This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Metro. 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 sexual assault, inappropriate relationships between an adult and a student, PTSD, depression, blackmail, suicide, dubcon (dubious consent), car accidents, child abuse, and child neglect, as it appears in the manga.
Mizuki spends his days under the watchful and paranoid eyes of his mother. It was of no fault of his own that he is monitored so carefully, but it is instead due to his father's infidelity. Because his father ended up having a scandalous affair and left both Mizuki and his mother behind, Mizuki's mother now views everything sexual as evil. To prevent her son from following the same path as his father, she makes him write out every hour of his day, monitors the media he consumes, and controls every aspect of his life that she can so he never encounters anything she deems as immoral.
This causes Mizuki's life to become rather hollow, especially since, due to an illness, he could not graduate high school and is forced to attend his final year again as somewhat of a social pariah among the strangers in his class. The only spark in his life is the few times he rides the metro. There, on the train, a faceless man assaults him. For someone else, this would be traumatic and horrific, and though it does scare Mizuki, he finds it thrilling and the only intimate connection he's ever had with another person.
This happens nearly every day like clockwork, with the man touching Mizuki for a while only to disappear without a word, until one day, while touching Mizuki, the man tells Mizuki that if he gets off the train with him, he'll give Mizuki more. Having been isolated and sheltered for so long, Mizuki finds himself unable to refuse this offer. But is what he finds on the other side worth risking his simple and routine life for?
In my opinion, this is not meant to be a true lovey-dovey romance. It's intended to be dark and uncomfortable. I am categorizing it and tagging it as a romance since it does contain romantic elements and is often categorized as such on other sites. Still, I want to be clear that this is not a romance by the typical definition. Instead, these are two very haunted and broken people who find escape and solace in each other. It's also a taboo and scandalous relationship between an adult and a high school student. However, the student is an adult by my country's standards (18+ in the United States, for clarity) at nineteen, but that isn't necessarily the case everywhere else. I can't imagine anyone reading this and finding it romantic or sexy in any way, as I am pretty sure the purpose is for it to be thrilling but ultimately twisted and painful.
The art is pretty. I like it. It's very hollow and empty, which, again, I feel is intentional since these two people are pretty hollow and empty. Shinobu especially looks painfully empty with his white and vacant eyes. Meanwhile, Mizuki, over time, becomes much more animated and expressive, especially after he claims ownership over Shinobu's life, but starting with their sexual relationship. The artist has done a really great job of using the artwork to express changes in mood and feeling. When Mizuki is away from Shinobu and going through the motions of his controlled life, he is very plain-looking, and his eyes are as vacant as Shinobu's. Then, when they are having sex or when Mizuki is expressing himself to Shinobu, his design becomes much more detailed. It creates a clear distinction between the person Mizuki has to be in order to survive in the real world and who he wants to be in the freedom his relationship with Shinobu gives him.
Now, I feel like I've been doing a lot of praising. There's no question that I really like this piece, but I do have some things I wish had been done differently. The main thing that bothers me is the lack of development on Shinobu. We do get piecemealed information on why he is the way he is, and he does explicitly explain that the reason he started this whole relationship with Mizuki is in hopes that Mizuki would one day turn him in and effectively end his life. Otherwise, though, everything we learn about Shinobu and why he is the way he is is very surface-level. I wish we could have seen some more flashbacks or followed Shinobu more so his backstory could build up, but we don't really ever get beyond him explaining his traumas to Mizuki and Mizuki discovering what was in the locked room. I would have liked to have seen more depth in Shinobu, but as vacant as he is from beginning to end, it's almost fitting that we don't know more about him as his entire being is Mizuki's anyway.
The best part for me is actually the ending. It ends rather somber and dark without any clear resolution. They're both still very haunted individuals, with Mizuki still stuck under his mother's thumb, though with some autonomy. Meanwhile, Shinobu now spends his days empty and awaiting Mizuki's return. This doesn't feel like love to me, at least not from Shinobu's side. They are still seeking escape with each other and have formed a dependence without any real growth or resolution in sight. I am not sure if the intent was for the end to be so hopeless and dark, but that's what I got out of it, and I actually found it rather refreshing in that regard. It's a nice change of pace from the classic love stories where two broken people meet and ultimately fix each other. Instead, we get a much more realistic ending to a relationship that starts in such a chaotic and inappropriate way and ends just as twisted.
I really like this. Again, it is not your run-of-the-mill hurt and comfort romance, which I think really works. It's a really refreshing take on the BL genre, and it's definitely one I'll remember fondly. If you're looking for a hot and romantic sexy time, then steer clear because this certainly isn't what you're looking for. However, if you want something dark, twisted, and painful, then look no further. I highly recommend this.
Have you read Metro? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!