MANGA REVIEW: False Memories Vol. 1 & 2

Although they were best friends in high school, Nakano and Tsuda haven’t talked in ten years. Which may have a little something to do with the fact that not only were they more than best friends, but also that Tsuda broke Nakano’s heart, leaving him to pick up the pieces. Now that they’ve been thrown back together thanks to a work project, Nakano is determined to put the past behind him, and both men decide to keep their relationship strictly professional. The question is, can they?

Title: False Memories
Author: Isaku Natsume
Artist: Isaku Netsuke
Genre: Boys Love/Slice of Life
Vol. 1 Rating: ★★★★
Vol. 2 Rating: ★★★★★

I’m always on the hunt for boys love manga that doesn’t focus on abuse as one of the tactics used to get the boys together. Not that it happens super often, but it’s often enough that I’m basically second guessing myself every time I buy a volume.

So color me extremely happy when there wasn’t an ounce of that to be found in either of these volumes.

Maybe my bar is too low for boys love, or maybe I just haven’t explored enough of the genre, but both volumes of False Memories are two of the best BL stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Of course I’m a sucker for best friends to lovers, and even more of a sucker for ‘best friends’ to ‘kinda enemies forced to work together’ to lovers. Some good stuff right there!

What I didn’t know going in was that False Memories is an anthology of sorts, focusing on two relationships as they build up. The first being Nakano and Tsuda, who were best friends in high school before a hook-up broke them apart. The second focusing on Saeki and Kouhei, two secondary characters from the first volume.

I actually think I would’ve preferred if both volumes had just been about Nakano and Tsuda. Their relationship by the end of the first volume hasn’t been resolved (though there is a pretty sweet cliffhanger that made me want more) so you actually have to read both if you want the proper conclusion. Which is totally worth it by the way because the resolution is pretty adorable. There was the ‘big’ revelation about why they actually broke apart and I thought that was an incredible sweet moment, and really not something I’ve seen done anywhere else. It’s also really sweet and endearing watching Tsuda try his hardest to win back Nakano’s friendship, and eventually his love.

Sakei and Kouhei are a little more mellow. The two don’t know each other, and don’t really have a hill to climb over to get to their relationship, though there is some play with sexuality and coming out. Certain aspects of their story might make others uncomfortable as Kouhei is college-age (seeing as he drinks I’m assuming he’s at least 20, the drinking age in Japan) and Sakei is 35 years old. But it didn’t bother me too much. Their story suffers though, as it’s told through the last three chapters of the second volume, but for what it is, it’s fairly cute, and a nice lil’ relaxer after some of the angst Nakano and Tsuda dealt with.

The art style is nothing super special, though it’s loads better than some of the other boys love I’ve seen out there. There were more emotional scenes that I thought were done really well, and some of the facial expressions and reactions really had me laughing.

If you’re reading this for the sex scenes then I have some bad news. There are maybe three scenes across both volumes, only one of which is super explicit. Which is actually something I appreciated. I’d say Kouhei’s and Sakei’s scene towards the end of Vol. 2 was most certainly the more explicit of the scenes, while both of Nakano’s and Tsuda’s are more about their facial expressions. I’m not a big ‘sex in books/manga’ person, and sometimes it can feel as if a writer or author is fetishizing a couple during these scenes. But here it felt more real and comforting, like it was in fact a payoff for these men to finally let their guard down in front of one another.

As an introduction into boys love stories, this might make a good choice. It takes no time to read both volumes, and they can both be found in e-book editions for cheap. It also doesn’t rely on abusive tropes as story elements. And handles the more emotional scenes very well, touching on certain subjects that I was actually impressed to see. Neither of the relationships are fetishized either, leading to two fairly well developed romances that actually made me want more.

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