REVIEW: ‘There Are Things I Can’t Tell You’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There Are Things I Cant Tell You

Romance manga has been a comfort throughout the current quarantine. But given the ample time on my hands to read since lockdown started, I quickly ran through my favorites in the shojo and josei romance areas and found my way yaoi, more affectionately known as Boy Love or BL. The romances in BL can vary from traditional shojo hand-holding with a kiss in the final chapter, or they can be romantic stories with explicit sex scenes illustrated. There Are Things I Can’t Tell You from Tokyopop and mangaka Edako Mofumofu is the latter of these but offers up a complex romance story that sees us following two friends who developed feeling for each other during childhood but were kept apart by perceived ideas of “normalcy.”

Masumi and Kyousuke are polar opposites when it comes to personality. While Masumi is reserved, soft-spoken and shy, Kyousuke is energetic and has always been popular among their peers. As the saying goes though, opposites have a tendency to attract, and these two have been fast friends since elementary school. To Masumi, Kyousuke has always been a hero to look up to, someone who supports him and saves him from the bullies. But now, school is over; their relationship suddenly becomes a lot less simple to describe. Facing the world — and one another — as adults, both men find there are things they struggle to say out loud, even to each other.

There Are Things I Cant Tell You

As a BL title, it’s no surprise that the two are in love, but its what this title does with this love and the revelation of it that makes it an amazing series. Over the course of just over 200-pages, this one-shot manga masterfully tells a story of becoming comfortable in your sexual identity and how society’s homophobia can wound individuals regardless of if they see their own pain or not. While there are two explicit sex scenes in the main story, the storytelling isn’t based on smut. In fact, it’s focused on telling a story of love, loss, and fear, and it just so happens to offer up some steamy moments that also have a deep emotional pay-off.

If you’re not familiar with BL as a genre, this storyline isn’t new. Often shonen-ai and yaoi both feature characters who have been love each other since childhood and for whatever reason, be it age or circumstance decide to confess each other. But this is also where There Are Things I Can’t Tell You diverts from the typical storytelling tropes by focusing on the societal pressures that impact budding love even when both parties want to move forward.

While the opening of the book shows us that Kyousuke is in seemingly unrequited love, an argument between him and Masumi reveals that he had actually rejected a confession from his best friend before. Instead of accepting Masumi’s love and returning it, Kyousuke was brought back to the way his father treated the simple idea that his son could be gay. With that stigma deeply rooted in his heart, Kyousuke chooses to push  Masumi away from himself and encourage him to seek someone else. Mofumofu uses ideas of normalcy and “right” and “wrong” to show how deeply this self-hatred and runs in Kyousuke despite his deep love for Masumi.

While we do get one chapter told from Masumi’s point of view, recounting the events of their childhood which led to their friendship and eventual love, There Are Things I Can’t Tell You is Kyuosuke’s story. It’s about him coming to terms with sexual identity and allowing himself to feel like he is both deserving of love and that he can return it in the way that Masumi needs it. The beautiful storytelling can’t be understated and it comes from an understanding of not only how to build tension but also how to avoid common tropes within the BL genre, like expected plot twists and confessions.

There Are Things I Can’t Tell You is an emotional and beautiful romance that also offers up a critique on the way society forces people to hold themselves back from happiness. There is a beauty in this one-shot that makes it one of my favorite BL titles. From illustration to writing, Mofumofu does an excellent job of filling each page with a tenderness and understanding that you need when picking up a romance title.


There Are Things I Can't Tell You
5

TL;DR

There Are Things I Can’t Tell You is an emotional and beautiful romance that also offers up a critique on the way society forces people to hold themselves back from happiness. There is a beauty in this one-shot that makes it one of my favorite BL titles. From illustration to writing, Mofumofu does an excellent job of filling each page with a tenderness and understanding that you need when picking up a romance title.