Toko Kawai – 801 Media – 2006 – 1 volume
This was the other volume of Toko Kawai manga I happened to have at my house after I finished the wonderful Just Around the Corner. That one was so good, I dug through the stack to read this one immediately. It did not disappoint.
Actually, it disappointed a little. The title’s really [bónd(z)]. That’s a high hurdle to overcome, but I forgave it after the first story.
The first story is titled [bónd(z)], like the book. This story. I don’t even know. It’s probably one of the most erotic and sweet short story I’ve ever read in one of these books. It’s very passionate. And it’s almost believable, which is the important part. The two main characters wake up one day to find that they’d had a little too much to drink the night before, and wound up sleeping with one another. They’re best friends, and they’d been on a double date with their girlfriends. Both admit that the sex was hot, but they vow to take the secret to their graves, since the girlfriends wouldn’t forgive them. But they can’t forget. And one hot summer day, one pushes the buttons of the other, and both find that the sex was a sort of boundary breaker in their friendship. They decide to become friends with benefits, and they have sex wherever, and whenever, all summer long. There’s no humor here. Only passion. And Kawai writes the characters believably enough that the story reads more like the two just can’t help themselves. It builds and builds, and the hot summer figures into the relationship as well, until it culminates in the two piercing each other. One gets a tongue piercing, and the other gets a cock piercing. They agree to wait until the piercings heal and to then make love like new lovers. But one walks in on the other when his girlfriend is staying over, and when he realizes he’s jealous, he walks away, afraid of the fact that he’s fallen in love with his best friend.
I can’t really convey just how good this story is. It’s not even really the sex that makes it good. It’s the fact that Kawai’s writing is just… it’s believable. The two guys fall slowly, passionately, and obsessively in love, and it’s a wonderful story.
This story sold me on Toko Kawai all over again. I liked Just Around the Corner, but this story made me a fan for life.
The second story was good, too. It was about a pair of neighbors. One is a responsible older brother, and he finds himself constantly pushing his neighbor away. The neighbor hangs around all the time, and he always finds reasons to be over at the other’s house. The responsible older brother type feels like he has to keep the neighbor at arm’s length, since he’s bound by the advice of a teacher that told the two boys that only girls can marry boys. He has to reconcile this advice from childhood with his feelings before he either pushes the neighbor away for good or moves away for college. The characters were a little annoying, but I liked that I still enjoyed the story in spite of that.
The third story was a weird fantasy story (the author promises it’s the only one she’ll ever do) about a rose that comes to life as a young man and lives with the young man that takes care of his garden. It’s… weird. I didn’t like it nearly as much, and the couple was a little less believable. Perhaps it was the fantasy element at work, or it was just too weird a situation to reconcile. It was still a little sweet, though, and better than (sadly) most of the BL short stories I’ve read.
The fourth story was also a little disappointing, about a salaryman that’s instructed to look after the heir to the company for a month, and teach the rich young man how to be a regular person. At first, the salaryman doesn’t really know what to do with the rich young man, and resents that he has to do this task at all. But the two slowly bond, and… you know where this goes. I was a little surprised that the relationship in this one seemed so forced, which is why it fails (also, it fails my older/younger relationship rules). It reads a lot like it might have been one of her earlier stories. But it’s still a pretty okay story, and better than the ones in some of the other 801 books I’ve been reading lately. If this is the worst Toko Kawai has to show, she’s in pretty good shape.
I was a little intimidated at first. I recently bought about a half dozen volumes in an 801 sale, and realized that any 801 book that is still in stock after two years probably isn’t very good. This came out about five years ago, so I was expecting it to be terrible. But either the word didn’t get out about this, people are scared off by the title, or they overprinted the first few 801 books, because this is very good, and it is still available. The first two stories are good enough to make up the slightly weaker second half of the volume, and even the last two stories are better than most others in BL anthology books. It’s good. Very good.