There are unavoidable challenges in life, but there are those that people and society force on us. It’s refreshing to see stories that center people often pushed to the fringes. I Cannot Reach You looks at the first pangs of love between best friends Yamato and Kakeru. It’s a challenge for teens to express their feelings already, but fearing ridicule and rejection based on archaic heteronormative and gender roles is a fear no one should experience. I Cannot Reach You Volume 2 is a sweet BL romance manga that focuses on the buildup before a relationship. 

I Cannot Reach You Volume 2, from Yen Press, is written and illustrated by Mika, translated by Jan Mitsuko Cash, and lettering by Alexis Eckerman. Yamato and Kakeru’s emotions are moving past friendship, but therein lies the terror. Rejection is not the only fear. After all, they’ve been friends for years. If they become a couple and it does not work out the end result is they both lose their best friend. There is more than one hurdle on the path from friend to lover. The first is getting to the confession stage, and both Yamato and Kakeru are struggling with that. 

I Cannot Reach You Volume 2 cover with Kakeru laying his head on a desk as Yamato stares at him.
Courtesy of Yen Press

Despite this, there is room for hilarity. When Kakeru clings to Yamato’s back in tears, there’s a mix of sadness and comedy since Yamato’s embarrassed and onlookers are gawking as he struggles to break free. Both emotions stem from insecurity and fear. They fear losing each other and that the other will end up in a relationship. In youth especially, when people have a relationship, they spend less time with their friends. Yamato and Kakeru’s jealousy propels them to action but they each give shoddy work rather than a direct “I love you and what to be your boyfriend” confession. I Cannot Reach You Volume 2 understands the conflicting emotions in young, angsty love.

The “do they” or “don’t they” stress is natural in I Cannot Reach You Volume 2. Yamato knows how he feels about Kakeru but fears losing Kakeru by confessing. On the other hand, Kakeru is afraid of losing Yamato’s friendship but is unsure if that’s all he fears losing. He senses Yamato’s love, but is uncomfortable with asking Yamato. The illustrations and story are fantastic. Watching Kakeru get upset because he thinks he has crossed a line and upset Yamato, while Yamato hides his joy is cute. Mika shows each of their perspectives with the confusion their emotions and insecurities create. 

Mika also does a great job illustrating how sometimes listening to others can have mixed results. For the most part, the other students assume that Yamato and Kakeru are hetero, so although best friends, they take outsiders’ opinions as truth. Outsiders can get things wrong, like when Yamato and his sister eat pancakes and those watching them assume they’re a couple. Plus, we are never sure what the motivation is when outsiders give their opinions. Yamato’s sister seems to be jealous of Yamato’s love for Kakeru, but where that jealousy comes from is not clear yet. 

If you’re a fan of BL and shoujo style manga, I recommend I Cannot Reach You Volume 2. It has young love, comedy, fear, and jealousy. Mika does not throw the best friends into a relationship immediately but builds the developments slowly and realistically. I’m cheering for them to wind up together, but I’m in no rush because the build-up is delightful.