Title: Temperature Rising
Author: Souya Himawari
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Volume: One-shot, $12.95
Vintage: 2003 by Houbunsha Co. in Japan, December 2010 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi (18+), drama, romance
The Hiraga family has fallen on hard times. The five boys have been left alone by irresponsible parents who chose to live freely rather than raise their children. They had little money growing up, but their family kept growing, so the Otonari family, who owned the house the boys lived in, began to help out. The Otonari father put their rent on a tab, and loaned money out to the second son (who was in charge of the family while the eldest was being raised by their grandfather), Mizumo. In two years, Mizumo somehow managed to pay back the loan, and it wasn’t until several years later that Minori Otonari learned how Mizumo had made the money. Mizumo, desperate for money and too young for a job, had turned to having sex for monetary compensation. When Minori learned that his best friend was selling out his body, he decided to pay Mizumo himself, hoping to stop his friend from sleeping around. Minori and Mizumo now have a sexual relationship based entire on compensation. Minori gives nearly all of his money to Mizumo so that Mizumo won’t have to go to anyone else. It’s a little warped, but it’s Minori’s way of protecting his friend. Unfortunately, for Minori it’s starting to become something more, as he realizes that his feelings for Mizumo are starting to grow; though he worries that Mizumo’s feelings don’t exist on the same plane. Mizumo’s older brother, Yukiharu, and Minori’s twin, Makoto, aren’t thrilled when they learn about the arrangment, especially now that Yukiharu (and even Mizumo) has a job and can support the family. They don’t understand why the strange relationship between their brothers persists. Because of Mizumo’s past, the idea that sex should go with love is foreign to him; for him, he gets to feel good and get paid for it. However, when the possibility arises for Minori to get a girlfriend, Mizumo becomes incredibly anxious, and it’s clearly not just because he fears losing the extra income. As Mizumo becomes more forward, and even offers to have sex with Minori for free, Minori (who fears ruining their friendship if he confesses his true feelings) decides to test his friend by telling him that he’s agreed to go out with a female classmate. Shocked by Mizumo’s seemingly unaffected attitude at this announcement, Minori immediately ceases their compensated relationship, leaving the other boys thoroughly confused, and asks the aforementioned girl out. However, Minori begins to find it hard adjusting back to a life without Mizumo.
This one is a rather cute story. It starts out a little weird, when you learn the characters are in a sort of prostitution deal. Souya Himawari quickly assures us, however, that Minori is genuinely trying to protect his friend, although it’s also true he’s using Mizumo’s need for money as a way to continue having sex with him. Minori isn’t a bad guy; he’s shocked at what his friend is doing, and worried about the careless attitude Mizumo has developed about selling himself. He realizes he can’t get Mizumo to stop, so he decides to monopolize him instead. Eventually he falls in love, so it does backfire a bit and leads to a host of complicated feelings. For Mizumo’s part, having been living his life this way for several years now, he’s detached himself from any feelings associated with the act of sex, making it purely a business transaction. Yet now that he’s been tied to a single partner for some time (two years, I think), it’s become a routine, and when there’s a danger of this guaranteed relationship being taken away, he starts to freak out, though he doesn’t understand why. Since he’s never had a real relationship before, and has always associated sex with money, he doesn’t understand his (or Minori’s) feelings. When he starts developing genuine feelings, he gets scared and runs straight back to what he’s comfortable with…or was, anyway, as he quickly realizes things just aren’t that simple anymore. Yukiharu and Makoto aren’t much more than decoration, though they do provide some comedic relief, and also some outside perception and narration. The the other Hiraga brothers don’t even show up outside a brief introduction, and are mostly just there as a background thought that drives Mizumo’s desire for money. The Otonari twins have a little sister, though she’s only a buffer between the brothers on a page here or there. Well, you can’t expect much more from a one-shot, though, and for that it’s all worked in well enough.
Title: Seven Days: Monday – Thursday
Author: Venio Tachibana, with art by Rihito Takarai
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Volume: Volume 1 (of 2), $12.95
Vintage: 2007 by Taiyoh Tosho Publishing Co. in Japan, August 2010 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi (16+), romance
The legend of Touji Seryou around the school is that he’ll say yes to the first person who asks him out on a Monday, but always breaks up with them by the end of the week. It’s almost become a game for the girls at school to race to see who will find him first on Monday morning at school, and therefore get to date him for the week. Things never go very far, as Seryou is actually known for avoiding most physical contact, but he also remains completely loyal to the person he’s dating for the week and is considerate of all their daily needs (always the gentleman, he pays for everything, takes them where they want to go, etc.). Yuzuru Shino ponders his mysterious underclassman as he waits outside the school building for a pizza delivery, and watches as Seryou is dropped off in a car driven by a mysterious woman. Since they both belong to the archery club, they vaguely know each other, so they chat amicably for a moment. Yuzuru begins asking Seryou questions about his strange dating style, and on a whim, suggests that the two of them go out. As Seryou stands silently, clearly taken aback, the pizza is delivered, and Yuzuru fails to hear Seryou’s quiet response of agreement. Suddenly, Seryou is paying for the pizza, visiting Yuzuru’s classroom, asking for his phone number, and even suggesting they walk home together. Yuzuru is surprised by Seryou’s aggressive nature, but thinks the younger boy is simply trying to become friends with him. When Yuzuru finally figures out what’s going on, he suggests they go on a date. The no nonsense Yuzuru challenges Seryou’s habit of calmly going along with what others want and expect of him, shocking Seryou with a surprising side of his sempai he’s never seen before. As the week continues, Yuzuru starts wondering just how far things are allowed to go, and asks a classmate of his who had dated Seryou before. From her, he finds out that Seryou never takes his relationships very far, and in fact actively tries not to touch the girls, and always spurns their physical advances. With these expectations in his mind (or rather, lack of them, I guess), he’s completely taken aback when Seryou kisses him. Thinking someone has played a joke on him, Yuzuru brushes off a confused Seryou, who in turn thinks Yuzuru might be the one playing a joke on him. As both boys try to figure out just how serious about the relationship the other is, Seryou gets a phone call from a girl from his past that angers Yuzuru, who believes Seryou’s method of completely cutting off the girls he has dated in the past is cold and unfair, especially if he won’t cut off a girl that he has liked himself. It’s only Thursday, and even just a continued friendship between the two boys is unclear.
This rather sweet story deals a lot with outward image preconceptions. Yuzuru has a calm, cool, and kind image, but in reality he has quite a sharp tongue, which generally disappoints girls who approach him expecting someone else. Seryou is in the same boat, however, as an image has been built around him where everyone expects their week long relationship to follow certain rules, even Yuzuru. As Yuzuru goes about asking permission for various things, and commenting on them like the whole affair is some sort of game, Seryou begins to realize the image people hold of him, and he’s pained that he’s not being taken seriously. In his mind, a week is long enough to know if you will love someone or not, and if not, then there’s no reason to remain with them any longer. Each week, the girls he dates are unable to stir up any feelings within him, but he’s pained when Yuzuru starts treating their relationship as something already shallow and temporary. There’s a beauty he sees in the way Yuzuru draws his bow in archery club, but he’s also fascinated by the straightforward and honest personality that doesn’t match the outward appearance. Here’s a guy who is treating him like a normal person, instead of the usual girls who just want a dream guy for a week. However, because Yuzuru has it in his head that the one week relationship is law, he treats it as such and makes several rather careless comments in reference to it. Seryou is just as human as everyone else, and is hurt when his quest for love is treated like a game, especially when he starts to realize that for once, the person he is dating is actually stirring up feelings within him. There’s a rather interesting secret he’s hiding, however. He’s been in love with his older brother’s girlfriend for some time, and she has been taking advantage of his feelings and cheating with him. It seems his week long set up is partly meant to keep himself away from her, as he refuses to cheat on his own girlfriends, and so refuses to see her while he’s dating someone. He knows it’s not a good situation, but when he’s around her he can’t seem to stop himself (and she doesn’t exactly discourage him), so he attempts to distance himself from her so he can find someone of his own to love, while encouraging her to make up with his brother. It’s kind of a mess, but now that Yuzuru’s in the picture, he’s finding himself able to let her go. Venio Tachibana and Rihito Takarai take what could easily be a very silly and messy story, and make it a very touching and engaging one. This is also Takarai’s first serialization, and she does a fantastic job. The art has a relaxed, calming feel that fits well with the pacing of the story. And it is well paced, especially considering it’s a story that takes place over the course of a week that was serialized in a quarterly magazine, meaning it took over three years to complete. The second volume, Seven Days: Friday-Sunday, comes out in January 2012.
Review copies provided by DMP.