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Written by Michael Braun
Mikage is the narrator and protagonist of the novella. Her parents died when she was young, and now that her grandmother also passed away she is the only one of her family left, which makes her depressed and listless. She even drops out of school. Since the apartment she inherited from her grandmother is too expensive, she is looking for a new place to stay.
When Yuichi Tanabe invites her to his place, she is surprised because she does not know him well. However, in her dire situation he appears like a saint to her, so she accepts his offer. Arriving at his apartment, she immediately feels comfortable because of the big sofa and the kitchen. She is amazed by the beauty of Yuichi's mother Eriko, only to be dumbfounded when she gets to know that he is actually a man with a sex change. However, she does not judge Eriko, which shows her liberal attitude.
She accepts Eriko's offer of staying with them for a while primarily because she does not want to be alone; moreover, she likes Eriko's cheerfulness and feels a connection with Yuichi, who was raised by his mother the way she was raised by her grandmother. When Eriko dies, Mikage cares for Yuichi by cooking a delicious dinner but does not recognize that she is falling in love with him, even though his girlfriend accuses her of stealing him from her.
Throughout the novel, Mikage is surrounded by death and sadness; however, she maintains a positive attitude and never loses faith. There are times when she just wants to be left alone, yet it feels like she is waiting for someone to rescue her from her misery. In the end, she realizes that she is in love with Yuichi and that caring for him is essential to achieve her own happiness.
Yuichi used to work at the flower shop Mikage's grandmother used to visit daily. When he learns of her death, he is devastated, which shows how attached he was to her. He was not as close to Mikage; however, following his mother's idea he invites her over to his place because he feels sorry for her and wants to cheer her up.
During her stay with Yuichi and his mother Eriko, Mikage discovers that he is just as devoted to both of them as he was to her grandmother. Moreover, she finds out that after his real mother had died, his father had a sex change and has been taking care of him as a mother. However, he does not seem to be romantic, as his girlfriend remarks that he is more interested in a fountain pen than girls.
After Mikage moves out again, he does not find the courage to tell her about Eriko's death until a few months after because he cannot accept the reality that his mother is gone. It is now Mikage who nurtures him until he feels better; however, he stays distant and does not recognize that they are in love with each other. Only in the end when he tells her that he would pick her up from the train station does it seem as if they have become a couple.
Eriko is Yuichi's biological father. However, he decided to have a sex change after his young wife died, knowing that he would never be able to love again. Being kind-hearted and generous, it was Eriko's idea to invite Mikage over. She openly displays her affection to Mikage and spoils her with gifts. Being the owner of a gay nightclub, she is usually out at night but spends as much of her free time as possible with Mikage.
Moreover, she provides her with valuable life lessons. For example, she tells Mikage that sadness and depression are essential stages on the path to happiness. She also tells her the story of her wife, who asked shortly before her death that Eriko should take away the pineapple plant he had brought to cheer her up, which made him realize that the world is cruel and nothing could be done to change that.
Eriko is eventually killed by a patron who stabs her at her nightclub when he gets to know that she is a transsexual. However, she is able to beat him to death with a barbell. Yuichi is then given a letter from her, which is full of cheerfulness and carries a sense of accomplishment, making her death even harder to process for Yuichi and Mikage.
Sotaro is Mikage's ex-boyfriend. He is always cheerful, particularly when he is outdoors. Even though they were considered a perfect couple, they broke up when Mikage's grandmother became critically ill. Mikage liked his robustness, but eventually could not keep up with it. When they meet up to talk about Yuichi and his girlfriend, she realizes that she is just not attracted to Sotaro, and both depart as friends.
Okuno considers herself to be Yuichi's girlfriend and is very protective of him. She confronts Mikage at work, telling her to stay away from Yuichi. She says that she has been taking care of Yuichi after Eriko died, even though Yuichi never mentions her. In fact, it seems like he does not see her as his girlfriend.
Nori and Kuri
Nori and Kuri are Mikage's colleagues at the cooking school. Mikage likes Kuri for her cheerful demeanor, while she admired Nori for her loving relationship with her mother.
Chika is Eriko's most loyal employee and inherits the gay nightclub from her. She is more masculine than Eriko because she has not had the sex change yet. With her straightforward personality, she tells Mikage that it is obvious that she is in love with Yuichi, giving her his address and phone number when he leaves Tokyo to get away from his troubles.
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