My rating: 2.25 of 5 stars
For the first time, I really lived. I existed in the world. It was all thanks to her. — Haruki
When my friends and family members saw me reading this manga, they immediately asked me about the title. Like, who wouldn’t, right? You don’t encounter such titles every day. But this book doesn’t have anything to do with cannibalism nor zombies. You might be surprised to learn that it’s a very sad story of friendship (and could-have-been romance?).
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas follows an introverted boy named Haruki. He doesn’t bother to interact with anyone in school because he believes that no one will ever be interested in him. One day, he goes to a hospital and “accidentally” reads the journal of Sakura, an extroverted girl with pancreatic cancer. In spite of their stark differences, they eventually become friends. Meanwhile, Sakura’s doom clock keeps on ticking, and neither of them can do anything to stop it.
This manga had the nerve to disclose Sakura’s death in the very first chapter. I was shocked because the cute, flowery cover made me excited for happy things. Kudos to the publishers for their cunning marketing strategy. Still, that maneuver was like an intentional spoiler, which significantly reduced my reading appetite. One of my friends said that I should’ve known better, so I guess I’m not yet jaded when it comes to manga. How could I know that Yoru Sumino was like Makoto Shinkai?
Given Haruki’s reserved personality, I expected him to be so relatable. Although I liked his self-sufficiency, I couldn’t empathize with him because he didn’t have a life outside his interactions with Sakura, his very own Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Also, the narrative seemed to imply that Haruki’s introversion was a weakness. This reeked of extrovert envy, so I felt defensive and frustrated. I always hate it when people equate introversion to shyness or something that you need to overcome. At one point, Sakura claimed that she was jealous of Haruki’s social independence. Her confession was too late, though; the damage was done.
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is one of my least favorite manga this year. However, regardless of my frustration with the protagonists, I liked the overall message of the story: You can enjoy life even if you have a terminal illness. Optimism is immensely difficult to achieve in this case, so cancer victims who learn to live with the idea of dying soon are inspiring in their own right.
P.S. Sakura’s death was imminent, but the way it happened was mind-blowing!