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January 7, 2011

Bento Bako Bonus: Kabuki vols 1&2

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Written by: Kristin
Tags: , , , , ,

Title: Kabuki
Author: Yukari Hashida
Publisher: Digital Manga (Juné)
Volume: Volume 1 (Flower) and volume 2 (Red) (ongoing), $12.95 each
Vintage: Volume 1: 2004 by Kaiosha Publishing in Japan, 2008 by DMP; Volume 2: 2009 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi (18+), romance, historical, drama

In the 16th century, a ruling lord named Kounosuke Kuga found himself under attack, his castle in flames, and the enemy fast approaching. He begged his loyal page, Kageya, to take his life rather than face capture, and made him swear that they would be reunited in another life. In the present, a boy named Kounosuke Kuga awakes to find himself in a hospital, with no memory of how he got there. A loyal servant named Kageya, old and bald, explains that there was a fire at his mansion. Kounosuke recalls the fire at the castle, but quickly realizes that he is not back in the 16th century. He has been reborn into the body of a high school student from a rich family. His Kageya is an old man, and there are many things about this new world he does not understand. To add to his confusion, another Kageya appears, the son of the old Kageya, the middle-aged Gorou Kageya. A Kageya who claims to be the Kageya, reborn to love Kounosuke once again. But then yet another Kageya arrives, Shirou Kageya, sone of Gorou…but this Kageya seems to hate him. Though he is content with Gorou, Kounosuke feels something is still not quite right. When he nearly drowns, he is rescued by Shirou and becomes even more confused. When Gorou later turns on him, Kounosuke feels that all is lost, that his Kageya clearly does not exist in this world…until Shirou once again comes to his rescue. Shirou confirms that he is the real Kageya, and Kounosuke is all set to live happily ever after, reunited with his lover…until Shirou puts his foot down. Kounosuke is broke, but Shirou vows to rebuild the castle that was lost. He also makes it clear that their relationship cannot simply pick up where they left off, because love between two men is not acceptable, and Kounosuke is still a minor in this world. So Kageya insists that Kounosuke go to school to learn about the new era. But Kounosuke learns far more. As he encounters people who knew his past self (meaning the person whose body he now inhabits), he discovers that the past Kuga boy was promiscuous, sleeping around with men, including the chairman of his school. He also learns that he is engaged to a young woman. The trials for Kounosuke’s new life seem to be never ending. The first volume wraps up with Kageya’s experience of his new life, when his spirit entered Shirou Kageya’s body, and he had to wait for Kounosuke to join him.

As volume 2 opens, Kounosuke is knocked unconscious from a fall and the original Kuga boy returns to his body. Quietly distraught in his own way, tries to bring his Kounosuke back through whatever means necessary. Including using banana peels, marbles, and floor wax to get him to fall and his his head again, and even sex (the logic behind that is if Kageya gets him off so good he passes out, maybe Kounosuke will come back). When Kounosuke finally does return, their life is again interrupted when Kageya’s former (wanna-be) lover from Spain shows up. Adol makes a nuisance of himself, taunting Kageya with a mysterious secret Kageya does not want revealed. Adol disregards Kageya’s wishes and reveals the secret to Kounosuke – a special aphrodisiac that places Kageya completely under anyone’s control. Frustrated by Kageya’s cold demeanor, Kounosuke uses the potion on his lover, but before he takes things too far, he realizes that he dislikes a docile Kageya, and prefers him the way he really is. As things get back to normal, Kounosuke asks to visit the land where his castle once stood, and it is there that he runs into yet another member of the Kageya family, the son of Shirou’s father’s sister, Ichirou Kageya. Kounosuke feels strangely drawn to the boy, but Kageya warns him to stay away from Ichirou. When Kounosuke’s former fiancée returns with some interesting news about Ichirou, it becomes a race against time to stop Kounosuke before he does something he’ll regret forever. A bonus story has Kageya caring for a teenage Kuga, annoyed by his actions (and indeed his very existence), and still waiting for his Kounosuke to return.

With the third volume of this series coming out in February, I really wanted to take a look at Kabuki. The set up is really interesting. I love stories of reincarnation, lovers reunited after death in their next lives. Unfortunately, the execution is awful. Hashida’s art is sloppy, with sharp angles, messy line work, awkward character movement…. About the only thing Hashida really excels at are eyes. The story and characters are pretty flimsy, too. Kageya remains fairly consistent throughout, but Kounosuke loses much of his noble carriage in his younger, reincarnated state. I’m not totally clear on the particulars, because it’s a little unclear within the story, but this isn’t your normal reincarnation. The originals “died,” and then the past souls of Kageya and Kounosuke entered (unless they were already there, just hidden?) and took over their respective bodies. And while Kounosuke wasn’t exactly the most mature in his past life, he certainly didn’t appear to act like a spoiled child. If the story was written more seriously instead of as a typical example of the genre, it could have been so much better. It could have been a beautiful, really moving story. Instead, it’s like everything else out there. Is it worth reading? Well, it has its moments. I really want to like it, but Kounosuke’s behavior is rather irritating at times. Particularly his wishy-washy nature regarding the many Kageyas in his life. The interaction between master and servant is amusing, though, especially since this time Kageya is the elder, so their positions are somewhat switched. Kounosuke is still the master, but now more than ever, still a child and completely destitute, he relies on Kageya’s protection. It’s a job that Kageya takes quite seriously; often too seriously for Kounosuke, who is so caught up in continuing his love affair that he forgets where (or rather, when) he is, and the appearance of the body he inhabits. Kageya’s dry humor is also good for a few giggles. Despite how ridiculous it can be, there’s something about Kabuki, something that unfortunately doesn’t surface often, that doesn’t make this a total waste. The story frequently jumps back and forth between the Kounosuke and Kageya in the past and present, and these momentary flashbacks are weaved in quite well. In fact, I’d say they’re the best parts of the series. The bonus stories at the end, showing Kageya waiting for his lover and master to be reborn, also make for a nice read.


Review copies provided by the publisher.



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