Ttile: Kabuki: Moon
Author: Yukari Hashida
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Volume: Volume 3 (ongoing), $12.95
Vintage: 2005 by Kaiosha Publishing, February 2011 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi (18+), historical drama, romance
Kabuki tells the tale of master and servant reunited in a modern age, their souls reincarnated into new bodies. Though still master and servant even in a new era, their roles are slightly reversed as their ages have been flipped. Nobleman Kounosuke and his page Kageya, deeply in love in the 16th century, and still in love today, even after death and hundreds of years separated them. The previous two volumes saw the men reunited in the present time, with Kageya working hard to restore a now nearly destitute Kounosuke’s lost lands and fortune. There were glimpses of their past life together, but hardly enough to satisfy a period drama/romance fan like myself. This volume chronicles the first meeting of the lazy and spoiled Kounosuke and the stern and sarcastic page Kageya. Miyoshino, newly married to Kounosuke but who has no interest in men, insists that her new husband should have some companionship and gives him a new male page, Kageya. At first, Kounosuke loathes the boy and is angered that those around him are trying to give him a bedroom companion. He feels there is no one he can trust or rely on in the entire castle. Things start to change when Kageya rescues Kounosuke from being molested by another man. And again, Kageya helps him save face by rescuing from the advances of the high ranking Reimyou. Kounosuke, who believes himself to be weak and unable to protect his lands or his people, draws strength from Kageya’s words and apparent loyalty. Until he overhears the young page confess to Miyoshino that he is only interested in riches and honor, and angrily sends Kageya out of the castle with a heavy purse to satisfy him. Without Kageya to protect him, Kounosuke finds himself in a heap of trouble when he is kidnapped by a Portuguese priest. As he drifts out to sea, he wonders if anyone will save him. In the second part of the volume, a man claiming to be Kounosuke’s illegitimate brother arrives at the castle. With his own page, Kujou, Hisanosuke convinces Kounosuke’s advisers that their lord is unfit to rule, and when assassination attempts start occurring, they readily send Kounosuke out of the castle for his “safety.” Hoping it will make Kounosuke stronger, Kageya stays behind, and Kujou is sent with him instead. It soon becomes apparent that something is not right, most obviously when Kujou starts attempting to kill Kounosuke while they are away. Kounosuke will have to step up and take control of his own kingdom if he is to save his life and remain the lord of his castle.
At last, I get what I really wanted. More Kounosuke and Kageya in their past life. In fact, the entire volume is about their past selves, which absolutely delights me, as the lack of more story from that period was one of my main complaints about the first two volumes. This is what I wanted to read, and Hashida supplies an ample amount to please me. And she is much better writing the characters in these scenarios than when they are in the present era. Her art is also better suited here. This is definitely the volume I was waiting for, and I hope this trip back in time doesn’t end here. My opinion of the series as a whole hasn’t really changed, though. I still find it poorly executed and sloppily drawn. However, Hashida has presented a much better read in this volume, showing a better handle on period stories than modern tales. And the dynamic between the older Kounosuke and a younger Kageya flows better than the other way around. I’d happily read a series about these characters in this setting.
This collection of short stories is eclectic and rather strange, but surprisingly charming. The characters have some unique fetishes that are quite amusing. The title pair (in a story called “Lovely Beast”) are Izumi, a delivery truck driver, and Hiroki, his landlords’ grandson. Hiroki has long been in love with Izumi, and lately has started taking advantage of his position as landlord by sneaking into Izumi’s apartment while he’s at work. At first, it’s just a tiny pair of chopsticks that Hiroki steals, longing for an indirect kiss, but when he returns those, he steals a pair of Izumi’s underwear. Realizing how perverted he has become, Hiroki sneaks in to return the underwear, but Izumi comes home suddenly and catches Hiroki is a compromising position. It’s strange, but sweet in its way, especially watching how flustered Izumi becomes, confused over his own feelings. “Stamp Please” is a cute story about a young man named Ayato who falls in love with his postal deliveryman (Kikkawa), and starts sending himself mail in order to see him again. Unfortunately, there’s an ex-boyfriend who is none to happy to have been shunned and replaced, and who threatens to screw up the delicate relationship that Ayato has been building up with Kikkawa. Ayato has a problem growing bored and jumping from one relationship to another, but he is at least redeemed by his total, singular devotion to the person he has chosen to be with. “Won’t You Be My Wife” is my favorite of the bunch. Oku has just been laid off at work, but a co-worker fixes him up with a job to be a housekeeper for his nephew, Yuzuru. Yuzuru is a college student who tends to shut himself away at home, working as a designer (I’m not sure what kind, though possibly a graphic designer) from home. One day, Oku catches Yuzuru in the act of “payment” to another young man who brings him lots of work. Both men are flustered, but Oku is taken aback when Yuzuru has sex with him to make sure Oku keeps his mouth shut about the situation. Yuzuru, a lonely boy who had grown accustomed to having Oku around, falls into a deep depression, wondering if Oku will ever show his face again. It’s a story of two lonely people becoming each other’s family. “Miracle Voice” follows the lackadaisical Rihito, who finds himself falling for the train station attendant (I’m not really sure what his official position is…he watches the tracks at the station, and does announcements on the trains) Ten-chan. Rihito begins to ride the train more often, hoping to see Ten-chan and hear his voice, which he has fallen in love with, and frequently stays on board until the last stop. One night he falls asleep on the train, and Ten-chan wakes him up at the final stop. Rather than grab a taxi home, Rihito asks to stay the night when Ten-chan in the night office. In the cramped living area, feelings quickly boil over. This one is pretty adorable, mostly thanks to Ten-chan’s jokingly serious attitude and kindness, in contrast to his rather stern and scary looking face. Despite all the silly little fetishes so far, “A Brilliant Blue” is the strangest story. Student body president Yasunobu is the son of the current head of the Jigen Party. Vice-president Takashi is the son of the current head of the Minmin Party. The political parties are fierce rivals, and their fellow students expect Takashi and Yasunobu to carry the same animosity for each other. And in front of everyone, they do, but in private the two are a ridiculously lovey-dovey couple, hiding their feelings behind the doors of the student council room. Unfortunately, they are frequently interrupted by fellow council member Mitani, who is constantly finding (very weak) excuses to interrupt the pair when they are alone. As rumors fly around the school, pitting the two boys against each other, Yasunobu begins to believe that Mitani is trying to expose his relationship with Takashi, and takes matters into his own hands. The reality, however, is quite different. It’s a very silly story, far less serious than some of the others, and seems meant to be just plain goofy. There are better short story collections out there, with more heart and depth, but for a lighthearted set of tales, it’s not bad.
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Review copies provided by Digital Manga Publishing.