Featured Columns

January 21, 2011

Bento Bako Bonus: Rin!

Title: Rin!
Author: Satoru Kannagi, art by Yukine Honami
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Volume: Volumes 1-3 (complete), $12.95 each
Vintage: 2002-2004 by Tokuma Shoten Publishing in Japan, 2006-2007 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi (16+), romance, sports (archery)

High school junior Katsura Kobayakawa joined the archery club in middle school to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Yamato Kobayakawa, who is now the captain of the high school archery team. Yamato is best friends with Sou Shibata, the assistant captain of the team, who has been friends with Yamato and Katsura since they were children. For years now, rumors have flown about Katsura and Sou, and their secret “squeeze.” When Katsura gets anxious, he runs to Sou, who gives him a hug to calm him down. This has been going on since Sou calmed a young, crying Katsura when his father was in an accident. Since then, only Sou’s embrace can settle Katsura’s nerves. Katsura is a decent archer, trained by the top archers at the school, but he’s useless without Sou’s help. One night, Sou blurts out a thoughtless complaint about having to help Katsura, hurting Katsura’s feelings, who has begun to feel that he is preventing Sou from living a regular life. His best friend Kouichi Sakurasawa tries to cheer him up, and offers himself as a replacement for Sou, which sends Sou into a fit of jealousy. Frustrated, Sou declares that he’s not going to “babysit” Katsura anymore, leaving the younger boy wallowing in despair and anxiety. Now unable to concentrate himself, Sou tries to rescue Katsura from his anxiety once again, but something is different about the way his arms feel, and Katsura pushes him away, confused. With both of their archery skills faltering due to their mental instability, Yamato steps in to force them to work things out. At the end of his rope, Sou reveals that the beginning of Katsura’s anxiety was probably his fault, because he took advantage of a young Katsura’s vulnerable state all those years ago, and manipulated Katsura into believing he couldn’t get along without him. With a final suggestion, he convinces Katsura that he’ll be alright on his own, ridding him of most of his anxiety. Realizing that Sou likes him, and that even without his anxiety he still wants Sou by his side, Katsura gathers the courage to confess his own feelings.

Though together in volume 2, it’s still not all sunshine and roses. Katsura slowly gains confidence on his own, struggling to work out his problems by himself. From one extreme to another, he goes from being totally dependent on Sou, to not depending on anyone at all. As he struggles with his relationships and his archery, he begins to learn that it’s OK to ask for help when he needs it. His brother and Sou have appointed Kouichi and himself as the new archery captain and assistant captain, respectively. Kouichi’s carefree attitude doesn’t make him an obvious choice, but the older boys can see great talent in his shooting. Katsura, if he could just control his mind and gain confidence in himself, could easily be on par with his much respected older brother. But it’s not that easy. A new underclassman has joined the team, and he isn’t thrilled to be training under the new regime. Matsunae loves archery and has great respect for Sou and Yamato, but has no confidence in Kouichi or Katsura. Kouichi earns his respect first, by developing an excellent training regimen for their week-long training camp. Katsura has a harder time, as he longs for Sou’s presence, and struggles with the feelings his friend Kouichi also holds for him. Sou makes a surprise visit, worried about Katsura, and realizes that Kouichi is showing his feelings for Katsura by getting serious with his archery. After a pep talk from Sou, Katsura realizes that he can fight through his own feelings with his archery, and gets serious to prove to himself that he can stand strong on his own, and to prove to Matsunae that he deserves his spot as assistant captain.

Sou and Katsura’s relationship begins to heat up in volume 3, but that still leaves Kouichi, who is having a hard time handling dealing with his friend’s love life. Things get more rocky when a man (and a top class archer) named Akira Takatoh shows up, and is quickly taken with Katsura. He’s also not shy about his feelings, which sends both Sou and Kouichi into a fury. Kouichi starts to lose it, and confronts Sou, who nearly gets violent. As things get set to explode, Katsura takes things into his own hands, ready to face the problem head on to protect the people he cares about. As Katsura begins to realize the paths those he cares about have taken through their archery, he tries to work out his own path, building on his own feelings. He can’t find the answer he’s looking for, a way to keep those precious to him close by, but he finally takes a real stand, and ascertains himself in front of Akira.

This totally sweet and cute manga is a delight to read. It’s not often in yaoi that characters really grow and mature over the story, as so many of them are too short for much progression of that nature. But all four of the main boys (well, Yamato doesn’t do much) change over the course of the story. The only real complaint I have in regards to the story’s progression, is how quickly Katsura gets over his anxiety. It’s almost instantaneous. Sou tells him the truth about how he’s manipulated Katsura’s anxiety to make sure the boy will never leave him, Katsura is oddly OK with it because he feels that Sou’s warmth has helped him, Sou tells him he’ll be fine on his own, and snap…anxiety over. He still has some trouble for a little bit, but he no longer has to rely on Sou’s embrace to regain his composure, and instead uses his own feelings for Sou to help build his confidence. It’s a little too simple, though somehow Kannagi handles the transition well. It helps that although Katsura is cured of his paralyzing anxiety, he still struggles with his confidence, so his problems don’t magically vanish with just a few words. Of course, I just said Sou took advantage of Katsura’s vulnerability to embed himself deeply into the boy’s psyche, which isn’t healthy, or a very nice thing to do. It’s written off through the fact that Katsura reciprocates Sou’s feelings, bu it’s a tad disturbing. It’s great that Sou realizes his actions were wrong, and that he confesses to them and frees Katsura, so he at least redeems himself. He’s never portrayed as a bad  person, or even very controlling. In fact, he’s very kind and warm throughout the story. He exhibits the natural possessive and jealous feelings that any boy his age would, but he’s careful not to take things out on Katsura, and never forces him into anything. It’s a bit disappointing that Katsura’s brother Yamato doesn’t do much in the story; he’s probably the most together person (aside from a clear brother complex), and mostly guides the other characters when needed. He’s a good mediator, and always there to offer advice or support. He’s even remarkably OK with his brother and best friend dating each other, only wanting his brother to be happy. Kouichi is delightfully complex with his lackadaisical personality that conflicts with his feelings for Katsura. Jealous of Sou, he tries to get between them, but Katsura is steadfast in his feelings for Sou, and their friendship is important, so he supports Katsura in his own way. There is an excellent balance between them that really shines once they are made the leaders of the archery team. To support Katsura, Kouichi steps up his game and starts taking his archery seriously. Katsura does the same, wanting to be a good assistant captain to Kouichi. Yamato was right to choose them, as their positions forced them both to grow and examine their archery spirit. Archery isn’t just a plot device in Rin!, it’s an important and thoughtful part of the narrative. Many times the boys work through their problems with a bow and arrow. They hone their inner strength to shoot a true arrow, they prove their worth with confident shots. An unsteady mind results in a lack of concentration, so to take their archery seriously, they must face their problems head on.

The writing in Rin! is solid, and the translation only falters once or twice. The art is strong or soft when it needs to be. When drawing Katsura, Honami presents him as an adorable young man when he’s flustered by love, but when he confidently draws his bow he has a mature presence. He looks like a little kid most of the time, but in moments of strength, the art reflects his growth. Similarly, Kouichi looks as lazy and carefree as his personality, but when he gets serious, his appearance reflects the change within him. As for Sou…well, he can “squeeze” me any time. He has such a gentle and mature aura, and a calm and cool personality, but he gets easily embarrassed around Katsura, and pouts like a little kid when he’s sulking, all of which Honami portrays wonderfully. It’s light on sexual content, so this is a good choice for yaoi beginners, and it’s charming story is sure to be a favorite for established fans of the genre.


Review copies provided by Digital Manga.


One Comment

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Digital Manga , Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: New #yaoi #manga review: @digitalmanga's Rin! (complete) https://comicattack.net/2011/01/bbbrin1-3/ […]

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