Setona Mizushiro – JManga – 2012 – 11 volumes
this edition is based on an 8-volume re-release
Again, Setona Mizushiro in English is an event worth shedding tears over. I’d read anything by her, really, and Dousei Ai is not disappointing at this stage. JManga seems to be keeping up with the releases, too, as volume 3 is out already and volume 4 (halfway point!) is scheduled for release next week. About the only other thing I could want is a print release, but I’ll take what I can get. Any release at all will work just fine for me.
What I like best is that it’s not really a romance story. I thought for sure that the two protagonist that split the last volume, Tsubaki and Koutaro, would meet and eventually fall in love. Instead, volume two is about both of them finding themselves. They do meet, but it is not really a romantic rondevous. Well, it is, but they both take away something else from it that is not a relationship. Better yet, the scope of the story seems to be opening up, and includes characters that Tsubaki and Koutaro encounter as they struggle to come to terms with their identity, sexual or otherwise.
Both had a sad start last volume, when Tsubaki was spurned by a classmate that he looked up to and Koutaro lives with the guilt of not knowing whether or not the young nephew his brother and sister-in-law dote on is actually his son (which is a surprisingly heavy burden for a manga to address). Koutaro flies off the handle and becomes a sexual deviant, sleeping with whoever wants to, man or woman. Tsubaki picks himself up from his rejection by falling into the arms of a gay science teacher. When he tries to pull away, the science teacher gets ugly and his parents throw him out when they find out he’s gay and what he’s done. Both Tsubaki and Koutaro flee to Tokyo.
Much of the volume is dedicated to Tsubaki, who falls into old habits in Tokyo when he begins to live as something of a kept man with Mahori, a man who hooked up with Koutaro earlier on. Tsubaki and Mahori seem to dote on each other, and Mahori thinks all is going well, but Tsubaki believes he is merely being kept like a puppy, and eventually leaves Mahori with a simple note, something that absolutely breaks Mahori’s heart.
At this point, Tsubaki and Koutaro meet and have a conversation and romantic encounter. From there, the story begins following Koutaro again, as he opens himself up to a possible relationship, rather than a series of perpetual one-night stands that only make him feel bad about himself.
Again, I like that it’s not simply a BL story. I especially like that, as I mentioned, it’s not even really a romance, though the romantic relationships and the analysis thereof do play a heavy part. It’s simply about the characters, and I’m afraid I’m not going to adequately be able to explain this. I think that it might not appeal to some, as it is an awful lot of, for instance, Tsubaki sitting around and wondering what’s wrong with his relationship to Mahori. But I personally liked it as an alternative to the quick one-shot BL story that’s all about hooking up. The characters are young, and they’ve had bad experiences in their past. They’re studying what that means to them, how they can move past it, and what makes them happy. It’s a wonderful thing, and I’m loving every minute of it.
Unexpectedly, I also enjoy the fact that the narrative is split between two characters. Normally, I hate when attention is divided like that, but I enjoyed following both, and I like that their stories look to overlap in interesting ways. Hopefully this will be the case in future volumes as well.
It’s good, and one of the best multi-volume BL series I’ve read in a long time. And again, I’m happy that JManga is releasing it on a schedule. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.
Setona Mizushiro – JManga – 2012 – 11 volumes
This series is 11 volumes long (long-format BL! YES), but I suspect the JManga edition may be based on some sort of bunko release, as the first volume on there is quite long, about 300 pages.
More importantly, not only is it a long-format BL story (seriously, you know how badly I want more of these translated? They’re so good!), but it’s by SETONA MIZUSHIRO. I want to read more of her work so badly it hurts. This was one of them, and not at the top of my list because it’s out of print and I can find no information on it, but it was definitely in, like, 3rd or 4th. I want to read it badly. It came out last week on JManga, but I almost wish they’d held off until today. Seriously. It’s, like, the perfect story to read on the fake internet BL holiday.
The first volume reminded me a lot of Doukyusei, which is also criminally good, and worth reading during the fake internet holiday if you haven’t already. Dousei Ai is more of a romance than it is a BL story, and bypasses a lot of the usual story hooks in favor of a straight-up romantic drama.
The format of the first volume is strange. It alternates between two characters, which threw me at first. The two don’t know each other, and don’t seem to even go to the same school. The first chapter hooked me, which was a very sweet, gentle story about a first love between Tsubaki and one of his classmates in the third year of junior high. Tsubaki looks up to this classmate more than anything, and the two form a very close friendship throughout the year. Tsubaki doesn’t really put much thought behind the fact they are both guys, and comes straight out with the fact he loves him. But, of course, the classmate pushes him away and never speaks to him again. Tsubaki is completely heartbroken.
The story switches in chapter two to Koutarou, who lives in a household that consists of him and his older brother. Koutarou can beat his older brother at anything they compete against, but it doesn’t seem to phase the older brother. The brother isn’t really good at anything, but still takes care of and provides for Koutarou. Koutarou is shaken when his brother brings a girlfriend home one night, and disgusted when the woman propositions him in the middle of the night. She winds up getting pregnant, not knowing which brother the father is, and Koutarou’s brother winds up marrying her. Koutarou hates her, and winds up acting out by sleeping with as many women as he can. Later, he sleeps with both women and men.
The chapters alternate between Koutarou and Haruna, and the dark paths they take through high school. While Koutarou has his secret life of sleeping with anyone that offers, Haruna begins a 3-year affair with the biology teacher at his school. By the end of the volume, both have graduated and moved to Tokyo. It seems like they might be a couple later on, but I’m curious to see how the two threads of the story come together. Koutarou isn’t really gay, either, which is an interesting detail.
It’s an incredibly dark story so far, but so well-written. Setona Mizushiro has a talent for writing characters, and she says a lot with very little dialogue. There’s not a whole lot of romance here after chapter one, so most of the volume is a depressing read about the downward slides of the two main characters. It ends on a more positive note when they both try for a fresh start in the city, so I’m also curious about that.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the story ages the characters. That NEVER HAPPENS. I was happy to see that the high school parts were over and done with in the first volume. I’m not sure if the characters will continue to age, but we’ve got a lot of story to go, so I’m excited to find out.
One bad thing about JManga is that, sometimes, the consecutive volume releases take forever. Sometimes not, and some series come out at a good clip. But it seems like anything I’m interested in, like Adekan, or Doukyusei, or probably this, takes forever to come out. I’m not sure how many volumes this edition of Dousei Ai will last, or how frequently they’ll come out, but I am extremely pleased we got the first, and I know the wait for volume two, even if it comes out next week, will drive me crazy.
But definitely give it a try. Setona Mizushiro is one of the absolute best manga writers I’ve ever read, and her stories are absolutely worth reading. Hopefully support for this one may lead to others.