Luv Luv: Pretty Poison, Make Love & Peace
The first Luv Luv Press title, Voices of Love, was intriguing to me, just because it was very unusual in the U.S. to see manga romance stories for women with explicit sex included. (Although there had previously been the occasional explicit shojo story.)
The next two, Real Love and Love for Dessert, were pretty bad, since they seemed to emphasize the sex at the expense of believable (or in some cases, any) characterization and storytelling craft.
So how do the most recent two books stack up? Both vary from the anthology model used so far, providing longer, more in-depth stories. Pretty Poison, by Yutta Narukami, is about a girl with a really horrible boyfriend. They’re lying in bed, after sex, when she starts complaining how hard he is to get hold of lately. He’s evasive, but she has a suggestion to fix things: “Let’s move in together.” She’s something of a dim bulb, like many of the “normal” girls intended to be stand-ins for the reader, but determined to find happiness (defined by marrying a guy she can take care of).
She dreams of their future together, while he’s such a player that he’s got a friend on retainer for just these situations. He pays this buddy to fake a meeting with her and then hit on her in order to get rid of her. As expected, she and the new guy fall in love, over various obstacles. He’s younger than her! (By all of two years, and at least, at 18, he’s legal.) He pushes her into having sex with him. (As a distraction, it seems to work.) She finds out he’s for hire and how evil her ex really was. The new guy blames her for causing the ex to fool around because she’s too gullible and trusting. (That’s twisted.) Then he moves in and she’s too much of a pushover to make him leave. His excuse turns out to be remote parents not giving him enough love.
The faces are tiny and pointed, and there’s so much focus on head shots (and occasionally other body parts) that it can be difficult to tell what’s happening. The faces aren’t consistent, just generic, and the anatomy can be laughable (such as a giraffe neck). At least the sex scenes have a story purpose beyond showing the two being drawn together against their intellectual choices — they’re symbolic of mood changes or emotionally significant turning points. Although nothing in this book can be considered realistic, as heightened melodrama, it’s not as repulsive as some others I’ve read, as long as you’re ok with the girl being wishy-washy. It’s much more like a traditional romance novel — the extra length allows for some character development and plot twists that give the appearance of more depth.
There is an additional short story at the end about a girl wanting to marry her soccer star boyfriend. Gotta love his proposal:
“Let’s get married.”
“Married? You’re asking me?”
“Is there another naked girl in the room?”
Thankfully, she quickly comes to realize that they’re too young and irresponsible to do this. The author’s postscript puts it into good perspective, talking about how sex doesn’t mean much without emotion and giving the futures envisioned for the characters.
In Make Love & Peace, by Takane Yonetani, the couple fights a different challenge than the usual — the guy’s a police detective, so instead of worrying that she’s losing him, she has to put up with him being called away to a case in the middle of lovemaking or being too tired to appreciate the meals she makes for him or having to cancel a date to work. His current investigation involves trying to find a lingerie thief, just to keep things in the mood.
The characters are cute in their affection for each other, and plenty of sex when they are together seems to make it all better. Even when he rescues her from a rape gang or after she and his brother got kidnapped or while babysitting an abandoned child. There’s so much sex, in fact, with at least two scenes a chapter, that it became rather numbing after a while, although it’s nice to see that he’s so concerned with making her feel good.
Both of these books are better than the earlier entries in the line, but they’re mostly of interest to those who want the manga porn equivalent of a Harlequin. (The publisher provided review copies.)