Double mints; Love taken to the messed up extreme and how it works for Mitsuo Ichikawa

{Content warning for an extremely messy relationship and dark themes; such as murder and mutual abuse}

Double mints is like the jack of all trades compared to other manga of the same genre. It has it all: romance (albeit questionable), angst, some philosophy, murder in the very 1st chapter, and even the yakuza playing an important role in the progression of the plot. While this work is quite an old one, first published all the way back in 2009, Nakamura Asumiko’s art truly shines in this mature and psychologically heavy manga. The characters, while not too many, are both mysterious, expressive and help create the dark ambiance of the story. That being said, Double mints is dark, to an almost edgy degree, but never quite gets to it nor becomes over dramatic. The main reason for this is the way the characters act and interact with and around each other. A big crucial part of the manga are the outward appearances of each of the main characters, versus what they really feel like. That being said, the premise of “Double mints” is quite unique. There are no overdrawn gang wars or jaded policemen here, only two men sharing more traits than it seems at first. What fascinated me the most was the execution of the incredibly dark themes and topics discussed, in relation to the characters’ actions and the atmosphere created by simple glances or theories on humanity.

The story opens up with a high school classroom, setting familiar to death at this point. The teacher is taking attendance, but upon the name “Mitsuo Ichikawa” there is a pause… as two students answer. As the two stare at each other puzzled over this situation as their teacher quickly decides to differentiate by stroke number, we see the eyes that draw our protagonist, the light haired and ordinary to almost a fault, Mitsuo in to this downward spiral.

To avoid further confusion, this guy will be referred to as Mitsuo-kun.

The author doesn’t meander around showing off flashback after flashback, but rather shows the characters’ connection and depth of their relationship in bursts, as the two drive to the mountain in order to bury a body of an ex-girlfriend whom Mitsuo-kun killed. Before we can wonder whether the two are best friends from high school, so as to trust one another with getting help with a task like this, it’s revealed that Mitsuo-kun used to bully the guy that came to help him straight from work after a single call. Despite Mitsuo-kun being the one to steal his clothes and lock him up in the gym closet, he’s the one and only only he calls. It all started when Mitsuo-kun offered to let him out if he decided to “become his dog” for the rest of his life.

Back to the somewhat present, the pair are taking their sweet time so to say. While driving, they go out to eat and Mitsuo-kun even talks about the ex. Mitsuo-kun radiates the aura of something I dubbed ‘casual insanity’. He says that he met the girl only a few times for hookups, but he hit her after he saw her talking to another guy. She fought back and that was how the situation escalated. Mitsuo notices the ring on Mitsuo-kun’s finger and says that he should probably throw it out, while Mitsuo-kun complains how girls are into stuff like this as some sort of mementos. Before we get to nod our heads contentedly in a mutual “aha” moment of realization that Mitsuo-kun is crazy and our protagonist is just being dragged around. Mitsuo talks about the stuff they’re going to need and the whole deed of burying the body, but upon noticing that his partner in crime is asleep, he, for a moment, watches him with a blank look. We get to hold in a breath in anticipation, what will he do? Take off the ring, turn the car around or perhaps attempt to attack Mitsuo-kun in an act of revenge? No, in turn Mitsuo kisses him.

As his fingers lingers on the ring, Mitsuo’s mind wanders back to his and Mitsuo’s shared past of him getting beaten up, as Mitsuo-kun’s gang suspected him of giving out their names after a failed shoplift attempt. It’s as if he’s reminiscing Mitsuo-kun showing his own messed up kindness by praising him for saying that he wouldn’t have spoken even if he were to die and saying he won’t hit his face. This frames the situation as Mitsuo being the one constantly abused into a somewhat Stockholm syndrome, but this is far from the case, however, within the frame of the “present”, none of it is viewed by Mitsuo as something he hated but grew to like. Mitsuo-kun murdered him with his eyes the moment they first met.

Mitsuo-kun wakes up after feeling the sea breeze and runs out towards the water, as Mitsuo notes as an idiot, despite there being a body in their car. This is one of the moments where the characters act in illogical ways, making it hard to predict how they would act in any situation. From Mitsuo-kun deciding to turn himself in to the police to him obsessing over the look Mitsuo gave him after he lashed out about the latter kissing him, to Mitsuo himself going as far as sabotaging Mitsuo-kun’s “giving in”. These two protagonists are in no way good people and their relationship is all kinds of messed up, from mutual obsession to constantly shifting power dynamics. Despite it being a BL/yaoi, there are no clear uke or seme. Mitsuo-kun is usually shown in violent outbursts and even if we see him being more vulnerable and embarrassed (as Mitsuo states, he couldn’t even move away much to the latter’s embarrassment), he’s shown to enjoy having power over our protagonist, as well as him having power over him, almost using his feelings against him.

The same could be said about Mitsuo. At first glance, he seems an average person who’s being abused, but there’s more to it than that. He feels as if Mitsuo-kun was the one who helped him break out of his painfully average life. Aside from the bullying, Mitsuo-kun even convinced Mitsuo’s girlfriend to sleep with him, making the two break up. However, Mitsuo does not feel angry at this, instead he imagines doing it with Mitsuo-kun and highlights the fact that he is Mitsuo-kun and Mitsuo-kun is him. To sum up, their messed up feelings are a two way street that’s hard to navigate in. This, however, brings up an interesting idea that becomes integral to the plot. As Mitsuo watches TV after his counterpart had his fun, a theory of human duality is being explained. At first humans were one as two; two heads, four arms, four legs and so on… But after angering God with their arrogance, it is said that they suffered His wrath and the complete being was split into two. This remains an important idea for the two, as a core of their beings of sorts.
After this explanation, the plot picks up the pace as we find out that Mitsuo-kun was involved with the yakuza and was caught “lifting from the profits”. As he was beat unconscious, the boss offers Mitsuo to take over for a job he had planned. Even with the emphasis of it not being necessary for him to agree, Mitsuo remains loyal to Mitsuo-kun. The job is quite simple, to retrieve a DVD and Mitsuo upon completion receives it as his “bonus”. The manga goes completely off the rails, as it turns out to be a video of Mitsuo-kun getting abused in all kinds of ways after apologizing, getting his head shaved and even forced to take drugs. He becomes enraged when he finds Mitsuo watching the video and drama gets cranked up to 11, as he then gets taken to hospital after coughing up blood. Portraying the same lack of connection between words and actions, he notes Mitsuo’s crying face over the fact that he almost died and says that he did in fact die and came back, showcasing an uncanny softness to his character, as he was comforting the crying Mitsuo.

The next day Mitsuo-kun comes up to the boss saying that he wants out, never to have anything to do with the yakuza ever again. In a dark turn of fate or workings of the boss, what was supposed to be a simple job, turns into a fiasco. Not only the police are searching for the culprit, as Mitsuo-kun killed by accident, but know that he has injured his leg.

The boss orders Mitsuo-kun to stay the night with Mitsuo and the two have an open talk. Or whatever it’s considered by their standards. Despite brushing off Mitsuo’s statement that they must’ve been one body (calling back to the two as one theory he heard), Mitsuo-kun stays up wondering what will happen the separate parts become one again. “What will happen to it? Where will it go? We can we go?”. Mitsuo wakes up to an empty bed and rushes off to find Mitsuo-kun, even after hearing from the boss that he wants to sever all ties with him, not wanting Mitsuo to get involved. At long last, the two reunite with the help of Mitsuo’s love for him, stupidity and threats to disclose the information about what really happened to the police. In a dramatic display of determination, Mitsuo ignores all the pleas to leave and slashes a long cut along his cheek, saying that can’t go back anymore either. Mitsuo-kun quickly recovers from his shock and hugs his partner, saying he’ll have to train his dog all over again when the boss asks what he will do.

The two receive instructions on what to say and how to act as to receive their new passports orchestrated by the boss, and take off to China, running from both of their problems. Nevertheless, the pair ultimately decide to remain together, living their lives as two people who feel like they are a separated “one”.

What clicked with me the most in this manga is the desire to connect with someone on such a deep level that you would have to have been two parts of a whole. Mitsuo’s loyalty is admirable and Mitsuo-kun’s kindness is unique, but sweet nevertheless. They understand their individual and mutual flaws, yet are unable to stay apart. The two genuinely care about each other underneath all the abuse and manipulation that they gave one another in the earlier chapters. Both of them are not saints and have their unique desires and motivations (far from regular protagonists too, in a way this manga reminded me quite a lot of Saezuru Tori wa Habatakanai). After all, the story portrayed in “Double mints” is one of broken, messed up people, who find it impossible to be without each other, bettering themselves in the process. This love is both healthy for them and utterly toxic by normal standards. It’s important to say their standards are nothing like other people’s and that it works because they are the way that they are. This extreme love of theirs is the evidence. The two continue their new life abroad and are closer than ever, happy even, in their own way.

3 thoughts on “Double mints; Love taken to the messed up extreme and how it works for Mitsuo Ichikawa

  1. I wish this manga would get a print. I love all her work and have most of the printed ones. Not a huge fan of digital manga. Have you seen the movie? I have it but I haven’t seen it yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d buy it in a heartbeat haha! I read the manga yesterday and saw the movie at the same time. Surprisingly enough, it has good directing despite the low-ish budget and it gave me the same feel as the manga. I liked the manga better cause Nakamura’s art is amazing, but I’d recommed the movie as well!

      Liked by 1 person

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