Final Volumes of Cute Viz Manga: Love Stage!! 7, Honey So Sweet 8
A couple of cute and fluffy romance manga series from Viz have recently wrapped up their runs. (The publisher provided review copies.)
This is yaoi, not shojo, but the emphasis on goofy misunderstandings and ridiculously dramatic incidents makes it similar to that genre.
For example, young star Izumi has a stalker, so he moves in with his boyfriend Ryoma for protection. They’re loving their domestic bliss, and Izumi wants to talk all about it, but going public may be a problem for their careers, and Ryoma is getting chastised about the decisions he’s making to spend more time with Izumi.
The big conflict, though, calls into question one of the key assumptions of the yaoi genre. Izumi, usually the “bottom” because he’s more “girly”, decides he wants to try topping his boyfriend, who isn’t at all sure he’s into that idea. While the assumption of this kind of manga is usually that a character is one or the other (with a brief mention of “reversing” not being popular among BL readers), why couldn’t two guys (who discovered they loved each other before they identified as gay) switch off? How they work through this, both physically and conversationally, foregrounds the concept of making changes and stretching your boundaries out of love for your partner.
But first, Ryoma has to quit freaking out. “I never knew it could be this frightening to have someone stare at my ass all the time!” he thinks. “Is this what women deal with on an everyday basis?!” Although Izumi is young, cute, and feminine-looking, he’s surprisingly determined about what he wants, which causes conflict, complicated by the threat to kidnap him and an attempted rape.
Of course, it all leads to a happy ending. The wrap-up is rather abrupt, with more attention paid to Ryoma and Izuki working out their concerns in the bedroom. (That’s also the one explicit sex scene in the book.) I’ll miss these goofy young stars and mangaka wannabes, even if their story wandered far afield from the original premise of cross-dressing created by Eiki Eiki and Taishi Zaou.
This is a more traditional shojo wrap-up. Now that the last challenge for the mismatched-but-well-suited main couple, Nao and Tai, has been overcome (based on the “story so far” notes), it’s time to pair up the best friends. The shy, goofy boy and the cool, quiet, self-possessed girl seem as oddly suited as the main couple, but they’re equally charming in their fumbles to get together.
Although I haven’t read the series in a while, I had no problem picking up on the bigger parts of the story enough to follow it, although I may have missed out on some nuance. It’s a common premise, comfortable in its familiarity, and entertaining by being softly sweet. Again in this case, the happy ending is just a few pages at the end, followed by the single story that inspired the series by Amu Meguro.
It helps that a new character is introduced to give Nao’s uncle Sou someone to pair up with for a happy ending. Early on, he was a rival for her affections, but then he became solely her caretaker. His conflict is letting go of her, realizing she’s growing up and he can finally pursue his own life. She’s also trying to prepare herself better for taking care of herself, a nice theme for an end volume.
My favorite art in the book is a chapter heading pinup that features a bunch of characters as chibi versions in Halloween costumes. They’re adorable! The rest of the book heavily features lots of conversation, or even panels of nothing but words over a blank background, so most of it is not visually striking, although workable.