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September 29, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: When the Heavens Smile & Boys Love

Today we’re going to have a yaoi double feature.  Both books are from Digital Manga Publishing, and retail for $12.95 each.  They’re both rather sweet and charming tales of awkward romances.  First is When the Heavens Smile, a collection of short stories; then we’ll look at the more melancholy one-shot Boys Love.

Title: When the Heavens Smile
Author: Aki Senoo
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Vintage: 2007 by Oakla Publishing in Japan, May 2010 by DMP

When the Heavens Smile is a collection of seven short stories, mostly involving high school romances.  “Fragment” is a cute story about two boys who meet when one hears the other whistling a fragment of a song, and takes him back to his place to listen to the entire piece.  They bond over their shared moment, absorbed in the song, but the story is sadly much too short.  I’d love to see more of these characters.  “Absolute Condition” tells the story of Kusaka, whose mole fetish causes him to be attracted to a male classmate, Ogata.  Ogata has actually liked Kusaka for a while, but fears that Kusaka only likes him for his mole.  A little strange, but Kusaka is adorable.  “I Love Strawberries the Most, Followed by My Dad” has quite the mouthful of a title, and despite how innocently sweet it is, is probably my least favorite story in the book (it’s a slice of their already established life together, so there’s not a lot really going on).  Ashihara loves strawberries more than anything, followed by his father, but above all, he loves Shiomi.  “I Can’t Remember Now” is one of the more amusing stories.  Midori often takes care of his usually drunk friend Katsuhiro, who, fueled by alcohol, typically gropes and tries to make out with Midori while claiming that he loves him, but he never remembers in the morning.  Midori puts up with it for a time, but eventually has enough.  In “Sirens,” recently orphaned Asato was taken in by Shinji’s family and now lives with Shinji.  Shinji is always concerned that Asato will be reminded of his parents’ accident by the sound of sirens.  Their relationship is nice, but the story is a bit dull.  In “Fever Mark,” Ao feels his temperature rising whenever he’s near Masaki.  He struggles with getting Masaki to be true to himself while dealing with a new stepfather that he doesn’t understand.  The final story is broken into two chapters, with different focuses.  In “That Which Falls From Heaven,” Kumoi has been watching over Takagi at school, and is the only person who can see the spirit of Takagi’s dead brother, Tsukasa, watching over him.  Takagi worries that his brother will leave if he likes another guy.  “That which is Still Here” continues the story, but shifts the focus from Takagi and Kumoi (though they’re still present) to Saikawa, a former classmate of Tsukasa.  He’s unable to accept the attentions of a student because he’s still in love with Tsukasa.

Aww, this one is so sweet.  It does have some flaws.  Some of the characters look very similar.  There’s just not enough individuality in their designs.  There are also some scattered editing problems.  And, of course, the classic problem is a one-shot volume full of short stories – some of them are just too short, and I’d love to see a couple of them go on longer.

Title: Boys Love
Author: Kaim Tachibana
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Doki Doki)
Vintage: 2007 by Shinshokan in Japan, 2009 by DMP

Yes, it’s a boys’ love book called Boys Love, which does seem a little silly.  Don’t let the redundant title dissuade you.  This is a sweet, touching, disturbing, sad story that’s worth a yaoi fan’s time.  Mamiya is a rookie writer for a magazine.  His first big assignment is to interview high school top model Noeru Kisaragi on a piece highlighting the teen model’s hobby as an artist.  Excited about his first big feature, Mamiya gets a little carried away and compliments a particular painting of Noeru’s featuring a boy standing in front of an ocean.  The withdrawn Noeru mostly gives Mamiya the cold shoulder, but is drawn in by Mamiya’s simple positive critique of the painting.  Later, when Mamiya takes Noeru out to a fancy dinner to discuss the article, Noeru follows the man into the bathroom and forces sexual advances on him.  Annoyed at Mamiya’s rejection (the impression being that Noeru is used to everyone around him wanting to sleep with him), Noeru attempts to sabotage the writer’s job by lodging a sexual harassment complaint.  When Mamiya goes to apologize, he begins to learn some unpleasant facts about the model’s lifestyle, and later meets his friend Chidori, who explains a bit about Noeru’s past and the painting of the boy in front of the ocean.  Mamiya decides to intervene and attempts to set Noeru back on the right path, concerned about the boy’s unhealthy lifestyle and his future.  However, not everyone is happy with the changes in Noeru, as Chidori begins to see Mamiya replacing him in Noeru’s life.

The main relationship in Boys Love (meaning between Noeru and Mamiya) is not what you might expect from a yaoi title.  Mamiya has no sexual interest in Noeru (and almost not even a romantic interest, until the end), yet at the same time there manages to be a sort of love triangle going on.  Chidori has been in love with Noeru since they were children, yet is content to let Noeru wallow in his depression, because it means he can support the lost young man.  If Noeru overcomes his past and begins to help himself along, then there’s no place for Chidori.  It’s kind of sick, really; Chidori doesn’t care about Noeru’s well being as long as he can be near him.  Chidori becomes incensed over the influence Mamiya has, and fears that the writer is interfering with his place in Noeru’s life.  His jealousy leads to a tragic ending for all involved.  Noeru himself is interesting enough to carry the story.  The troubled boy seeks to drown his grief and loneliness in the arms of a succession of men.  His rampant sexual lifestyle is an outlet for his feelings, until Mamiya comes along and reminds him of someone he once loved and lost.  They very end of the story is a little…weird, and it’s the only thing that really bothered me about the story overall.

Friday – a new volume of Slam Dunk!


Review copies provided by Digital Manga Publishing.



  1. […] 1 and 2 of Brilliant Blue (Comics Village) Shannon Fay on vol. 2 of Knights (Kuriousity) Kristin on When the Heavens Smile and Boys Love (Comic […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin Bomba, Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: New #yaoi #manga review When the Heavens Smile & Boys Love from @digitalmanga https://comicattack.net/2010/09/bblheavensmileboyslove/ […]

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