This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Restart After Coming Back Home. 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 violence, adoption, prejudice, gossip, bullying, death, child abandonment, and implied homomisia, as it appears in the manga.
Mitsuomi, from the time he was a teen, has had one goal: escape his small town and make it in Tokyo. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done, as time and time again, Mitsuomi's anger gets the better of him. Once again, he gets fired and has no other choice but to return home to stay with his parents. While he has always avoided staying in the countryside and taking over his family's business, at the age of twenty-five, with no other direction in his life, that might be his only option, if his dad will even give him the opportunity.
While bemoaning his fate, Mitsuomi meets an unfamiliar face, which is odd for his hometown. The young man is Yamato, adopted by Mitsuomi's long-term neighbor and farmer who never did have children of his own. Yamato is the same age as Mitsuomi, but his life seems completely put together, with Yamato helping his adoptive father out in the fields and making deliveries around town, all with a smile on his face. However, no matter how well-integrated Yamato is in this rural town, everyone still whispers, questioning his reliability as an outsider.
Mitsuomi can't stand the judgment and makes it his mission to befriend Yamato. But no matter how hard Mitsuomi tries, there are walls around Yamato that he just can't seem to tear down. More importantly, this mission of friendship has evolved into something deeper for Mitsuomi. He doesn't just like Yamato as a friend. He's steadily falling in love.
To start with, sorry, my fellow degenerates. This is a pure and wholesome shounen-ai, but it's a super cute one. It's very reminiscent of Love Tractor, though it isn't as vibrant, and the personalities of our leads are much more subdued. The issues with familial ties are still very much present here as they were in Love Tractor, and this explores the expectations we have for ourselves, the expectations of our parents, and how those two can either conflict or align. I like that the father didn't try to force Mitsuomi into coming home and immediately running the business, but instead wanted Mitsuomi to prove that what he wanted was to run the business. It really opened up Mutsuomi into real character growth and reconciliation between family, which we didn't get much of in Love Tractor (specifically the reconciliation, there was plenty of character growth). So, if you liked that part of Love Tractor but would have preferred something more subdued, then I think this is a winner.
The art in this is charming. It's not stunning. It's not perfect, but I think it fits this narrative. This is a very gradual story. It's about two individuals dealing with their traumas and insecurities, having just begun growing out of young adulthood and trying to find their way in the world, whether professionally or personally. It's not exciting or exuberant. It's fluffy and sweet but sometimes painful and harsh in its presentation of reality, but gentle overall. That's how I would describe the art, too. It's nice but imperfect. It really fits the content, and that's why it's perfect to me for this story.
The relationship is stunning. There's a lot of focus on the emotional connection and growth between the two, which is a nice change of pace from what I usually read, which is more based on physical communication than anything else. There are some precious moments when the two just enjoy the other's company. Meanwhile, Mitsuomi is trying to accept his budding romantic feelings. Then, it all culminates in a standard “we only have hotel rooms with a single bedroom” trope. They end up in a bed together, and rather than devolving into a lusty, sweaty pile, Yamato asks Mitsuomi about a little kiss Mitsuomi gave him when he was about to fall asleep. Mitsuomi comes clean and admits that he has fallen in love with Yamato. Rather than just jumping right into a relationship, Yamato confesses that he is still trying to find himself, and they fall asleep cuddling. It's precious, and I love how mature and responsible they are in this relationship. It's so satisfying and gives me all of the feels.
Where this is at its best is in Yamato, though. Yamato has a past shrouded in mystery from the very beginning. We know he's adopted, but beyond that, we don't know much. Much like Mitsuomi, the reader is desperate to tear down the walls he puts up between himself and others. He's someone with a bright smile and nary a care in the world from the outside, but it's clear that this is just a facade to hide his feelings. He doesn't want to be vulnerable because he knows people can't be trusted, having been abandoned from the moment he was brought into the world. We learn over time that Yamato was abandoned as an infant on a park bench in Tokyo and went through several orphanages before being adopted by Mitsuomi's neighbor. It's rather poetic that they travel back to Toyko together, a place both of them struggled in varying degrees, only to come back of their own accord together. I love this setup so, so much.
This is super sweet. I hate that it took me so long to read this because it is good. I don't think it's one of my faves just because it didn't leave a super strong impression, but it has a special place in my heart. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a palate cleanser from the whirlwind, smutty romances. I've already got the sequel to this one, and I'm really looking forward to reading it and reviewing it. I need more of this quiet and sweet romance in my life. Never fear, though. The smut will return very soon.
Have you read Restart After Coming Back Home? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!