March 7, 2012
Satoru Ishihara – DMP / Digital Manga Guild – 2012 – 1 volume
Satoru Ishihara! I was so excited when I saw this title on the front page of eManga last week. I’ve grown addicted to her books since reading The Boys With Tomorrow to Conquer last year. She always writes very passionate, manly characters, and I’ve grown to appreciate that she gets her point across about her couples without being explicit better than many BL writers can with pages and pages of sex.
I had to read the beginning of this one a couple times before I could figure out what was going on, but once I had my bearings, I flew through this. We join a story in progress, where a man named Tora has been called in after the death of a big-shot yakuza. He agrees to actively head the organization, but only if they call in Sakura, a crooked doctor, to serve as the face (or, at least, I think this is what’s happening). Unsurprisingly, Tora and Sakura are lovers, and when they meet and are reunited for the first time in years, a flashback starts that reveals their childhood together.
Both grew up in unhappy homes. Sakura grew up with an alcoholic father, and Tora’s mother was a prostitute. They lived next to each other in a run-down, slum-ish apartment complex. After we learn the ins and outs of their impoverished lifestyle, Sakura has a run-in with the yakuza when he tries to pay off his father’s debt by betting his life in a mahjong game. When this goes badly, the much younger, but very skilled Tora steps in to win back his friend’s future from the yakuza.
This was a great read, once again. I was a little shocked that there were hints at an explicit scene at the beginning when adult Tora and Sakura were reunited. Nothing is shown, but again, part of Ishihara’s charm is that she can convey a very powerful relationship without it. But their adult lifestyle isn’t the meat of the story, and she does get the deep link between Tora and Sakura across without the aid of innuendo in the flashback.
The story is rather intense. Tora and Sakura do lead a poor, desperate lifestyle as children, and things only get more dramatic when they get mixed up with the yakuza. Things come to a head when Sakura and Tora are forced out of their lifestyle at the end, and the volume leaves off with the two of them split apart in the past. It’s a desperate kind of story, and a fairly compelling drama. Again, the romantic content isn’t high, but it’s still got a rather strong bond between the main characters. I tore through this like a demon.
As good as this is, it leaves off at what seems like a halfway point. From what I can see, unless it goes under a different name, there’s no second volume of this even in Japan, and Ishihara hasn’t had a new book in a few years. That’s a shame, because I would love to read a conclusion to this. Or anything else by Ishihara, for that matter. I hope DMG licenses a few more of her titles, because so far they’ve been my favorites on eManga.