This book contains sexual content and is intended for an audience aged 18 years and up.
When people turn thirty… they can’t eat as many fatty foods as they used to. It takes longer for them to recover from colds and injuries. Their skin gets rougher and they put on weight more easily. Even if we’re designed to die one day… don’t you find all this a little buggy?
Recent IT graduate Jin Hagiwara has just started work in the development department of an IT firm under the watchful eye of team manager systems engineer, thirty-something Haruma Seto. Jin is talented and, having been thrown in the deep end by Seto, soon proves his worth as a programmer in the department. But Seto gets the uneasy feeling that Jin is always watching him and one day Jin, who’s a straightforward kind of a guy, asks him if he’s gay and if he’d like to go out with him, saying, “It was love at first sight.” Seto tells him that as his boss, he can’t have a relationship with one of his team. As an engineer, Hagiwara is exceptionally talented. I don’t want to lose him over something as silly as a love affair.
So, how is it that sometime later after finally winding up a big project in the small hours after the trains have finished running, Seto ends up taking Jin home with him? One thing inevitably leads to another, even if they don’t go all the way. Seto, who tends to think about everything in computing jargon, ends up reflecting, After thirty years of operating as a human, a major update file has appeared. And it’s not just for one night; Jin keeps coming back, bringing food and cooking for them both and trying to make Seto’s soulless bachelor flat more comfortable. But then Seto sends Jin off to Fukuoka for a fortnight to deal with an urgent problem and Jin feels as if he’s been sidelined. When he returns, things are suddenly awkward between them.
By Chapter 3, the viewpoint switches from Seto to Jin and it’s a nice and subtly underplayed piece of characterization as we get to see that even though the gifted young programmer seems to be brimming with self-confidence, when it comes to his feelings for Seto he’s painfully insecure, constantly worrying about Seto’s past relationships and trying not to let his jealousy show (and failing). Will their relationship survive the extra pressures of working in the same office and the inevitable curiosity of their fellow workers, especially those that have known Seto far longer than Jin has?
Coming from an arts background, I’d not encountered the term ‘cut-over’ before. The dictionary definition is ‘a transitional period in a computer system changeover during which old and new systems work concurrently’ which kind-of sums up this tale of department boss Seto who’s feeling his age at thirty plus when bright new graduate Jin joins his team. Inevitably, as this is a story about computer programmers, there’s IT jargon involved and terms are explained in the text (between panels) as they occur, rather than in translation notes. Also, the characters tend to use programming terms when chatting about themselves (and not just their work)…
Cut-Over Criteria delivers a believable and likeable slice-of-life story about two IT guys with a nine-year age-gap who find that they have a lot more in common than mutual admiration for each other’s programming skills. The mangaka takes the time to develop their relationship in a meaningful way and the sex scenes, when they happen, are part of the developing relationship and feel genuinely earned. And even though they’re mostly drawn in relatively soft focus, they’re not censored (no pixels or strange white stripes here). However, given the mangaka’s art style, the men’s faces are quite round and childlike, which is slightly disconcerting as they look much younger than their actual ages; these are meant to be office workers in a salaryman-style BL romance! The mangaka often portrays Jin with animal ears when he’s around Seto (more cat than dog, maybe, although plaintive puppy-mode fits his mood swings better than kitten).
The manga has been translated for Tokyopop’s LOVE x LOVE LGBT+ list by the ever-dependable Christine Dashiell; there’s a nice little extra couple of pages ‘Undercover Story’ by the mangaka (and, of course, she represents herself as a koala). The e-book is available now and the physical edition will follow in April 2023.