Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide Volume 3 Review
It’s exciting to visit a place you recognise.
The round-the-world travelogue following the adventures of Asahi and Mitsuki as they visit country after country together has reached a destination that’s very familiar to our readers at Anime UK News: London! And they’ve arrived to stay with the Mitsuki’s old friend Kaoru just in time to see in the New Year. But first, they want to see all the London tourist sites they know from the movies: Buckingham Palace; Paddington Bear at Paddington Station; Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens; that platform at King’s Cross Station… and, of course, take afternoon tea at the Goring Hotel. As Kaoru’s flatmate Paul has a car, the next day they’re all off to Edinburgh to admire the capital of Scotland (and maybe sample haggis… or not).
Underlying all the sightseeing, though, is a certain tension. Asahi is still adamant that they shouldn’t tell friends or family that he and Mitsuki are a couple – until, to Mitsuki’s surprise, he admits to Kaoru that they’re together (his ring is something of a giveaway). Then Kaoru’s flatmate Paul arrives and, as they’re chatting, reveals that he’s gay too. When all four check in to a hotel in Scotland, Paul suggests that he should share a room with Asahi and Mitsuki with Kaoru. Mitsuki’s not at all happy with this arrangement – but it gives him the chance to explore with Kaoru about how he feels about the round-the-world trip and what will happen when he and Asahi eventually go home.
Because of the reminiscing that takes place with Mitsuki and Kaoru, we get to learn more about how Asahi and Mitsuki first met at high school – and that there was an unvoiced attraction even then, although nothing happened between them until a chance meeting many years later.
Back in London, the two set off on New Year’s Eve for the south coast (I’m surprised the public transport was all working but there we are…) and a bracing walk to view the Seven Sisters. No wonder they’re too exhausted to see in the New Year as midnight strikes from Big Ben and the firework display begins.
Next stop is Barcelona and the architectural treasures designed by Gaudi, starting with the Sagrada Familia (still being built) – before meeting up again with Paul, who’s in Spain on business, for tapas, paella and sangria, and a heart-to-heart. Mitsuki’s English is still not so good, so Asahi has to keep translating… and Paul has a surprising confession to make.
The next destination in this volume is Morocco (and a salutary reminder from Asahi to free-spirited Mitsuki that in this country same-sex relationships are illegal) and then a trip to the Sahara Desert, including camel-riding!
There’s no doubt that UK readers will be especially eager to read this volume to see what Mitsuki and Asahi make of their whistlestop tour to our shores (in winter too!). However, because Mone Sorai is showing us country after country through the eyes of her two protagonists, it’s as much the story of their evolving relationship because, as the old saying goes, (courtesy of Neil Gaiman) “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.” So, given Mitsuki’s fear of flying, going on the London Eye turns into a nightmare for him (I can relate!) as he sits shivering between Asahi and Kaoru, unable even to glance out at the wonderful view of London by night far below.
This volume spends time exploring how Mitsuki and Asahi feel as they remember their first meeting at high school and how their relationship has evolved. The fact that both are (separately) talking it through with Kaoru and Paul respectively gives us their differing perspectives and is very revealing. Asahi is still prey to anxiety when it comes to how people will react to his relationship with Mitsuki and Mone Sorai plants a few little seeds of doubt in her readers’ minds as to whether the two men will weather the journey and return to Japan as committed to each other as they were when they left. Will that promised wedding take place? We get a glimpse of Asahi’s texts from his mother and brother and realize that he’s been avoiding communicating with them. Is he afraid they’ll disapprove?
Mone Sorai’s artistic skills impress once more in her intricate depictions of the Sagrada Familia (inside and out) but equally in the sketches of La Boquera and its tempting food displays. This story has always been about the two travellers’ desire to explore new eating experiences around the world as well as taking in all the sights, and again, it doesn’t disappoint. (Although ‘fish and chips’ figures more than once on the menu in guess which country?) There’s also a Bonus Trip chapter at the end.
The translation for Tokyopop is again by Katie Kimura and it deals effortlessly (as before) with all the vocabulary from the new countries visited: Great Britain, Spain and Morocco. The digital version is reviewed here with (as with most of Tokyopop’s new titles) the physical book following, in this case in January 2023.
This is another fun-to-read volume in Mone Sorai’s lively series, with plenty about the food of the countries visited as well as little snippets of history and culture. It also presents a realistic and believable portrait of a same-sex relationship navigating the ups and downs of living and travelling together and stands out from many other LGBTQIA+ manga in this respect. Recommended (and, given its Teen rating, accessible to younger readers).
The next volume is not yet out in Japan but the latest chapter can be read in Japanese for a short while at MAGCOMI (Mag Garden Online): The Way We Walk on Earth – Soraimone / Episode 27 | MAGCOMI