Love Skit by Rie Honjoh BL Manga Review


Title: Love Skit

Author: Rie Honjoh

Publisher: 801 Media

ISBN: 9781934129395

May Contain Spoilers

Aoto’s not a happy guy, and he has every reason to be unhappy.  First, his parents died, leaving him and  his sister to fend for themselves.  Then, his sister Ryouko dies, leaving him broken hearted once again.  Aoto takes comfort from Takashi, his brother-in-law.  Takashi has promised to take care of him, so the two are living together.  When Takashi’s friend, Masayuki, accuses Aoto of being in love with his brother-in-law, will Aoto be able to admit the truth to himself?

I liked the art better than I enjoyed the stories in Love Skit.  The illustrations are clear and detailed, and facial expressions drive the story forward.  The character designs are attractive as well, and everyone has a distinctive look.  The cover is very appealing, as Aoto curls underneath an attentive Masayuki,  who wears a slightly teasing smile on his face.  The interior artwork shares the playful mood of the cover, but the actual plot contents didn’t do much to  impress me.

Despite the likeable characters, I felt like I have read this story about a dozen times in the past.  There isn’t anything unique within the covers to make much in Love Skit memorable.  All of the usual plot devices are here; an older, more experienced guy discovers that the young, innocent main character is harboring a forbidden love, the older guy chases after him, the younger guy is left even more confused because of his conflicted feelings.  It’s usually a cute formula, but it doesn’t rise above the crowd in this setting.  The story progresses at a solid clip, Aoto and Masayuki go through the motions of falling in love, but there isn’t much sexual tension between them, and the details are quickly forgotten once the book is closed. 

Despite its appealing look, Love Skit is light on substance, and it doesn’t leave much in the way of a lasting impression.  

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by 801 Media

Ciao Ciao Bambino by Momoko Tenzen Manga Review


Title:  Ciao Ciao Bambino

Author: Momoko Tenzen

Publisher: June

ISBN: 9781569700778

May Contain Spoilers

When Kaname starts his new part-time job, he doesn’t expect to fall in love.  He is thrown in to confusion when he meets Yuuta, and soon he can’t stop the pounding of his heart or the butterflies in his stomach.  Will he be able to keep his cool, or will Kaname fall head over heels for his student?

Most of the stories in Ciao Ciao Bambino feature student/teacher relationships, which is usually not a favorite of mine.  I really enjoyed these sweet, discreet romances, though, because they focused on romance and not on physical relationships.  It’s rated 16+, so the material is very tame, and I liked it better because of that.  The book celebrates the shyer, giddier side of love, and the relationships are very uplifting.

Yuuta looks like a girl, and when Kaname saves him from a thug, he thinks he just rescued a girl.  Yuuta doesn’t take offense at his mistake, and instead he develops a crush on the awkward Kaname.  This story was fun because it takes place over a period of several years, starting when Yuuta is in middle school, and following their blossoming relationship as Yuuta matures.  I have to admit that I was a little put off by the age difference, but the relationship is presented in such sugary confines that I quickly got over my objections.  In addition, Yuuta grew up to be one hawt number, so there is no possible way that Kaname could have resisted his determined pursuit.

The next chapter explores the growing feelings between Yuuta’s friends, Kei and Mako.  This one is cute because neither boy is really interested in each other, but once someone suggests that they do have a thing for one another, they realize that they want to be more than friends.  Both boys are pretty clueless, and so they were a good match for each other.

The book finishes up with Kana, a high school student who harbors a forbidden crush on his tutor, Nakahara.  The usual angst ensues, including jealousy and self-doubt, and the characters are likeable enough that you get caught up in their confusion and uncertainty.  Nothing is too deep or too over the top on an emotional level; instead you have a solid romance with two attractive guys who don’t quite know how to express their feelings.

I haven’t cared for Momoko Tenzen’s art in the past, but I must be getting used to it because I liked it here.  All of those impossibly pointy chins still give me pause, but the characters are good-looking, the emphasis is on facial expresses, and you never have to guess how anyone is feeling.  It’s all evident, through every bashful blush or shy curve of the lips.

Readers looking for a steamy romp won’t find it here, but Ciao Ciao Bambino piles on the romance instead.  This would be a good introduction for someone just venturing into the BL genre; it’s a solid read with likeable characters and engaging situations.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by June

All I Want for Christmas – Or the Manga Gift Guide – Boys Love Edition

Continuing with the Manga Gift Guide, today let’s take a look at BOYS LOVE.  Remember, you can find the Great Manga Gift Guide repository at Ozaku simply by clicking here.

Boys Love – Kaim Tachibana – Angsty characters and beautiful art make this one a winner. 

Camera Camera Camera -  Kazura Matsumoto – When a high school student accidentally injures a photographer, his life becomes a living hell.  Having to become his gopher, Akira finds himself attracted to his slovenly new boss.  Great comedy, great characters, this series is a lot of fun.

Living for Tomorrow – Taishi Zaou – Quirky and fun, a high school student tries to hide the fact that he’s in love with his best friend.

Cut – Toko Kawai – Piles on the angst as two people cast adrift in life find a life line with each other.

Hero Heel – Mokoto Tateno – Sexy and intense, this is my favorite Tateno title. 

New Beginnings – Kotetsuko Yamamoto – Sweet and charming, two high school students discover the true meaning of love.

Kiss All the Boys – Shiuko Kano – Funny, funny series with dysfunctional characters and engaging situations. 

Brilliant Blue – Saemi Yorita – Can opposites really attract? This is another sweet, sensitive romance where you really want the protagonists to get together.

Future Lovers – Saika Kunieda – Realistic situations and sympathetic characters make this hard to put down.  Humor hits the mark, too.

Tea for Two – Yaya Sakuragi – Klutzy high school student falls for his elegant and sophisticated friend. 

Just Around the Corner – Toko Kawai – Beautifully rendered book about two sorrowful people in need of love and understanding.  This is a student/teacher romance done right.

Boys Love by Kaim Tachibana Manga Review


Title: Boys Love

Author:  Kaim Tachibana

Publisher: Doki Doki

ISBN: 9781569700884

May Contain Spoilers

Wow, I remain very impressed with DMP’s Doki Doki line.  There hasn’t been a dud yet, and I am now super geeked whenever a new release appears at my door.  In addition to covering an array of topics, they also offer a compelling spectrum of emotions.  Boys Love is a gripping read about an emotionally tortured young model and how is life changes after meeting an idealistic journalist.  I was hooked from the beginning of this turbulent story about a self-destructive young man, and I want to read more material by Kaim Tachibana.  Is this really the only title that’s been licensed?  That is a shame if any of the others are anywhere near as good.

Mamiya finally gets a big break in his journalistic career when he’s tapped to interview Noeru Kisaragi for a piece about celebrity artists.  What Mamiya finds when he meets Noeru is a moody, sullen young man who doesn’t trust anyone and has a giant chip on his shoulder.  After admiring one of his paintings, Noeru slowly softens towards Mamiya, but when a jealous friend threatens to tear them apart, will both of their careers be destroyed?

In this deftly crafted tale about a jaded, unlikeable model, Mamiya is torn by his feelings for Noeru.  At first, the boy plays him for a fool, dangling his lovers before him and interfering with his job, but soon after putting his foot down, the two begin to form a friendship.  As Noeru learns to trust Mamiya, he leaves behind the cold persona he’s forced him self to play in order to save himself from being hurt.  The change in him doesn’t go unnoticed by Noeru’s best friend Chidori, and soon the three are in the grip of a destructive triangle.  Chidori wants to keep Noeru all to himself, and he hates the positive changes that Mamiya has set in motion within Noeru.

This title works across many levels.  First and foremost, it allowed me to begin to sympathize and then even accept Noeru and his personal hang-ups.   This kid is a total jerk, but the reasons for him behaving badly make sense within the context of the story.  When Mamiya’s positive influence causes him to reassess his life, he begins to make a very concerted effort to change his life.  It’s when Chidori starts to feel that he’s being left behind that Noeru’s real troubles surface.  With his friend sabotaging him, there’s not much hope that he can find the inner peace he has longed for.

I liked the sweet, earnest Mamiya from the get go, and at first thought that he didn’t stand a chance against the worldly Noeru.  Even after Noeru tries to take advantage of him, Mamiya can’t help but be drawn to the charismatic model.  Noeru is like a wildfire, but even the threat of being caught in the flames of destruction can’t keep the two apart.  Their relationship shifts and changes over the duration of the story, emerging as a stronger and much more positive emotion that gives Noeru the resolve to learn to trust again. 

I love the cover of this book.  The various shades of greens washed across the background bring Mamiya and Noeru to sharp relief, as they stare soulfully from the cover.  The interior art is crisp and clean, featuring fine lines and a minimum of clutter.  As an added bonus, the character designs are hawt!  Both Mamiya and Noeru are gorgeous, making the panels snap with life as they struggle to understand and accept their feelings for each other.

Teaming with angst, Boys Love provides a heart wrenching romance that piles on the emotional turmoil.  Reading it is a bit like watching a train wreck – as Noeru’s actions spiral out of control, the reader is left to wonder whether Mamiya will have the strength of character to save him  – or whether it might be best for him to cut his losses and just let him go off and self-destruct.

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by Doki Doki Books

Brilliant Blue Vol 2 by Saemi Yorita Manga Review


Title: Brilliant Blue Vol 2

Author: Saemi Yorita

Publisher: Doki Doki

ISBN: 9781569701003

May Contain Spoilers

Shouzo has moved back to his hometown to help run the family business. He’s left behind a promising career in Tokyo, and after his initial reluctance, is starting to feel more settled back home.  One thing he isn’t prepared for is his growing attraction to Nanami, his childhood friend.  Simple and uncomplicated, Nanami has Shou tied up in knots.  Shou tries to deny is feelings, because he knows that theirs is a forbidden romance.  When he realizes that he’s fighting a losing battle, he throws caution to wind and begins to pursue a relationship with Nanami.  Will they be able to find happiness in their small, gossipy town?

This is a romance done right.  The characters have realistic challenges to overcome, and their courtship is explored with tenderness and sympathy.  Once Shou makes up his mind that he really does love Nanami, he pursues him with a single-minded determination.  Since he isn’t the most tactful person around, he often blunders in his efforts to win Nanami’s love.  He is blunt and his words are often painful, but he doesn’t realize how hurtful they can be.  When he figures out that he’s made a mistake, he is remorseful, but his pride doesn’t always allow him to make amends.  He has flaws, and I think that makes him come across as more human.

Nanami is a bit of an idiot savant.  I can see how his cheerful nature would win Shou over.  This is a guy who takes everything at face value and doesn’t have a deceptive bone in his body.  He’s sweet like a puppy, following Shou around with his heart in his eyes.  Since Shou’s life has gotten rather complicated, it makes sense that he’d fall for someone as uncomplicated as Nanami.  The two are total opposites; where Shou is a neat freak, Nanami is an utter slob.  Where Shou is strict and decisive, Nanami is easygoing and waffles on almost everything.  Yet they make the perfect couple and I really wanted them to get together and find a way to work out their differences and overcome the objections of their families.

Brilliant Blue tells a simple story with clarity and sensitivity.  Emotions and situations are believable and engrossing. Though much of the story follows Shou through his daily headaches of running a business, the story never lags or becomes uninteresting.  The message throughout is universal – love is special, and regardless of complications, it deserves a chance to grow.  This is one for the keeper shelf.

Grade: A

Review copy provided by Doki Doki

Liberty Liberty! by Hinako Takanaga Manga Review


Title: Liberty Liberty!

Author: Hinako Takanaga

Publisher: BLU

ISBN: 9781427816665

May Contain Spoilers

After fleeing Tokyo in an attempt to run away from his problems, Itaru only creates more for himself.  Passing out on a pile of trash after a night of too much alcohol, he winds up in Kouki’s apartment.  Kouki is a cameraman for a small cable television station, and Itaru ruined his stakeout.  He also destroys the station’s video camera.  Now Itaru is on the hook for the damaged equipment, he doesn’t have anywhere to live, and he’s falling in love with Kouki!  Life is getting more complicated by the day!

Liberty Liberty! takes a while to get rolling, and it never does set anything but a leisurely pace.  It’s dawdling pace didn’t keep my full attention, which is sad because I enjoyed the art.  Kouki and his ponytail are cute!  The story just never really takes off, relying on restrained personalities to carry its forward momentum.  While very likeable, the characters just aren’t compelling enough to bear the weight of the plot.  The beginning was ho-hum and didn’t feel fresh or imaginative.  The romance elements are also lacking here.  There wasn’t enough tension between Itaru and Kouki, leaving a lukewarm courtship.  The daily activities the characters are engaged are mundane at best, failing to grab my interest.

I did like the characters very much, and wished that they could have been involved in more exciting pursuits.  I didn’t feel that the resolution to Itaru’s personal issues were fully concluded, and the introduction of Kouki’s vision problem just didn’t make much sense.  If he could see well enough to become a cameraman for the cable station, it didn’t make sense that he would have to refuse to take a job offer in Tokyo.  As a personal obstacle to overcome, it didn’t seem convincing and didn’t have that much of an impact on the overall story.

Liberty Liberty! suffers from a case of dullness.  This is worth a rent from the library, but there are much better BL books out there.  If you are a huge Hinako Takanaga fan, at least the art won’t disappoint, even if the story fails to shine.

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by BLU

Mr Flower Groom by Lily Hoshino Manga Review


Title: Mr Flower Groom

Author:  Lily Hoshino

Publisher:  Yen Press

ISBN: 9780759529502

May Contain Spoilers

Following the Souda family tradition of marrying off its younger sons to male clan members, Ritsu and Kouichirou are in for a bumpy ride.  Childhood friends, they are finding that misunderstandings lurk around every corner.  Each carries baggage from the past and fears of the future.  Can they live happily ever after?

I was disappointed with this continuation of the “Mr Flower Groom” short that was first introduced in Mr Flower Bride.  We once again visit members of the Souda family, who have an unusual habit of marrying off younger sons together, all to ensure peace and clear lines of succession for the heirs.  It’s an awfully weird tradition, but it seems to work for the Soudas.  After the big ceremony, the couple is moved into the hanare, where they try to find a life of bliss together.  Things don’t seem to run smoothly for Ritsu and Kouichirou, and their inability to communicate proves to be a trial on their relationship.  Each is assailed by jealousy and self-doubt, and instead of confronting each other with their feelings, they shut down, causing a rift to grow between them.

The problems facing our couple aren’t very convincing, and the resolution of their differences are all a little too pat.  There is a lack of tension and both characters have an irritating air of indifference that makes it hard to get behind them and cheer them on to happiness.  I also find Lily Hoshino’s art awkward, but I think it’s because both Ritsu and Kouichirou look like they are wearing really bad wigs.  I also don’t like that Ritsu looks too much like a girl.  This guy must not have one iota of testosterone flowing in his veins to have that soft pale skin and wide heavily lashed eyes.

Mr Flower Groom is a quick read that doesn’t offer much in terms of being memorable.  It’s worth a rent from the library, but it doesn’t have the staying power to deserve a purchase.

Grade: C

Review copy provided by Yen Press

Don’t Rush Love by Mio Tennohji Manga Review


Title: Don’t Rush Love

Author: Mio Tennohji

Publisher: 801 Media

ISBN: 9781934129289

May Contain Spoilers

Morino is the new kid at an all-boys prep school.  From the moment he first sees Kusama, he’s instantly smitten.  When the athletic student turns out to be Morino’s room mate, he has a hard time keeping his love a secret.  He knows that Kusama is in love with their teacher, Kanzaki, and the prospect of Kusama returning his feelings are about zilch.  Still, if Morino can convince Kusama to use him as a substitute for Kanzaki, he’ll get spend precious time with his love and stop Kusama from sleeping around.  Can love bloom between Morino and Kusama, or will Kusama just take advantage of Morino?

Don’t Rush Love is a typical high school BL romance, full of all of the conventions that you’d expect.  There’s a shy, timid student who falls for a more self-assured and outgoing classmate, and lots of unrequited love to add angst to the tale.  Morino is instantly infatuated with Kusama after watching him play volleyball, and he can’t believe his good luck to learn that they are roomies.  He’s not so thrilled when Kusama sneaks out night after night, returning near dawn after spending the evening with different lovers.  Kusama can’t get Kanzaki out of his head, and he’ll use anyone to help soothe his frustrated passions.  Enter Morino, no longer content to admire Kusama from afar.  Instead, he proposes to be Kanzaki’s stand-in, so that Kusama isn’t out all night, every night, sleeping all around town.

The premise is fairly by the book, without too many surprises thrown in to cause additional emotional grief for the characters.  There is a great deal of drama as Morino and Kusama work through their feelings for each other, and it is further complicated with the introduction of Kusama’s family.  Still, there isn’t anything unique about the story to set it apart from the rest of the pack.  Throw in some very awkward art, where the characters resemble clothes pins, and you’re left with a momentarily distracting, though undistinguished read.  

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by 801 Media