You’re the kind of person that plans his moves ahead of time. It wasn’t “fate” that made you choose me.
By: Fumi Yoshinaga
Publsiher: 801 Media/Digital Manga Publishing
Age Rating: M/Mature/18+
I never thought I’d read a BL manga that made me want to make comparisons with Yes, Minister. BL doesn’t tend to be big on politics, and when the characters engage in bluffs and double bluffs, they’re almost always about love and sex. So there’s something particularly intriguing about The Prime Minister’s Secret Diplomacy, in which a neophyte diplomat finds himself strangely drawn to his superior, who is both a razor-sharp negotiator and the neophyte’s future brother-in-law.
Shiraishi, the neophyte, and Yoshinaga, his superior, are atypical characters for a BL series: they’re both rather cold, and although Yoshinaga’s brilliance exerts a kind of fascination, he’s not exactly likeable. It’s easier to imagine being painfully obsessed with Yoshinaga than choosing him as your favourite drinking buddy. Shiraishi is a little warmer, a little more human, but still forced (by his position, if nothing else) to be calculating and to scrutinise his relationships with a tactical eye.
You might think that this would be off-putting, and if you’re looking for a standard hearts-and-flowers BL story, The Prime Minister’s Secret Diplomacy is not going to fill that slot. But Youka Nitta has the writing skill to pull off the twists and turns of a relationship between two men who play their cards close to their chests at all times, even when appearing to reveal vulnerabilities; she’s done the research to make the diplomatic plotting nuanced and grounded enough to be believable; and her slick, near-naturalistic art reinforces the mood and themes of the story perfectly. What’s on offer here is not so much intimacy as it is engagement, in the military sense: Yoshinaga and Shiraishi size each other up, look for weaknesses, make strategic attacks and retreats. Most importantly, they stay in control, because too much is at stake for either of them not to.
This all sounds very unromantic, and, well… it is. The Prime Minister’s Secret Diplomacy is about two men who fall in love… kind of… but it’s more a psychological drama (with elements drawn from suspense stories) than a romance. The chess-game-like nature of the relationship doesn’t in any way detract from the eroticism of the sex scenes, or undermine the moments of connection between the two main characters; rather, it flavours them, adds an extra harmony line underneath. In every scene in this manga, there is a sense of tension, of something being unexplained or undisclosed — left hanging, in a way. And you might expect that to be frustrating, but it never is. It’s simply too well-done.