Although it has been years since the last volume of Il Gatto Sul G, by Tooko Miyagi, was released, I found myself quite moved by the conclusion of the series. In spite of the very melodramatic storyline, I was completely drawn into the tender and moving portrait of the main couple’s relationship.
Originally, Il Gatto Sul G began the way a million other (usually bad) yaoi stories have — a dislocated and emotionally fraught boy is picked up like a stray cat by a kind and caring older-brother type. Il Gatto Sul G threw in a fairly outlandish twist to this narrative — the boy’s emotional trauma in this story was the current unraveling of his own identity. In the title, Riya Narukawa has two personalities — one “white” and one “black.” Although he happens to be a very talented violinist, his “black” self rejects music and reaches out for — sometimes lashes out against — Atsushi, a college student who is moved by Riya’s plight and eventually elects himself to become the younger boy’s caretaker (with some interference by Riya’s distant family member).
Riya’s case of split-personality both undermines and reinforces certain stereotypes concerning multiple personality disorder in fiction. In the reinforce column, Riya has been physically abused by his demanding father, who demanded beyond perfection from his musician son. Eventually this domestic trauma became too great for the young boy and he invented a “perfected” self, who could perform the way his father wanted but also maintain a smile while doing so. In the undermine column, neither the “black” or the “white” personality is the dominant, or the “true” personality. This was particularly welcome development since “black” wasn’t the “evil” side, more like the emotionally forward and churlish side. In other words, black was almost a normal teenager, while white appeared meek and outwardly fragile. However, both sides of Riya are missing something, each was developed to handle different aspects of his life….white can play the violin and attend school, while black reaches out for a real emotional connection.
In volume three, we watch Riya and his caretaker (& potential lover) go through nine different levels of hell as Riya’s carefully constructed walls between black and white personalities begin to crumble. Atsushi is a surprisingly decent, and rather too normal, young man who has accidentally fallen into a strange world of violin prodigies and MPD. He cares for Riya, but fears binding him and or abandoning him to his own devices Atsushi’s devotion to the younger boy gives the title its rather moving emotional core, as the manga actually offers a decent exploration of what it is like to fall in love with someone who is mentally ill. It certainly isn’t very much fun.
Of course, because white and black Riya are different people with different preferences, they also fall in love with different people. Atsushi finds he has a challenger for Riya’s affection in a manipulative upperclassman, who makes a connection with the “white” (or well-behaved) Riya. In a way, Riya’s two halves almost seem like commentary on yaoi-tropes, since his white half seems like a traditional weak uke, attracting the sexual bully we see far too often in yaoi, while his black (more assertive) half attracts a kind and gentle man who wouldn’t hurt a fly. There’s a lessen in there I’m pretty sure….
After all is said and done, Il Gatto Sul G manages to reach a satisfying and *earned* ending, no small feat considering the plot involves multiple personalities. Yes, this is melodrama central, but damn if I didn’t shed a few tears for Riya and Atsushi’s plight and mean it. The artwork, also, may take a little getting used to, as Miyagi uses linework so much everything looks a little crumpled, while her faces in comparison appear shockingly blank. I grew to like her distinctive art, but it does stand out from the yaoi-norm (which is always a good thing in my book).
Review copy provided by DMP.
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