It’s a tired old trope trotted out in plenty of yuri manga: dating other girls at your all-girls school is simply training for when you graduate into the world of men. While yuri manga often tries to refute this, Battan‘s Run Away With Me, Girl goes pretty hard in the other direction. Maki and Midori dated for the entire three years of their high school experience, and Maki assumed this relationship would continue into their adult lives. That’s why she’s so stunned and hurt when on graduation day, Midori tells her that she’s looking forward to seeing which of them gets a boyfriend first, announcing that dating another girl was just the childish thing she did. She tugs the elastics off her braids and lets her hair down while leaving her hair ties on the ground beside her erstwhile girlfriend, reinforcing to Maki her painful commitment to finding a man now that she’s grown up. The two don’t see each other for a decade, and then one day, Midori appears at the optometrist’s office where Maki works. Suddenly everything comes rushing back – and not just for Maki, who has never successfully put Midori out of her mind.
At first, it looks like Midori is living the life she claims she wanted ten years ago: she has a male fiancé, lives with him in a very nice apartment, and is expecting her first child. But when the story shifts from Maki’s first-person perspective to Midori’s, it becomes clear that things are not as rosy as Midori wants everyone to believe. This is an excellent point to mention that this book comes with a content warning for domestic abuse, primarily emotional, but with a bit of physical thrown in there as well. Midori’s fiancé, Tazane, feels suspicious almost from his first entry on the scene. He’s almost too perfect putting on a show for Maki, who has stayed to dinner. But the more time we spend in Midori’s perspective, the worse he begins to seem – they’re only engaged because Midori got pregnant, and the reason behind that is that he didn’t want to wear a condom, and she was afraid that he’d leave her if she pushed the issue. He gaslights her, makes disgusting comments about how he hopes pregnancy doesn’t ruin her body, and abuses her in various ways. We get a chapter from his point of view, but it does little to make him more sympathetic; yes, he is a product of how he was treated as a child, but that’s no excuse for growing up to become a raging misogynist asshole.
Reading this book is a bit like watching a wound open up. At first, everything looks fine, but as the Band-Aid is slowly peeled off, we get a glimpse of a raw injury that has yet to scab over. Everyone is dealing with a different sort of hurt: Maki never got over Midori and is now beginning to worry that things aren’t quite as good for her ex-girlfriend as she thought they were, Tazane is taking out his anger with women out on the one closest to him, and Midori is beginning to realize that the situation she is in is completely untenable. Of all of them, Midori’s case is the most dangerous – she’s living with her abuser, and it simply gets worse and worse as the book goes on, plus she has very reasonable indications that Tazane may be getting ready to cheat on her with her co-worker, who is aggressively pursuing him despite their engagement. While this sounds like a perfect excuse to get rid of him or for him to dump her, his behavior in the rest of the book implies that he is not likely to do so, or at least not without causing substantial damage to her in the process. It’s every article in every newspaper you’ve ever read about someone who gets stuck in an abusive relationship and can’t get themselves out. She does have help available to her in the form of Maki, but she has to be the one to ask for it, or rescue will never work.
In some ways, this book is about how Midori sabotaged herself by buying into the idea that only heteronormative relationships are genuine and lasting. Whether she is a lesbian or bisexual isn’t even an issue, as part of her problem is that she never thought to question it or society’s expectations of women. For Maki, the issue is whether or not she can allow herself to become romantically involved with Midori again, but saving someone from a situation like her ex-girlfriend finds herself in is likely to quash any doubt she might have. I don’t think this will be a feel-good story or even one with a guaranteed happy ending, although if it has one, it will feel like we have really worked for it. This volume is likely mostly set up for where this series will go next, and I suspect that giving it the two-volume test will be a good indication of whether it will work for you, provided that the content warnings don’t make it an automatic no go. But if that’s not a deal breaker for you, this is worth checking out, if only because it makes us hope that all the wounds will one day heal.