REVIEW: Immoral Darkness by Miyu Matsuda

Beautiful. Cool. Shiina Jun has always been admired by females around him. But he would give up their admiration for just one drop of affection from his family. Or for a chance at true love from anybody who could save him from the dark loneliness that he’s lived in for so long. His teacher, Sasagawa Tetsuya, wants to be his savior. But is Sasagawa offering a way out or is he pushing Shiina deeper into the darkness? And can Shiina trust his heart to a man who forces himself on him?

Warnings: Noncon, dubcon, underage sex, themes of abuse

Category: M/M

Immoral Darkness, a light novel, is a scandalous story about abusive sex and bad coping mechanisms. It’s not a particularly romantic story, despite it presenting itself as one, and it may be a difficult read for some as it centers very prominently around a teen that is being abused by his family, is prostituting as a maladaptive coping mechanism, and then becomes prey to his teacher for further abuse. Usually this would be up my ally as an intriguing story, but what I actually found more troubling than the content itself was the fact that the narrative didn’t really treat any of those things with much actual weight or seriousness.

WRITING
The story is a pretty strange one, all things considered. Shiina is a victim of abuse and neglect from his family, and as a result has turned inwards and keeps himself distant from everyone around him; avoiding making friends or connections at school for fear of being hurt by anyone else. He’s also having sex with an older woman who’s cheating on her husband in exchange for money, but it’s mostly because he feels like she’s a mother figure in place of his absent actual mother. If all of that wasn’t unhealthy enough, his teacher notices that he’s not doing well and that he seems lonely and withdrawn, and decides that obviously the best way to help him with his issues is to stalk him and then fuck him. So begins their torrid love affair. It’s well paced and keeps the reader invested well, especially given the extreme nature of it’s content. However, I would have liked the text to explore with a little more seriousness Shiina’s trauma, given just how much of it he’s been exposed to. But there’s enough glimpses here that the reader simply must infer their own conclusions.

There’s also some artwork, of course, and the illustrations are very classic BL: sexy, expressive, and pretty to look at.

EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT
I was very emotionally engaged with the characters, especially Shiina. This made the ending a little bittersweet, because I was so invested in his wellbeing that I wasn’t necessarily rooting for Sasagawa. I wanted him to be healthy and happy with a new family that treated him better and found the ending to be a very jarring sudden turn towards romance when the rest of the text… really is not romantic. I could have perhaps been satisfied with the ending if it were presented as dark, as Shiina being sucked further into abuse and despair and unable to escape from the clutches of Sasagawa, but since the text presented it like a happy romantic ending for him to get with Sasagawa, I found it a very strange narrative and wasn’t sure how to emotionally feel about it.

WORLDBUILDING
Worldbuilding is, of course, not necessarily a feature in novels that are intended to take place in our modern world. The setting is highschool, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about the world in which the characters interact, except perhaps everyone’s blase reaction to extreme child abuse and neglect.

STEAMINESS
The smut is pretty hot, if you’re into noncon/dubcon power imbalance fare… which, I certainly am. It’s only real drawback is a lack of creativity; there’s a lot of scenes of overwhelming sexual lust but the characters end up doing very little more than simply fucking. That’s pretty standard, but due to the extreme nature of the premise I’d have hoped for a little more from the smut. As it is though, the smut is pretty steamy and I enjoyed especially the initial scene at the train station for the obscenity of the situation (highschool teacher forcing himself on his student in a dingy public washroom is pretty hot fantasy fare). The tension between them later on in the story when they are in class again, sharing meaningful glances that keep Shiina on his toes are also pretty fantastic.

This book does move into territory that I’m less enthusiastic about when it comes to noncon tropes; that is, presenting abusive behaviour as though it is not abusive. The text ranges from presenting horrific abuse tactics as “not really that big of a deal” (Shiina’s family deciding to ignore his existence for years) to “romantic, actually” (Sasagawa stalking, raping, and isolating him from others) and although all of those things I can find quite engaging in a narrative, I rather they be treated as actually bad instead of being presented as positive. So your mileage may vary, it’s an entertaining book if you like these sorts of tropes, but may also be triggering for some.

 

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