Kizuna 6

July 5, 2012

Kazuma Kodaka – DMP/Juné – 2012 – 11 volumes
this is Japanese volume 11

I literally could not wait to read this. I’ve enjoyed Kizuna immensely since I picked up the first omnibus, and was devastated that I would have to wait to read the final volume.

There’s nothing too surprising here, but I was happy to see the story wrapping up all the loose ends. Last volume, there was a major story about Kei and Ranmaru moving into Ranmaru’s family dojo and taking over the household from his grandfather. This was a nice and moving story, and ended well last time, so I was a little confused when it kept going here. Mostly it just re-iterates the day-to-day activities between the two, and how they reconcile their relationship with curious relatives, Ranmaru’s grandfather, everyday life, et cetera. As mundane as some of it is, it’s not often that you see a BL book go into such detail. Especially one that had a taste for car accidents and kidnappings the way Kizuna did.

One thing that did bother me a bit was that Ranmaru decided to officially come out to his grandfather. I had thought in the last volume, when his grandfather stated that Kei and Ranmaru would rather live with each other than find a wife, that the issue was resolved in a… gentle way. It seemed like he knew, and was happy to have the both of them living with him. So I wasn’t sure why Ranmaru wanted to really, really make sure. Then again, he’s not my grandfather, and this is not a conversation I would ever have, so it’s hard for me to say. That was the point of drama for the Kei/Ranmaru portion of the volume, and when that was dealt with, the story ended in a very nice, satisfying way.

The second half of the volume is the Kei/Masa story wrap-up. Actually, my favorite part of these stories that take place in Osaka is the fighting between Kei and his father (who seems to dote, but is flatly rejected by Kei), and the way that Kei and Masa inconvenience everyone around them in petty ways. It’s really funny, actually, and makes this story a bit more charming, given the fact that it’s mostly about yakuza succession. The ending focuses on the sexual relationship between Kei and Masa, which I’m sure was driving fans of the pair crazy since it only happens at the end.

Overall, the ending was good. Satisfying, as I’ve mentioned. I’ve liked some of the other volumes more, but I have a taste for drama, and it was nice to see a break from it at the end here, giving all the characters a nice time together. It’s one of my absolute favorite BL series, and it looks like June has been keeping the omnibus volumes in print, so it’s definitely worth checking out as a lengthy BL saga.

Kizuna 5

March 8, 2012

Kazuma Kodaka – DMP/June – 2012 – 11 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 9-10

Every volume of this series makes me love it a little more, and I already liked it quite a bit. Part of my problem is that I usually skim the big omnibuses and read the Kei and Ranmaru parts first, then I read the whole thing through, then again, and then I remember how much I liked the first story in the first volume, and get that out and wind up reading the whole thing. This is how you know I’m some sort of addict.

It just keeps giving me reasons to love it, too. I’m not the biggest fan of Kai and Masa, but even I thought their story in this volume was really, really cute. Part of that is that Kai has started acting more mature, so I’m less creeped out by him and Masa now. And I’m a little predisposed to liking Masa, since I’m a sucker for such manly characters in these stories. Plus, Masa’s a genuinely good guy, so it’s hard not to like him a little bit. Their storyline here started… more or less resolved, actually, based on their reactions to one another, which I thought was a little strange given where they left off last time. But another couple is featured (a fellow classmate of Kai’s who is also a yakuza’s son, and also in love with one of the men), and Masa and Kai get closer as that story plays out, eventually ending with… well, the deed. Which was a little funny, actually, I was not expecting that.

The story focusing on a new couple (and another gay yakuza couple) was a little strange, I thought, this late in the game, but I still liked it quite a bit. It’s a good story, and the climax involves Masanori playing a mean, slightly out-of-character trick on another yakuza boss. That alone was worth the tangent.

Kai is super-fixated on sex through most of the book, and while it is a little funny when he and Masa finally hooked up, it wasn’t nearly as hilarious as the constant conversations he had with Kei and Ranmaru about it. That was never not funny, and I loved that even Ranmaru was begging him to stop by the end of the volume.

The second half of the book is about Kei and Ranmaru, and what their plans for the future are. This ties into the first half, since some advice Ranmaru gives Kai was about how he pictured himself with Masa after college. Kei and Ranmaru’s story involves some father necromancy when Ranmaru’s father steps back into the picture, a storyline about whether the couple wants to move into Ranmaru’s family house and dojo, and the question of their relationship and how the people around them perceive it.

It’s that last point that has more or less cemented Kizuna as one of my permanent favorites. BL books so rarely deal with the question of sexuality, it’s always interesting to me when it comes up. The reactions to the news are a little too happily-ever-after to be believable, but there’s still lots of good stuff here. Kei and Ranmaru’s worries are quite realistic, and the way the topic comes up with various family members is also pretty believable. Even the fact that everyone is okay with it… while it is unlike Kizuna to dodge a drama bullet, it’s hard to say that the acceptance doesn’t make sense in the context of the story and characters. I mean… they’ve been together for years at this point, so it’s not like it could be that shocking to anyone close to them.

Plus, I’m never disappointed with a story that has Kei and Ranmaru in it. They’re one of the most couple-y and believable pairs in any of the BL books I’ve read, which is strange considering all the dramatic storylines that make up the series. They read like two normal people despite the Zetsuai-like car crash that “permanently” paralyzes Ranmaru at the beginning, the acquaintance rape storyline, the yakuza ties, and the fact that Kei is tortured and shot at one point. Part of this is probably because they don’t really fall into the stereotypical seme/uke personality types. It may just be because Kizuna predates those modern BL types, but I do like just how much power Ranmaru wields over the needier Kei, who seems to have the ability to charm the pants off anybody but Ranmaru. That Ranmaru can stoically punch him in the face when he tries to pour on the charm is an endless source of amusement to me.

I was expecting this volume five omnibus to be the last, but apparently the last volume of the series is being released as its own book sometime soon. There’s no release date set, but I literally cannot wait. I don’t even think it will be that exciting (I’m pretty sure it’s probably just going to be about Kei coming out of the closet to his father, and setting up what the two of them will do with the rest of their lives… probably run the Samejima dojo together), but I still am dying to read it.

Kizuna 4

November 10, 2011

Kazuma Kodaka – June – 2011 – 11 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 7-8

I disliked this volume quite a bit. So much so that I went back to the beginning of the series to try and remember what I liked about it. I re-read all the current volumes, and realized I like the series a lot more than I thought I did, but that doesn’t change the fact that this volume was still a dud. I just don’t like Masa and Kai. It’s Ranmaru and Kei that are the draw for me.

This volume starts off promising, with Kei’s dad showing up at the hospital and offering to pay for a Kyoto vacation for Kei and Ranmaru so that Kei can visit his mother’s grave. Kei’s brother Kai blows up at his dad, who threw Kai out temporarily when he found out he was gay, for treating Kei and Ranmaru so well. One of my favorite scenes in this book is when Kai tries to convince his dad Ranmaru is gay. Since Kei and Ranmaru have recently exchanged personal vows, they decide to treat the vacation as a honeymoon.

Anyway, Kai winds up coming on the trip too, of course, and he drags Masa along in order to settle the awkward situation between them once and for all. Instead of being a honeymoon for Kei and Ranmaru, sex scenes are frequently and comically interrupted by staff members at the hotel and Kai, who frequently rushes in when his talks with Masa go badly. There are a couple sex scenes between Kei and Ranmaru, but I hated that they had been relegated to comic relief in their own series while Kai and Masa are working things out.

Masa is called away on business, and just when it looks like things will get romantic between Kei and Ranmaru, Ranmaru abruptly decides to take up kendo again, and he wants to start ASAP. The whole gang leaves Kyoto, and the last third of the volume is mostly about Ranmaru getting back into kendo (he used to be a national champion before he was hit by a car) and training for a match with Kai.

So most of the BL focus is on Masa and Kai. I hate couples that have a huge age gap. This isn’t an insurmountable hate, and it’s easy to forget when both characters are adults. Masa and Kai are both adults, and Kai is at least twenty (Masa’s… probably at least twice that). The problem is that Kai is drawn to look younger, and acts like a little bratty kid as well, so watching him flirt with and insist on the manly, beefy yakuza affections of Masa is… hard. Add to this the fact that many chapters feature flashbacks to an adult Masa taking care of a very, very young Kai (Kai is flirty even as a youngster), and you’ve got a combination that makes my flesh crawl. Plus, Kai’s got a rape trauma, so even when they are doing the deed, Kai flies to pieces, and watching what appears to be a young boy sob while having sex with the huge Masa makes me wanna hurl the book across the room.

But what makes the flashbacks even worse between Kai and Masa is that they work really well for Kei and Ranmaru. Since the story starts with them as an adult couple, I thought the story of how they first met (which was either in elementary school or the first year of junior high, 6th grade), was extremely cute. It wasn’t outright romantic, and was mostly Kei teasing pouty Ranmaru, but their first kiss, which Kodaka portrayed as an innocent experiment between two boys, wasn’t creepy at all despite their age.

And re-reading the earlier volumes make me wish for things that have been phased out. I love Kei. He adores the ground Ranmaru walks on, and being a flirty host suits him well. He’s extremely charming too, and seems to win over everyone he talks to, though the dark, earlier plots don’t really take advantage of this. He’s a good compliment to the pouty, reserved Ranmaru, who teases Kei mercilessly. I don’t know what else you can say about them, since they were more-or-less an established couple at the beginning of the series, they’ve both survived trauma, they’ve been married, on a honeymoon, moved in together, been through the whole “what happens if you want a woman” thing… maybe there’s just not a whole lot more story for them. But having to read Kizuna with them in the background, and a couple that I don’t like as the main story focus, is not what I want.

There’s one more omnibus coming, hopefully… though with so much more ground to cover between Kai and Masa, I suspect we won’t see a whole lot of Kei and Ranmaru in that one, either. There’s a volume 11, and maybe the series will end with one last story for them. I secretly hope that volume 11 will be in an omnibus with Sessa Takuma, a spin-off volume about Ranmaru’s sister Yuki that features Ranmaru, Kei, and other Kizuna characters. Weirdly, it ran in Shounen Champion (?!), but the plot sounds like a shoujo romance for Yuki and the guy she marries. Even stranger, Biblios, a BL publisher, published the graphic novel. So… I don’t know what’s up with that.

Kizuna 3

September 28, 2011

Kazuma Kodaka – June – 2011 – 11 volumes
this contains vols. 5-6 of the original series

The drug dealer impersonating Kai storyline continues here, and it goes far longer than I thought it would. Kei gets dragged in. Ranmaru is involved. Masa is involved. Assassins enter the picture. There is a seemingly interminable scene where everyone begs Ranmaru not to kill with a sword.

Kodaka breaks things up a little bit. The storyline continues through volume five and into volume six, but at the beginning of six is a silly short story about two angels who confuse Kei and Ranmaru with their lovers. I hated myself a little for liking such a dumb story so much. I couldn’t help it.

After that, though, the conclusion to the drug dealer storyline happens. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this story, and I’m still not, but I was drawn into the action pretty neatly. It’s paced very well, and other than that overblown Ranmaru scene, I can’t fault it for everything. It had dramatic kidnappings. A little torture. Lots of dangerous gunplay. An awesome reunion between Kei and Ranmaru. At the end, the two assassins hook up. This is the type of thing that would only ever happen in a BL manga. It was stupid, but again, I loved every page of it, even while simultaneously hating myself immensely.

The epilogue pretty much made up for whatever ambivalent feelings I had for the Kai-centric story. There was… a hospital scene. It was both a dramatic break-up and dramatic make-up scene. There was action. There was a decent interruption scene. All of it was beautiful. It’s stuff like this chapter that make Kizuna worth reading 15 years after it was released.

The rest of the book includes… let’s see, a decent story about the two assassins that hook up. It was about their past, though it took me a minute to figure this out. I wanted more Kei and Ranmaru stories, but this was also good stuff. Amazingly, this took up the last “half” of volume six. It’s the type of “falling from grace” story I can’t help but like. J.B. doesn’t want to corrupt Roy with his murdering ways, or his love, but you know how that can go in a BL book.

I feel a little bad only offering marginal commentary for a huge omnibus like this, especially after I so thoroughly enjoyed it. This, along with many others, are starting to make me a fan of action-oriented BL stories, a genre I tend to hate. Unfortunately, I read this awhile ago and put off writing it up, so I have less to say than normal. But for fans of BL, especially classic material, Kizuna is pretty much a staple. Definitely worth picking up.

Kizuna 2

August 1, 2011

Kazuma Kodaka – June – 2011 – 11 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 3-4 of the series

This book is still mostly a lot of soapy fun. The first story is about Kei’s hair getting too long for Ranmaru’s taste, and Ranmaru’s almost savage obsession with cutting it. It causes some rather hilarious drama. And as someone with hair about three times as long as Kei’s, I can confirm that long hair is disgusting in almost every situation. Another story follows, also super-dramatic, when Ranmaru misunderstands the attentions of some of Kei’s friends and thinks Kei has turned straight on him. Serious talks, drama, and lots of make-up sex ensue.

Alas though, after that the majority of this book is about Kei’s younger brother Kai and his partner, Masa. Both are involved with Kei’s yakuza family, which is fairly interesting story-wise, but this doesn’t help the fact that I just can’t sympathize with Kai as a character at all. Plus, the Kai/Masa pairing is an older/younger thing that seriously breaks my taboos. Luckily, Masa doesn’t act on Kai’s affections here, which makes me feel better. I can’t remember how the two work as a pairing in the first volume, and I’d rather not think about it, though.

The first of the Kai stories is about Kai getting into fight after fight at school, and Masa stepping in during a serious one where some thugs wound both Masa and Kai. The second is a much longer story where Kei and Ranmaru play roles as well. A drug dealer disguises himself as Kai, the influential yakuza heir, and sells drugs on the streets, a serious violation of some other yakuza family’s turf rules or something. Things go badly when Kai and others try to stop the imposter, and Kai winds up needing a bodyguard/assassin. Kei does a lot of running around after the copy, too.

Somewhere sandwiched in there, there’s another shorter story about Ranmaru considering trying his sword again, after recovering from his car accident.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about it, omnibus though it is. The over-the-top drama is exactly my flavor, but I was disappointed that Kai and the yakuza took center stage in both volumes since it’s Kei and Ranmaru I want to see. There’s still plenty of good romance scenes with the two of them in it, but… I just hate Kai. Again though, the yakuza stories here are more interesting than what you would typically find in a BL manga, and despite the fact the selfish Kai puts me off, I still like reading his stories.

Kizuna 1

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.