February 2, 2011
Kazuma Kodaka – June – 2010 – 11 volumes
This is an omnibus containing vols 1-2 of the original series
I am a sucker for any BL “classic,” and with it being good enough for another company to pick it up and re-release it in English, I had to give this a try. It reminded me a lot of Zetsuai/Bronze, by Minami Ozaki. Boy did it ever remind me of Zetsuai/Bronze. There was the murky family background for one of the characters that culminated in a car accident for the partner. The car accident alone did it for me, but Kizuna will need about three or four more of those to catch up to Bronze. There’s also a really strange, slightly confusing, but still enjoyable timeline that struck me as similar to the early volumes of Bronze as well. One of the partners was gifted at a sport, enough to garner national attention, though here it was kendo and Bronze was soccer. And both have a melancholy air to them, a well-established couple (or a lack of a triangle, if you prefer), and both the couples are older.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. They’re both firmly rooted in the early 90s, and I fell instantly in love with Zetsuai when I read it a year or two ago. Zetsuai is ridiculously, hilariously dark, and Kizuna has a little bit of an advantage in that it’s marginally more realistic and lacks the creepy stalker factor.
I like the main couple in Kizuna a lot. Kei and Ranmaru make an excellent and very believably romantic couple. This book is a little strange, because I think the first volume was some sort of trial run for the series and the second is when it began its serialization. The same story is told twice here, but the second time through we get a lot more detail and more melodrama. Basically, Kei is the son of a yakuza lord, and due to some struggles with his family and his younger brother Kai, a hit-and-run that was targeted at him winds up gravely injuring Ranmaru, who has to give up his promising career in kendo. In the first version, Ranmaru seems mostly fine (it’s a bit of a mystery why he gave up kendo), and the emphasis is on a reconciliation between brothers Kei and Kai. In the second version, Ranmaru is injured very badly, and we see a lot of his rehabilitation and the struggle both Kei and Kai have with giving up a lover (in Kei’s case) and a role model (for Kai, who looked up to Ranmaru in kendo).
There are also some very nice, very sweet background chapters about Kei and Ranmaru. One story covers their meeting in the first year of junior high, when they were both young. Another chapter covers a reunion between the two in the first year of high school, when they finally start to date. In the first version of the story, Kei and Ranmaru are young men in college, but in the second version, they are seniors in high school. As I mentioned earlier, they’re a great couple. The drama doesn’t come from either of them or any doubts in their relationship, but rather from Kai and Kei’s family and the situations that arise as a result of the yakuza connections. In fact, it’s Kei and Ranmaru and their love for each other that tend to get both of them through the rough times.
The only problems I had with it were the narrative. Like I said, it repeats a significant chunk of story, and I had a hard time understanding it was re-telling the same thing. Also, the story is a little bad about leaving out important details. It might be intended as foreshadowing, but it just feels a little choppy, and I didn’t understand that it was going back to tell those details later. It never verges off the path into incomprehensibility, though, and the stories that are told are quite entertaining as well as romantic.
I also liked the art a bit. The men are pretty manly while staying delicate-looking, and I love the way Kodaka draws eyes. The character designs are a little 90s-looking, but that’s a good thing for me. I love those styles, though I am a little sad they lack the massive shoulders one could find in a series like Bronze or RG Veda. I did have some problems telling Kai and Ranmaru apart early on, but it gets easier as the book goes on.
So far, I’d highly recommend it to BL fans, or even shoujo fans that like a dark story. There’s quite a bit of sex in it, so be advised, but it’s about more than just the sex, and Ranmaru and Kei make for a great couple with a lot of non-relationship drama to deal with. The narrative is a little scrambled here, but the second half of the book is great, and a lot of the problems seem to be gone by the end of the omnibus. I’m a little afraid that if it continues to be dramatic, it might resort to shaking the foundations of the relationship, but maybe I’m worrying for nothing. I did love what I read here. It’s rare to find a BL book with such a good story and good characters, and I loved what I read here. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second volume.