Cigarette Kisses by Nase Yamato Manga Review

 

Title: Cigarette Kisses

Author: Nase Yamato

Publisher: Deux

ISBN: 9781934496787

May Contain Spoilers

After his friend’s sudden marriage, Yusuke has been avoiding Soji, thinking that distance will mend his broken heart.  When they meet again in their company’s smoking room, a storm of emotions are awakened within Yusuke.  Since they were children, Soji has been the center of his life, and even though he has a wife now, Yusuke just can’t shake his feelings for him.  When he is picked to work on a project with Soji, will Yusuke be able to keep his mind on his work?

Cigarette Kisses has an almost tragic past, and I was getting nervous that it would never see the inside of a bookstore.  Originally licensed by Broccoli Books, it was rescued by Deux Press, where it has languished while that publisher has struggled with financial problems of its own.  I had written the title off because the Deux release date had come and gone, so I was pleasantly surprised when it showed up at Amazon.  Nase Yamato’s Pet on Duty was a cute read, so I was curious to read more of her work.  Cigarette Kisses didn’t disappoint, and it comes across as a much more mature offering from the artist.

Yusuke’s emotional turmoil is very effectively captured, both through the art and through his heartfelt internal monologues.  He and Soji have been friends ever since middle school when they were on the same baseball team.  Soji has always been charismatic, and his confident personality and encouraging words made him a leader from a young age.  The heir to a successful company, he had been groomed for leadership since childhood. 

After Soji announces that he’s going to marry the daughter of one of his father’s business associates, Yusuke is devastated.  He can’t envision a life without Soji, but he forces himself to put some distance between himself and his friend.  He has fallen for Soji, but he doesn’t want to cause any conflict for his friend and his new wife.  Time passes, and he thinks he’s resolved his love for Soji, until he runs into him in the company break room.  Life then gets very upsetting and complicated for Yusuke, because he is chosen by Soji to work on a project with him, and he is forced to spend hours working on a new product with the man he loves. 

To add to the angst, another childhood friend, Masahito, begins working with them as well.  Masahito hints that he has feelings for Yusuke, but Yusuke doesn’t want to listen.  Masahito’s seduction begins to prove to be too much, though, and Yusuke gets caught in the middle of a very passionate love triangle.  Part of what made this such a great read is the fact that both Masahito and Soji are likeable and charming.  While it is obvious that Yusuke only has eyes for Soji, it’s not so clear which of the two men makes a better match for him.  This adds another layer to the story – even if Yusuke manages to get together with Soji, is that really the best choice for him?

The ending seemed a little abrupt, and while it does deliver a satisfying conclusion, it was a little disappointing.  The conflict resolution needed to be a bit stronger.  It was just too convenient, and it didn’t do justice to the rest of the story.  Yusuke has been pining after Soji for years and years, Masahito has been longing for Yusuke, yet the conclusion shortchanged all of their pent up emotions.  The art was also slightly problematic, as there were times that I couldn’t distinguish between Soji and Masahito.

Cigarette Kisses turned out to be worth the long wait after being shuffled between publishers.  This is a title that proved to be worth saving, offering up some honest to goodness angst and a compelling love triangle.

Grade:  B+

Noodle Shop Affair Vol 1 by CJ Michalski Manga Review

 

Title: Noodle Shop Affair Vol 1

Author: CJ Michalski

Publisher: Deux

ISBN: 9781934496565

May Contain Spoilers

Ukyo is the self-indulgent heir to the most powerful yakuza family in Kanto.  Two years earlier, he fell in love with Kakeru, the son of a noodle shop owner.  On the run for his life, Ukyo can finally return home, and his first stop is Kakeru’s noodle shop so he can confess his love to him.  When Ukyo arrives, he’s in for a rude awakening – Kakeru hates all yakuza, and refuses to have anything to do with any of them!

This was a surprisingly cute read, which is almost too bad, because with the financial woes that have shaken its publisher, Deux, I’m not so certain that the remaining two volumes will be released.  It makes it hard to get worked up over a series that you may never be able to finish reading.

When Ukyo was hiding from rival yakuza, he ducked into Kakeru’s noodle shop.  The rival gang members weren’t too bright, and they didn’t check the open shops for their quarry.  In addition to not having his life snuffed out by a group of brutal thugs, Ukyo falls in love for the first time in his life.  The bubbly, friendly Kakeru captures him hook, line, and sinker, but the gang member is on the run and can’t linger to declare his feelings.  After spending two years aboard, he’s finally allowed to come back home.  He runs to Kakeru’s shop, delusions dancing in his head that the boy will remember him and leap with joy at his arrival.  Sorry, Ukyo, things like that only happen in manga, but alas, they only happen in manga that you are not in.

Ukyo discovers a group of thugs in the shop attempting to shake down Kakeru.  Not only that, but they are trying to have their vile, wicked way with his slim, desirable body!  Ukyo doesn’t take kindly to that, because he thinks he’s the only one entitled to that delectable body, so he swiftly throws the other gangsters out.  Then his dreams unravel, because Kakeru kicks him out, too.  Not only does Kakeru hate the Osakaki Family for lending his father money and then giving him a brutal beating that has left him in a coma, he hates all yakuza, even those who save him from being ravished by large hairy men.  Crushed, Ukyo leaves.

Instead of giving up, he comes up with a great idea.  What if he pretends to be down and out on his luck and he begs Kakeru to let him work at the shop for room and board?  What a great, novel idea that has never been used in manga before!   Not to worry, the situation lends itself to some wacky hijinx, as Ukyo tries to woo the innocent Kakeru while also secretly saving him from the big, bad mob members who repeatedly show up at his door.  To make matters even more complicated for Ukyo, he has to keep it all a secret from his dad, because it’s just not proper for the heir of the biggest yakuza gang in Kanto to be working in a noodle shop.

Noodle Shop Affair is silly and charming, with an impossibly ridiculous plot device.  Leading a double life and keeping a secret identity are nothing new, but they were humorously pulled off in this book.  Ukyo is tough and unyielding until Kakeru is in view.  Then he is mushy and love-struck, comparing his beloved’s lips to marshmallows and shooting geysers of blood from his nostrils at the thought of a naked Kakeru.  Even the vision of Kakeru’s bath stool has Ukyo trembling like a bowl full of jell-o at the thought of his naked young body sitting on its surface.

In terms of explicit content, this volume of the series is pretty tame.  There isn’t much going on in the sexual gymnastics department, and the focus instead was on helping Kakeru out of his plight with the yakuza gang.  Presumably the skin on skin action picks up in the next installment, which has a depressing TBA status on the Deux website.  Though the story is obviously incomplete, I enjoyed the first volume anyway.  Now, all I can do is hope that the next two volumes see print, so the unlikely couple can find true happiness at last.

Grade:  B+

Idol Pleasures By Fuhri Misasagi Manga Review

Title: Idol Pleasures

Author: Fuhri Misasagi

Publisher:  Deux

ISBN: 9781934496671

May Contain Spoilers

Hisaya is down and out on his luck, until his older sister demands that he start working for her.  Unemployed, he doesn’t really have much choice, and so he finds himself the manager of an up and coming idol, Koju.  They don’t get off to a very good start, and Hisaya is wondering if he’ll fail his new assignment before it really begins.  Then, out of the blue, Koju confesses his feelings to him.  What is the confused Hisaya going to do?

I enjoyed how the relationship developed between the two men in Idol Pleasures.  At first, Koju, rejected by his father when he was young boy, is drawn to the older Hisaya because he sees him as a father figure.  When his feelings turn to love, Hisaya doesn’t take his seriously, thinking instead that he is only looking for a replacement for his absent father.  Besides, they’re both guys!  If you feel that way, you shouldn’t be the lead in a BL book!  I did find that Hisaya’s reluctance to accept Koju’s love was convincing and endearing.  He’s a bit of a loser, having been divorced from his wife, and he regrets that he had to leave his daughter.  He’s also a failure in his career, and is trying to find gainful employment.

Koju is cool and withdrawn, and at first, he keeps his distance from his new manager.  The guy is old and doesn’t know anything about him or the business.  What was the President thinking?  It turns out that even she has ulterior motives, which make Hisaya seem even more pathetic.  Koju just puts on an aloof air; he really is one very needy and lonely young man, and Hisaya appears just when he needs him the most.  Now, if only he can convince Hisaya that they are meant to be together, everything will be hunky dory.

Things go a little off track in the last chapter, but overall, the book is cute, with sweet characters who deserve to find happiness.  

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by Deux

Fan Appreciation Sale at Aurora!

Aurora is still holding their fan appreciation sale, and here are links to all of the details.  You can get some awesome books for cheap, cheap, cheap!  I highly recommend Future Lovers and Kiss all the Boys.  You can also preorder May titles!

http://www.deux-press.com/images/booksale/DeuxBooksSale.html

http://www.aurora-publishing.com/images/booksale/aurorasale.html

http://www.luvluv-press.com/images/booksale/luvluvsale.html

Future Lovers Vol 2 by Saika Kunieda Manga Review

Title:  Future Lovers Vol 2

Author:  Saika Kunieda

Publisher: Deux

ISBN:  9781934496626

May Contain Spoilers

Nobody ever said that love was easy, and Kento and Akira are proof of that.  Total opposites, they have to deal with very different outlooks on life and love.  Kento plays by the rules, always trying to do what’s expected of him and trying not to make waves.  Akira is flamboyant, and he lives life to the fullest, but his outrageous behavior is just a way for him to hide the pain that he’s suffering.  Can these two men find a way to make their relationship last?

I love this series.  It’s all about compromise and learning to accept each other.  Both Kento and Akira have a lot of work to do to be emotionally supportive of each other.  It isn’t easy for either one of them, either.  Akira had a messed up childhood that lingers into his present, and Kento has the pressure of doing what’s best for his family.  His grandparents aren’t thrilled that he’s dating another guy, and all they want for him is to start a family and be happy.  Never mind that he’s happy with Akira, well, most of the time, anyway. 

When Kento and Akira bicker, it’s an ugly thing. Neither of them is confident with their feelings, and so they overreact, lashing out at each other instead of finding a compromise to their problems.  With all of the baggage they’re lugging around, this was a believable escalation of their disagreements.  Kento is so earnest and wants so badly to think of a way to have Akira accepted into his family, but Akira doesn’t like his solution.  I felt bad for both of them, because both of them are so afraid of being left alone.  Kento is especially vulnerable, and he desperately wants a way to make Akira a legal part of his family.  Without the blessing of his grandfather, though, there isn’t much he can do to ensure that Akira will always be there for him.

The pull of this romance are the realistic, moving situations that the characters find themselves in.  What happens outside of their relationship has such an overwhelming effect on them, and sometimes, that’s just not fair.  Akira is burdened by a mother who is more a child than he is, and having endured a very unstable childhood, he doesn’t trust anyone.  Kento is the go to man for his elderly grandparents, and he feels an enormous obligation to them because they raised him after the death of his parents.  Both Kento and Akira have to juggle their expectations, and sometimes that proves to be a little tricky.  It is touching that they are willing to give up on some of their dreams to make the other happy.

The last chapter was a special treat, and the book ended on very satisfying note.  This was a great series, and I want to read more of Saika Kunieda’s works.

Grade: A-

Naughty but Nice by Naduki Koujima Manga Review

Title: Naughty but Nice

Author:  Naduki Koujima

Publisher: Deux

ISBN:  9781934496589

May Contain Spoilers

Kakeru used to think that his homeroom teacher, Mr Wakasa, was the nicest guy around.  He never got mad, was always kind, and everyone liked him.  One night on his way home, he comes across some drunks giving a guy a hard time.  When he realizes that the guy is  Wakasa, he jumps to his rescue – only to trip over a soda can and knock him unconscious!  Feeling responsible for Wakasa’s injuries, Kakeru is dismayed to learn that Wakasa isn’t exactly what he seems.  In fact, he’s really very naughty, and not so nice!

Kakeru just can’t seem to catch a break.  He and his male classmates are jealous that all of the girls have eyes only for Wakasa, and then he has a run in with his teacher and gets caught up in a fight with a bunch of drunks.  Wakasa is not so nice, and Kakeru is at first unsure if it’s even him.  After all, his teacher couldn’t hurt a fly!  This guy is surly and antagonistic, and there’s just no way it can be the same person.  When he injures the man, Kakeru has no choice to drag him home, panic stricken.

What Kakeru opens himself up for is Wakasa’s constant teasing and his demands that Kakeru take responsibility for his actions.  Not only was Wakasa knocked silly, but he’s also lost his memory!  I wasn’t overly charmed by Wakasa, and I wondered why Kakeru was.  Even with the revelation of Wakasa’s tragic background, I just couldn’t connect with the characters.  Kakeru was cute in a jumpy, spastic way, but Wakasa took too much pleasure making him feel uncomfortable and off-balance.  Just as the story was starting to get interesting, it ended, to be continued in Spicy but Sweet.   Naughty but Nice didn’t have a lot to set it apart from other BL titles, and the characters just didn’t grab my attention.

“Bouquet of Love” is also included, and I enjoyed the bonus chapters better than the main story.  One day, while Kazuki is working in his mother’s flower shop, a well-dressed man is having an allergy attack outside of the shop.  Kazuki gives the guy a hand, and then goes about his business.  He’s surprised to run into him again later, and the two slowly develop an easy friendship.  Kazuki begins to realize that he has feelings for Eto, and starts to feel a pang of jealousy when he wonders why Eto is suddenly purchasing so many flowers from his mother’s shop.  This was an understated romance with two very likeable characters.  I could even sympathize with Eto’s severe allergies.

Naughty but Nice is a rather humdrum title with some fun moments, but it doesn’t have that much to offer other than some pleasant illustrations and an enjoyable bonus story.

Grade:  C+

Sale over at Aurora Books

I just received an email from Aurora Books, and they are having a sale on their Deux, LuvLuv, and Aurora titles.  February and March titles are $8, and titles published in January and earlier are only 4 bucks!  Send an email to e-tung@aurora-publishing.com for the special pricing.

Don’t know what to get?  I highly recommend Future Lovers, Make Love & Peace, and Yakuza in Love.

Check out their books at Aurora Publishing, LuvLuv Press, & Deux Press!

Love Round! by Hinako Takanaga Manga Review

Title:  Love Round!

Author: Hinako Takanaga

Publisher: Deux

ISBN:  9781934496558

May Contain Spoilers

Boxer Kubo gets the surprise of his life when he finds Kaoru Komatsuna’s notebook.  When pretty boy Kaoru overhears him make fun of his name, he goes ballistic and KO’s the burly Kubo.  Impressed with the force of his punch, Kubo is determined to get Kaoru to become a boxer – will love bloom as Kubo chases his quarry?

This was cute, if repetitive, read.  Kubo isn’t the brightest guy out there, and he never thinks before he opens his big mouth.  This gets him into a lot of trouble, especially after he meets Kaoru.  Kaoru has a blistering temper, and the slightest offense sets him off.  He’s very sensitive about his name, and with his frail, girly looks, that’s kind of understandable.  When he hears Kubo comment that he has a weird name, he sees red and decks him.  It’s not the last time that Kubo is on the receiving end of one of Kaoru’s punches, and it’s kind of amazing that Kubo gradually finds himself falling for him.

Instead of getting angry about being knocked out by Kaoru, Kubo asks him to join his gym and become a boxer, too.  Kaoru is impressed with Kubo – he’s the very image of the macho man he is trying to emulate.  Kaoru hates that he’s girly looking.  He is even better looking than most girls, and when Kubo comments on that, he gets decked again.  Kubo gets KO’ed so many times that if the author didn’t keep track of the number, it would be easy to lose track.  That comedic plot device was a little over used, and it became a little tiring when Kaoru just couldn’t restrain his flaring rage.  If nothing else, if helps to explain why Kubo was a little dense – taking that many blows to the head can’t be good for brain matter.

When Kubo starts to fall for Kaoru, Kaoru gets pissed.  He may look like a girl, but he’s a guy!  The constant miscommunication between the two give the story a lot of it’s charm.  Kubo’s inability to shut up is also a source of amusement.  He lacks any common sense, and just blurts out whatever comes to mind.  Kaoru is the opposite; he’s a pretty reserved guy, and he is just humiliated whenever Kubo opens his mouth.    It’s a wonder that these guys ever hook up! 

I wasn’t overly impressed with the scratchy illustrations, but the story is fun and never takes itself too seriously.  It was hard not cheering for Kubo, because he is so clueless that you wonder how he will ever win Kaoru’s affections.  Who can resist a nitwit like that?

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by Deux