This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series I Didn't Mean to Fall in Love. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to manipulation and dubious consent (dubcon) as it appears in the manga.
Yoshino is nearing his thirties and has never been kissed, much less had sex. He's not totally innocent, though, as he has been playing solo for a long time now. But it's just not enough anymore, and with Christmas on the horizon, he's desperate to experience the real thing at least once before he reaches his lonely thirties. So, after listening in on a conversation between his coworkers, he discovers a gay bar and makes his way over after work on Christmas night, which is also his birthday.
While there, he finds himself pretty popular among all the regulars. This bar is unique, though, with two separate sections, one for platonic drinking and fun. In the back, though, is a place for anyone looking for hookups. Before Yoshino can even make his way back there, a silver-haired young man named Rou jumps up to join him. Rou is charming and relaxed and gives Yoshino all the feelings. It isn't long before they head upstairs for a steamy night together.
With the deed done, Yoshino assumes that would be the first and last time he'd ever have with Rou. Even as he's accepted this, though, he can't help but be drawn back again and again for the warm college kid he shared his first time with. So is this what love is, or is it simply lust?
This is the second review I've done for Suzumaru Minta. I've already reviewed Golden Sparkle, and just like in that review: the art is impeccable. In this particular manga, the side profile of Yoshino isn't all that great, but I think there are only two or three panels where that even matters. I love this style so, so much. It's very clean and consistent, and as soon as I heard Seven Seas was printing a physical edition, I pre-ordered it immediately. It's like owning works of art, truly. Some of the panels are pretty enough to be framed, and as a self-professed degenerate, I would happily hang any of them on my walls. I don't know what that says about me, but here we are.
As with most single-volume works, it is rather superficial story-wise. As per usual, it's a whirlwind romance predicated, seemingly by sex… until you find out that Rou has been keeping an eye on Yoshino long before the beginning of this story. There is some amazingly subtle foreshadowing with Rou actually appearing in the corner of a panel at the very beginning, on the same train as Yoshino. I, unfortunately, can't claim that I noticed it. I didn't realize it was a thing until I read the author's note at the end where it was mentioned. That was a very clever touch that I would never have thought of.
However, even if you don't notice that foreshadowing, there is a section where Rou admits that he noticed Yoshino before he met him at the bar. Further foreshadowing is revealed at this point because Yoshino is shown helping an older man on the train and helping a lost child find their parent at the beginning and a few times throughout the story. Rou saw Yoshino assisting people and was attracted to him immediately because of that. Then, when Yoshino shows up at the bar, Rou takes the opportunity to finally get close to him when he can't do so on the train. It also turns out that Rou ended up helping the older man when Yoshino couldn't make it to the train at the same time as he usually would. These reveals and subtle moments build character and tie this short story into a nice little bow. It's very satisfying in that respect.
With that being said, I do need to note something that did bother me. The crux of the tension in the story is that Rou likes to play a particular game when luring lovers and partners. It's clear he has never really been in love with anyone either, which is a nice touch to help level the playing field for Yoshino, who has zero experience at all. However, how he plays the game of push and pull (giving, then withholding love) didn't make much sense to me. It seemed like he was very affectionate and lovey-dovey the entire time. He just refrained from being intimate. I would have expected something more than that, such as ignoring him altogether, but that wasn't the case. Don't get me wrong! I was glad to see that he wasn't a complete ass, but it seemed like that was the intention. It just didn't come through very well.
Admittedly, I am incredibly biased at this point toward Suzumaru Minta‘s work. It's beautiful and concise. It doesn't get much better than this. Just as a side recommendation, if you like Suzumaru Minta, I would also recommend that you try Shikke, specifically Pink Heart Jam. I think you'll like that if you enjoy this.
Have you read I Didn't Mean to Fall in Love? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!