It’s perhaps odd to call a story with as much internalized homophobia on the part of one of the characters as this one has “adorable,” but here we are. We’re on Our Own from Here is less about two people coming together than it is about one half of a couple helping the other to realize that he’s not somehow “weird” for his sexual orientation, and the way that this plays out is, in fact, adorable. While the book has all of the basic trappings of its genre, it’s the way that it handles them that makes it work and lends the single volume story its charm.
Our point of view character is Haruki, a second year in high school. He met Ryusuke in middle school and he’s been in love with him for much of that time, something he’s very conflicted about. Despite always knowing that he was gay, Haruki has a lot of internalized homophobia; he’s convinced that there’s something “weird” or “wrong” about his attraction to his best friend solely because they’re both boys. We don’t know where this came from, whether it’s due to his family’s voiced opinions or just simply something he absorbed through society and culture at large, but it’s apparent that he’s had this feeling for a long time – possibly ever since he realized he was gay. This complicates his feelings for Ryusuke because it makes him feel like he really shouldn’t have them, that there’s something wrong with being in love with another boy. Yes, he’s also worried that if he confesses he’ll lose his best friend, which is completely valid no matter what the genders involved are, but that’s eclipsed by his belief that he’s in the wrong for simply having the feelings in the first place.
Interestingly enough, he never considers that Ryusuke may also be gay or bisexual. After a bad experience in middle school involving a girl confessing to him, Ryusuke has had a difficult time dealing with girls, particularly those who have a crush on him, but that story could easily be a cover for the fact that he’s just not interested in them sexually or romantically. While he never comes out and says that he’s anything other than straight, there are plenty of indications that such might be the case, if only Haruki could bring himself to really see them. The most obvious is of course the fact that, after Haruki spontaneously kisses him and confesses, Ryusuke is the one to ask Haruki out. But even before that when Haruki is apologizing for being “gross” for kissing him Ryusuke simply says that he’s not, and the minute that they start dating, Ryusuke is more than comfortable touching Haruki more than he did when they were just friends. While this is a BL title and one of the less accurate tropes of the genre is the idea that someone is “gay just for you,” that doesn’t feel like the case here; rather it seems that Ryusuke liked Haruki romantically right along but never said anything for fears of making his friend uncomfortable.
That we never know for sure doesn’t detract from the book at all. Instead it feels like we’re discovering the truth alongside Haruki and watching as he starts to realize that there’s nothing wrong with who he is or what he feels. Ryusuke is very respectful and considerate (arguably more so than Haruki, who did kiss him out of the blue, after all), trying very hard to understand what Haruki’s issues are and what makes him uncomfortable. That he doesn’t agree with Haruki’s assessment of their relationship as something they need to hide is patently obvious from the start, but instead of using blunt force to change his mind, Ryusuke tries to show Haruki that everything’s okay through his words and actions. Haruki doesn’t want to touch in public? That’s fine, they’ll just go somewhere more private. Haruki gets mad at Ryusuke for openly telling a girl that he’s in love with Haruki? All right, he’ll just let Haruki cool off for a bit and then they’ll talk. It’s as caring a relationship as Ryusuke can make it while trying not to push Haruki’s buttons, and there’s something very sweet about that.
What’s also sweet is that the ultimate culmination of their relationship isn’t when they have sex. That happens before they truly work things through emotionally and the denouement is instead when Ryusuke turns the girl who has been pursuing him down by mentioning his feelings for Haruki. Haruki doesn’t know how to deal with that – it’s not something he expected and he’s afraid that it will open Ryusuke up to ridicule. But it is something that he needs to hear and think about, and when he’s thought it through, that’s when he’s able to fully accept that there’s nothing wrong with their relationship. That gives the volume a story that focuses more on the emotional than the sexual content. It doesn’t negate the physical attraction the boys feel, but it does remind readers that the emotions are just as, if not more, important as what they do with their bodies.
We’re on Our Own from Here could easily have been longer, but in a single volume it still tells a complete story with space for us to imagine a future for the couple. The art may not be anything special, but it has good use of body language and the characters are all easy to tell apart. It’s a sweet slice of BL with a warm and fuzzy ending, which is impressive for a story where one of the characters has to be convinced that there’s nothing at all wrong with who he is and who he loves.