by Tomoko Yamashita
published by Netcomics; $11.99 US
Thanks to a gift from Kate Dacey, I was able to sample this with no preconceptions. I didn’t even know it was yaoi when I started.
Which is appropriate, since it’s not explicit at all — it’s a love story, with sex discussed instead of shown. More importantly, it’s about a guy coming to terms with his feelings instead of a story about how two guys get together. So many yaoi I’ve seen are about how one guy screws up his courage to reveal his feelings to the other, or more disturbingly, how one forces another into sex as a way to break through mental blocks and cultural restrictions. This one avoids that by opening after the revelation/confrontation.
Akira is the chef and partner at a small restaurant. Torihara works there and has feelings for Akira. Instead of putting the focus on coming out, their story is more that of anyone who isn’t sure that their lover is the right choice for them. Anyone can relate to that. They like each other, unexpectedly, but how far do they want to go? Akira is as disturbed by Torihara’s relative youth as he is by his sex.
Although in one chapter, the characters do deal with what it means to be gay, through the feelings of the manager/old friend. I appreciated this inclusion. Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum, and they do affect one’s “family” of co-workers and good friends. I don’t always see that in these kinds of yaoi stories.
The art is also untypical. Instead of feminine pretty boys, the characters are a bit more rugged (which also captures their stress at working hard in a difficult job, running a cafe). At times, I found it difficult to tell them apart, until I remembered to look for Akira’s soul patch. The lettering is unfortunately soulless. The machine, not hand-lettered, type looks like a cheap paste-up job. But the characters’ expressions and movement, they way they slump after a hard day or difficult conversation, those are right on. So are the games people play, attempting to trick themselves, such as leaving something behind at the other’s apartment.
In her review (warning, some spoilers included), Michelle Smith points out that what makes this different is that the story is about men, not boys. There’s a preview available at the publisher’s website, where you can also buy a digital copy of the book. Also in this volume are two unrelated stories, “Foggy Scene” and “Riverside Moonlight”. These are the opposite of what I’ve been talking about above. FS is about a boy who likes his best friend “that way”, complicated by their new substitute teacher being his last pickup. It’s all leading up to the feared-yet-longed-for moment of revelation, which leaves us hanging, in a “Lady or the Tiger”-style situation. RM is just a few pages, about being attracted to those we wouldn’t expect to be.