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by Rebecca Silverman,

New York, New York

Omnibus 2

New York, New York Omnibus 2

Now that Mel and Kain have successfully introduced their relationship to Kain's parents, they're ready to take the next step in solidifying their relationship. But forever is tricky, and not even wedding bands can guarantee forever. When Mel is kidnapped and forced into a living nightmare, will true love come shining through in the end?

New York, New York is translated by Preston Johnson-Chokar and lettered Abigail Black.


For modern readers of BL, Marimo Ragawa's New York, New York may feel very different from what they are used to. Rather than taking an idealized view of gay male relationships, the series, which dates to the mid-1990s, instead attempts a realism that the genre is often devoid of. Neither of the protagonists is preternaturally beautiful, and while there is a sexual component to the story, it isn't the be-all and end-all point. For Kain and Mel, the end is a solid relationship that is acknowledged as real and valid by a world that isn't quite ready to accept gay marriage.

To that end, it is significant that the volume opens with just such a marriage. We rejoin Kain and Mel after they have returned to New York from Kain's home in Newton, Massachusetts. Their meeting with Kain's parents was somewhat fraught, with his mother not quite ready to accept that her son is gay, but his father offers unconditional love. As you may recall, they also lost Kain's coworker, another gay man, to AIDS, and the combination of these things has convinced the two to go ahead with their marriage because it simply isn't worth waiting for the world to be ready for them. The scene is just as heartwarming and beautiful as you might expect, perhaps even more so if you remember when gay marriage started to become legal in various U.S. states; my sister was in middle school when her piano teacher was finally able to marry his partner, albeit not in our state. Ragawa seems to understand the significance of putting this moment on paper. She doesn't make any bigger of a deal of it than any other 1990s manga showing a marriage scene, but there is a striking quiet joy to their marriage that both shows us their happiness but also the tension surrounding their union; apart from the officiant, only two guests show up to the ceremony.

Regretfully, this is something of a false flag for the second omnibus release of Ragawa's series. Kain and Mel's happiness is fleeting, and the story takes a deep dive into soap opera territory. The day after their wedding, Mel is kidnapped by a serial killer while out taking a walk; if that sounds a little over the top, well, it is. Much of the omnibus is taken up with Kain's desperate attempt to get Mel back, which involves teaming up with an FBI agent named Luna Pittsburg. The action switches between Kain and Luna desperately tracking down Mel's captor and Mel himself in the clutches of Joey Klein, a mentally-ill man with a vendetta against blondes.

Before you wonder how this has anything to do with Kain and Mel's relationship, there is a distinct effort made to keep the focus on the difficulties of being out of the closet in 1990s New York. When Mel is kidnapped, Kain is essentially forced to come out at work, and while his commanding officer is perfectly fine with this (he and his wife were the two guests at the wedding), other police officers are far less understanding. Kain faces not only difficulties in trying to get the police interested in the kidnapping of a gay man but also rampant homophobia in the police community as he tries to do his job while being personally involved in the case. For the most part, the creator keeps it on the subtle side, with the primary plot focus being the actual kidnapping storyline. But it is impossible to ignore the jabs and snark that Kain faces in his attempt to get his husband back, the insinuations of the media, his coworkers, and other agents as they subtly disparage Kain for believing that Mel was kidnapped rather than run away of his own volition. The implication is that no one believes that two men could be in a loving, committed relationship; this is just as harmful to Kain as Mel has been taken in the first place.

In amongst all of the melodrama surrounding Mel's capture, we do see some real positives. Primary among them is when Kain's mother realizes something is genuinely wrong and that Mel is missing. She stays with Kain in New York and supports him until the case is resolved. This, more than anything, shows how far she has come in accepting her son for who he is and acknowledging Mel as his husband. She ultimately has chosen love over hate, and her actions are among the most emotionally satisfying of the volume. This becomes the triumphant theme of most of the book, and if the way that it is depicted often relies a bit too heavily on the tropes of romantic suspense circa 1995, it is ultimately well enough done that the resolution of the kidnapping plot and the reunion of our two lovers tugs at the heartstrings.

The book also deserves recognition for its focus on Mel's trauma. Being reunited with Kain is not a magic cure-all; Mel spent a month in captivity being raped by his captor, and on top of that, at the hands of his father and during his brief time as a sex worker, he's got a lot to deal with. When Kain recognizes that his husband needs help, he doesn't immediately try to do everything himself but instead finds a therapist to go to. Not only are the scenes with the therapist remarkably nonjudgmental for the time period, but they also show that this is a process for both people in the relationship. Kain also speaks to Mel's therapist to learn how to help him best. They figure out what will be best for both of them, and once again, the loving transformation undergone by Kain's mother is there to support them as they find a place they can truly call home.

In many cases, romance stories end with happily ever after. We don't know what happens to the characters after they finally get together; we're just meant to accept that everything will be perfect from then on. That is not necessarily the approach this series takes, and while most of the book is told in an omniscient third person, the final chapter is described in the first-person voice of Erica, the daughter Kain and Mel adopt. Erica's narration shows us that life isn't perfect, but it can still be as good as it possibly can, and while I wouldn't have wanted the book to end any other way, I fully admit that I was crying at the end. It's not fair or right to say that there is not a happy ending; it's just that rather than stopping at the most optimistic point, the story continues until it truly is the end. Erica's epilogue also shows that life does get easier for Kain and Mel and that the homophobia that marked the early parts of their story, while still present, decreases its influence over their lifetime. That is, for many of us, the ultimate hopeful ending. While New York, New York is marked by the time it was written, it is ultimately a fulfilling work of fiction. This BL story defies the conventions of the genre as we know it today, ultimately attempting to depict the lives of two people in a world that wasn't ready for them.

Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. Yen Press, BookWalker Global, and J-Novel Club are subsidiaries of KWE.

+ Thoughtful, and ultimately hopeful; attempts to tackle the homophobia of the 1990s
Kidnapping storyline is melodramatic, art can be a little clunky

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Marimo Ragawa
Licensed by: Yen Press

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