Men Friends
Author: Akane Chihaya
Specifications: ISBN  978-4163900667
237 pages
13.5 x 19.5 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Bungeishunju Ltd.
Tokyo, 2014
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A love story that grapples head on with the age-old but timeless question of whether there can be true friendship between a man and a woman without sex.

Aoi Kanna is a 29-year-old professional illustrator. For the past five years she has been living together with Akihito, a salaryman one year her junior. Akihito is supportive of her career, helps willingly with the housework, and is not given to unwanted meddling. But Aoi’s feelings have already drifted away from him. They haven’t had sex in a long while, and when she’s pushing hard on a job her hours tend to shift so that they barely even see each other despite living in the same house. Meanwhile, Aoi is secretly carrying on an affair with Shinji, a young doctor with a wife and family; they see each other only for sex. She also has another man in her life, Haseo, an old friend who was two years ahead of her in college. As a student he had a reputation as an inveterate playboy who was always carrying on with several women at the same time, and who would break up with one woman to promptly take up with another; but even when Aoi stayed at his place, they never slept together.

The story begins when Aoi and Haseo are reunited for the first time in seven years. He is now a medical representative for a pharmaceutical company, and she is enjoying a boost in her career from having won a picture-book award overseas. Haseo remains single and has not changed his womanizing ways. He listens sympathetically to Aoi’s candid account of her live-in boyfriend and secret lover, and encourages her to follow her heart. Sometime later, when Aoi is on edge from a tight deadline she faces, she and Akihito get into an argument that ends with him hitting her. Leaving behind a letter apologizing and calling it quits between them, he moves out. When Aoi arranges for an assignation with Shinji at a pharmaceutical seminar, she runs into Haseo and decides to go off with him instead, effectively dumping Shinji. Wanting to sort out exactly how she feels about Haseo, she goes on a trip with him to Hiroshima. That night she tries to get him to sleep with her, but as before, he gently turns her away and their relationship remains a purely emotional one.

In this deeply probing work, the choices the protagonist makes in her life both as a woman and as an artist give readers much food for thought.