Perhaps better known for its English name, “I Want to Eat Your Pancreas.” Yummy.
Believe it or not, in the world of snobby cynicism, there are negative repercussions for works of fiction simply based on the events they choose to portray! What this piece falls under is something I’ve found online referred to as “Oscar-bait,” though this is manga and not film, so I guess one could consider this “Award-bait” as a more generalized idea. If you’ve indulged in fiction long enough, you tend to pick up on these works that seem to do absolutely everything possible to make itself into this dramatic story of tension, philosophy, and more often than not, life and death. Those that the general audience would eat up and swoon with how deep and relatable and heartfelt/tragic they are. All this based on the synopsis or cover presentation alone!
What inevitably happens because of this is a bit of a deadly cycle between the work and those who are put off by the seemingly pretentious indicators said work exudes. They cry foul, claiming it’s not as important as it makes itself out to be, that it’s too simple with its themes, that it’s appealing to the empathetic glands of the masses to supplement for its weaknesses, and whatever else to degrade its atmosphere of equanimity. More common among elitist-type critics, there will always inevitably be a pushback to these emotionally-draining stories that shoot to the top of the score charts.
This intro is appropriate as I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is this exact type of fiction. One can feel it just by reading the opening few pages, which already allude to the ending chapters of this shorter manga. It has many factors that come with the territory of seemingly-pretentious work, including a dying kid who tries to live life to the fullest at all times while smiling and pushing back the fear of death, philosophical musings concerning life and death (“What does it mean to live?”), and a one-on-one relationship between polar opposites—both of whom have personal predicaments—slowly growing closer as the death clock ticks down. It is every bit as Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso without the emphasis on music and incredible amounts of angsty character settings. If one is aware of how I feel about the aforementioned title, what would it say for I Want to Eat Your Pancreas? Probably not good things. So, did I like it?
I did, and there are a few reasons for this.
First off, this manga is fairly short. Only ten chapters comprised of two volumes, with the page count being (an estimated) 40-50 pages per chapter. There isn’t a whole lot of time for bullshit, as the story hits all the right notes when it has to, only sacrificing for a fairly fast pace that leaves it better to be binged all in one sitting (which I did). The two main characters were always the focal point, and whenever the story felt it needed to include other characters, it did so for as much time as it needed to. The story rarely lingers, providing the developments and experiences of these characters with seemingly every scene. Its build-up, I felt, was properly done and left me wanting to read more even when I had thoughts of splitting up reading it into two sessions.
Perhaps most importantly, I related to the story and the main male character, specifically. An isolated guy that wants to be left alone in part because he fears the emotional attachment that comes with associating with others. Seen as somewhat of a creep by his classmates, it aids in his eventual isolation. A chance meeting with his polar opposite slowly brings him out of his shell and into the world of the living, providing him the value of interpersonal relationships. I can empathize. More than this, however—and I feel this is glossed over in the story—there’s some indication that he grows so close to the female lead that he feels he “needs” her, which is something that I’ve had to deal with in my life when I’ve grown closer to people. Had this story more content, I feel it would’ve been appropriate to indulge in that angsty emotion and try and have him work through it in a healthy, though likely dramatic, manner. I think this would’ve added to the more philosophically-colored pieces of the story that’s only done in spurts.
Because these are just spurts, the story never feels too pretentious to me, though I can understand some criticism concerning how simply the deeper mental exercises are presented here. There is a scene in this manga where the female lead outright states the entire “purpose” of this manga, full of altruistic glamour and the love of humanity. The male lead looks on in awe, as though she’s some goddess that was sent to him to open his soul to the truth (see: above paragraph on “needing” a person). Some of these moments seem bigger than what they really are, but for the most part, it’s believably grounded in a place specific to these two characters. It only sprinkles any bigger implications for after the eventual result of the female lead’s terminal condition. Though even that is a hot point.
There is some debate among whether or not the mangaka is a giant piece of shit concerning how he chose to have the female lead perish. Instead of letting her disease slowly take her life, he(?) chooses to have her murdered by a serial killer that was referenced earlier in the story on a news broadcast, a killer who is never actually shown in the story. The mangaka chose to have her die off-screen in about as abrupt a manner as I’ve seen in fiction. Personally, I think this is a really interesting move, instilling the feeling that people can be taken at any possible time, regardless of what may have been expected. It’s an ironic situation that a girl, who was hospitalized just weeks before after her terminal condition began to flare up, was killed not from her disease, but from a lone killer. I can absolutely understand why people would be pissed off about her manner of death, but I think it’s notable for the context of the story’s moral talking points about living every day like it’s one’s last.
More than anything, I really enjoyed this story. I liked the conversations between the main characters, I liked the eventual growth of their friendship, the sexual tension between them, and how the female lead’s impact left the male lead’s life altered. It’s such a simple thing to have characters grow closer, but with how quick this story was on content, it was a constant flood of development that’s a breath of fresh air with the stagnant pace of most anime now-a-days. My personal investment was definitely pretty high.
Still, after letting the series sink in for about a day, a lot of that initial attachment has dissipated almost completely. When it comes down to it, this is a very emotional story that only prods the mental constitutions that it tries to embody by the end. It’s pretty straightforward and doesn’t have enough content to make it quite as profound as it may want to be. After all, the female lead, again, outright says the “point” of the story. That’s… kind of lazy writing. If the story between two young people dealing with their personal predicaments by pouring into each other doesn’t grab you, it’s hard to recommend this over the Shigatsu‘s of the world, which does similarly with a lot more detail. Although, this also depends on whether one wants a story of angst or a story of self-discovery—not to say they can’t overlap, but some stories clearly have a priority.
With how short it is, I’d say give it a shot, unless you’re certain this isn’t for you. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is, more than anything, a wholesome story about opening up to the world and the wonders it provides, particularly of a human kind. Despite its “Award-bait” premise and vibe, I ended up enjoying it for what it is, even if it has some shaky foundations to the success of everything it may want to do.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.