Manga Quick Information
“The world…is rejecting me.”
Ryoichi’s life has gone badly wrong. Betrayed by a lover who has run out on him, leaving him saddled with his enormous debt of thirteen million yen, he finds himself on the run from the debt collectors, lost, and caught in a typhoon. That’s when the gusting wind blows a flyer into his hands. ‘I’ll give you a seat,” he reads in the pouring rain. “I’ll give you my delicious tea. Tea Efil.” Looking around, he spots the dark little tea shop across the way and decides – on the spur of the moment – to seek shelter there. Inside the old wooden building he finds a young man asleep with a little cat in his lap and a cigarette burning to ash drooping out of one corner of his mouth. The young owner awakes and makes his special Zen tea for his drenched customer.
Ren, the owner of the tea shop, takes the desolate Ryoichi in and allows him to work in exchange for a roof over his head. But something’s not right; only one customer, an old man, visits regularly, and on Ryoichi’s first shopping trip, the locals shun him when they learn that he’s staying at the tea shop. Then there’s Ritsu, the ‘lodger’ with his cool shades and over-protective attitude toward Ren. It’s not until the old man tells Ryoichi that Ren and Ritsu are yakuza – “Former yakuza,” corrects Ren – that Ryoichi begins to understand, and by then he is already forming, without realizing it, a deeper attachment to the young man who gave him tea when he was at his lowest ebb.
But the reclusive Ren has his own demons to deal with; unable to sleep at night, he passes the hours of darkness reading, with the inevitable consequence that he often falls asleep in the day time. And yet Ryoichi’s straightforward, simple nature begins to have positive effects on him. So when Ryoichi’s lover tries to get back in touch and Ren’s shadowy past eventually catches up with him, Ryoichi’s little haven of calm is in danger of disintegrating for good. Is there any hope that Ryoichi’s feelings for Ren can ever be reciprocated? Or is he destined to always be a loser in love?
Ebishi Maki tells Ren and Ryoichi’s story in small, intricately detailed panels. Much of the interest here lies in the interaction between the three main characters; the drama in ‘I Give To You’ plays out like a dark, bitter-sweet piece of chamber music. The subtle way in which the mangaka portrays the growing relationship between Ren and Ryoichi is especially impressive, as both men struggle to overcome the difficulties of their earlier lives. And there are delightful little touches of humour (watch Ren’s little cat!)
This is the first manga I’ve read by Ebishi Maki, and, given her skill at weaving an atmospheric and character-driven story and illustrating it with atmospheric and detailed artwork, I’m eager to read more. You can almost smell the dusty, aromatic teas scenting the air in the creaky old wooden tea shop as you turn the pages. The mangaka confesses, charmingly , mischievously, in her note at the end that, ‘I made this story in a hurry, and from Chapter 2 on, I secretly changed Ren’s character design from what it had been…but not even my supervisor noticed.’
In fact, there seems to be a distinctly yakuza-flavoured trend to many of June’s new titles; maybe it’s because they’ve been bringing out their excellent new translation of that classic of the Boys Love genre, Kozuma Kodaka’s ‘Kizuna,’ or maybe it’s just coincidence. There’s something dangerously glamorous and sexy about the secret world of the gangster, I guess, as long as it’s confined to the pages of a story…and authors have long delighted in flirting with this aspect of organized crime, with its defined codes of honour and clan hierarchies, to add spice to their fiction. But we’re a million miles in ‘I Give To You’ from the fateful encounter between a young surgeon and a wounded yakuza in Akira Honma’s adorable ‘Rabbit Man, Tiger Man’ (not to be confused with a certain anime with a similar title!) or the harsh and cynical tale of love and betrayal, ‘Men of Tattoos’ by Yuiji Aniya.
As memorable and subtly-flavoured as one of Ren’s delicious smoky blends of tea, ‘I Give To You’ stands out as one of the best of June’s new titles from Taiyoh Tosho.
|Score:||9 out of 10|
|Date Published:||Tue, 27 Sep 2011|