Please, may the little light in Yamato never go out.
I Cannot Reach You winds the clock back in Volume 6 to the time Yamato and Kakeru were in elementary school together – and were the same height! There have already been brief glimpses of their early schooldays together: we’ve seen Kakeru fiercely defend the quiet, reserved Yamato when insensitive classmates made unkind remarks about his absent father. Now we begin to learn more about Yamato’s parents; his mother is holding the family together, aided by Kakeru’s parents, as his father is in a coma after an accident that happened when he was in Sendai on business.
Kakeru’s mother is expecting twins and when she suddenly goes into labour while the two boys are at home, Yamato’s the one who has the presence of mind to call an ambulance and comforts Kakeru as they wait in the hospital for Kakeru’s father and big sister to arrive.
Later on, the boys go to stay with Kakeru’s grandparents in Sendai over Spring Break and Kakeru’s grandfather takes them camping. It turns out that there’s much more to this trip for Yamato (even though neither Kakeru nor his grandparents could have known) and it could prove a turning point for the little boy who’s been bearing such a weight on his shoulders. “You sound like an adult, Yamato-kun,” observes Kakeru’s grandfather as they sit out looking up at the stars. “Kids don’t have to worry about putting out the grown-ups.” And he goes on to talk about a memory that gives Yamato much to think about – in a good and positive way.
When the narrative returns to the present, it’s Valentine’s Day and Yamato is out of school to attend a family service, leaving many frustrated girls who were planning to give him chocolates. The way that Kakeru deals with the girls – including a chance meeting with Akane (the Kyoto trip) outside of school – and then Yamato himself shows us that he’s a lot more mature than before. What has Kakeru done about Valentine’s Day? Not to mention the fact that it’s now two months since Yamato confessed to him and he still hasn’t given him an answer…
In Volume 6 in this charming slice-of-life series, mangaka Mika deftly presents us with a very important piece of the puzzle in the intertwining lives of childhood friends – and now high-school boyfriends? – Yamato and Kakeru. By going back to the time when the two were in elementary school and gradually revealing to us the shadow darkening Yamato and his little sister Mikoto’s lives, we get to see how important Kakeru’s sunny nature has been to Yamato. Their mothers are friends and so the children spend their daily lives in and out of each other’s houses. Mika, although often resorting to chibi versions of the children, is especially good at showing us what’s going on by her characters’ facial expressions. The look on Yamato’s mother’s face when she’s trying to keep a positive attitude in front of her children is especially poignant, as is the look on Kakeru’s mother’s face when she goes into labour in the middle of a typical mother-son argument over a missing card and Kakeru is consumed by guilt that it’s all his fault.
The weight of guilt on Yamato’s young shoulders is also very movingly and realistically portrayed. From his point of view, he was the last one to speak to his father on the phone before the accident – so he feels in some inexplicable way responsible for what happened (a very real and believable portrayal of the way young children can react to family upheavals). He’s been keeping his guilt and sadness bottled up inside and it’s taken its toll. It’s to Kakeru that he eventually unburdens himself – and Kakeru, bless him, cries too because he’s a sympathetic little soul. When Yamato, puzzled, asks him why he’s crying, he says between sobs, “I dunno. For some reason I just started to.” (Warning to readers: you too will need tissues to hand before the end of this volume.)
The translation for Yen Press is again by Jan Mitsuko Cook with lettering by Alexis Eckerman and there’s a very helpful page of translation notes. The only slightly ‘off’ note is the Extra Story: The Boy from that Day which I feel stretches coincidence just a little bit too far – but others may well disagree. Four attractive gloss colour pages are to be found at the start of the volume (Mika’s colour work is as delicate and attractive as ever). Volume 7 (only recently published in Japan) has not yet appeared on Yen Press’s future schedule.
If you’re looking for a hot and steamy BL romance, this isn’t the title for you – but for a heartfelt and beautifully observed manga about ordinary young people finding their way in life (with some genuinely touching insights) this can’t be bettered at the moment (except, possibly, by the equally charming yet moving Skip and Loafer).