Voices of Love
Voices of Love by Kanae Hazuki is the first release from Luv Luv Press, an imprint of Aurora Publishing promising “passionate manga for women”. And that’s what they deliver.
This volume contains five love stories that don’t shy away from nudity and sex scenes. (That explains the Mature 18+ rating.) When I first read them, I thought, “This is just what I’ve been looking for: yaoi, only girl/boy.” Then I realized just what that said about how my brain has been warped by manga expectations. These stories are yaoi-like in that the boys are slender and attractive, but they’re more like Harlequin romance novels in their wish fulfillment of finding rescuing love.
In the title story, a young teacher has a teen-boy neighbor who keeps her up at night with his loud music and noisy love-making. It turns out that he’s a student at her school, and things proceed from there. I found the art attractive and easy to read. The pages are full, not sparse, not too crowded. The expressions are often exaggerated to convey emotion quickly. But where this differs from some other manga is that there’s more motivation to the characters than just getting together. They have hopes and dreams beyond the physical.
In fact, sometimes they settle. In the second story, a young woman runs into someone she went to school with. He was her first, an act important to her but that meant nothing to him. Like many women, she trades sex to get the attention she wants from him, consoling herself that at least it’s meaningful to her, even if he’s using her. Of course, he learns better. (That’s an important theme in most romances, that men need to learn to value love as important.)
The fantasy guys — hot schoolboy neighbor, crush finally realizing it’s true love, the nice-guy rescuer — are true to life. Their plausibility makes them more powerful to the reader. At the core, they’re all the same guy — the guy who’s pushy enough to overcome resistance and demonstrate how much he wants you (without being the wrong kind of pushy, the abusive kind). The guy who knows what you want before you’re even aware of it yourself. The considerate, giving lover who thinks you’re beautiful no matter what.
The last two stories take a male perspective, with quiet guys rescuing broken girls who need to learn the true meaning of love. They’re all forgettable reads, but they serve their immediate purpose, to reward their female audience with some entertaining fantasy love stories. I appreciated the variety in character motivation and situation, keeping things interesting. Since the publisher emphasizes one-shot volumes, it’s easy for women to pick up these titles for quick enjoyment without ongoing commitment. (The publisher provided a review copy.)