In These Words is a thriller/mystery Manga written by Narcissus (aka Kichiku Neko) and illustrated by Jun Togai (aka Toga Q) who form the creative duo Guilt Pleasure. The story is centred around the complicated events that surround Katsuya Asano and Keiji Shinohara.
Katsuya Asano is a world-recognized profiler who has been brought in to investigate a series of unusually gruesome murders of young men in Tokyo. The alleged perpetrator, Keiji Shinohara, has been arrested and is being set up for interrogation. Unbeknownst to Katsuya, Shinohara has actually requested to be cat-scanned by him. As the interrogation goes on, Katsuya starts having very strange nightmares that feel way too real and seem to be linked to the strange scars on his back. During these Dream Sequences, a man whose face is constantly shrouded in shadows tortures and rapes him, all while claiming to love him to death.
Moreover, Shinohara seems to be perfectly aware of the dreams of his interrogator, which troubles Katsuya even more. But are these truly dreams? Or are they deeply repressed memories? And is Shinohara really the murderer that Asano is looking for? As the line between dream and reality starts to fade, Asano wonders if he isn't starting to become insane himself, all while Shinohara seems to be playing with him, including sexually...
In more ways than one, In These Words stands out from the usual Yaoi production, mostly due to the thickness of the plot and the exquisite artwork. While it doesn't skimp on the explicit sex scenes, some of these scenes can border on Fan Disservice, given the unusual setting. And the overall atmosphere, constantly striding the line between dreams, madness and reality reminds strangely of the works of Satoshi Kon.
Currently, there are 3 tomes released in English-speaking countries and a fourth one is to be released in 2021. A total of 12 prequels have also been published, explaining a bit further on both characters' backstory.
The Guilt Pleasure team has a website dedicated to this series along with the prequels here.
- All Just a Dream: What Katsuya sometimes believes all of this may be.
- Alone with the Psycho: Asano's nightmares often envision this scenario. Ironically, it's also what happens to him in real life. Twice.
- Amnesiac Lover: Turns out Katsuya and Keiji have been involved with each other long before the story starts proper. But for some reason, Katsuya cannot remember anything about that.
- Animal Motif: The raven, for obvious reasons, to symbolize death and mystery.
- Bespectacled Bastard Boyfriend: Subverted. Katsuya only looks like one, complete with the aloof and cold attitude. But he isn't one at all.
- Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: Iwamoto is one of the first named characters shown dying.
- Cast Full of Gay: Averted. Aside from Asano, Shinohara and Asano's abductor, nobody is stated as being gay or bisexual.
- Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Downplayed. With the exception of Shibata, all the main characters are adult men and look it but they're all very good looking and will readily get shirtless or stark naked.
- The Chessmaster: Asano believes himself one, but Shinohara seems to be even better at this. Or so it seems.
- Chromosome Casting: A given for a Yaoi series. Female characters are only there as extras or for minor interactions.
- Criminal Mind Games: Discussed all through the series, be it within Asano's team or with Shinohara himelf.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: The victims of the serial killer are murdered in a particularly horrific way.
- Da Chief: Commissioner Kizaki, the man who summoned Asano to solve the case, is a very egregious example of the trope.
- Deadpan Snarker: Shinohara's stock in trade. He just loves to push Asano's buttons.
- Dream Sequence: All the time. The goal being to display Asano's shattered mind, constantly obscured by blurry memories and nightmares.
- Fair Cop: Young Shibata is a rather attractive young man. Shinohara also.
- Hannibal Lecture: What Shinohara eventually manages to do to Asano. Asano tries it on the man in his nightmares but is unsuccessful. See below.
- Gold Digger: Invoked. The young student who tries to hit on Keiji at the university where Asano teaches is immediately turned off when he tells her that he's not rich.
- If I Can't Have You...: Asano is the subject of this but from a man whose face he never seems to remember.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Asano's dreams are pretty much all about this, featuring his abductor getting off on tormenting, abusing, raping and even stabbing him, leaving him with nasty gashes on his back, all while telling him that he loves him.
- I Love You Because I Can't Control You: The psycho in Asano's nightmares says just as much.
- Interplay of Sex and Violence: Constantly. Sex scenes are present but they all serve a purpose other than mere Fanservice.
- Lecherous Licking: Too many times to keep score.
- Left for Dead: Asano's stalker leaves him for dead in a coffin, in a deserted factory, but Asano wakes up and manages to crawl out to get help.
- Love Hotels: In one of these, Asano and Shinohara first make out with each other during one of their first undercover missions.
- Love Makes You Evil: The other thing that the psycho in Asano's dreams always says.
- Lust Object: Asano is particularly prone to being this, due to his excessive good looks and his classy and serious attitude all in all.
- Longing Look: Shinohara often teases Katsuya with this, which really troubles Katsuya.
- Male Frontal Nudity: Unlike many Yaoi titles, penises are not censored at all in this series. Not even erect ones.
- Oral Fixation: As Asano and Shinohara share a meal, this is all that Shinohara can watch, thinking that Asano's way of eating is deeply erotic.
- Rape as Drama: The rape of Asano by the faceless man who claims to love him isn't treated as kinky or sexy but as dramatic since Asano is clearly not enjoying it... until that man puts him on drugs that make Asano much more docile and willing.
- The Reveal: In volume 3, Asano is eventually able to see the face of the man molesting him. But this man isn't Shinohara, and he can't name him. See below.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Such is the fate of Shibata, the naive young cop assigned to help Asano in his tasks and Iwamoto, his stern bodyguard.
- Serial Killer: The whole premise of the series revolves around this.
- Sex Is Violence: The defining theme of Asano's nightmares.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Defied. Despite trying to get under his torturer/rapist's skin using his advanced knowledge of criminal minds, it only gets Asano silenced by his kidnapper who "punishes" him by slashing his back and raping him.
- Skeleton Motif: A recurring theme, along with the chess game.
- Snow Means Death: During Asano's dreams, it's often snowing outside.
- Soft-Spoken Sadist: The Faceless man that tortures and rapes Asano in his dreams is just this. Shinohara also fancies himself as this, especially after he manages to subdue and capture Asano, treating him exactly like the man in his dreams. But they're not the same person.
- Straight Gay: Shinohara and Asano are both rather masculine men.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Katsuya qualifies with his dark hair and firmly toned body.
- Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Katsuya again.
- Tarot Motifs: The third volume is centred around The Tower, hinting at shocking events and revelations.
- They Look Like Everyone Else: Asano's conclusion about the serial killer he's trying to frame. He was 100% correct.
- The Unreveal: While we eventually get to see Asano's kidnapper's face, it is still left unrevealed who he is, why he's after Asano especially and how he fell in love with him.
- Villains Out Shopping: Exactly how Katsuya meets his kidnapper and stalker.
- Yandere: A Rare Male Example is found in the faceless man of Asano's dreams. Also, a particularly dark version of it.