Love Hurts: Aishiatteru Futari by Suzuki Tanaka
This anthology volume is a lot better than the title and cover art would suggest. While the stories included don’t always seem to mesh in tone, I enjoyed the variety of characters and situations portrayed. Love Hurts starts off on a grim note in the story “Unforgivable”. A man is covered with blood in his apartment. Someone comes and starts knocking on the door, demanding money from “Sumi-san.” The bloody man cleans off his hands and pokes some cash through the door but the recipient barges in, saying that he only wants a certain amount and can’t make change. The boy who needs money is Koharu, and when he enters the apartment with a companion he sees Sumiyoshi’s corpse on the floor. The bloody man is Sumiyoshi’s boyfriend Koji, who denies that he murdered his partner and appears to be in a state of shock. The characters explore the dysfunctional relationship between Sumiyoshi and Koji, but what really happened is left for the reader to decide.
The second story “Two in Love” follows up on the character of Koharu as he deals with his own relationship issues. This story was equally dark as the first, but the number of characters introduced in a few pages made it feel a little disjointed. Koharu gossips with his neighbors and fights with his boyfriend Takahiko. Koharu is funneling money to a friend who is in a cult while Takahiko deals with a psychotic female student. While the stormy events in the outside world literally bruise both men, they find a refuge in their apartment together.
By far my favorite story was the third, which featured an introduction filled with so many superhero cliches packed into a couple pages I couldn’t help but be amused. ”The Fate of a Crime Fighter’s Love” is about Amagi, a hapless salaryman by day turned crime fighter at night because he comes from a village where everyone is born with super-powers naturally split into two factions of good and evil. The warring tribes of course travel to Tokyo to duke it out because it is the ideal battleground. Amagi begs off hanging out with his co-workers in order to pursue his secret life of crime fighting. Unfortunately he isn’t particularly super-heroic, a trait which is thrown in stark relief when his childhood friend Touma abruptly shows up in Tokyo toting tons of presents from the village back home. Amagi and Touma begin to be more conscious of their feelings for each other. Will they be able to partner up and fight crime together in the big city?
The final story wasn’t yaoi at all, but a short sketch about a teenage boy who is confused about his feelings for his “cute and weird” girl next door Kana. Kana claims to be constantly talking to an alien who will eventually come and take her away. Shouta just smiles and nods when Kana starts discussing her spaceman, but what if her experiences aren’t rooted in her imagination?
Overall, Love Hurts was much better than I expected it to be. I generally have low expectations for anthology volumes, but I was glad I read this manga. While the switch in tone from the grim to the more frivolous was a little surprising, I founds myself enjoying the variety of stories offered. Tanaka’s art is simple, and her characters occasionally have a hint of a retro look. I’ll have to be on the lookout for Tanaka’s other works because I’m curious to see what she would do with a longer format story. Love Hurts is rated for older teens but like Liberty, Liberty there is very little sexual content in this manga, which means it might be suitable for libraries who want to add yaoi to their collections but are skittish about potential book challenges.