There Are Things I Can’t Tell You, by Mofumofu Edako

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Publication date -June 17, 2020

Summary: Kasumi and Kyousuke are polar opposites when it comes to personality. Kasumi is reserved, soft-spoken and shy; Kyousuke is energetic and has always been popular among their peers. As the saying goes though, opposites have a tendency to attract, and these two have been fast friends since elementary school. To Kasumi, Kyousuke has always been a hero to look up to, someone who supports him and saves him from the bullies. But now, school is over; their relationship suddenly becomes a lot less simple to describe. Facing the world ― and one another ― as adults, both men find there are things they struggle to say out loud, even to each other.

Thoughts: I don’t know what it is, but there are a lot of BL titles where the main characters are in high school. Usually their final year of high school. So it was nice to actually see a title where the two of them have graduated high school, have jobs, succeeding at adulting, all that stuff. I don’t know why such titles seem like rarities; maybe I’m just not looking in the right place, or maybe it’s because high school stories are still so appealing. The moment right before childhood ends and adulthood starts, that balance of responsibility and carefree youth; I can definitely see why it would appeal to many. Heck, I enjoy a good high school story every now and then. But they come with a sort of implication that unless some things happen to you in high school, they’re never going to happen at all.

There Are Things I Can’t Tell You sidesteps that quite handily by having the characters be in their 20s. Pretty easy, that.

So. Kyousuke is in love with Kasumi, has been for a while now, but hasn’t told him because he can’t find the right words, or the courage to overcome potential judgment. The two are good friends, sharing an apartment together, though there are ways in which they don’t get along. Like any friends, really.

Only there was a moment where Kasumi confessed his love for Kyousuke. Kyousuke, though, responded by becoming afraid that his desire to be around Kasumi, to be close to him, gave him the wrong idea and confused Kasumi about the difference between friendship and love.

I mean… What?

I get that Kyousuke was trying to suppress his own feelings while still trying to be around Kasumi as much as possible, but come on! My dude, if you can figure out that you’re in love with someone, surely they can also make that decision for themselves. You don’t get to tell them, “You’re just confused and don’t actually feel that way.” You don’t get to tell people how they feel. Or if you’re going to stick with that, then why do your own feelings not get examined, why do you not spend days telling yourself that you’re not really in love with Kasumi, that you just misunderstood what friendship was?

(And yes, I know he says later that he was trying to protect Kasumi from being “corrupted” by queerness the way he was, but it was still one of those moments that came across as painfully hypocritical and shortsighted, and the fact that this hypocrisy wasn’t even addressed in his internal monologue made me wonder if the mangaka even noticed it to begin with…)

Not going to lie, I almost gave up on the manga at that point. There were a few things it did that were problematic, and your mileage may vary on this, but those things are pretty common in BL manga. It can be easy to overlook as just being a part of the subgenre, in some ways. I’m kind of used to overlooking them and not dwelling on them because honestly, if I focused too hard on them I’d probably never read queer-oriented manga again, and I keep doing so, hoping to come across volumes with fewer things I consider problematic. So I pushed on.

(Though I’m starting to feel like I could write an entire post about the problematic stuff that keeps cropping up in BL manga and why I am so very over it…)

I ended up getting being pretty torn on what I thought of it in the end. It did some things I like, such as having the characters be adults with their own lives and jobs and passions. There was also a good message in there about mistakes not being the end of the world, that things might look like they’re going badly but there might still be something salvageable from it, or the chance to use it to advance even further later on. But it also did things I didn’t like, such as the, “They’re in love but don’t know it, now there’s angst, they spend a night together and will probably be happy, but oh no, we should break up because it’s better that way, but oh look, now they’re back together again!” narrative.

It was… okay, I guess. It was on par with a lot of BL on the market, I think, so if you enjoy a lot of those titles, you’ll probably also enjoy There Are Things I Can’t Tell You. It was kind of sweet in places, and I admire Kyousuke’s work ethic and passion, as well as relate to Kasumi’s shy insecurity. But I don’t think I can really recommend it on any strengths, or on its ability to stand out from other titles. And I think, in the end, that’s really what I’m looking for these days. Something to stand out, something to make me interested and invested, and not just give me the same story I’ve already seen a dozen times over.

(Book received in exchange for an honest review.)