It is interesting, to me anyway, to note that I have now encountered three separate yuri titles where one or both of the protagonists exhibit signs of being on the asexual/demisexual spectrum. While this is a positive from the point of view of representation, it also raises a different question: is there a conflation of homosexuality and asexuality in manga about queer characters? If so, it’s not terribly helpful, because asexuality (no sexual attraction), demisexuality (some sexual attraction, often predicated by emotional closeness rather than for physical pleasure’s sake), and homoromanticism (emotional/romantic, but not sexual, attraction to a person of the same gender) are not at all the same thing. In both the case of Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon and Whisper Me a Love Song, the exact same “test” is proposed by people the questioning protagonist asks about love: “Do you want to kiss them?” And in both cases, the protagonist answers with confusion. This is perhaps intended to indicate that they never considered such a thing to be possible with another woman, but again, this is a bit of a stumbling block, and definitely risks falling into the terrible fallacy that people who have never fallen in love simply haven’t “met the right person yet.” It may seem picky to point this all out, but it is an interesting component of the genre that seems to be cropping up (and it has at times in BL, too), and one that may be an issue for some readers.
That aside, Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon‘s second volume continues the slow burn of its predecessor. (And, as the creator notes, is 100% doughnut-free.) Now that Hinako and Asahi have established what they are slightly hesitant to think of as a friendship, they’re spending a lot more time together outside of work. In fact, Hinako has begun to eat at Asahi and Subaru’s house much more often, something Subaru is very, very excited about. Her reaction is not just because she’s supportive of her sister’s potential love life, though; it’s also a window into Asahi’s past in much the same way we learned about Hinako’s insecurities in the previous volume. We’ve known that the sisters’ parents aren’t around, but this is the first time that a big deal has been made out of it – because Asahi feels that her self-assumed role as Subaru’s caretaker contributes to the discomfort she feels about her relationship with Hinako. Despite the fact that until recently their grandmother was in the picture (and was actually living with them), Asahi feels a large sense of responsibility for her younger sister, and that her primary duty is to continue to be more her parent than her sibling. She flat-out tells Hinako that she doesn’t believe that she’ll ever fall in love (or rather, allow herself to) because Subaru will always come first for her, to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Subaru herself is more than aware of this, and she’s definitely not happy about it. She doesn’t want her sister to sacrifice her own life based on parental duties that she doesn’t necessarily have – in fact, there’s no indication that Subaru sees Asahi as a “mother” figure at all; to her, she’s simply her older sister. These crossed wires are very likely due to the fact that Subaru was so young when their parents died and that their grandmother stepped in shortly thereafter. Asahi may have felt responsible and like she was raising her sister, but Subaru saw Grandma as her parental figure, so in her mind, Asahi is using her as an excuse to avoid being happy. Given how Asahi acts, it feels entirely possible that she’s afraid to pursue a relationship or to find love because she feels guilty that her parents’ lives were cut short; there also could be something about their deaths (or lives) that has made her think she doesn’t want that for herself. But as far as her sister is concerned, this isn’t a good or healthy way to live, and she’s determined to push Asahi and Hinako together.
It’s fortunate for us that Subaru’s not written so as to make this urge obnoxious. She really does seem to think that Asahi and Hinako would be good together, and the women’s behavior in this volume certainly supports her assumption that they like each other romantically. They’re just taking the long way around to get there, and since that feels right for them, it’s perfectly fine. The focus (in the romantic sense) this volume is on them beginning to use each other’s first names and to hold hands, both of which are done very well. The hand holding in particular is a highlight of the volume as Usui’s art focuses on their hands either slowly coming together or slipping apart. There’s a clear sense of frightened yearning in each panel, and it feels intimate and beautiful in each carefully framed image. It’s as if they’re using their hands to express what they’re not able to with their voices; their confusing emotions come across clearly more than any babbled statement at work or awkward home visit – with the notable exception of the one after Hinako sprains her ankle and she paints Asahi’s fingernails when she comes to visit. But again, that’s Usui using hands to say what lips cannot.
While most of the tension in the story is strictly between Hinako, Asahi, and their own inner monologues, we do meet a new character who stands to shake things up: an old school friend of Asahi’s who may have been her girlfriend, or at least made it clear that she would have liked to be. This is an impressive bit of storytelling because the book does not immediately devolve into a silly rival plotline; instead she’s open with Hinako even as Subaru and Asahi make it clear that they’re not thrilled she’s just appeared on their doorstep as if certain of her welcome. We’ll have to see how it goes in volume three, but as of this book, she could be more of a help than a hindrance as the women try to figure things out.
Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon is the very definition of a slow burn romance. Neither Hinako nor Asahi are the type to just jump into something new, and both of them have a lot of baggage to go through. But that’s why this is such a quietly rewarding read: there’s a real sense that we want them to be happy, even if it takes them a while to want that themselves.
#Doughnuts #Crescent #Moon