JULY 20, 2016The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio
[Edit: Originally published July 20, 2016]
The Heart of Thomas begins with a young boy, Thomas, the titular character, committing suicide by throwing himself off a bridge. He’s doing so after being rejected by the boy he’s in love with.
Cut to the prestigious boarding school that Thomas was attending. His death was an accident, it had snowed and he fell through a gap in the rail. This is the story that everyone believes until, Juli, the boy who’d scorned Thomas’s interest in him, receives the suicide note that Thomas left him.
The story that follows is the story of Juli coming to terms with his guilt along with coming to terms with himself. Something happened to Juli, you’re not sure what, but it’s hinted at through scars and a fearful refusal to enter a particular room. You learn later that this is because he was assaulted the previous year by a group of students. It seems implied that the abuse was partially sexual in nature, but this is a Shojo Manga from the 1970s and nothing is super explicitly stated. Frankly I missed it the first time around, and I had to go back and look for it after there was mention of sexual assault in the introduction.
While Juli is struggling with his trauma a new force enters, a boy named Erich who is practically the spitting image of the dead Thomas. There is an immediate rift between Erich and Juli, though Juli is a little obsessed with the boy because the appearance is so similar that he sometimes struggles to separate the two. Erich also spends a large portion of the story very angry that he keeps getting conflated to Thomas.
The story is heavy. It’s not a light hearted romance. In fact there is no attempt at romance that goes well, though Thomas’s death is the only death related to romance things. The real heart of the story is dealing with trauma with Juli and coping with codependence and sense of self with Erich. Erich and Juli are not the end game though that would be a reasonable assumption as you watch their relationship progress.
The Heart of Thomas deals with harder topics and has characters who make bad choices, it’s dramatic yet doesn’t tilt too far into the world of unbelievable. It’s a very well written and compelling story. More complex than I think you’ll find in most other Shojo manga.
You can find it here.
Related Reviews: Wandering Son Vol 1