Greetings, everyone! It’s the fourth Wednesday of the month, and you know what that means: ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. Oh, and a manga review. That you should totally read while eating ice cream. Anywho, this month we’re taking a look at a short series that’s been mentioned a few times in the IGGPPC forums: Seven Days.

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Let’s get some background info out of the way first. Seven Days is a two-volume manga that’s classified on Amazon as yaoi, but it’s really more shonen-ai (this is a Boys’ Love manga, but there’s nothing explicit – the most you see is kissing). The series is written by Tachibana Venio and illustrated by Taka rai Rihito. Our two main characters are Touji Seryou, a high school freshman famous for going out with the first person to ask him on a Monday morning and dumping them a week later, and Yuzuru Shino, a high school junior with a pretty face and an insensitive attitude. The plot kicks off when Yuzuru decides to ask Seryou out on a whim on a Monday morning.

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Both characters are carrying baggage: Seryou has a complicated relationship with his brother’s ex-girlfriend, and so he agrees to go out with people for a week in the hopes of falling in love, telling himself that if he can’t fall in love in seven days then it’s not meant to be; and Yuzuru is constantly told that he’s a disappointment because his personality doesn’t match his good looks, which causes him to put on a front around people because he knows all they see is his outer appearance.

So! That’s our plot. Because Seryou gives himself only a week to fall in love, this time limit gives the plot some urgency. To up that urgency, the story format is divided into different days, where individual chapters cover either the entirety of the day or the morning/afternoon portion. This is a pretty cool method because it really lets you see the progression of Yuzuru and Seryou’s relationship day-to-day (not to mention you’re constantly worried that they’re going to run out of time and not get together!).

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So what sets this tale apart from the countless other Boys’ Love stories? In my opinion, there are two major things (that are pretty much linked): the obstacles and the characters’ responses to them. Yuzuru and Seryou both realize they have feelings for one another at various points in the story and both have trouble expressing this, but they never have that inevitable moment where they run through a list in their heads about why this relationship won’t work. And because they don’t explain to themselves why a true romantic relationship is impossible, the story omits something that almost every other Boys’ Love story has: the characters stating that things can’t happen because they’re both guys or they’re not gay. When you remove this society-generated obstacle, Seven Days is fundamentally about the obstacles we choose to let stand in our way.

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Yuzuru and Seryou’s biggest obstacles to forming a real relationship stem not from their fear that society won’t accept them, but from the internalization of the perceptions their schoolmates have created about them. Throughout the story, we’re constantly told that everyone thinks Yuzuru is a pretty face with a sour personality; Yuzuru himself is extremely aware of what others say and makes resigned jokes about it. He accepts that no one knows the “real” him, and he believes no one will ever like that part of him. With Seryou, he’s been so damaged by his Shino (his brother’s ex-girlfriend) that he’s afraid to love anyone. He gives himself a week to fall in love with someone, I think, not to fall in love, but to make sure he can’t. If he starts to feel something, he knows it’ll be over in mere days and that he’ll avoid heartache. So when Yuzuru starts to make an impression on him, his immediate thought is to end their week-long relationship right away. And because he’s famous for going out with people for a week, every girl treats him as a competition where they can say that they successfully managed to be the first person to ask Seryou out on a Monday. Seryou knows these girls aren’t in this for the long-run because they see it as a game, and so he’s convinced the only one who can really love him is Shino (who, coincidentally, has the same last name as Yuzuru, which makes Seryou ask Yuzuru if he can address him by his first name because he’s uncomfortable with the name ‘Shino’).

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Ahem…so…THAT is what I love about this manga. It gives a new take on why two people refuse to acknowledge their feelings. You can see that the characters are falling for each other but they won’t admit to it because they’ve been slightly warped by what others think of them. There’s quite a bit of depth to these characters, and there’s a really lovely scene later on in the series that perfectly embodies this; Yuzuru and Seryou are both in the archery club, and after they have a falling out, you can see how it affects them in the way they shoot the target. It’s really rather brilliant.

If I had to pick something to complain about, it would be the lack of secondary characters. The secondary character with the largest role is Shino, the ex-girlfriend of Seryou’s brother. She constantly calls Seryou and ends up meeting Yuzuru, which just further strains Seryou and Yuzuru’s relationship. Yuzuru has two friends (one of whom went out with Seryou for a week) who occasionally show up, but they only talk about Seryou and how Yuzuru’s looks and personality are complete opposites. A few random schoolmates and archery club characters make minor appearances, but their purpose is primarily to help Yuzuru and Seryou realize they don’t want the other one to be tied to another person. And in romantic stories, this is pretty common; you’re supposed to be focused on the couple at hand, and too many side stories will distract you. So while I wish the world was more expanded, I do understand that the growing relationship is meant to take center stage.

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Simply put, this is one of the most charming things you will ever read. I re-read it literally two seconds after I finished it the first time. With a well-paced plot, clean artwork, and compelling main characters, I highly, highly, highly recommend checking this work out. You can find the scanlations online, or you can buy both volumes on Amazon.

Until next time!