Satoru Ishihara – Digital Manga Guild – 2012 – 2 volumes

Yay! The wait was shorter than I thought for the second volume of this series! Because I sadly stalk eManga, I found this when it was posted on Monday. Also, I feel like plugging Ludwig II, which was also posted and can be read very cheaply (400 points buys you a 300 page volume). I love You Higuri, and that’s my favorite of her work.

Anyway, I was somewhat disappointed by the second volume of this series. It’s still very good, and my beef is a petty and superficial one. It’s a bit of a spoiler, and also a deal-breaker, so I’ll keep it to myself. But let’s just say it doesn’t finish like a good romance manga should. And not in the exciting and different way, either. It just kinda… stops. On the other hand, the romance isn’t really the point here, it’s all about the coming-of-age story, which is still very good.

We get two more stories with Kei and Atsushi, and two short works at the end of the volume. My Caged Beast, about yakuza, wasn’t great, but Indigo Blue was wonderful. It features two best friends who appear to be running drugs on a lark. One is the front man of the operation, and the other constantly watches his back from the shadows in case something goes wrong. The backup also has a sleeping disorder, and will sleep for days at a time. He sleeps so soundly that the front man gives him elaborate tattoos to entertain himself. The story follows their operations in Mexico, and then moves to Japan for the second half. Neither of the men appear to be bad people. The front man seems to be doing it for the money and the fact he loves the Caribbean and hates Japan, and the backup just seems to follow along. I didn’t quite get their relationship, or what happened when things went south in the end, but it was still a beautiful story, one of the best BL one-shots I’ve read. Actually, the BL was only lightly implied, but I still loved it.

The Kei and Atsushi stories were good, too. The first was the final chapter in the story about Kei rejoining the track team, and the second was yet another story about gang members beating up Atsushi and Kei rushing in to save him. I was a little disappointed with it as a wrap-up for the series, but even so, there’s a lot of good stuff in there, and both stories were a lot of fun to read.

I do like the characters in this series a lot. While neither are developed too deeply, they definitely aren’t the hand-hold-y type of couple that one usually finds in these stories, and their fights amongst themselves are a refreshing change of pace. It’s less about their relationship and more about the trouble the two of them get into, and finding their place in life and whatnot. It’s not too heavy, or romantic, but I tend to like tough-guy stories like this, and it’s very good for that.

Highly recommended! I did like the first volume better, but it’s hard to find fault with more of the same type of stories, and this volume is worth a read for Indigo Blue alone.

Satoru Ishihara – Digital Manga Guild – 2011 – 2 volumes

Another one of the Digital Manga Guild titles that can be acquired over at I hesitated on this one, because while the plot sounded like it was right up my alley (angsty coming-of-age/falling-in-love story), I knew if I read it before volume two came out, it would be really good and I’d want to read the second right away. I was right.

Fujieda is a bit of a punk, and completely bored with his friends and school life. Though he goes to an elite school, and earned his place there, he can’t be bothered to go to class, and would rather cause trouble than be a good student. Mostly, though, he’s simply restless. One day, a prank “injures” fellow student Sakuraba, a model student that can do no wrong in the teacher’s eyes. Fujieda sees through the “injury,” however, and proves that Sakuraba was simply skipping class. Sakuraba has a rebellious personality too, but one he can only exercise on Fujieda.

Though this sounds like the set-up to every BL book that has ever been written, The Boys With Tomorrow to Conquer is a little different in that the romance isn’t the only thing going on. Each of the chapters is a different short story, and while the stories themselves are nothing special, I liked that Sakuraba and Fujieda were a little unpredictable. The stories… hmm. The first one deals with both guys helping a girl with a stalker, the second is about Fujieda’s former track teammates and why one of them is acting out, the third is about both of them taking a beating from a gang, and the fourth is tied into Fujieda and Sakuraba’s family issues. As I said, they’re nothing revolutionary, but having the romance develop along with the somewhat mundane stories, along with the unpredictable characters, does make it fun to read.

They’re not very deep, but since both tend to act out, and you’re not getting a good look into either of their heads, Sakuraba and Fujieda are interesting characters. The romance isn’t really all that developed. They simply kiss in certain choice passionate moments. But that’s all right. They antagonize each other a lot, but the kisses could come at any time, and usually one comes to the rescue of the other before the end of the story. It’s good stuff. Both characters are fairly dominant and outspoken, and I like that neither is really falling for the other at this point. The relationship is simply happening, and it seems mutually agreed upon whenever they grow closer.

One of the only disadvantages is that the nuts and bolts of the plot for the short stories are elusive. I can’t tell if it’s awkward writing in the original or awkward phrasing in the English version, but sometimes the two or three panels per chapter that explain what’s going on… hmm, give strangely specific details that don’t quite fit until after you see what happens later, and sometimes don’t quite make sense in context? The dialogue flows okay, the only thing I had a problem with was the gist of the short plots. There are also some things that I feel should be footnoted, like I wasn’t quite sure what was going on when Fujieda realized someone had stolen his cellphone when he called it, or something. Later, there’s another scene where I couldn’t figure out if his mom made him move out of his room, or if he was sharing it with someone else, or if he was forced into a smaller room, why the guest wasn’t staying there instead of Fujieda keeping his own bedroom, et cetera. Little things kept coming up. But it didn’t really detract from the story.

There are some coherency problems with random cuts to different places, too. At one point during the track teammate story, it was unclear whether both of Fujieda’s teammates were present at the same time, or whether the conversation that took place on the next page was happening later in the day, or what.

They aren’t big problems though, like I said, and the dialogue and characters come across great. I love the antagonistic main characters, I like that there’s something else going on other than the romance, and I like how the relationship is developing. This has been one of my favorites of the DMP releases, and I can’t wait until the next volume comes out. I wish there was a release schedule with approximate dates!