You Can Have My Back Volume 1 Light Novel Review (Spoiler‑Free)

When teetering on the precipice of your destiny, are you ready to be the hero?

This novel contains explicit content; characters have sex! But, I want to point out two potentially triggering topics: dubious consent and sexual assault. Please refer to the “Detailed Warnings and Notes” section (contains spoilers) at end of the review for the exact chapters. I also have a general note about Leorino’s age and his appearance at the end. (Trust me, it’s relevant.)

A phrase I’ve heard often is that we are the main characters of our own lives. This usually means things such as becoming self-confident and following one’s passions.

For Leorino Cassieux, becoming the main character of his life is difficult for two reasons. One, his overprotective family seldom gives him the chance to explore and be his own person. Oh, and two, at age 11 he began to see the memories of the fallen knight Ionia through his dreams. The dreams are so vivid and realistic, and Ionia is intrinsically linked to Leorino in a way that can only be described as a form of reincarnation. 

While these dreams offer Leorino a chance to view life outside of sheltered nobility, Ionia’s memories also reveal the truth of the tragedy that took his life years ago during a major war. Feeling responsible as the bearer of these memories, this kicks off the novel as young Leorino begins his own journey to uncover the truth.

The Bewitching

As someone who loves LGBTQ+ media, the fantasy genre, and handsome men (as seen from the cover), You Can Have My Back interested me as soon as Yen Press announced the license. BL comics already have a comfortable place in our homes, but BL novels have recently been on the rise in the English market. I couldn’t be more excited and as such, You Can Have My Back was a must-read.

The shining star of this volume is Leorino. Whether it’s the fact that he’s tired of how people constantly patronize (and sometimes even commodify) him or that he’s inspired by Ionia’s strength, I enjoyed seeing this sheltered boy want his own agency. And even though Ionia is the catalyst of this story, Minami Kotsuna never fails to remind us that this is not his journey. It’s Leorino’s. 

It’s also not just Leorino who stood out to me. I thought many of the characters were vibrant and memorable, whether it was Dr. Sasha’s sense of humor or the intensity of Ionia’s loyalty. Alongside the characters’ personalities, Kotsuna did an excellent job at conveying the emotions they felt. The weight of Ionia’s death, the comfort that comes from trusting someone with your back, the suffocating familial pressure, and even the innocence of first love were all palpable. The depth of the emotions, even some of the not-so-savory ones, were all genuinely beautiful and captivating. 

I’ll be the first to say that political thrillers are not my choice of fiction, but I found myself interested in the conspiracies presented in You Can Have My Back. With each clue, I was on the edge of my seat. I also vividly remember my jaw dropping after certain scenes. I think fans of the genre, or anyone who simply enjoys seeing characters navigate themselves out of unfortunate situations, will enjoy the action in this novel.

The full "You Can Have My Back" cover.I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve been fawning over this beautiful cover!

The Bothersome

It’s my adoration of Leorino that also brings me to what I consider the volume’s flaws. On one hand, inheriting someone else’s memories is a fascinating premise for a story. But on the other, throughout this entire volume I struggled with understanding the full extent of the relationship between Leorino and Ionia. While Leorino constantly claims that he is a separate person from Ionia, there are numerous examples where his thoughts are clearly not his (e.g. when he refers to Gravis by Ionia’s nickname for him). 

After mulling it over, I’m not sure if this muddling of thoughts is due to Kotsuna not knowing how to balance the two characters, but what I do know is that it’s a little confusing and often frustrating. 

I mentioned earlier that Kotsuna does an incredible job at evoking emotions in her writing and one of those emotions is romantic love. The thing is, I can name a number of reasons why certain characters loved Ionia, but I can’t name a single reason for why they fell for Leorino. And I would argue that’s because she spent a lot of time building Ionia’s story and relationships without doing the same for Leorino. When compared to the weight of Ionia’s story, the current romance feels like a convenient plot device, at best. While part of this is likely due to Leorino’s age, the volume could’ve simply left all of this out.

This leads to my broader issue – the handling of Leorino’s character. Despite him technically being the main character, he doesn’t feel like it. Within the world of the novel, he’s constantly treated as a damsel in distress. (Note: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this archetype, but for a character who genuinely wants to grow, the author isn’t giving him many opportunities to do so.) Very rarely is Leorino ever given the chance to even think for himself despite wanting to and it’s a shame. I hope that in the future, he is able to shine like the star I truly think he is, and that his character is utilized to its full potential.

The Thoughts that Kept Me Up at Night 

Usually when I read something, I can tell immediately if it’s going to be something I’ll enjoy or not, but You Can Have My Back is one of the few stories to make me internally debate with myself for days. That might sound weird; if it’s not immediately good, should I recommend that anyone else check it out? Honestly, yeah, I still would recommend reading this. This volume was a rollercoaster of emotions; I cheered for Leorino, I cried for Ionia, and I was genuinely left wanting more. Each of these emotions impacted me a lot. 

I think this novel has a good premise and a different take on the reincarnation trope. The things I enjoyed were what kept me interested in it and the things I disliked are what I want to see fixed in the future. For example, I hope that we can see Leorino truly flourish and that his romance gets a chance to be fleshed out. I want him to have great sex scenes too (when the time comes!) 

One minor issue I have is that I actually wanted to see more politics. Just like how Leorino and Ionia show us how the past is deeply influencing the present, the previous war appears to be related to the current budding conflict in their country. We do see it brought up, but I would love for it to be at the forefront; I want to see the current conspiracies play out and our heroes triumph. But, the fact that this volume left me so eager for the next one is a good sign.

The cover and inner illustrations are also stunning and made the reading experience all the more enjoyable. (Honestly, I wish there were more.) A point that I couldn’t squeeze in earlier is that the explicit scenes were beautifully written. And it gives me hope and makes me excited for the future of BL novels in English. While kudos definitely goes to Kotsuna for originally writing the novel, major props also goes to the Yen Press team for their diction, translation, and editing. Good writing is already a treat, but when explicit scenes are also written well? Well, that’s amazing. (What can I say, this matters a lot to me!)

I think the most impactful part of this experience, however, was that by the end of this volume, the phrase “you’ve got my back” meant more to me than it ever did in the past. And for a work to leave that deep of an impression, regardless of its flaws, is quite lovely.

You Can Have My Back is currently available for purchase in print at Kinokuniya, Barnes & Noble, Indigo, and Right Stuf Anime. It’s available digitally on Kobo, Book Walker, Apple Books, and Google Play.

Behind the Magic

Written by Minami Kotsuna
Illustrations by Hitomi Hitoyo
Translated into English by Aleksandra Jankowska
Edited by Payton Campbell of Yen On Editorial
Designed by Andy Swist of Yen Press Design

A big thank you to Yen Press for allowing us the opportunity to review You Can Have My Back. Receiving a digital review copy of this title has in no way altered the opinions expressed in this article.

Detailed Warnings and Notes

Leorino’s beauty

Again, this is a general note, but Leorino is objectively beautiful and throughout this volume, pretty much every single character had commented on that. Leorino was also a minor at the start, so if unsolicited comments about a child/teenager’s body and appearance bother you, I wouldn’t read this novel. (His appearance comes up so often to the point that I seriously hope it’s relevant to the plot in the future, or else it would just be weird.)

Dubious Consent

There are two scenes in this novel that I personally would consider dubious consent.

  • In the prologue (I know!): Leorino has been struggling to free himself from Gravis’s grip, even though he loves him. Gravis also explicitly states that Leorino “[doesn’t] get to reject [him].”
  • In the chapter “Ionia: Beasts Roaring in the Night 3:” Starting halfway into page 158, Lucas starts getting closer to Ionia and has him pinned against a door. I do want to clarify that Ionia and Lucas are very much attracted to each other, but I classified this as dubcon solely because Lucas approached Ionia without prior consent. Everything that follows is completely consensual between them.

Nonconsensual touching/Sexual assault

The chapters “A Cage of Mad Love” and “Where the Heart Lay” are disturbing. Lucas is obsessed with Leorino because of Ionia’s legacy and the previous chapter (“The First Outing”) ended with him essentially coercing and kidnapping Leorino. There are several instances of nonconsensual touching in the two aforementioned chapters. 

In “A Cage of Mad Love,” skip everything after the paragraph beginning with “Before Leorino even got a chance to resist.” In “Where the Heart Lay” stop reading after “In the bright room” on page 391 and continue after “A blade of reproach sliced through Lucas’s dark thoughts” on 394. 

Please note that while the passages highlighted are the scenes with Leorino and Lucas, the two characters and the events that happened are referenced outside of these passages as well.

The Good

  • The entire cast of characters are all unique, interesting, and memorable.
  • Excellent prose (in general, but also the smut!)
  • Well-developed emotions all throughout
  • STUNNING illustrations

The Bad

  • Relationship between Ionia and Leorino is confusing
  • While Leorino is adorable, he’s not compelling enough as a main character
  • Not enough focus on current conspiracy

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About the Author


A voracious reader and self-proclaimed Noragami expert, Mim loves reading manga and sharing her thoughts with other fans. Feel free to chat with her about what you're reading or throw a recommendation her way. You can check out some of her work on her YouTube channel.

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