So one of the manga series that I bought at Katsucon was the acclaimed yaoi classic, I Shall Never Return by Kazuna Uchida. I absolutely love this manga, everything about it just screamed 90’s, from the fashion to the angst ridden plot, it was a non-stop ride from start to finish. I couldn’t help but get swept up in the story of Ritsuru and Ken, as their friendship evolves into a passionate love affair. I could not put it down, quickly breezing through all five volumes in a matter of hours, it was just that good! Don’t let the art put you off this amazing title (I happen to love 90’s art), you will regret not reading this amazing title.
The five volume series released between 1992 and 1996 follows the friendship between Ritsuro, a straight laced high school student and Ken, a high school drop out who leads a life of sex and drugs. Despite Ken’s destructive lifestyle, Ritsuro sticks by him even after it causes friction between him and his girlfriend Moeko. I want to commend this title for actually having a female character that is important to the plot! Moeko is much more than the typical female prop character, she is an important friend to both Ritsuro and Ken, without getting in the way of the relationship between the two male leads. She is a side character that actually adds depth to the story in a meaningful way.
Over the course of the story both Ritsuro and Ken go through massive amounts of character growth (mostly on Ken’s part) which in turn deepens their relationship with one another. I will warn you that there is rape in the second volume, but it is in no way sugar coated or over sexualized, it is taken seriously and I feel that the characters deal with the situation in a realistic and healthy way. Unlike many early yaoi/BL titles, I Shall Never Return is not a tragedy (Thank God), it has a nice, clean ending, that I feel wraps up the story of Ritsuro and Ken perfectly!
Lastly, there is an OVA of the story out there, but be warned it is more of a snapshot of the overall manga plot. Critics have described the OVA as a love letter of sorts to fans of the series and I absolutely agree with that sentiment. The OVA is a short ode to a truly amazing title. I highly recommend I Shall Never Return for any fan of yaoi or BL. It is a beautiful, angsty, and heartfelt title, and I suggest every fan of the genre read it at least once!