Future Lovers 1-2 by Saika Kunieda: A

future1“How close can we get to the rosy, happy ending I dreamt about that night?”

As our story begins, Kento Kumagaya, a twenty-five year old chemistry teacher, has just bungled a proposal to his girlfriend. After she storms off, another patron of the bar tells Kento his mistake: he had made it seem like he was only after “a housekeeper and a baby-making machine.” The two guys spend the evening drinking together and Kento winds up going back with the other man, Akira Kazuki, to his apartment. After some initial resistance to the idea of sleeping with a man, Kento is swept up in Akira’s passion and becomes an enthusiastic participant.

Kento regards the experience as a mistake, but when Akira shows up as a substitute art teacher at the school where Kento works and needs an escort home after his welcome party, it happens again. After losing his parents at a young age, Kento has a strong desire for permanence in his life, and has long cherished the dream of a sweet wife and loving kids. The more time he spends with Akira, though, the more he finds himself drawn to the other man’s guarded exterior and inner loneliness. Akira, meanwhile, has been burned before by having feelings for straight men, and claims to be content with casual relationships. By the end of the first chapter, they’ve decided to give a real relationship a chance, with Kento realizing that he wants Akira more than he wants the dream and Akira finally opening himself up enough to believe that maybe, this time, he might be the one chosen at last.

Many boys’ love stories would end here, and even had Future Lovers done so, it still would’ve been excellent. Instead, subsequent chapters (sharing perspectives between the two leads) follow Kento and Akira throughout three years of their relationship and some of the struggles they encounter. They’ve both had very different experiences in life, Kento’s leading him to make declarations about love that lasts forever and Akira’s, after witnessing the transience of his mother’s multiple marriages, creating in him a lot of cynicism on the topic. Many of their conflicts arise from this difference in outlook, with Akira repeatedly recommending that Kento find a nice woman to marry and Kento repeatedly avowing that he’s not going anywhere.

At first, the repetitiveness of these fights seemed like a flaw until I realized… that’s what happens in any relationship! There are certain topics that, no matter how often you may talk about them, nothing is ultimately resolved. Mere words from Kento aren’t going to convince Akira that he’s not really depriving Kento of his dream, and no argument Akira could raise would make Kento believe that forever isn’t possible. In a way, Future Lovers is more a slice-of-life story about a couple trying to make things work than it is specifically about two men in love.

In addition to the richness of the story and the well-developed characters (Akira is the first boys’ love character to ever remind me of an actual gay person I know), Future Lovers also employs some nice symbolism and humor. One of my favorite examples of the former is the simple comparison between the neat and tidy job one of Kento’s adoring students does reattaching a button to his sleeve and Akira’s sloppy attempt at the same task, representing the two alternative paths that Kento could take in love. Instances of humor are sprinkled throughout, some arising from reactions to Akira’s behavior and outrageous fashion sense, and also include the most awesome dream sequence epilogue ever. Kunieda’s art is well equipped to handle the comedic moments, but loveliness is definitely mustered when needed, especially in Akira’s more vulnerable moments.

Future Lovers has not only everything I want in a boys’ love story; it has everything I want in a story, period. I’ll be first in line to buy anything else by Saika Kunieda that gets published here.

Review copy for volume two provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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