty sure he loves Naomi.

Ah, I thought when I hit this point: one of these.  The stories where the straight guy just needs a nudge and he falls heels over head into fabulousness!

Except it doesn’t quite work like that in Illumination.

He does try out gay sex.  You know, just to be sure.  A hostess that he hires tells him that maybe he’s just not able to get things up because he’s a closeted gay man, and to Ryuuji’s credit he thinks, “Okay, maybe so.”  He hooks up with a guy, Sudo Kiyotoshi.  It’s… awkward.


Sudo tries to leave behind his phone number, but Ryuuji isn’t having it.  He deletes it right away.  Sudo is persistent, though, and so he keeps showing up.  They kind of have a relationship, though mostly it’s Ryuuji telling Sudo to go away, and Sudo saying, “Okay, but first I’ll make dinner.”

No one cries, but the sex is ‘meh’ even when Ryuuji decides he’s “used to it” and wants things rougher.

Then, one day, Naomi shows up with his own plans to cook dinner for Ryuuji.  He’s met, of course, by Sudo.  Things are awkward.  Naomi wants to know who this guy is and how it is he’s even penetrated (as it were!) Ryuuji’s defenses enough to be bringing over something so intimate as dinner.  Sudo, being the only out gay guy in this manga, says, “Well, that’s because I’m sleeping with him, and you know, trying to get to know him. Who the hell are you?”

The rest of the two chapters are… well, realistic, I guess?  The shift perspective, so you get Sudo’s point of view next and OMG so much sad of being the gay… Sudo says he’s a guy that everyone likes/but no one likes.  He’s popular enough to be invited to all the parties, but he’s never been anyone’s someone special.  It’s pretty heartbreaking.  Every queer’s nightmare, IMHO.

But, that being said, I actually really love how this manga ended. After this second chapter, I was thinking ‘oh, this is going to be like that horrible yuri where the ladies broke up because one was getting married to a man.’  But, since there were only three chapters, I thought, fine.  I’ll see it through to the bitter end.

I was really pretty happy (well, at least not any MORE depressed) when, even though Ryuuji rejected Sudo, he also rejected Naomi.  He was like, childhood friend, I know you. You’re a skirt chaser and would never be loyal to me, besides it would fuck up our friendship and I just really, REALLY want to be left alone to drink in peace.

Is this a happy ending?  Well, it’s certainly NOT a gay one.

Like I said, I was… okay with this.  I liked that in Naomi’s chapter we realize that Naomi at least loves his friend enough to wish that he be happy.  He wants, specifically, for Ryuuji to find someone to love, but really, I think Naomi would be okay if Ryuuji could just learn to love himself.

I almost think this is an asexual coming out story, except Ryuuji never gets there.

When I saw on Baka-Updates that there were more chapters, I quick hunted down a site that had them all.  Alas, it became pretty clear that Ryuuji/Naomi/Sudo’s story ended here.  The other stories follow other characters, so I decided not to read them at this time.  I’ve also only linked above to a site that has the first three chapters.  However, if you decide you like the art/writing enough for the whole volume, you can find it here:


2 thoughts on “Illumination by Yamashita Tomoko

  1. I used to read short stories by Alice Munroe, Austin Clarke, Susan Swan and William Trevor. Now I read manga. This mournful one seems exactly like those stories. I will find it.

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