December 3, 2011
Sanami Matoh – Kodansha USA – 2011 – 2 volumes
Oh, but was I excited about this volume. I’m not even sure why. The first was a strange mix of humor and romance and weirdness that I usually don’t enjoy in my stories. Plus, the premise is very silly (you know… vampire marrying a half werewolf/half vampire that turns into a woman, but is usually a man). But there’s something about it I just can’t leave alone.
I did like the second volume a little less than the first, but I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe the supernatural situations were a little more fun in the first volume? The format is the same, with chapters that are more-or-less one-shots. The first chapter has a fairly typical romantic triangle plot, with a misdirected couple that can’t admit their feelings putting the moves on Marlo and David, causing misunderstandings between them.
The second one is a little stranger, and slightly more out there than the previous efforts. Marlo turns into a little boy when he drinks a special vintage of wine, and after an extremely bizarre explanation about why that is and why they need a very specific wine to fix it, the characters fret over what will happen if Marlo can’t be turned back into an adult and has to grow up again.
The third story is about David’s parents, and the lover that Arnet spurned in order to marry David’s mother. This is necessary because… wait for it… in the fourth story, Marlo and David’s wedding, her daughter shows up to ruin the occasion by trapping the characters in a mirror. David goes to some fairly heroic lengths to rescue Marlo from that situation.
The last story is a continuation of the “past” story from the last volume. It wasn’t anything spectacular, either.
Actually, my favorite in the volume was probably the story where Marlo grew younger. Even though it made no sense at all, even in the limited logic of the series, it was still a really interesting story, and fairly romantic to boot. Romance chases David and Marlo through all these stories, but it’s never really the point, merely an afterthought. I’m not sure if I liked that or hated it about the series.
And other than that… nothing really stands out about it. It is a little dated, and those looking for BL, or comedy, or romance, or even a mix of all three would probably be more satisfied elsewhere. But it is a rather bizarre series, and the supernatural-themed stories are pretty fun, especially in the first volume. Marlo and David are easy to like and sympathize with, and it’s a pretty upbeat and fun series in general, which is something I’m probably sorely lacking in the type of BL and romance I read. Give it a try if it sounds like your kind of thing, you’ll probably wind up liking it. Just be advised going in that it’s a little underwhelming.
September 12, 2011
Sanami Matoh – Kodansha Comics – 2011 – 2 volumes
I passed over this when Broccoli released this years ago, but I’m not sure why. The premise is definitely my flavor, having both vampires and a gender identity thing going on with the romantic interest. I hadn’t read Fake when Broccoli released this, but now I have, and I know that Matoh is sneaky in a good way about developing relationships while doing her over-the-top comedy thing. I liked this so much that I considered just buying a used copy of the second volume from Broccoli so I didn’t have to wait for the Kodansha release. But don’t do that! There’s new content in this volume. I’ll explain in a bit.
The premise is that David, a vampire from an aristocratic vampire family is reunited with his childhood friend, Marlo, who is the child of a werewolf and a vampire. Actually, I know why I didn’t pick this up the first time… that sounds ridiculous. But bear with me. This is a romance comic, so of course Marlo and David are in love. In a strange twist to the usual BL story, rather than being a vampire who feeds on blood or a werewolf who turns into a beast at the full moon, Marlo inherited a different set of werewolf survival genes. Apparently his ancestors came from an all-male tribe, and in order to produce offspring, certain members of the tribe turned into women at the full moon. So does Marlo.
It… almost makes some worthwhile commentary about this. How David doesn’t care if Marlo is a man or a woman, he loves him anyway. Marlo seems mostly embarrassed. At its heart, though, Until the Full Moon is a romantic comedy, so it doesn’t really dwell on gender identity issues. BL comics with vampires and werewolves probably aren’t the place for that, anyway.
There’s lots of silliness. Marlo doesn’t really want to be a couple with David, but the two are forced to marry when their parents arrange a marriage between them (this happens during a strangely convoluted conversation where Marlo’s parents request a cure for his “curse,” and when they determine there isn’t one and that Marlo’s mom is too old to have more kids… well…). But David has been in love with Marlo since they were children, and Marlo reluctantly admits to having feelings for David, too, though he keeps him at arm’s length.
Most of the chapters are episodic stories. One is about Marlo’s ex-lover coming to visit and stay. Another is a rather jealous couple that gets David wrapped up in their affairs. Another is a story set in the past that might as well be about Marlo and David.
The art is still very 90s, with big hair, angular features, and lots of fancy screentone and Loveswept-looking conclusion panels in a lot of the chapters. The humor is also very 90s humor, meaning… a lot of the jokes are a little too old to be funny. But the art is a lot tighter and more dynamic than it was in Fake, and I do admire Matoh’s ability as a comedy artist, since a lot of mangaka aren’t very good at slapstick-style drawings.
But… I was reading this volume, and I could not figure out the cover. It looks like it was drawn by a different artist, and I didn’t recognize any of the characters on it.
Turns out Matoh’s style has changed DRASTICALLY over the years. She drew the cover, and the two main characters are there, front and center, not looking anything like themselves (but, to be fair, I don’t think any of those other characters appeared in this volume). There’s a bonus story in the back that was drawn recently, the second half of which will be in the second Kodansha volume, which is why this edition has an edge over the one Broccoli released years ago. Without that bonus story, I would have never figured out that cover. I think the story is probably meant to ease us into the sequel series, @Full Moon, which Kodansha is also releasing in English. I’m curious how it will be different from this series, other than the fact that… Matoh’s new style is more cartoony and VERY DIFFERENT. I don’t know how to stress this. It really, really looks like it was drawn by a different person. Nothing has made me want to read the entire body of work of an artist more than that chapter. I want to know how her artwork evolved so much over the years. It’s really crazy.
Anyway. There is some comedy, but not nearly as much as was in Fake. The story is still mostly a romance with some light touches, and all of the stories are about relationships in some way. Marlo and David aren’t quite developed enough as characters to get me really involved in the story, and the premise is also a little strange. But there’s something addictive about it anyway. I like these types of romance stories, though, so you might want to look elsewhere if you don’t have a high tolerance for silly stuff mixed in with your romance story.