Shiuko Kano – SuBLime – 2012 – 4 volumes
This is available digitally on the SuBLime website, but I will always prefer paperback releases to digital, so the copy I read was the print edition. The storyline wasn’t so much my thing, but I was curious what titles were making it to print while good stuff like Scent of Apple Blossoms was banished to digital (not that I’m not grateful for digital! Scent of Apple Blossoms is great, and I’m happy to read it in English). I suspect one of the main traits of the print volumes is name recognition, though. I had never read anything by Shiuko Kano before, and her name didn’t register, but she’s had several series published in English, including the popular Play Boy Blues.
I didn’t realize this was a sequel to Play Boy Blues, else I likely wouldn’t have picked it up. Sequels in the BL world tend to do a good job of setting themselves apart, but as Tyrant taught me, it’s always better to read the original first, because it gives you a better idea of the characters. I was confused through the first chapter or so of this book, when PBB characters were popping in and out, but it stabilizes as it keeps going, and the connection becomes less important. Alas, as much as I want to pick up Play Boy Blues, it’s one of the coveted Be Beautiful releases, and commands high used prices. And is also incomplete.
Aside from that, I’m not into the characters in this volume, either. Motoharu is an architect and a kind of grabby playboy. Kouta is a construction worker who starts the book with promise when he’s beating up someone he doesn’t like, but we soon find out is wont to let bad men do whatever they want with him. They both have strong personalities, which is normally a good thing, since it makes books stand out in a crowd. I find the mix of the two irritating, however. Kouta is the worst offender, since he alternates between hot-blooded and doormat. It’s also unclear as to whether he’s enjoying his relationship with Motoharu. That’s the point of the book, and I understand that, but there’s something unsettling about the fact he’s willing to stay with Motoharu while he thinks Motoharu is a bad man who will throw him out when he’s done.
I do like Motoharu, he’s a lot of fun, but he’s also guilty of relationship ambiguities. He clearly loves boy-chasing, and has a roving eye, but he seems to be completely devoted to Motoharu. There was always a little bit of doubt in the back of my mind, though, and that made Kouta’s doubts seem more logical. But Motoharu never really does or says anything that jeopardizes their relationship once their together, it’s mostly Kouta’s doubts and Motoharu’s past that the two work through.
Motoharu is funny, though. He keeps a facade of straightforward and serious, but buried not-too-far underneath is a huge child, and there are plenty of Motoharu jokes. I love series like this with a touch of humor. There was also a joke that took some getting used to about the sparse/lack of hair on Kouta’s part. I was a little afraid there was… ah, a reason for this, but this volume leads me to believe he is definitely past that, and it’s an anomaly.
I’ve got one more volume of this, so I’m going to give it another try. There’s nothing technically wrong with Punch Up. On the contrary, it’s got some strong characters and humor. It just wasn’t really my thing. Maybe one more volume will convince me.