Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Hero Heel by Makoto Tateno
At the beginning of Hero Heel, Minami Masaki is a young actor who lands his first lead role as a superhero on a children’s television show. At first, he feels far too cool for the part, but he soon finds himself trying his best to impress Sawada Kauomi, the experienced actor who plays the villain. Minami soon discovers that Sawada is secretly gay and spends his nights with various lovers. Over time, Minami becomes more aware of his own sexual orientation and grows more and more obsessed with Sawada. The story follows the two men as they alternate between hurting and clinging to each other in a twisted game of attraction and rejection.
This manga is very painful to read. Both Minami and Sawada hurt each other and themselves as they struggle with haunting desires and internal brokenness. Minami lacks the self-esteem to pursue a relationship where he is treated with tenderness and affection. Rather, he acts out of desperation, begging and threatening Sawada into providing scraps of attention that lack any real intimacy.
There is little of anything having to do with love in this manga. Rather, it is a sad portrait of the suffering that results when we lose respect for ourselves and others, when sex becomes something we do to feel good rather than show love, and when people are seen as objects for our satisfaction rather than human beings of infinite value. Minami and Sawada’s relationship is marked by insults, judgment, intimidation, and violence. The idea that these characters are playing out their dysfunctional relationship while acting in a children’s t.v. show highlights Minami’s continual loss of innocence. This story is tragic and awful and, saddest of all, incredibly real. It lays out almost everything one should avoid in a romantic relationship and proves that it’s worth waiting for the right person to come along, because no love is better than bad love.
Hero Heel is composed of three volumes. The series contains lots of explicit and graphic sexual content. In her liner notes, Makoto very clearly states that she wrote this manga for adults. I would not have felt comfortable reading it before being eighteen-years-old.
Review by Aaron Walsh. Add your review of "Hero Heel" in comments!