May 10, 2012
Toko Kawai – DMP / June – 2006 – 2 volumes
Before I get into the content of the real story in this volume, I was more interested in the short story in the back, “My Beautiful World.” In the Walnut is my favorite Toko Kawai series, and that story is where the characters first appear. Interestingly, it’s reprinted both here and in the first volume of In the Walnut. This is a much older book in terms of when it came out in English, and it’s also one of the best examples I’ve found of what a difference a good adaptation makes. This one has a much stiffer, less natural flow than the version I read in In the Walnut. It’s not bad, per se, but the newer version is much better. I love that the progress of June can be measured between the two versions of this story.
Anyway! Horyu and Shouin are who we paid to see this time, and there’s 150 pages of them to be had here. Again, this isn’t the most groundbreaking of stories, but I do like the characters a lot, and I appreciate the twists Kawai throws in to make things more interesting. Horyu’s surfing career is taking off in a big way, and one of the stories is about how he has to decide between his career or Shouin. Not in a very literal sense, like if he surfs he can’t see Shouin, but Shouin doesn’t want to live a life of following Horyu around to different beaches, and he doesn’t want to see Horyu give up surfing, either. Plus, Shouin has his own dreams. It’s more complex than this problem usually is in a BL romance like this, and I appreciate all the extra time and complications that went into it. Granted, the solution is always, always the same, but there would be something unsatisfying about it otherwise, right?
One of the other interesting things in here was that the last chapter was about Shouin and Horyu looking after someone’s infant. One of the points of contention between the two early on was that, in the past, Horyu had mentioned how much he liked children and that he wanted a family, and Shouin couldn’t stand to be with him and take that away from him. But this chapter hints at the fact that they can be a family without a wife to bear children. It paints a very happy picture for the ending, and children come up so rarely in these stories. I can think of… maybe two other books that feature children as family members. Technically, this one doesn’t really, but I love that the last chapter leaves the future wide open for the two of them like that.
It’s definitely one of Kawai’s weaker books, and it stays closer to the BL stereotypes than her others, but it’s still an enjoyable read. She’s a great writer, and that her first work is this good says a lot about just how great her later work is. This is worth picking up, but as a follow-up, try In the Walnut or The Scent of Apple Blossoms!
April 25, 2012
Toko Kawai – Digital Manga Publishing – 2005 – 2 volumes
Gah, so old! This even has the purple DMP logo at the bottom of the cover, instead of the pink June logo, because it predates the imprint. This may have been among the first wave of BL that DMP released. It’s hard to believe how much has changed since then.
Anyway! I already talked about this volume a bit, when I did my Toko Kawai write-up a few weeks ago. It’s her first series, and it shows.
Shouin and Horyu are college classmates. Horyu is a popular and charismatic surfer, but he spends most of his time with his shy friend Shouin The story wastes no time getting to the romance parts. There’s a rather lengthy confession in the first chapter, made difficult by the fact that Horyu has a hard time convincing Shouin he’s being serious about loving him, and then Shouin rejecting him on the grounds that there’s no way popular Horyu could love him. The second chapter has the two growing closer, when Shouin pushes Horyu away after a previous negative experience with a boyfriend in high school scares him away from a serious relationship with Horyu. Other stories are simply cute. One is about how Shouin and Horyu consummate their relationship. One is about how badly Horyu spoils Shouin. Stuff like that.
The end of the book has a story about a couple where one of the men can’t have sex due to his weak heart. It will literally kill him. This explores how that affects the relationship, why he won’t get his problem treated, things like that. A good story, and it would be very welcome in any other BL volume, but it’s not one of Kawai’s better ones, and I wished the pages had been devoted to more about Shouin and Horyu.
It’s mostly a cute, happy romance. As I’ve said before, though, Kawai really knows how to write characters, so it’s fun watching Shouin and Horyu go through all the usual BL motions, and she takes her time to develop the relationship and really have the two feel each other out. I only say it reads like a rookie work because the plot points and the way the two talk everything out is very by-the-book. It’s still a very, very good book, though, and she handles everything expertly. Shouin and Horyu are both easy to like, and I also liked that there were details about their life, like the frequent looks at their classes and workload, and a lot of info about Horyu’s surfing hobby. Things like that make the characters more rounded, and stories like this much better since it’s not all about romance.
This is my least favorite of Kawai’s stories, but it’s still very, very much worth reading. I’m really very impressed with just how likeable all her books are, and that even her first volume is this romantic. It makes me want the next volumes of In the Walnut and The Scent of Apple Blossoms that much more. I am completely obsessed with her work, what can I say?