In terms of plot, Noda Matsumoto’s I Want to Feel You Because I Like You is one of the more unique books I’ve read from Juné Manga. It stars Ono, a young dentist struggling with grief, and Masaki, a ghost who only he (and some children) can see. Though their relationship starts out platonic, it goes through some considerable shifts by the manga’s end. Does this story balance its supernatural and emotional elements effectively? Is it good?
Artistically speaking, this manga is near flawless. Matsumoto’s style has a soft look to it that’s visually pleasing and matches the characters’ emotional vulnerability. There’s a good sense of physical depth throughout and the inking is fantastic. Shading-wise the pages have a great balance of lighter and darker values so nothing ever feels muddy, and when shifts are made to add more lightness or darkness they feel deliberate and effective. The page compositions, meanwhile, are nicely varied and change to match more calm or chaotic moods.
When it comes to the story’s most dramatic and pivotal moments Matsumoto always chooses just the right images and angles to convey their intended meanings. One of my favorite examples of this is a sequence of three panels showing Ono shaking his head. His subtle changes in posture are great, and his facial expression is very emotive even though we can only see his mouth; his eyes are covered up by his hair. All in all Matsumoto has a beautiful style that makes the manga’s world feel light and airy but still large, well-defined, and lived in.
As far as the writing goes, most of this volume is excellent. Matsumoto doesn’t waste a lot of time setting up the fantastical premise. We’re more or less just presented with the facts of the situation and then the story progresses from there. This choice is an effective one; we don’t need to know how Masaki became a ghost in order to understand his relationship with Ono or what it means to both characters. Without spoiling too many details I’ll say that Ono is grieving and that his time spent with Masaki is pivotal to that process.
The mourning is beautifully handled, and Matsumoto makes excellent choices with regards to what scenes and images to use to achieve maximum emotional effect. A lot of the focus is on small, quiet moments whose implications carry just as much (if not more) weight as more loud and dramatic scenes would. Readers who have undergone experiences similar to Ono’s are likely to be moved by how Matsumoto hits close to home while being respectful of the subject matter.
Unfortunately this excellence hits a major snag near the manga’s end. I won’t say exactly what happens since it’s a huge twist, but the implications are more than a little troubling. The revelation, combined with the nature of the protagonists’ relationship, shifts the story from being a beautiful tale of men coming together after a tragedy to an upsetting read that majorly undermines all its own best points. The tonal whiplash here is some of the most extreme I’ve ever seen.
Overall, I Want to Feel You Because I Like You is a confounding book. The vast majority of it is excellent, with poignant portrayals of grief and some of my favorite art I’ve ever seen in a yaoi series. If it weren’t for the ending, this would be one of my favorite manga of the year thus far. Unfortunately the story’s conclusion drops the ball about as hard as possible, and it does so in a way that pervades the rest of the volume. If I’m grading the book as a whole then a high score is probably appropriate since so much of it is so well-done. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t recommend this volume without the caveat that many readers will likely think the ending ruins the reading experience.