Featured Columns

April 29, 2011

Bento Bako Bonus: Café Latte Rhapsody, Honey Colored Pancakes

We’ll be looking at two adorable yaoi titles today, one from last year, and the other from about a month or two ago. Both of these yaoi titles from Digital Manga are as sugary sweet as their titles imply. Toko Kawai has already won my heart with her In the Walnut series, and while Café Latte Rhapsody doesn’t have as much depth, it’s still an enjoyable read. Honey Colored Pancakes is a collection of short stories, but they’re kind of hit-or-miss.

Title: Café Latte Rhapsody
Author: Toko Kawai
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Volume: One-shot, $12.95
Vintage: 2008 by Libre Publishing in Japan, July 2010 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi (16+), romance, drama, comedy

Hajime works as a clerk in a book store. The 23-year-old doesn’t think much of himself, as he is short, freckle-faced, and tends to fall for good-for-nothing bad boys. One day he spies a very tall, scary looking customer in the store. This is the 19-year-old Keito, practically a giant compared to Hajime, whose height, tendency to glare down at people, and quiet nature cause others to think he’s quite scary, even Hajime at first. After talking with Keito a bit, Hajime begins to realize that Keito’s appearance is deceiving, and that there’s a sweet boy inside that giant body. His assumptions are cinched when he spies Keito rescuing a pair of kittens left in the rain. Hajime agrees to help the kittens, and they become an excuse for Keito to visit him. As their friendship grows, Hajime realizes more and more that Keito is incredibly goodhearted and kind, while the very shy and self-conscious Keito is simply happy to have a friend who isn’t frightened of him. One day, an ex-boyfriend arrives at Hajime’s door, one of his good-for-nothing moochers who wants some money and another chance with Hajime. Keito comes to the rescue, and realizes that he has feelings for Hajime. Because of Keito’s natural shyness, the relationship begins awkwardly, but eventually they’re quite a lovey-dovey couple. It’s not all smooth sailing, as misunderstandings occur, mostly brought about by self-esteem issues. It’s a sugary sweet story with ups and downs, and a happy ending.

Gaaah, Keito is so cute! His height makes him stand out, which is very awkward for this shy young man. Many people are afraid of him and won’t approach him, and Hajime is one of the first people to see him for who he really is. There’s some good development here. It takes about a third of the book before they even start going out, as Hajime holds back his feelings and decides to just be friends with Keito. It’s Keito that makes the (totally adorable) first move. Hajime doesn’t even really pursue him in a romantic fashion; he finds Keito cute and kind, and he definitely likes him, but he never tries to push or manipulate him into a relationship. Both characters have their insecurities, which creates conflict within the story. Keito, who has had little experience with friendship and love, becomes very insecure at the slightest suggestion that Hajime doesn’t want to be with him. There isn’t ever really a moment like that, but Hajime makes some comments about how popular Keito is with the girls, which makes him uncomfortable, because he only has eyes for Hajime and doesn’t want anyone else having eyes for the person he loves, so he gets worried that Hajime doesn’t seem to feel the same. For his part, Hajime can’t understand that anyone would find him attractive in the first place, and he can’t comprehend asking someone to only look at him and no one else. If you like a lighthearted, but still heartwarming story, it’s worth a look.

Title: Honey Colored Pancakes
Author: Keiko Kinoshita
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Volume: One-shot, $12.95
Vintage: 2007 by Core Magazine Co. in Japan, February 2011 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi (16+), drama, romance

The title story is very sweet, but the seme character is a little weak. Chiharu is a pastry chef at a restaurant that has recently been visited every night by a quiet, nameless man, who passes out one night at his table. Unable to wake him, the staff pushes him off onto Chiharu, who takes him home for the night. The man, Tougo, is exceptionally fond of Chiharu’s cooking, especially his pancakes, and begs Chiharu to let him stay at his house temporarily. A relationship starts to form, until Chiharu finds out that Tougo has been lying to him about his identity. In a second story about the same pair, Tougo gets frustrated by Chiharu’s lack of obvious emotion, and becomes jealous when Chiharu shows a friendlier side to an old friend. Chiharu is solidly written, but Tougo has a rather unbelievable childlike quality to him that makes for a good yaoi romance, but just doesn’t feel real. “For Love” is probably my favorite of the bunch. Miyasaka is a long-time friend of Minami. While Miyasaka has a normal office job, Minami has followed his dream and become a manga artist. A little too carefree and unorganized, Minami often calls on Miyasaka for help to meet his deadlines. Miyasaka, impressed with his friend for being able to follow up on his passionate dream, has fallen in love with his friend, but hides his feelings. That is, until a misunderstanding makes Miyasaka think Minami has a new girlfriend, causing Miyasaka to try to remove himself from his friend’s life so Minami can be happy. It’s very sweet, with a genuine warmth, and it manages to convey a lot in just a few short pages. “Tomorrow Will Be Rosy” is another cute story, but it doesn’t have much depth. Ozawa and Kimijima are two high school boys going out with each other, but Ozawa seems to be far more enthusiastic about their relationship than Kimijima, who is very shy about public, and even private, displays of affection. I think it’s the shortest story in here, and as such, very little actually happens. “A Clever Man at Work” has its moments, but in the end, it’s9 the weakest story here in terms of the relationship. Yashiro has been assigned to mentor the boss’s son, the carefree and spoiled Hajimu. Yashiro is continually frustrated by Hajimu’s apparent lack of any sort of useful skills, and the stress causes him to take his first ever paid sick day. He is surprised when Hajimu shows up to take care of him, but grows furious when he realizes Hajimu has been putting on an act and lying to him. It’s a little weird, as Hajimu is purposefully irritating Yashiro to get a rise out of him, which would be fine, if he wasn’t making up sob stories to play to Yashiro’s sympathies. The book rounds off with a bonus chapter to the title story, which just shows some simple extra interaction between Chiharu and Tougo.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_kris

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