by Hana Aoi; adapted by John Werry
published by Aurora Publishing; $10.95 US
Aurora’s Luv Luv line of explicit manga for women continues, and the quality is still disappointing. Like the other books, this one contains a set of short stories by the same author. You can see the pasted-together nature of the stories — pick a quirk, bolt it onto a character, shove in requisite sex scene whether it fits or not — from the cover, where the tongue and the spoon seem like afterthoughts, edited into a generic image, and the perspective’s all wrong.
The main character of the lead story is a girl who loves sugar so much her lunch consists of homemade whipped cream and nothing else, a repulsive trait. She giggles and asks stupid questions at work, and then wonders why they won’t give her more to do. The setup and characters have good bones; something worthwhile could have been built on the structure, but instead, there’s too much attention paid to the decorative touches (the sweets) and not enough to the basics. Storytelling, motivation, development are all ignored.
Abrupt changes happen because it’s time for the story to move along, not out of any integral story logic or character need. And stupid things are forced in, like the girl running away from the wrong guy back to the office to collect herself, but stopping off along the way to buy sweet makings. (If she’s got that much self-possession, she should just go home. If she’s truly upset, she shouldn’t stop to shop.) The art’s spotty, relying on text to explain what’s going on.
The sex scene opens with the girl thinking, “How did this happen?” I totally share that feeling, sweetie. The setup makes no sense, and since it’s four pages from the end, the predominant feeling is the artist thinking, “ooops, better shove it in now, I’m almost out of space!”
The next story, “Icing on the Cake”, is the best in the book. It’s about a woman dating a younger man who’s getting bored with the relationship. When he starts his first real job and begins wearing suits, she suddenly finds herself fascinated by him all over again. It raises questions of financial power and gender that provide some depth to the romance and sex, making it more than just sugared air. The characters communicate and grow as well as get naked with each other.
The others don’t live up to that achievement. In one, childhood friends meet again only to discover that one’s matured faster than the other. The fantasy of being made love to by a hairdresser after a cut is a turn-on many readers will share, but the disjointed execution doesn’t fulfill the promise of the great premise and setting. The plotline about the girl’s wardrobe being controlled by her mother is one idea too many for the short story length.
In another story, a girl works as a hostess to earn money for designer goods. Her schoolmate doesn’t like her being with so many men, and the two have to work through their misconceptions to find love. Without the sex, this one would have fit in any shojo, and the superficial ideas might match better there.
I wish more publishers were doing love comics for women — I suspect these books are getting attention just because they’re some of the few choices on the market. There are preview pages at the publisher’s website. I have previously reviewed the Luv Luv books Real Love and Voices of Love. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)