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October 13, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: In the Walnut vol. 2

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: In the Walnut
Author: Toko Kawai
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Volume: Volume 2, $12.95
Vintage: 2007 by Libre Publishing Co., September 2010 by Digital Manga
Genre: Yaoi, romance, art, drama

For an introduction to In the Walnut, please check out my review of volume 1.

Tucked away in a hole in the wall is a small art gallery called In the Walnut. The gallery is run by a shady looking character who looks nothing like an art connoisseur, named Tanizaki. He lives above the store, “works” in the store, and has a secret studio in the basement for various things (restorations mainly, but also some things less…legal in nature). His lover, a photographer and student of film, Nakai, spends most of his free time at the gallery. The two of them encounter some interesting customers, from innocent children to corrupt art dealers. Tanizaki runs things his way, which can sometimes mean a little forging and a little black mailing now and then.

In this volume, Tanizaki finds himself with two copies of the same painting, one in horrible condition from a gallery owner, the other from a young woman claiming to have bought the painting from Tanizaki’s grandfather. The mystery behind the paintings confounds him, until a simple unrelated comment from Nakai gives him an idea. The real value of these paintings lies in the memories of those who have owned them. When a regular customer tries to get Tanizaki to sell his son’s amateur art, Tanizaki gets back at him with a little help from Nakai, whose employer owes the customer money. The value of a painting is in the eyes of those who desire it. A famous painter, one of the few living artists Tanizaki will handle in his store, has lost much of his passion in his later years, making his earlier paintings more valuable. When Tanizaki comes across one of his paintings, he immediately senses something off about the piece, but doesn’t believe it’s a forgery. The value of a painting lies in the feelings of the artist. Finally an old, cheap souvenir box has a secret. Tanizaki sells it off, but makes a promise to Nakai to get it back where it belongs. He helps a friend keep his business in the process. Meanwhile, Nakai learns that even the most mundane things can be considered art; it’s all in the eye of the beholder. A bonus chapter has Nakai document Tanizaki’s grooming habits (or lack of) over the course of a week.

Another delightful volume. This one is rather light on the romance, with more focus on Tanizaki’s work as an art dealer. Nakai is more along for the ride this time, though there are one or two chapter that focus on him. Tanizaki is a lot like the works of art he finds – dirty and messy looking on the outside (not at all what an art dealer should look like), but his true beauty lies in the “eye of the beholder” – Nakai.  Nakai, though continually frustrated by his lover’s sloppy nature, sees the kindness hidden beneath the careless exterior. Nakai maintains his cheerful, naive disposition this volume, which is a fantastic contrast to the often gray line that Tanizaki tends to walk in his business. This particular volume is very heavy on the themes of individual value in regards to the art the characters come across. Each chapter has a pretty strong focus on the appeal and value of the art highlighted, based on individual perception. The bonus chapter is very short, but amusing, as Tanizaki gets shabbier and shabbier by the day, much to Nakai’s disappointment. About a year passed between the publication of the previous volume and this one in Japan, and there’s a noticeable change in the artwork. It’s not major, but it is more defined, and there are some subtle changes in the character designs.

I maintain that this title is a great introduction to the yaoi genre, as it’s very story and character focused, and light on the sex and romance. It is still a romance, though, and Tanizaki and Nakai are very cute together. The strength definitely lies in the various stories, each centered on specific works of art (including the occasional real work of art). I really enjoy it, so I’ll keep recommending it, though I’m not sure how many volumes it is or will end up being.




  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mari Kurisato and Digital Manga , Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: New #manga review In The Walnut vol 2 from @digitalmanga https://comicattack.net/2010/10/bblinthewalnut2/ #yaoi […]

  2. […] Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 17 of Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs (Comics Worth Reading) Kristin on vol. 2 of In the Walnut (Comic Attack) Animemiz on I.O.N. (Anime Diet) Erica Friedman on vol. 4 of Jormungand (Okazu) […]

  3. Jade

    Can you recommend any other good intro yaoi books? I think I might try this one out, but I think I should have a back-up in case I don’t like it.

    My only other experience with yaoi was one book years ago that was pretty much Black Bird with salarymen and a kindle book by AYA that was actually kind of cute, but also pretty hardcore. There was another book I wanted to read, I think it was King of Debt, but another book has pretty much the same story and I’ve heard one is good and one is terrible and I can’t remember which is which, but I want to read the good one.

  4. Well, I’m going to go ahead and shamelessly recommend that you do a “yaoi” search on ComicAttack and take a look at my reviews. That way you can see what the stories are about, and I usually make comments on how mild or hard core the romance and sex is. I’ll point out a few here.

    But I will say that In the Walnut is an excellent introduction. The first volume has a little bit more sex in it, but it’s not graphic. Second volume is solid story telling.

    There’s a book called Color by Eiki Eiki and Taishi Zaou that is very cute.

    If you like Fumi Yoshinaga (Ooku: The Inner Chambers, Antique Bakery), she’s done a few yaoi titles (Solfege, Don’t Say Anymore Darling) that are quite nice.

    La Esperance is excellent. It’s a very innocent high school romance story, stretching across 7 volumes, providing plenty of time for character development and story telling.

    Makoto Tateno is a big name in yaoi, though some of her stuff is a bit more explicit than others.

    One of my favorites has been Ludwig II, a yaoi centric story about the real life Ludwig II, King of Bavaria. That’s…probably not the best early piece, though. It’s certainly more “hard core” than the other titles I’ve mentioned. Best to save it for when you’ve had more exposure to the genre.

    Hope that helps!

  5. Jade

    Thanks a lot for the recommendations.

    I’ll definitely have to look into the Yoshinaga stories. It’s nice to see that there are some longer stories out there too, most of the time the reviews I read cover anthologies that’ll have one supposedly excellent story packaged with a few klunkers. I’m just not that big of an anthology fan, the stories need to be good stuff.

  6. Kristin

    I hear ya. Anthologies can have some goodies now and then, but a lot of the time they have a very crammed and rush feel about them. You can’t get a lot of development in a single 20 or so page chapter.
    One shot volumes, when they’re devoted to a single story, can come out OK, though. But definitely when there’s more than one centralized volume involved…that tends to be the better read. That’s why I enjoyed La Esperanca, I think. It has its problems, but there’s a lot of story and character focus, and it’s light on the romance.

    What I tend not to like much are when stories are created just to get the two guys into bed together as quickly as possible. Boys Love (which I didn’t mention above, but have reviewed) is actually rather unique in that the main pair never sleep together (although there is a brief oral scene involved, but it’s basically one sided). Fluffy smut is OK now and then, but it does tend to populate the genre…at least with what comes stateside.

  7. Jade

    Right, I don’t even mind graphic sex at all, but if it’s nothing -but- sex there’s *ahem* different kinds of porn I prefer. That said, I might look into Ludwig II earlier than you suggest since I just finished watching Gantsukuo…Gansutkuou…The Count of Monte Cristo, so that flavour is in my head, haha.

    I actually remember being interested in La Esperanca back when you first covered it, but that’s kind of a lot of volumes to commit to on my budget these days. I’ll have to see how I take to the genre before I get into it. Then again, it’s not that I’m worried about hating it, I’m worried about liking it enough to sink money into the rest of the series.

  8. Well, emanga.com has some short samples of each of the La Esperanca volumes, if you want to check it out that way. Unfortunately it’s not available for rent there, or I would suggest that as it would save you some cash.
    But you can get them for $5 right now on Akadot Retail (DMP’s retail site). http://www.akadot.com/index.php

    Also…loooove Gankutsuou. I’ve got a beautiful box set of the series that I got ridiculously on sale at Right Stuf. Such a beautiful show. Been wanting to pick up the manga for a while, but I keep forgetting about it.

  9. […] who loves boys with other boys: Digital Manga Publishing’s In the Walnut (reviews here and here) is a beautiful, touching yaoi series perfect for newcomers and yaoi veterans. Bonus if […]

  10. […] new yaoi title: In the Walnut from Digital Manga Publishing. One of my favorite yaoi titles of any year, this pleasant, touching, […]

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