Title: How to Capture a Martini
Author: Makoto Tatemo
Publisher: Doki Doki
May Contain Spoilers
He was my lover in high school, my upperclassman – beautiful, malicious Shinobu. He was also the one who took away everything, whether it was my first kiss, or my first time! Then, after the graduation ceremony, he completely disappeared. Four years have passed since then, and right when I thought I’d already forgotten all memories about him, he suddenly appears in front of my eyes, more beautiful and charming than ever… Now, even though he’s willing to open his body for everyone, the only thing he gives me is his cruel words. But no matter what, I still want to be by his side!
Poor Naoyuki! He was dumped when he was in high school, and he still hasn’t recovered, four years later. Even now that he has a cute girl friend and is in college, his heart still belongs to his high school sweetheart. A chance encounter with Shinobu gives new life to Naoyuki’s conflicted feelings. Naoyuki’s heart still belongs to Shinobu, and as he revisits his overpowering feelings of betrayal and confusion, he can’t help but be tormented by the same question he asked himself four years ago; why did Shinobu abandon him so abruptly, without even a word of goodbye?
How to Capture a Martini is packed with intense emotions, as Naoyuki tries to make sense of Shinobu and the distance that he’s put between them. Didn’t their relationship mean anything to him? Naoyuki is pushed into a spiral of despair as Shinobu flaunts one lover after another in front of him, coldly brushing Naoyuki away and demanding that he mind his own business. Tensions escalate between the two men until they reach the breaking point. Neither is immune to the traitorous yearning of their heart, even when they firmly tell themselves that they are finished with the other. There is an invisible bond between them, and they just can’t seem to break it, no matter how hurtful they act towards each other.
Fans of Makoto Tateno won’t be disappointed with the story and the complicated relationship that threatens to consume both Shinobu and Naoyuki. Shinobu is so focused on driving Naoyuki away that he engages in unwise and dangerous behavior designed solely to hurt Naoyuki. There is so much angsty melodrama, punctuated by emotional outbursts and self-recriminations, that it’s hard to put the book down. It draws you in as the two men and their conflict deepens and intensifies. You want them to find some common ground, but as Shinobu lashes out again and again at Naoyuki, you wonder if it wouldn’t be best for them to just give up and go their separate ways.
I thought the final resolution was a little too easily won, especially considering Shinobu’s previous behavior, but overall, I enjoyed the topsy-turvy romance because it was so intense. Makoto Tateno’s illustrations skillfully capture each longing glance and look of wounded pride. The character designs are soft and fluid, with lean, attractive men spilling off of every page. The eye-candy fires on all four cylinders here, giving the reader a visual treat. The Doki Doki gang does another great job bundling up this title. Not only is How to Capture a Martini an emotionally charged read, it will also look good on your bookshelf.
Review copy provided by publisher
Title: Cute Devil
Author: Hiro Madarame
May Contain Spoilers
Akiyoshi Tohru is the picture of an ideal student. Not only does he have perfect attendance and top grades, but he’s the student council president of his all-boys school. But the school ‘princess’, Naruse Futa, takes a shining to Akiyoshi and a princess always gets what he wants. Will Akiyoshi be able to escape Naruse’s sadistic clutches?
When I first sat down with Cute Devil, I have to say that I wasn’t overly thrilled. The art looked a little creepy, especially Fuuta’s character design. He looks like a porcelain doll come to life, with dewy eyes and rosebud lips and tousled locks that really need to get to know the caress of a comb and brush. Animated dolls are creepy! Fuuta is supposedly so pretty that he overshadows the girls at school, and he has a long line of male admirers. When he turns his long lashed eyes on the class president, Akiyoshi is helplessly caught. Kind of like a doomed fly caught in a spider’s web. Yeah, that’s an apt comparison, because Fuuta, despite his looks, is anything but angelic. Heaven help the hapless Akiyoshi.
I enjoyed this romp once things got rolling. Even the art grew on me, especially after Fuuta’s transformation. The tone is light and the story doesn’t take itself seriously, and it kept me smiling throughout my journey with Akiyoshi as he traveled into his own little Fuuta-themed hell. Akiyoshi is a self-righteous prig with an ego the size of Texas, and he is no match for the devilish Fuuta. Fuuta has everyone fooled into thinking he is weak and helpless, and he plays his good looks to get everything he wants. When that doesn’t work, he resorts to his true personality; this guy is evil to the core, and he always gets what he wants. Right now, what he wants is Akiyoshi. Ha!
Cute Devil is a humorous, fast read, and even if the leads aren’t always very likable, they are always entertaining.
Review copy provided by publisher
Title: Blood Honey
Author: Sakyou Yozakura
May Contain Spoilers
From Right Stuff:
Nurse Yuki Akabane is a descendant of a line of vampires. He’s often visited at the hospital he works at by a donor nut named Osamu Mayuzumi, the insatiable cram school teacher. Yuki never really thought twice about Mayuzumi, but when he drinks some of his blood on a whim, it tastes so good to him that he tries to get closer to him to savor more. But what will he do when Mayuzumi suddenly stops coming…?!
Blood Honey is a cute take on vampires. Akabane is descended from vampires, but he doesn’t really have any of their abilities. Instead, he just has a thirst for blood. It’s only logical that he would work at a blood clinic, because where else can a modern day not-quite-vampire get a steady supply of blood? When he drinks the blood of weirdo Mayuzumi, he goes a little nuts. Mayuzumi has the most delicious blood he’s ever tasted!
After drinking Mayuzumi’s blood, Akabane has to figure out a way to get closer to him so that he can keep indulging in his yummy blood. What he doesn’t know is that Mayuzumi is hiding secrets of his own. If Mayuzumi doesn’t give blood regularly, his hot-blooded personality takes over! At first Akabane just thinks that Mayuzumi is just a donor nut, he quickly learns that the seemingly mild-mannered teacher turns into a raving beast if he doesn’t lose some of his blood. Perfect scenario for both of them!
There is a lot of humor in Blood Honey, and it shines through in both the art and the situations the characters find themselves in. Akabane has to find ways to build up Mayuzumi’s blood so it will enhance the delicious flavor, while Mayuzumi keeps trying to get rid of it. Mayuzumi’s abrupt personality changes also keep Akabane on his toes, as the two try to define their relationship and what they mean to each other. Theirs is a confused, muddled relationship that is propelled along by their unusual need for each other.
My favorite chapter features Akabane’s nephew, Kurosu, an incredibly handsome young man who thinks he is god’s gift to the universe. It takes a humbling stay at a temple, and the intervention of a no-nonsense monk, for him to find true happiness. Oh, yeah.
I love the cover, and found that the playful illustration is very representative of the interior art. There is a sense of fun and silliness throughout, and it doesn’t take itself seriously. Blood Honey is another great example of brain-candy, and in addition to its sweetness, it looks great, too.
You can check out a preview of the book here.
Review copy provided by BLU
Title: Our Kingdom: Arabian Nights
Author: Naduki Koujima
May Contain Spoilers
Brokenhearted when the love of his life rejects him, Raoul heads on a trip overseas to soothe his ruffled feathers. He is promptly kidnapped by Ashif, the 3rd prince of a small Arabian kingdom. Raoul discovers that Ashif is sweet and naive, and he quickly loses his heart to him. Can Raoul overcome his fear of being hurt and convince Ashif that his love is for real?
Our Kingdom: Arabian Nights pushes the envelope of believability, in a fun and refreshing way. I haven’t read Our Kingdom, but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this title. Raoul is the star here, and he ends up in a desert kingdom after fleeing first Akira, the boy he loves, and then his annoying little sisters. Ashif is interested in him because Raoul once helped his sister, and the prince wants to repay his kindness. I’m not sure how kidnapping qualifies as a gesture of appreciation, but since Ashif is so beautiful and kindhearted, Raoul quickly forgives him and falls head over heels for him.
This is a fast read, and once you pick it up, it is very, very tough to put down. Raoul and Ashif make a charismatic couple, and the book is packed with amusing personalities that make you want to learn more about them. The courtship between the leads is like a sandstorm, sudden, wild, and intense, and with the exotic setting, they even get to partake in some exciting activities, like falcon hunting and horseback riding. How cool is that?
I liked Raoul, and his lack of confidence from competing with his rival Rei made him more likeable. Raoul is very competitive, and it irks him to no end that Rei usually comes out with the upper hand. Now that he’s met Ashif, Raoul is determined to never let him go, and his controlling attitude causes friction between them.
Ashif is gentle and kind, and he really has no clue about anything. He is very naive, so Raoul has an uphill battle to win. First, Raoul has to make him understand how he feels about him, and then he has to coax him into accepting his feelings. I enjoyed the interaction between them, and was quickly convinced that they cared for each other.
Our Kingdom: Arabian Nights plays up the fantasy of being held captive by a rich and handsome desert prince, and add to the visual appeal, the illustrations are rich and detailed. This is an enjoyable and satisfying read, peopled with a wonderful cast of diverse characters.
Review copy provided by June
Title: Electric Hands
Author: Taishi Zaou
Publisher: Doki Doki Books
May Contain Spoilers
This anthology of tame BL stories showcase the humor and quirky personalities that Taishi Zaou has become known for. She is one of my favorite writers in the field, because of the comedic situations and likeable characters that populate her stories. This is a collection of some of her earlier works, and despite a lack of variety in some of the chapters, it’s an enjoyable read.
The first couple up is Fujino and Takie. Fujino has a little problem. All right, it’s a huge problem. He has a hand fetish, and his friend Takie has beautiful hands. Fujino can’t keep himself from being drawn to Takie and those expressive hands of his. Whenever Takie touches him, a jolt of electricity shoots through Fujino. He soon spends quite a bit of energy running way from Takie and his magic hands, which has Takie wondering what he’s done to his friend. This was a cute story, and comments from classmates at their all boys school add to the laughs.
The next couple in “Brother Love” is actually love triangle between one of Fujino’s classmates, Tomoharu, and his new younger brothers. Tomoharu has been raised by his mother since his father’s death years ago, and when his mom finally remarries, he’s thrilled. He won’t have to do so many chores anymore and he gets two new brothers, too! Score! Err, or maybe not so fast. Both of his brothers confess their love for him, but Tomoharu isn’t ready to get all touchy-feely with a couple of guys. I would love to see this story continued.
The final two chapters feature another older boy with a younger, very persistent admirer, and a high jumper and his team mate’s captivating gaze. This is all brain candy, with lots of sugary goodness and no thinking required. The art has Taishi Zaou’s characteristic pointy chins and stylish mops of hair, and the illustrations hum with personality. Sure, there’s nothing in here that will stick with you for years to come, but what’s life without a few yummy empty calories every now and again?
Review copy provided by Doki Doki Books
Title: Dog X Cat
Author: Yoshimi Amasaki
Publisher: 801 Media
May Contain Spoilers
Atsu has always wanted a big dog of his own to cuddle, but since he lives in an apartment, he has to make do with his friend, Junya. Buddies since childhood, the college students are about to re-examine their relationship when Junya recklessly confesses that he loves Atsu and wants to have a physical relationship with him. Atsu is taken aback, and though he is a bit reluctant, he agrees. What he’s having a hard time with is telling Junya how he really feels. Will he be able to tell his dog how much he loves him?
I’m torn over this title. I was enjoying the light-hearted comedy until the last two chapters. They were so different in tone from the rest of the book that they seemed out of place and didn’t belong here. Every other chapter was fluffy fun, but the wrap up to the title kind of ruined it for me. Junya turns into an inconsiderate ass and rapes Atsu, and this unpleasantness is shrugged off because Junya intercepted a drink meant for Atsu. The drink is spiked with alcohol, and since Atsu is such a lightweight, some jealous classmates are trying to mess him up. Looking beyond the fact that Atsu would have ended up in the hospital if he had downed the contents of his “non-alcoholic” beverage, I still detest this particular plot device. I don’t find it romantic or titillating; I find it upsetting and degrading.
Moving past what I disliked about Dog X Cat, what I did like was the rapid pacing and the non-stop humor. Both Atsu and Junya are rather unique characters, and considering how comfortable they feel around animals, it’s only natural that they would eventually realize that they can get some comfort and love from each other. When Junya needs a sympathetic ear and Atsu isn’t there for him, he cuddles up with his chubby cat. Atsu is always chasing after dogs, which gets Junya jealous. Yeah, these guys are kind of weird, so it’s a good thing that they have each other.
Being a 801 Media title, there’s plenty of steamy scenes worked into the panels. The art is very attractive; the character designs are lean and angular, and both Atsu and Junya look good in and out of their clothes. The cover didn’t really grab my attention, though, but I think it’s because Junya’s hand is so awkwardly proportioned. Either that or he’s got a lobster crawling through his hair.
If this book had been two chapters shorter, I would have given it a higher grade. Once the abusive, demeaning behavior was introduced, my enjoyment level tanked. What a disappointing end to an otherwise fun book.
Review copy provided by 801 Media