How to Capture a Martini by Makoto Tateno BL Manga Review

 

Title: How to Capture a Martini

Author: Makoto Tatemo

Publisher:  Doki Doki

ISBN: 9781569700822

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

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.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Electric Hands by Taishi Zaou BL Manga Review

 

Title: Electric Hands

Author: Taishi Zaou

Publisher: Doki Doki Books

ISBN: 9781569701133

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?

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by Doki Doki Books

Millennium Prime Minister Vol 2 by Eiki Eiki Manga Review

 

Title: Millennium Prime Minister Vol 2

Author: Eiki Eiki

Publisher:  Doki Doki

ISBN: 9781569700938

May Contain Spoilers

Sai, the Prime Minister’s senior aid, has run away!  Jealous of Kanata’s relationship with Minori, his broken heart won’t allow him to watch as the young politician flirts with his finance.  Kanata wants to keep a lid on the fact that his trusted advisor has vanished, but his enemies are gifted at sniffing out secrets.  Will Kanata be able to prevent a scandal from hitting the evening news?

This is a fun series, but the focus of this volume shifted away from Minori and her confusing feelings for the young Prime Minister.  Instead, it’s about Sai and his unrequited passion for the Kanata.  Now, that’s not a bad thing, but part of what I enjoyed about the first volume was that Minori was sucked into a situation against her will, and that situation would qualify for most girls’ romantic fantasy come true.  She suddenly finds herself engaged to one of the most powerful men in Japan, living in a residence that’s steeped in tradition and glamour, and she’s surrounded by a bevy of beautiful men.  What girl doesn’t dream of being swept off of her feet by a charming guy like Kanata?

That’s not to say that all of this time spent with Sai is completely distasteful.  Quite the contrary; it’s quite enlightening and amusing.  The guy is a prima donna, and he’s much more girly than Minori.  Sai pouts, bullies to get his way, and takes advantage of everyone he can to achieve his goals.  It’s just that Kanata is kind of dense and never once thought of Sai in a romantic, I want to jump your bones kind of way.  No, Kanata is saving his bone jumping aspirations for Minori, and Minori is just confused by this weird, uncomfortable love triangle.  

The mix of odd personalities gives Millennium Prime Minister much of its humor.  Minori has been transported to a nut house, and it’s no wonder the poor girl doesn’t know what to do.  Not content to dwell on the romantic travails of the characters, Eiki Eiki also tosses in some political intrigue. Kanata is young, attractive, and powerful, and he’s earned his fair share of enemies.  Those jealous of his political standing conspire to knock him down a few pegs, and with the turmoil within his own ranks, they are going to have an easier time of it.  The blend of humor and romance makes for an entertaining read, and the attractive art makes it easy on the eyes.  Sure, this is pure fluff, but it’s fun, pretty fluff.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by Doki Doki Books

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

Color by Eiki Eiki x Taishi Zaou Manga Review

Title:  Color

Author:  Eiki Eiki x Taishi Zaou

Publisher: Doki Doki

ISBN:  9781569701126

May Contain Spoilers

Take two of my favorite BL creators, add them together, and what do you get?  A solid tale of sweet romance, interlaced with tender comedy and angsty drama.  Eiki Eiki and Taishi Zaou collaborate on Color, introducing two young men who are looking for what’s missing in their lives.  When Takashiro sees his painting hanging next to a similar work by Sakae Fujiwara, he knows he has to meet the other artist.  He can tell that they share many of the same feelings, and he is a little unsettled when he realizes that they even gave their works of art the same name.  Due to a misunderstanding, he believes that Sakae is a girl, and he’s all fired up to meet her.  He learns that she’ll even be attending the same art school, and he can’t wait for school to start.  What happens when “she” turns out to be a “he”?  Can Sakae still be his soul mate?

Striking a nice blend between Eiki Eiki’s occasional darker themes and Taishi Zaou’s silly humor, Color explores the developing relationship between Takashiro and Sakai.  Since the death of his twin, Takashiro has felt that he’s lost part of himself.  When he meets Sakae, he finally feels whole.   Though neither of them fits the tortured artist billing, they are both lonely and looking for a meaning to their lives.  They hit it off immediately, and as they grow closer together, they begin to have romantic feelings for each other.  Cautiously, they move forward with their relationship, sheltered in the narrow confines of their school.  They are happy with each other, and believe that they’ll be together forever. Then real life intrudes, and they  both realize how fragile their love really is.

I liked both Takashiro and Sakae, and their blossoming relationship was natural and complemented their personalities.  They wrestle with the usual “Oh, he’s a guy, I can’t fall in love with him” quandary that darkens the lives of BL characters, but their resolution to the dilemma is swift and convincing.  It’s what happens afterwards, when family issues threaten to tear them apart, that gives the story some depth.  They each deal with the roadblocks in their path differently, and while Sakae falls into despair, Takashiro never gives up hope for a happy resolution.  Neither did I.   I really wanted these guys to end up together, smearing paint on canvas, supporting each other and loving each other.

The art is what you expect from both Eiki Eiki and Taishi Zaou – the character designs are cute, with long, lean torsos and pointy facial features.  Both Takashiro and Sakae have unruly shocks of hair framing their thin faces.  Though their heads occasionally appear impossibly small perched on their overly narrow bodies, I thought the art was very attractive.

So far, Doki Doki is a winning line.  Color fits right into the list of other titles, offering a light-hearted romance with likeable characters in a school setting.  Complete in one volume, it offers up comedy, drama, and appealing artwork.  

Grade: B

Review copy provided by Doki Doki

Millennium Prime Minister Vol 1 by Eiki Eiki Manga Review

Title: Millennium Prime Minister Vol 1

Author: Eiki Eiki

Publisher: Doki Doki

ISBN: 9781569700921

May Contain Spoilers

Minori’s life was rather hum-drum, until the day she decides to play hooky.  Dropping into an arcade, she trashes an unseen opponent in a video game – and ends up engaged!  All she wanted to do was add a little excitement to her life, but now she’s gone and over done it!  How can she get rid of the very persistent, and equally attractive, Kanata Okazaki?

This book has a believability factor of zero, but that didn’t bother me one bit.  Minori is your average high school student who unexpectedly turns her life upside down when she skips school.  She meets the very pushy Kanata Okazaki, who insists that she’s the only girl good enough to be his first lady.  Minori doesn’t understand a word he’s saying, until she gets home later that day and discovers that she’s just met the new prime minister of Japan.  Not only is he the youngest prime minister in history, he’s also the best looking. Oh, and don’t forget he’s also the most self-assured and pompous one as well.

The personalities have me hooked. Minori isn’t really cut out for all of this attention, but she’s got a no-nonsense attitude that helps her deal with all of the chaos.  Not only is Minori suddenly a media darling, she is also surrounded by a group of the prime minister’s beautiful friends.  These guys are hot, and they all add another level of complexity to Minori’s new life.  Her parents are a riot, and seeing a promising match for their daughter, and a self-assured future for themselves, they practically pack her up and trundle her off to her new home.  To protect her from the lime-light, she is forced to move into the prime minister’s residence.  Oh, my! This delightfully wicked living arrangement doesn’t yield any juicy moments in this volume, but down the line, we can always hope.  Now not only does she have to deal with Kanata, but there’s also the surly Sai, his aide, Matsumoto, a reporter, and Makita, the head of security, to get under foot.  Not all of them are very happy to have the interloper in their midst, either.

This book plays off of some fun fantasies, and makes me wonder how I can round up my own little harem of drop dead gorgeous guys.  This is brain candy through and through, with pretty pictures and a fluffy plot that entertains and amuses.  So far, all of the Doki Doki books have delivered light and enjoyable stories, and the line has become my favorite DMP imprint.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by Doki Doki