Keiko Online

Blog Home of D.L. Owens


Leave a comment

Manga Review: Before Daylight Love

Year: 2010
Author + Artist: Mitori Fujii
Version: Dangerous Pleasure Scanlation Group
After Morning Love Online: MyAnimeListMangaFoxKissManga
Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Slice of Life, Romance

Back in June, I reviewed a short-run series called After Morning Love. Before Daylight Love is a follow-on story to the series, focusing on the characters of Tatsumi (Yakusa guy) and Daiki, the guy that is Rin’s boss at the bar. While we did get to see a bit of Daiki in the first series, it barely touched on Tatsumi’s situation.

After years of providing a safe haven for Tatsumi at his bar, Daiki is injured by thugs looking to kill Tatsumi. It leads to the realization that Tatsumi sees him as much more than a protector.

Whilst this series is cute, it wasn’t anywhere near as enjoyable as the first series. I would have preferred getting to know the two characters rather than be dropped into the middle of the situation. I like that sort of progression and it was done right in After Morning Love. I suspect that this choice was probably due to the chapter limitation. It also makes the assumption that we know a bit about the characters already. This is not a good idea if you hope to draw in new readers.
I like the characters overall, just as I did in the original series. Whilst Daiki is outgoing, Tatsumi is understandably reserved due to the need for secrecy in his criminal organisation. Their relationship feels right as well, with the two complementing each other well. Yes, there are some naughty bits, more than the previous series. Nothing explicit, mind you, and it certainly doesn’t fall into porn levels seen in some other Yaoi series. It focuses more on storytelling and character development.
Unfortunately, this story suffers from a bit of “telling, not showing”. This made it difficult for me to genuinely feel tied to their plight. It seemed like the characters were constantly trying to convince the reader that the situation was life-threatening rather than giving us a glimpse of the carnage going on when Tatsumi was out and about doing his thing. Much in all as this isn’t an action series, more violence would have shown the genuine threat that Tatsumi was facing.
Before Daylight Love also includes a continuation of the Animal Ears bonus story seen towards the end of the previous series. I would rate it as a “meh”. It was fluff then and this new instalment feels flat as well. For me, the bonus story would have been better omitted from both series altogether.

In conclusion, as much as I like this story, it wasn’t as good as its predecessor. I felt removed from Daiki and Tatsumi. It was a bit of a let-down for a series that had so much promise.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Manga Review: Atashi wa Sore o Dekinai

Year: 2004 (4 parts, three stories total)
Author + Artist: Maki Enjouji
Version:  Viscans [English translations]
Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Josei, Romance, Drama, Smut

Atashi wa Sore o Dekinai is an anthology of three Josei Romance stories. It features sex scenes and the classic “main guy is a jerk” cliche so common in both Josei and Shoujo. Whilst I do have some issues with the characterization in the three stories, the artwork is attractive and the characters are easily defined by Maki Enjouji. I wouldn’t say that it is a bad collection but I wouldn’t say that it is good either. If you are looking for an introduction to Josei Romance, there are certainly better anthologies and long-run series out there.


Leave a comment

Manga Review: Biyaku Café

Year: 2008 – 2011 (34 parts)
Author + Artist: Ayane Ukyou
Version:  Decadence [English translations]
Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Drama, Smut

Kaoru Iseya was just fired. After accidentally kicking a can into a door of the only cafe open late that same night, she is accosted by the owner of the establishment. After accepting the offer of a cup of tea, she wakes up naked next to him the following morning. As she is about to leave, he points out that she never paid for the tea or damages to the door and that she must work it off at the Cafe. She agrees. So begins Kaoru’s job at a very unusual host cafe. [The summary at MAL is garbage.]

Biyaku Café is a collection of stories set in a very unusual cafe called Aphrodisiac Cafe that intersect with the main arc of Kaoru (the girl that has bishounen-like qualities) and Kagetsu’s amusing developing relationship. Sure, the premise of having to pay off a debt is nothing new to manga, but it plays out in Biyaku Café in a unique and interesting way. This premise is used to tell not just one story but is a way to also introduce us to several others. This is somewhat charming even if a little cheesy at times. However, be prepared for the occasional sad story in amongst the silly fun that is Biyaku Café.
I was familiar with Ayane Ukyou’s work on the Yaoi series Kuroneko Kareshi series going in. Though I found this other work flawed, it still had a character and a story arc that suggested that Ayane was capable of something beyond smut. Oddly enough, I only found out that it was the same author and artist after looking at a few frames. The art style is very similar to Ukyou’s work on Kuroneko Kareshi but focuses a lot less on the intimate relationship of the characters. My one criticism of the artwork of Biyaku Café is that some of the characters were very similar in appearance making it periodically difficult to differentiate them. However, the linework was still neat and the settings were pleasing on the eye.
Whilst Biyaku Café does have some non-explicit sex scenes, these scenes are used to push the story of Kaoru and Kagetsu forward.  Whilst the romance in Biyaku Café predominantly focuses on hetero couples, we also see the complication of one of Kagetsu’s male admirers. Each of these arcs is addressed in a satisfying and meaningful way over the span of the series. Instead of judgement, it offers a voyeuristic look into the relationships of the various characters. It is so gratifying to see each of these characters find happiness. Whilst not all characters find love, we do see some well-needed closure that allows them to move on with their life.
As a side, there does appear to be some discussion in the manga reading community over favourite couples of the series. Each relationship plays out in an entertaining fashion. If I had to choose a favourite couple in Biyaku Café, then it is definitely Kaoru and Kagetsu followed closely by Omi and Tomomi. Why? Because there is less resistance to their attractions showing these four characters to be a lot more in touch with their own emotions and willing to act upon it as adults.

I really enjoyed this odd little series. It might be a little cheesy and some of the character art needs further differentiation but it was a really fun and unique series. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a mature Shoujo romance series.


Leave a comment

Manga Review: 16 Life

Year: 2009 – 2010 (12-parts)
Author + Artist: Saki Aikawa
Version:  Chibi Manga [English translations]
Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Slice of Life

16 Life is a short run, full arc series about Saya Kajiura, a 16-year-old student that is discovered by young music producer Yazuki Takase while singing at a Karaoke restaurant. This chance meeting will have a lasting effect on their life and happiness.

The story is short but manages to pack a lot of story into those twelve instalments. I don’t come across short-run series and it was a real joy to come across one that manages to tie everything together as meaningfully as 16 Life does. Each scene also allowed us to learn something about each character as well. Saki Aikawa cut down on scenes that offered little or nothing of value to the story, allowing readers a story rather than pointless filler.
It is so easy to like the characters as well, even if you feel compelled to slap or scream at their visage. There were a few annoying moments but we often see Naoto Hiiragi helping push the story forward with his regular poking of Saya and Takase as well as pointing out when they do something idiotic or contrary to logic. Simply put, this awesome supporting character is the glue that holds the story together.
The relationship between Saya and Yazuki plays out in a logical yet understandably chaotic fashion. It doesn’t drag on with silly drama either, allowing it to resolve in a satisfying fashion. It was easy to root for them because we understood where each was coming from. We also see that putting away of secrets necessary for the pair to move on as a couple. Add to this the lack of reliance upon sex scenes in order to develop their relationship and I consider it a winner.
The artwork of this manga did a good job of conveying the story. The linework was crisp, with backgrounds depicting a living, breathing world. Saki Aikawa decided to give figures without dialogue a face as well. Whilst this is done well in 16 Life, the same cannot be said for other stories where that focus on art often takes away from good storytelling.

In conclusion, I really liked this series. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a short-run Shoujo to get stuck into. It is also a good introduction to the genre and is suitable for anyone that is looking for story over sex scenes.


Leave a comment

Manga Review: 1/3 Romantica

Year: 2008
Author + Artist: Yuka Shibano
Version:  Tenchi-Tachi [English translations]
1/3 Romantica Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Slice of Life

1/3 Romantica is a five-part slice of life romance anthology consisting of three stories. Each story is distinct, with the first being told in a longer arc of three parts. Given that it is a tough act to follow, the second story feels flat comparatively. However, the third picks up with a coming-of-age tale about a teenager finding her place in the world.
Though not as entertaining as some anthologies, 1/3 Romantica still manages to be an enjoying read. It also avoided a focus on physical intimacy without demonising sex. This worked for me as I find that writers and artists often use sex scenes to avoid fixing problems such as plot holes.
The artwork is attractive even if the style is dated. The settings and characters complement the stories giving the reader a sense of a living, breathing world. It also had the feel of the artist using just the right amount of linework to convey the story.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this manga to folks with an appreciation for “clean” shoujo romance. So, if you are looking for some raunchy sex scenes then steer clear of this title. I’d also recommend this title to anyone new to the genre because of the focus on storyline and character development.


Leave a comment

Manga Review: 1/3 no Kareshi

Year: 2007
Author + Artist: Ako Shimaki
Version:  Tenchi-Tachi [English translations]
1/3 no Kareshi Online: MyAnimeList, KissManga, MangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, School

1/3 no Kareshi, also known as My 1/3 Boyfriend, is one of several Ako Shimaki stories released in an anthology entitled Suki no Naru made Matte.

This very short story follows Rei, a girl in her third and final year of high school that has yet to ever have had a boyfriend. With growing pressure from her peers, she is at a loss because she has no clue as to how to go about it. When a strange situation leads to a cute guy, Yuuya,  blackmailing her over an embarrassing photo, she is placed in an odd situation. This eventually leads to some smoochy moments.

With all Shoujo Romance stories, the focus is on the female lead. Much in all as the female lead was an okay character (if a little dense), I found myself wanting to learn more about the male lead. I’d have recommended making it a two-part story in order to develop their relationship more and to show us more about Yuuya.
To the plot and pacing, I really think that the shortness of the story led to things getting rushed. As cute as this story is, the length really did mean that some opportunities for great storytelling were lost in an effort to meet the page-count requirement. This seems like a bit of a shame and also a bit strange given that a few anthologies published around the same time period often included multi-part stories. These stories were more successful because they took the time to tell us more about both characters and developed their relationship more.
To the artwork, it dated the publication but was high quality. The lines were neat, backgrounds fitting well and characters easily defined without relying heavily on those silly archetypes that we see so often these days. All in all, I would say that it was more than acceptable for conveying the story as it now stands.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a short but cute Shoujo school romance, then you might appreciate this manga. However, keep in mind that the shortness of the story doesn’t give much room for character development. If you read this story, feel free to discuss it in the comments section.

Feel free to post any recommendations for short-run, one-shot or longer run manga. I am always looking for something to perk my interest and appreciate folks sharing what they’ve read and enjoyed.


2 Comments

Manga Review: Gokko

Year: 2003
Author + Artist: Konoko Sakurokoji
Version: Waatame Shoujo Scanlation (1st story) + Haruhime Scanlations (remaining installments) [English translations]
Gokko Online: MyAnimeListMangaFoxKissManga
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Drama

The following review is based on my own personal tastes. It is opinion only and each person should make up their own mind if they decide to read the series.

Gokko is a collection of four Shoujo Romance one-shot stories. The stories are varied though each is based in modern-day where four very different couples develop and accept mutual attraction. The obstacles that each of these couples face is distinctly different because these individuals lead, as I said before, distinctly different lives. Some of these obstacles are related to social status, misunderstanding and “knowing oneself”.

Though this may not be the best one-shot collection of Shoujo Romance that I have read, it was highly enjoyable. I found myself liking each couple which is the first step in keeping me interested in a story. I saw no issues of questionable consent, one of my  big turn-offs for modern romance manga and anime. To me, focusing on sex rather than developing the relationship between two characters seems like a cheap way to avoid telling a story about two people. Konoko Sakurokoji avoided this very modern problem for the genre.
To my actual issues with these stories, I found that the first and fourth story seemed a bit too short. These two stories could have easily been expanded to two parts each in order to give enough room for us to understand the couple in each. Also, I wish that we could have seen more of the thoughts of the male protagonists in each of the stories as this would have allowed us to get more into their heads. But this latter desire would have also created problems for marketing given that the stories were to be marketed as Shoujo Romance. Shoujo tends to focus on the internal workings of the female character due to the demographic being young adult and teenage females.

In conclusion, this series is a pleasant read for folks looking for Shoujo Romance focusing on people rather than sex. It would also be a great introduction for newcomers to the genre. Be sure to avoid if you are looking for stories focused on sex, but note that there is an abundance of series out there that does meet that particular need.

If you decide to read this series of short stories, feel free to drop me a line to let me know what you thought of it. Also feel free to post any recommendations for short-run, one-shot or longer run manga. I am always looking for something to perk my interest and appreciate folks sharing what they’ve read and enjoyed.