Tag Archives: blu

Love Hurts Manga Giveaway

I won a copy of Love Hurts: Aishiatteru Futari on twitter from Tokyopop, but since I have my own copy already I have decided to share the extra one with you, my readers! Tokyopop also sent along a bunch of Junjou Romantica mini-posters, so the winner of the giveaway will receive Love Hurts and a mini-poster. Here are the rules:

Leave a comment on this post with the title of your favorite love or anti-love song. Contest will be open until next Friday, January 22nd. United States and Canada residents only please! I will also mail Junjou Romantica mini-posters to anyone who enters as an additional random drawing until my supply runs out. Because I am cheap, I am going to mail the posters folded and in envelopes.

Yay for free manga!

Thanks for playing! The giveaway is now closed!

Love Hurts: Aishiatteru Futari

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.

Liberty Liberty!

Liberty Liberty! by Hinako Takanaga

This yaoi title ditches explicit sexuality in favor of character development, which results in an engaging story about two damaged people who help each other through their newfound friendship. Itaru is a runaway living in a garbage heap. Kouki is a cameraman from a low-rent cable TV station who is staking out the garbage heap in an attempt to catch a stalker for a news story. Kouki stumbles across Itaru, who promptly pelts him with garbage and breaks his camera before passing out. Kouki brings Itaru home and informs him that he has to work of his debt by helping out at the cable TV station and getting an outside job in order to replace the equipment that he broke.

The TV station has a number of supporting characters, but the most prominent is Kurumi, a man who has decided to become a female TV anchor. Kurumi is lighthearted and keeps the TV station running against impossible odds. As Itaru gets to know the people at the TV station more, he wants to help out. He’s also attracted to Kouki’s cool reserve and is even more intrigued when he finds out that the cameraman has a damaged eye. Itaru shares his reasons for running away from home and college and Kouki is sympathetic, saying that it is better to retreat and maintain one’s pride when faced with a terrible situation.

Itaru realizes that he has feelings for Kouki, but he’s heard at work that Kouki has been nursing a crush on Kurumi for years. Is there any hope that his feelings will be returned?

Liberty Liberty! is generally lighthearted in tone, and I appreciated the time spent on developing the characters’ backgrounds and relationships. Even though the other supporting characters didn’t get featured as much as Kurumi, it was easy to visualize the camaraderie that developed between the group at the scrappy TV station. I realized after reading this manga that it was by the author of You Will Drown in Love, so the character building and attractive art were to be expected.

There’s nothing particularly explicit about this single-volume title other than a few kisses, which may make it a good choice for libraries who want to stock yaoi titles that aren’t 18+.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Gakuen Heaven Nakajima

Gakuen Heaven Nakajima by You Higuri and Spray

The Gakuen Heaven manga series is based on a dating sim and as a result the characterizations are rather shallow. You Higuri does the art, so if you’re looking for something pretty to look at this manga may fit the bill. The first volume focused on Keita (untalented normal boy sent to school full of hotties who all seem to love him) and his relationship with King, the head of the student council. Nakajima is King’s second in command and was noteworthy in the first volume for perpetrating a sexual assault on Keita. So it was weird for me to read this book which takes place in an alternate universe where Keita and Nakajima got together instead. I’ve read that the pairings in the manga were based on a character popularity poll, and the characterizations and plot are arbitrary as a result.

Keita still doesn’t have much personality. His main function is to look cute, be simple, and agonize over his relationship issues. The manga opens with him being late to school again due to his and Nakajima’s nocturnal to early morning activities. Keita sits in class feeling used, but when he sees Nakajima walking to class he reminds himself that he’s dating the handsome, athletic, and smart vice-president of the school and concludes that he’s dating an amazing person. There’s some complicated and somewhat incomprehensible issues with the student council and school budget, and Keita is tricked by another student into thinking that Nakajima is trying to betray the King. Nakajima ends up saving Keita from an attempted rape, but his personality is so cold and off-putting that I wasn’t interested in this story. The plot with Keita trying to unravel the mysterious budget issues of the student council wasn’t very compelling either. The second story is a flashback to the first year when King and Nakajima met, and their initial rivalry that turned into friendship after a knock-down drag-out fight, and it was a little more interesting to see a story told from Nakajima’s point of view.

Overall though, the relationship in this book was just not enjoyable to read about, and this is the rare volume where Higuri’s art doesn’t compensate for the lack of plot and characterization. Fans of yaoi who want to read something by You Higuri would be better served by Gorgeous Carat.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

You Will Drown In Love

You Will Drown in Love by Hinako Takanaga

I’m not the best person to review yaoi for yaoi fans because while I’ve read a few volumes here and there, I often find the sexual politics of the genre a little off-putting. You Will Drown In Love has attractive art and a decent amount of character development even though the main characters end up in somewhat stereotyped roles.

Jinnai is the assistant manager of a fabric store which caters to wealthy clients buying expensive fabrics for kimonos. Suddenly the owner’s son Reiichiro is appointed as store manager. Jinnai is dismayed that he has to report to someone younger than him who has never worked in the store before. The only place where Reiichiro seems comfortable is when he’s on the archery range refining his skills. Reiichiro displays few people skills when dealing with customers, and Jinnai finds himself unwillingly taking his new manager under his wing. Soon Jinnai and Reiichiro are spending time together outside work, and as they get to know each other better a romantic relationship develops.

I appreciated the time spent on character development and the detailed setting of the fabric store, which allowed Takanaga to draw plenty of attractive men in kimonos. Jinnai learns about Reiichiro’s family and past love before he begins to make his moves. Jinnai is the aggressor in the relationship and the sex scenes, while not overly explicit, still show a case of “No means Yes.” Takanaga’s art is definitely among the best I’ve seen in yaoi, so I bet fans of the genre will enjoy this volume.

It looks like this is part of a linked series, with You Will Fall in Love also dealing with some of the characters in this volume. I think You Will Drown In Love stands on its own, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything essential by not reading the earlier volume.

Review copy provided by Tokyopop.

Gorgeous Carat and some manga links

Gorgeous Carat by You Higuri 4/5 stars (amazon)

I enjoyed the first couple volumes of You Higuri’s series Cantarella, so I had a feeling that I’d also like this story about jewel thieves in turn of the century Paris. The story opens as the Paris nobility are besieged by a mysterious jewel thief named Noir. Florian is a member of the nobility, the only remaining heir to an impoverished family. His legacy is a house rapidly being emptied of all its furnishings by his mother, who is selling treasured family possessions to keep up the pretense of an aristocratic lifestyle. Although Florian offers to work, his mother will not allow him because she fears the loss of status. They have almost run out of money, and Florian suggests that she sell the giant 120 carat diamond that is the last treasure of the family. His mother refuses and tells him to dress well for the ball that she’s throwing that evening.

Noir attends the ball wearing an Arab coustume using the name Ray Courland. As soon as he arrives, he’s attracted by Florian’s jewel-like violet eyes. Florian is quite disturbed when learns from his Uncle Maurice that Ray is a distant relative and a usurer. He is even more disturbed when Ray comes to his house again and meets with his mother, promisising to give her a blank check if she entrusts Florian to him. If she won’t sell Florian, Ray will take the family diamond. Seeing his mother become distressed, Florian offers to go with Ray. Ray’s home has many servants, but he’s closest to a girl named Laila who frequently goes with him during his jewel heists and is utterly devoted to him. Ray sits down to a feast in his dining room with a petulant expression on his face because Florian has locked himself into his room and refuses to eat. Ray visits Florian and orders him to eat dinner, but Florian refuses, saying that he doesn’t take orders from “low-class swine”.

Ray’s solution to this problem is to chain Florian to a wall and torture him with a whip. He reveals that he’s actually Noir and demands that Florian tell him the location of the family diamond, but Florian refuses to talk. That evening, Florian’s house goes up in flames with his mother inside. Florian is a suspect in the murder, and he and Noir end up joining forces to track down the diamond and unravel the cause of the fire. Noir’s an interesting character. He’s obsessed with jewels and seems to keep shackles and whips around as handy house accessories, but even though he has a dominant personality occasionally he seems a bit immature. He’s actually a couple years younger than Florian, which adds another twist to their relationship. The first book features another story where Florian and Noir are placed in a situation where they need to unravel a mystery behind some other mysterious jewels, so I’d expect to see this type of story repeated in later volumes. In additon to the pretty men there’s plenty of action, adventure, and intrigue in Gorgeous Carat. You can take a look at the covers and plot summaries on Go Comi’s translation of Higuri’s web site.

You Yiguri’s art is lovely and expressive. Gorgeous Carat started coming out slightly before Cantarella, so it is one of her more recent works with her artistic style fully developed. She adeptly portrays Noir’s humor and cynicism, while Florian functions more as a quiet but strong moral compass. It’ll be interesting to see how their relationship develops and how many jewels will be added to Noir’s collection. You can see a few preview pages at Blu Manga’s web site.

Even though the first part of the 4 volume series is being released by Tokyopop’s Yaoi imprint Blu, it looks like the sequel to the series, Gorgeous Carat Galaxy, is going to be published by Digital Manga Publishing.

A couple manga links:

There’s an article on MTV news about Yaoi.

Irresponsible Pictures looks at the latest entries in Tokyopop’s rising stars of manga competition. Telophase also has two review posts. One of the series used Blade of the Immortal as source material for the art in a very blatant manner. Now, I think if you have to use reference material for something Blade of the Immortal has some exquisite art, but it seems really weird to submit something like that to a competition.