by Sakae Kusama
published by SuBLime Manga; $5.99 US
I was given a chance to sample some of the first SuBLime Manga titles. I don’t read much yaoi, but I enjoyed The Bed of My Dear King. I tried a couple of the others, but they seemed to be just about getting two men to have explicit sex with each other. (Sometimes so much so that I stopped to verify that SuBLime has an over-18 rule.) Dear King, though, was compared to Future Lovers by one of its readers, so I was eager to check it out. It’s an apt comparison, although a book of unrelated short stories can’t have the same depth as two books all about the same characters.
Three stories tell of different romances between two men. In the first, title story, a cable/internet repairman meets a strange young artist at a remote mountain cabin. The two grow closer when an unexpected snow storm traps the visitor.
I liked that there was an actual story and developed characters in these tales. If someone just wants to watch two guys getting it on, that’s fine, but I’m looking for more than that. I find the seduction scenes sexier when I know more about what brought the partners together. Also, these two men are portrayed as gay, not just stand-ins for male/female roles. That’s established before they ever get together.
The art has a good sense of place, showing backgrounds, whether the country the repairman drives through or the sculptor’s studio/cabin. That also helps with the sense that these characters have lives and purposes beyond just the bits we get to see. The guys are also cute, with the burly repairman and the slighter artist.
“Cherry” is a schoolboy story, where the hard-working student council secretary gets help from a classmate after his glasses break. It does a wonderful job capturing the feeling of young love, where you’re not sure if friendship can become something more.
“Flowers” features another set of students, where one is the privileged son of a rich family. He promises to tell the other what really happened with the suicide of a female classmate in return for fooling around. This one felt a little lacking to me; it could have used another chapter to cover the material in more depth.
These three feature classic yaoi premises: the younger man with a medical secret or schoolboys together. All involve someone needing help from another as an avenue for love, with some kind of injury bringing them together, but they’re done with a sensitivity that I appreciated.