Ima Made Kore Kara is a collection of original doujinshi that loosely connects Hayakawa’s Endou-kun series with one of her other works, Kurayami ni Strobe, only it focuses on a whole web of entirely new characters. And when I say web, I mean it. It’s confusing enough that Hayakawa made her own relationship chart to help us keep track:
You don’t have to read Endou-kun or Kurayami to understand Ima Made, especially since the main characters of either series barely show up in Ima Made (though I’m always up for people reading more Hayakawa). The arguable center of Ima Made, Kosuga, was briefly mentioned in a snatch of dialogue in Kurayami, but it isn’t until Ima Made that he actually appears. He turns out to be middle school friends with the barber model Kanzaki from Endou-kun, and their relationship to each other and their third childhood friend, Kurata, is that perfect blend of “eros in the stoic” and pure platonic affection and unspoken, not fully unrequited love that I feel like I’m coarsening it just by putting it into words. Kanzaki never talks about his feelings, but in the first oneshot (“Road, Lead, Road”), Kosuga makes a call to Kanzaki that leaves Kanzaki flustered and blushing in front of a suspicious Tsuda. Kanzaki’s friend Ikarashi suspects in the second oneshot (“Cut or Kill”) that Kosuga is less than honest about his own feelings towards Kanzaki, but the whats or whys of this dynamic are something Hayakawa deftly leaves to your imagination.
Meanwhile, Kurata, you learn, likes Kanzaki – but not like that, just in the sense of two craftsmen who take their hobbies seriously, Kosuga assures Ikarashi. The narrative never tells you as much, but it’s clear that something happened to Kosuga in middle school and cleaved him away from his friends, turned him from a serious person to the Prince Charming playboy of the school he is now. Kurata tells him, “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you with short hair,” so does that mean he was on a sports team? Hayakawa draws him in the fourth oneshot (“8/32”) suspended in two halves, one with short hair and holding a baseball bat and the other in dreads and holding onto a violin, so does that mean he quit music?
Whatever it was, you can see that it eats at Kosuga, who finds himself in “Road, Lead, Road” dazzled by the multitude of after school clubs he encounters as he goes to pick up Kurata. “I’m not like Kurata and Kanzaki,” Kosuga tells Ikarashi, but why, you wonder? Despite the lightness and peaceful tone of Ima Made as a whole, you feel little spikes of unease: shadowy figures in Kosuga’s memory calling someone a fag (maybe how Kosuga and Kurata met, bullying Kanzaki?), someone faceless kicking a shoe in the air, middle school Kosuga in Kurata’s mind holding onto a baseball bat in one hand and someone’s limp arm in the other. There are unspoken multitudes in this trio, in Kanzaki’s implied crush on Kosuga, Kosuga’s inability to either see or answer Kanzaki’s feelings, Kurata’s appreciation of Kanzaki as a fellow artist and Kosuga as an objet d’ art, and it’s all speechlessly, beautifully conveyed in a single page of “Cut or Kill”: Kurata in the top panel gazing as if into the distance but clearly staring at Kanzaki and Kosuga, Kanzaki cutting hair with his eyes cast down, Kosuga who has let his hair down and closed his eyes.
Ikarashi and his charge/childhood friend Sasaoka were newly created for Ima Made, and they get their own little bizarre love triangle. Ikarashi has a crush on his teacher Noriko, who only sees him as a student, and he chases after her with a earnest doggedness, while Sasaoka knows he wants to stay with Ikarashi forever, but doesn’t know how or why. Everyone, including Sasaoka, treats Ikarashi like a father figure, and Ikarashi’s closeness to Sasaoka makes him blind to what his relationship with Sasaoka could become. And Ikarashi isn’t a stupid person, usually; after all, he’s the one that realizes Kosuga is using Sasaoka as an excuse to see Kanzaki in “Cut or Kill.” You get the sense that he’s actually the one who has been taking Sasaoka for granted, and not the other way around. It’s Ikarashi who doesn’t realize they can’t be childhood friends forever. Sasaoka is willing to take the next step into something new and more permanent, but Ikarashi isn’t even thinking of the future, unless it’s a future where Noriko-sensei treats him like a man.
“8/32” ends with the most overtly romantic scene of Ima Made, but I love it more for the way Hayakawa threads a leitmotif of leaving/staying behind/being left behind into Ikarashi and Sasaoka. Their first scene in “8/32” is of Sasaoka rushing ahead of Ikarashi to explore the empty school, but when Ikarashi finally catches up, he immediately leaves Sasaoka behind for Noriko. “I’m not doing this anymore,” he says, “You can go home without me when you’re done.” The throwing away is literal; just seconds ago, Ikarashi had been gripping Sasaoka’s hand (not romantically, but holding it all the same), and the final panel of that scene is of Sasaoka’s outstretched hand and Ikarashi slipping away into right edge of the page. Still, Sasaoka refuses to be left or to be the one leaving, and he waits at the lockers for Ikarashi. “Settle for me,” he tells Ikarashi, and then rushes off, leaving Ikarashi to “figure it out for yourself.” The Kosuga/Kanzaki/Kurata triangle is the mirage of a mansion once built on a solid foundations and then left to rot, but Sasaoka and Ikarashi’s story is more genre-savvy, the inked blueprints of a house that will exist, just not right now. Ikarashi, we know, because we read bl manga, isn’t going to get Noriko. He’ll settle for Sasaoka eventually. Until then, they’re going to keep chasing each other, leaving each other behind, catching up and meeting in the middle. One day, that middle will be a life they share together.
There’s not much to say about the other two “couples” (Takahashi and Saitou who are on the basketball team, and Yamada also from the basketball team who has to bug his smarter classmate Yamamoto for help on exams), except that fans of Endou-kun or Kurayami ni Strobe would enjoy the relationship dynamics. Mostly their subplots remind me of a scene in this wonderful pivix KuroBasu doujinshi, “A Common Love Story,” where a character muses that other people’s lives only look like smooth sailing from the outside because you can’t see the truth. Kanzaki looks like a carefree character in Endou-kun, and seems perfect to even Ikarashi, who complains during “Cut or Kill” that he’s the kind of person everyone would want to hitch their daughters to, but maybe the truth is that he yentas the Endou and Tsuda relationship in part because his and Kosuga’s is so fragile. To Ikarashi, who wants a girl he can’t have and feels like he can’t have a happily ever after forever with Sasaoka, Kosuga and his girlfriend Oomiya look like the perfect couple who will announce any day they’ll get engaged. Yet it’s Ikarashi and Sasaoka who look like a couple to Yamato and Takashi. And Hayakawa’s characters don’t want other people to know their feelings; they want them to remain buried with them forever. Unearthing feelings only forces the characters to realize they’re stalling. It’s only by miracle – or getting promoted to the lead character of a real story – that confessions actually get you anywhere.
All this babbling to say, Hayakawa’s stories, despite being simple, reward close, repeat reading, so that you see the way all the layers of her art and writing operate in the background, and that’s never been more obvious than in this collection. I love the stories in Ima Made for their interstitial quality, the sense that we’re intruding on a life that has always existed without us and will continue to exist even if Hayakawa isn’t showing it to us. After all, that’s what “ima made, kore kara” means: until now, from now on, the ephemeral ‘now’ that keeps moving into the past and moving away from us into the future. August 31, 2012, was a Friday, and it’s fitting that the last one shot, written in August 2012, was called “8/32.” You get the sense that this whole collection is an impossible weekend afternoon that could only exist in our imagination, a moment where everything stops and you catch your breath and take stock of the world around you. Hayakawa calls this work “Boy’s life and love,” and that might be the most perfect summation.
[This post is a repost.]