In These Words isn't romantic in any way whatsoever.
In this horrific suspense yaoi novel, Asano Katsuya is a psychiatrist who profiled a killer, and is then assigned to go be the person who extracts a full confession in some remote, dilapidated building. Doesn't sound like a bad idea at all, right?
Asano starts having crazy nightmares, and things get pretty ugly.
See my full thoughts below the cut. Trigger warning: rape.
In These Words (vol. 1 - a collection of the first five chapters)
This book begins with five full-color illustrations (one for each chapter), and then a prologue in which Asano is being stalked by an unnamed man. Eventually, he gets drugged and dragged away, taken to an old building and raped - repeatedly. The first portion of the prologue is in regular novel format, but once they get going with the explicit stuff, the illustrations begin. It starts pretty light (putting aside the fact that Asano is being legitimately raped) - just the physical things (completely uncensored, by the way, which puts this novel at the 18+ rating) and plenty of crazy-man dialogue from the still unnamed person.
Asano wakes up in his own apartment, confused and with a migraine. We find out that he's headed over to some remote building to talk to a killer and get a full confession. The killer was profiled by Asano, and curiously enough, requested him personally. At this time, Asano is only "dreaming" about the kidnap and rape incidents, and for the first few chapters, assumes he is merely empathizing with the victims.
After a few days with the killer (his name is revealed to be Shinohara Keiji), the dreams get worse. Asano dreams he's being cut, just like Shinohara's other victims, who were all kept wounded but alive for a full month before being disposed of in pieces. The novel ends with a scene where Asano is looking for the security guard in charge of Shinohara, finds him slumped in front of the TV and is assaulted from behind by the killer himself. Dream or reality? I guess we won't know until the next volume.
The things that are good about this novel:
It's kind of a mind-killer. Psychologically, what's happening to Asano is intense. He doesn't know what's really going on, and so far the story points to a scenario where he really was raped and tortured by this man, and blocked it out completely after being released. It was made a point in the dialogue that Shinohara might have only maimed the "lovers" in places they couldn't see the scars. Shinohara emphasized a difference between people he killed by just causing them pain for a month (no sex), and people he simply loved and killed for the sake of knowing nobody else ever could afterward.
The things that are bad about this novel:
I'm not really into having these rape and cutting scenes illustrated for me. I don't feel that this is a novel that most folks would really feel "pleasure" reading - it's more like something out of the Saw series or Hostel. I'm not squeamish, but I don't like watching people (real or made up) being raped and tortured either.
I don't know if I'll continue reading it, but if I do, my hopes for the series are that it doesn't turn into a "Stockholm Syndrome" situation, and that Shinohara is brought to justice. Regardless of the outcome, the premise is tragic, and I realize that there is a place for that in story-telling, and that some folks do enjoy it.
If you're the kind of person that likes the shock value of this kind of thing, this might be the novel for you. Otherwise, don't be fooled by the yaoi label into thinking this might be a romantic novel. Steer very clear.
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