by Kio Shimoku; adaptation by David Ury
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.95 US
I had thought that this was the last volume in the series, but there will be at least one more. However, this book did provide the focus on Ogiue I was looking for.
The aspiring manga artist suffers severe guilt over her explicit yaoi because of an incident that happened five years ago. At the urging of her friends, she’d drawn yaoi featuring a student in their class. When he and others found out about it, he left school, never to be seen again. That explains why she’s been so shy about letting anyone else see her more recent work.
I had a number of questions about this turn of events. First, if her guilt is so traumatic, why would she continue using real people as models for her art? Couldn’t she draw the same things without using their names or by changing the likenesses a little? Ogiue seems to have taken from the situation the message “hide your work better”, which seems to me to put the focus on the wrong piece of the process.
Also, she’s taken on a lot of guilt that shouldn’t be hers. In that earlier incident, she didn’t have the idea, write the story, make the copies, or distribute them. The lesson to be learned, instead of “don’t show your art to anyone”, should be “beware of false friends who leave you holding the bag” or maybe even “speak up for yourself when blamed for things you didn’t do.”
Now, five years later, all this comes out only because the other female club members have gotten her drunk. They’re trying to push her into advancing her relationship with the guy they think she likes. So maybe Ogiue’s not the only one who still has some growing up to do.
Their plan does end up working, although not in the way intended. Her crush winds up nursing her through her resulting hangover. It’s the kind of charmingly weird development that suits otaku dating: they aren’t normal people, so why should their love lives be normal either? And it’s obvious he does care for her, if he’s willing to take care of her so considerately.
The plot developments allow the artist to demonstrate a range of emotions. The faces are simple with minimal features, but Shimoku does a surprising amount with them, aided by scribbles to indicate blushing. The vacation setting provides nicely changing and detailed natural backgrounds of trees and bridges.
By the end, Ogiue is lucky to have such an understanding fellow. He may seem a little too accepting of her revelation that he’s starring in one of her guy/guy fantasies, but his fan nature (and familiarity with similar work) overcomes any personal qualms. The bigger issue, of whether it’s smart or ethical to use real people in manga stories, isn’t addressed, which is a shame, since I suspect the Japanese take on that would be different from the American, both legally and morally.
Here’s another review of the title, by Charles Yoakum.