Mihara Okawa’s A Death Wish and an Alien exists at a unique cross-section of genres. The volume, published by Juné Manga, is first and foremost a yaoi romance. Its characters and setting, however, are firmly entrenched in sci-fi themes and concepts. The premise is definitely an interesting one, and the art is eye-catching. With that said, does Okawa blend genres effectively here? Is A Death Wish and an Alien good?
The manga stars Fushishiba, a college student whose public life becomes considerably more awkward after his peers find out he’s gay. On his professor’s recommendation, he leaves school to go work at a research center on a small island. The research is focused on rare local plants, but Fushishiba soon discovers that there’s something much more unusual to study on the island: a seemingly human young man named Futaba who claims to be from outer space. The two’s relationship quickly becomes romantic, and Futaba struggles to help Fushishiba overcome his depression. Meanwhile another couple on the island, Natsuki and Shu, also find themselves romantically involved after having not seen each other for years.
The first thing that stands out about this volume is its art. Okawa’s thin line-work impresses throughout, and it features an intricacy of detail that makes many of the manga’s settings seem magical. This is especially the case in scenes where the characters are surrounded by plants. Fushishiba’s first meeting with Futaba, for instance, takes place in a stunning forest overrun with beautifully inked foliage. These lush landscapes make it easy to become immersed in the story’s world, and to view Futaba with the same sense of infatuated wonder that Fushishiba does. The characters also look great thanks to emotive facial expressions and well-rendered eyes and hair.
The manga’s unique set-up also does it considerable favors. By grounding the story within a sci-fi context, Okawa breathes fresh life into the romance. Fushishiba and Futaba’s courtship and communication issues stem not just from personality differences, but from questions raised by (and about) the nature of humanity. Futabe’s origins are only touched on briefly, but Okawa does so poignantly. The writing in this scene is quite poetic, and it stands out as some of the volume’s best. The island research center setting is also notable, as it places the characters in a position with few other people around. Because of this, their dynamics can grow organically without being stymied by societal pressures. This is especially important to Futabe and Fushishiba’s conversations about being homosexual, as well as the social implications of being perceived as such.
With that said, this volume’s writing does have its downsides. There are a number of time-skips throughout which seem to take the place of actual bonding time between the main characters. As a result, shifts in their dynamic are taken for granted a bit and we don’t get to see many of the pivotal moments that actually lead to said changes. The relationship between Shu and Natsuki also seems a bit rushed at times, but this is less bothersome since they’re not the central characters. As a whole, their presence is a plus for the manga as they make Fushishiba’s workplace feel more fleshed out and alive.
Meanwhile, the topic of Fushishiba’s depression isn’t handled terribly in most of the book, but it does get tied up (and presumably cured) too neatly at the conclusion. There is also a confusing scene where it’s unclear whether the events are happening in real-time or if a character is either imagining them or having a flashback. Depending on the answer to said question there might be some consent issues going on, and that’s an uncomfortable plot point to be unsure about.
Overall, A Death Wish and an Alien is an enjoyable volume. The artwork is absolutely beautiful, with gorgeous nature imagery and expressive characters. The premise is also very intriguing, as it mixes romance and sci-fi elements together in a way that feels fresh and unexpected. The characters themselves are also fairly likable, even if their relationships and personal problems get rushed through a bit. I would recommend this title to any boys’ love fan interested in stories with elements of the supernatural or fantastical.