Love triangle stories are my kryptonite, especially if they are central to the entire narrative. A story may have love triangles, like say, the manga Nana, but these multiple love triangles in its narrative aren’t what make the story what it is. Some of the earliest stories I consumed had important love triangles: Super Dimension Fortress Macross, and the Dragonlance Chronicles have lead characters torn between love interests. These kinds of stories are what really get to me.
SWWEEET, a manga by Aoyama Kei is a very different kind of love triangle. I haven’t much experience with seinen love triangle stories, though I can appreciate those within Honey and Clover (not exactly seinen), and in the Ghibli production Ocean Waves/I Can Hear the Sea. Again, the love triangle elements in these works don’t dominate the narrative but in SWWEEET, it is undeniable, and disturbingly so.
Hayashi Susumu, his twin brother Tsutomu, and Toyama Sakura spent a somewhat idyllic childhood together. Susumu had been attracted to Sakura, but Sakura preferred the stronger and more confident Tsutomu. When they were ten years old, Tsutomu mysteriously disappeared. The narrative begins in middle school, where Sakura is tormented by bullies.
Susumu wanted more than anything to protect her, almost that he almost didn’t notice how strange he was being: talking to Tsutomu through a looking glass. He musters enough courage to intervene just as Sakura was seriously getting beat up. However, Susumu isn’t very strong, so the gang of girls easily overpower him.
The make Sakura have sex with him on the school rooftop.
I ask myself, this is rape right? I’m not sure but I’m inclined to think that way. Later on Sakura finds out that Susumu has a link to Tsutomu and can communicate with him. She has sex with him as if he were Tsutomu. All of this happens pretty much in the first volume of the manga.
Rather disturbing stuff. You have a love triangle between a girl and twins, one of them possibly dead. She fornicates with one to simulate being with the other. Susumu, already lacking in confidence, suffers this indignity because he’s convinced that he loves Sakura so thoroughly that he only wishes her happiness. Tsutomu through the looking glass and mocks him.
I can’t tell if Tsutomu is into Sakura the same way she’s into him.
How can this story go forward? How can this ever end well? I’m committed to find out because the story is told rather well, and the manga is illustrated rather handsomely. There are laughs to be had, amidst the creepy and unnerving moments.
The thing about love triangles is that they point towards winners and losers. One of the guys will get the girl and the loser goes away. Here in the disturbingly titled SWWEEET, I don’t think anyone can come away winners.