Hidden among Yen Press’s large collection of light novels are the occasional standalone novels, stories that aren’t part of a series or filled with anime-inspired illustrations. One such title is author Misaki Ichijo’s debut work: Even If This Love Disappears Tonight, which I’m here to take a look at today. Will it delight? Let’s find out!
The story follows high-school student Tooru Kamiya, who’s pushed into confessing his love to Maori Hino by a bully targeting him after Tooru stood up for a classmate. Tooru doesn’t expect this confession to go particularly well; after all, he and Maori are in completely different classes and have never spoken before. However, Maori does agree to date Tooru, provided he will follow three rules. First, no talking to her until after school. Second, keep any communication between them concise. And third, don’t fall in love.
Tooru agrees to these conditions, assuming at first that Maori simply wants to enjoy pretend dating and has reasons of her own for having a fake boyfriend. The two begin spending their days together after school and our protagonist soon realises he has fallen for Maori and works up the courage to tell her, but the truth behind Maori setting the rules she did is revealed and shatters Tooru’s world.
It turns out that Maori has a condition known as anterograde amnesia which started after a car accident when she was in junior high and means Maori remembers nothing after that point. She lives each day knowing that as soon as she goes to sleep she’ll forget everything and start back at square one, panicked by learning how much time has passed since the accident and never holding onto any of the memories she makes. This is why she doesn’t want Tooru to fall in love with her and why she tries to keep him at arm’s length, despite knowing that being with him is fun and will give her good memories, even for the single day she can hold onto them.
Every day Maori writes down the day’s events in a journal so that the next day’s Maori has an idea of what’s going on in her life. On the day Tooru confesses he’s in love, the two agree that Maori shouldn’t write it down and they can instead go on as if nothing happened. Tooru doesn’t want to call off their fake dating and he’s not discouraged by Maori’s condition either; instead he vows to make her days filled with fun and good memories so that she always has something good to look back on, even if she can’t remember it. And maybe someday her condition will improve; anterograde amnesia isn’t incurable but it’s not something that can be treated with modern medicine either, so no one can say if or when Maori might start retaining memories again.
In many ways Even If This Love Disappears Tonight reminds me of Yoru Sumino’s I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Both of these stories are bittersweet, telling the story of a boy and girl in love but where the heroine is struggling with something that prevents her from being able to be honest about her feelings and date the protagonist. This is of course painful for the reader to experience, but at the same time engrossing. You’re urged to keep turning the pages in the hopes that something will be resolved and there’ll be a happy ending waiting for you and until then you want to watch over these characters as they struggle through the everyday.
That’s not to say this is a perfect novel. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is stronger overall, if we wanted to compare the two. The reasons for Tooru and Maori starting to fake date are flimsy and if you scrutinise them, it quickly falls apart. As does Tooru being bullied in the first place, given that doesn’t remain part of the story after the initial set-up and it’s not in his personality to be pushed around by anyone. But in the long run, I forgave these problems as the rest of the writing is strong, not just surrounding Tooru and Maori but also both their families and Maori’s best friend Izumi (who she knew before the accident, so can confide in about her condition).
The book is mostly written from the perspective of Tooru, but there are chapters told through Maori’s eyes as well as Izumi’s and that helps give us a rounded view of what everyone’s feeling as the story goes on. There are also some of Maori’s diary entries included, so we can see the kind of detail she keeps about her days and snippets of her feelings toward Tooru. It certainly helps keep the reader engaged in the world and hits hard emotionally as the book goes on.
This isn’t a bleak tale, nor is it a tragedy. It’s hopeful and knows exactly what message it wishes to convey to the audience, even if there are some bumps along the way. If you’ve read a lot of similar stories to this (which seems to be an emerging trend), this might not engage you as readily as it did me but I don’t think that should prevent anyone from checking it out either. If you’re willing to give it the chance, there’s a heartfelt narrative waiting for you.
As previously mentioned, Even If This Love Disappears Tonight comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Winifred Bird. There are a couple of typos in the book that lead to me think it could have done with another proofread, but otherwise, there are no issues with the translation. This release is one of Yen Press’ hardbacks, which makes it a little more expensive than their usual output but hard to complain about when it’s a single novel rather than a long-going series like some of their light novels that are given the hardback treatment. The publisher has also released an audiobook version.
The novel has been adapted into a Japanese live-action film as of last year, although that doesn’t appear to be available in English at the time of writing. Author Misaki Ichijo has also written a sequel following Izumi titled Even If These Tears Disappear Tonight, which Yen Press are due to release in May.
Overall, Even If This Love Disappears Tonight may not stand out as being original compared to I Want to Eat Your Pancreas or similar bittersweet tales but there’s still plenty to enjoy from Misaki Ichijo’s debut work. It’s not perfect, but this is a book that’s easy to get invested in thanks to its likeable cast and the message the narrative is conveying.