Our childish ideas of being together… I thought I’d forgotten all about them.
Despite being disappointed by her at least once, I have a high opinion of Yugi Yamada. Her art is distinctive and interesting, but not nearly so interesting as her writing, which is sparky and funny and unpredictable. She likes to take the most well-worn BL clichés and turn them on their heads or give them a twist that makes the end result more realistic and less sentimental than it usually turns out in the hands of less skilful artists. Dry Heat is no exception, being Yamada’s take on the “childhood crush all grown up” story.
At just 7 years of age, Tatsuhiko declares to his ten-years-older friend Itaru that when he grows up he’s going to become prime minister of Japan, so that he can legalise gay marriage and marry Itaru. Ten years later, and five years after they last saw each other, Itaru learns that Tatsuhiko has gone missing, and is charged with finding him again. His search brings him to a sleazy area of Tokyo where he makes contact with Terasawa, an old friend who’s struggling to make a living as a PI; he finds Tatsuhiko quickly, but that’s far from the end of the story. Tatsuhiko firmly refuses to go back home, and equally firmly refuses to explain why; and he’s living with Chino, a friend from school who is strangely fascinated by Itaru — a fascination that chiefly manifests itself in attempts to jump Itaru’s bones, but doesn’t seem to be a normal sexual attraction. Meanwhile, Chino’s sister Yukie has troubles that have to do with Tatsuhiko, somehow, though Itaru has trouble figuring out how; and Terasawa is definitely not telling the whole truth about his own involvement…
The plot of Dry Heat is a delightful blend of romance, comedy, and very low-key thriller. There are enough twists and unexpected developments that it rewards re-reading — the second time around you’ll spot things that inevitably passed you by the first time. Itaru is a trifle gormless, but always sympathetic in his confusion at the strange situations he ends up in; Tatsuhiko is sometimes a little too forceful and headstrong for his own good, but the sincerity of his passion cannot be doubted. The sly Chino and hapless Terasawa help round out the cast, as does Yukie, who is considerably more together than any of the male characters.
Dry Heat is more than a BL story: it’s got substance, and yet it’s not in any way weighty; it rushes along at a good pace, even as it sows the seeds of surprisingly mature ideas about love and growing up and the ways in which people do, or don’t, change with time. It’s an excellent title from an excellent artist, and I highly recommend it.