#20 – Breathe Deeply by Yamaaki Doton
Breathe Deeply by Yamaaki Doton
Published by One Peace Books
Given a choice to defy all laws of humanity and saving your loved one, what would you do?
Loaded questions like this often make me uneasy. It’s different when you read it in shounen titles. It makes sense to break human logic in fantastic worlds but when it’s closer to reality, it’s a lot harder to swallow.
For Sei and Oishi, the choice to play God became more apparent when the love of their life, Yuko, announced that she had few months to live. It was a difficult to accept that news however the boys seemed determined to do everything in their power to save Yuko’s life.
The Yuko Problem
It’s very difficult to connect with the characters of Breathe Deeply. Not that they’re badly written. It’s nothing like that at all. Oishi, Sei, and Yuko are colorful characters who stand by very strong principles which keep you engaged throughout the book. However, knowing that this story will only lead to heartbreak has kept me from even trying to understand their position.
It’s difficult to lose your loved ones. It’s difficult to carry the weight of people’s lives on your shoulders, more so your loved ones. Thus when Yuko’s heart finally gave up, Oishi and Sei were driven to find a solution, hoping that what they experienced would never happen to somebody else.
To a degree I admired how Oishi and Sei were driven to great medical achievements just to find an answer for Yuko’s problem. Oishi played with academic politics before finally getting his stem cell research recognized. Sei’s efforts in biochemistry eventually led to his stellar yet controversial career. Most people would probably move on and live another life but their dedication is so notable that the story feels fictional.
Medical Fiction? Or Reality?
Reading the efforts of Oishi and Sei in medical research felt like science fiction. It couldn’t be real, right? Ears coming out of rats. Plastic that functions like a heart. I know for a fact (thanks to many Discovery Channel specials) that these medical advances are happening but seeing it applied and within the context of a questioning population and the Yuko melodrama makes me feel like I’m reading a science fiction story.
I’m not a big fan of science fiction but I do appreciate those that have a good story. And this is one of those. You get swept with all the amazing scientific developments because you are caught up with the emotional urgencies of Oishi and Sei. Yuko’s long gone but they understood that their efforts will definitely affect and change the life of someone. And that’s fascinating.
It doesn’t help that there’s a strange eerie feel with the story. It must be that charcoal shade effect that gives that solemn dismal atmosphere. And while I think it’s not as dismal as No Longer Human, the style does give the story a very surreal feeling — the kind of surreal that should be taken seriously.
A Heavy Heart
And it’s hard to position yourself in something so unbelievable yet real. Towards the latter part of the story, things made sense if I began to believe that this was like a medical soap opera done right — a House episode where things turn for the worse only for a miracle to happen in the end.
For some, this is how stories should go. Stories should end with a happy note so that we can hope for what was once fictional. But for me, especially when I’ve already positioned myself in the reality that Sei and Oishi’s efforts can happen, I feel my heart break knowing that Breathe Deeply is completely removed from reality. That this is just the imagination of a couple who questioned, “How far would you live the legacy of a loved one?”
Breathe Deeply gave me great heartbreak but it was still entertaining as a manga. It is unique in its story and its execution, perhaps one of the few that do leave an impression. I can’t say that I’m completely a fan of Doton Yamaaki but I will be watching out for their works and see if they can make my heart waver like they did with Breathe Deeply.
Note: One Peace books provided me with a review copy of this book but in no way was my review biased because of this gesture. Thank you very much for this review copy.