Monday, February 27, 2012

Unbearable Unbeing - A Review of Breathe Deeply by Yamaaki Doton

The feeling of losing sleep, choosing to read despite it all, engrossed and brain all disheveled with so much thoughts about different things that all circle around one topic. This book by Yamaaki Doton, though in Manga (Japanese comics) form, is not your average light novel. This is a very dark book. As dark as its own book cover.

I'd like to offer the warning that this post contains a lot of spoilers as well as personal ideas about the central message of the book and what it forced me to think about. The main topic is death, the treatment of death, trauma, coping and loss.

Note:  If you do read the images that I uploaded for you, make sure that you remember it is read from RIGHT TO LEFT, like traditional Japanese books.

Breathe Deeply by Yamaaki Doton

A battle ensues over life and death, belief and science, ethics and progress. Two boys, Sei and Oishi, fall madly in love with Yuko. Her loss wreaks havoc in their young lives, bitter memories cease to fade, and their tender hearts cling to the dream of a world where debilitating ilness disappears in the face of science. But what would happen if they discovered that they all believed was a lie? Is there still a chance that their suffering may end? Will mercy and love prevail?
The manga starts with some foreshadowing, in a university classroom a presentation was being made about the new discovery of a polymer-based artificial heart. The students seem incensed, agitated at this showcase of something far beyond their grasp.

Their professor is the scientist who worked hard on this huge scientific research. He believes that in the very beginning of time, the universe was a primordial sea of raw elements that expanded, conjoined and mixed inorder to form the universe and all the living and non-living things as we know it today. For him and his scientific perspective, if we came from one source, there is no imagined difference between the "core ingredient" of humans versus that of ordinary plastic. And that is his almost scandalous basis for his polymer-based "plastic heart", which has the capacity to expand and contract all on its own.

This professor is Sei Inaba, a celebrated chemical engineer, known far and wide for his study in  artificial heart production from the "BZ Reaction" of polymer gels. His piercing icy stare and his  colder belief system stemmed from both trauma and heartache from losing his beloved, Yuko, at an early age due to terminal heart illness.

In another department, the research office that Sei overshadowed with his fame, works Oishi Tsuyoshi, Sei's childhood friend. Oishi and Sei's common denominator is Yuko, who is as precious to Oishi like no one else was. His heart was set on Yuko, to help her get better everyday and to see the kindness in her smile with that unbounding optimism. Oishi loved that about her, but when faced with her mortality her cheerful eyes darkened into pools of despair; and Oishi couldn't handle seeing it happen.

The core dilemma of the novel is introduced early on, which mainly causes the divide between the two boys. Literature says that there are "Two Faces of Death", and it is in Yuko that we see it. When Yuko is with Oishi, she is open, vulnerable and not afraid to be afraid. It is a rather desperate thing to read. A dying person crying because of their death sentence. Yuko tells Oishi how she wishes to live and how scared she is of that unbearable state of her inevitable unbeing.

When it is Sei that she talks to, she is open, accepting, and wants to 'disappear like snow' as gently as possible. Yuko never forgets that this is the very boy who, at a very tender age knew she had a terminal illness due to a weakened heart, got a kitchen knife and stabbed his own chest, willing to give his to hers. This memory was the cause for Yuko to be scared of what might happen if Sei were to know how desperately she wanted to live.

Oishi mauling Sei.


I felt that Yuko, despite her 2D-ness and sketchy, gently-shaded face, gave me a peephole on human frailty in the face of nothingness and the End. Death has two faces, and when presented with the situation, the person feels urged to put on mask, the way Yuko did, with both Sei and Oishi.

But by this action, it is deception in some form. In the long run there is a possibility of forgetting which is real and which is the face we put on? Is it the brave, unwavering or the terrified, desperate expression?

It's not an easy thing telling the dying to be brave, and more importantly it takes a lot for the dying to tell you that they are being brave. Death is unsayable, uncertain, unmentionable: the unbearable unbeingness.

What I love so dearly about this novel is that it is not your run of the mill Manga. It has a deep melancholy that you just can't touch because it is shaded in such an ethereal manner. Sei and Oishi's loss and emptiness is so easily felt, as well as their burning desire to retrieve what they felt was taken away from them so easily.

But the story has offered me some difficult questions to ponder:

"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends", yes?

Would I give up my own heart to give it to someone I love? There is an immediate selfishness to my answer. Not because I want to live, but more defiant in which I would ask "How can you ask that of me?" I would give up my own heart to the one I love, to see such person live longer and happier. But "How could you ask for me to die inorder for you to live?" The request is a kind of selfishness, too

Another thought to ponder:

Oh, it is so hard to put down my thoughts on this single phrase.

I did not regret spending a sleepless night with this manga. The story, the thoughts, the difficulties of the characters has been forever ingrained in my heart. I'd recommend this book to anyone I SEE. Or at least those who are interested in these kind of edgy, dark drama novels of love and loss.

I am entirely IN LOVE with this manga. I can't bear to part with it. I usually have it at the side of my computer table so I could browse and re-read some parts that I remember all of a sudden. If I were to rate this, I would definitely just give it two twin moons in a small planet. How awesome are moons, right? Well, DOUBLE it. This book is the same way.

It was worth this lengthy post, because this book has so much to tell in it. I hope you try to find a copy of this novel in your local bookstore or online or steal it from some other people (not that I condone stealing! Though if you do, don't steal my copy! Haha!)

Thank you so much for reading. It's so tl;dr so just go for the novel instead, it's more worthwhile than this post. I swear. KEEP SAFE!~ Until next time!

The copy of this book I received was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I do not work for any publishing house, and I was not compensated/paid with money for my reviews on my blog

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