I’m reviewing another recent release from Juné Manga this week, and this time around it’s Kei Kanai’s An Even More Beautiful Lie. The boys’ love title stars Korosu Keiichiro and Yukari Yohito, a pair of art students who meet and quickly develop a romantic and sexual relationship. The fine arts play a significant role in the book’s setting and plot, so as a fan of In the Walnut I was immediately intrigued. Does An Even More Beautiful Lie utilize its unique trappings successfully? Is it good?
For a manga centered around art to have underwhelming visuals would be quite the sad irony. Fortunately that’s not the case here at all. Kanai’s artwork in fantastic, with charmingly thick inks and clean line-work. The characters are very emotive throughout, with body language that reads believably. The flow of motion in general is very smooth and the page layouts effectively lead one’s eyes along from panel to panel.
The paintings depicted throughout also look wonderful, thanks largely to how drastically their style differs from that of the manga as a whole. They have a more ethereal and otherworldly aesthetic; it’s like looking at an entirely different world within the already fictional world of the story proper. Pulling off such stark stylistic variations is a difficult task, but Kanai makes it look easy. The art’s loveliness also extends to the shading and renderings of light throughout. Panels showing the way light bends and only partially shows through curtains at nighttime are particularly impressive.
The writing here is also well-thought-out and affecting. Both protagonists are likable and have well-defined personalities that clash enough to generate interesting conflict. Yohito in particular is very talented creatively but struggles to take care of himself in virtually any sense. Kanai approaches the character with nuance, depicting both his strengths and faults without ever seeming needlessly judgmental.
These characters have depth to them, and Kanai lets the events do the talking rather than needing to rely on authorial narration. The dialogue is well-written, and there’s some nice attention paid to the fact that Yohito and Keiichiro have other figures in their social lives besides each other. The pacing of the romance is also quite good, and there’s little to dislike about the manga’s first two-thirds or so.
Unfortunately things get a bit messy toward the end. The story introduces action and suspense elements that don’t fully mesh with the rest of the work tonally. These detract from the page-time available for the protagonists to spend growing and interacting with one another. A content warning is also in order; there is assault in this story (both sexual and otherwise). It’s not inherently a con for a manga to touch on any of these topics of course, but An Even More Beautiful Lie doesn’t utilize them in ways that help further the themes, the characters, or the romance. The bizarre choices made just make the manga read as if there was some sort of editorial mandate or Kanai had a major change in priorities halfway in.
Overall, An Even More Beautiful Lie is a very enjoyable read. The artwork impresses on all fronts from the clean inks to the effective layouts to the successful mix of styles. The romance is also well-written and the protagonists have depth to them. It’s unfortunate that the final third of the volume feels like something lifted from a different comic. Nonetheless, I would recommend this book.