Title: This Night’s Everything
Author: Akira Minazuki
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Volume: One-shot, $12.95
Vintage: 2010 by Taiyoh Tosho Publishing Co., June 2011 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi (18+), drama, romance
The politician and former soldier known as Professor Osuga has his own bodyguard group called Shiki. Shiki is made up of elite fighters, mostly former soldiers, who protect the Professor and eliminate those who oppose him or present a danger to him. For ten years, Nanao, who was picked up by the Professor when he was lost at the end of the war (thus giving him renewed purpose when he no longer had any), has been the Professor’s top bodyguard and assassin. Typically a loner, his assigned partners often die before he can become attached to anyone. A new recruit has joined Shiki, and as usual, the Professor assigns him to Nanao. This time, a delicate looking eighteen-year-old named Aoi is assigned to him. Right away, Aoi’s reserved and aloof nature piques Nanao’s interest, and his keen observation skills draw the attention of the Professor and other members of Shiki. One night after another bloody and lonely mission, Nanao attempts to take out his frustrations on Aoi, but quickly realizes that the young man is far more innocent than he had expected. Unlike other members of Shiki, Aoi appears to have had a good upbringing, and Nanao becomes convinced that the fine-edged sword Aoi carries has never spilled blood. Three years later, Nanao and Aoi are still partners. Aoi’s skills and standing within Shiki have slowly been growing, but it becomes clear that although he is highly skilled with his sword, Aoi still has yet to take a life. Shina, Nanao’s (and the others) supervisor, confronts Nanao when he suspects that the man has been purposefully not allowing Aoi to complete their kills. It’s obvious that Nanao is protecting his innocence, but it’s the first time Nanao has ever become so attached to a partner, so Shina is worried. Later, in their room, Nanao tries to put the moves on Aoi again, and nearly confesses his feelings, but they’re interrupted by Tsubaki. As elements of Aoi’s past start being revealed, including a childhood connection to Professor Osuga, Aoi overhears a foreboding conversation between Nanao and Shina that results in an uncharacteristic bout of depression. However, when Tsubaki points out that Aoi appears to be particularly concerned over Nanao, he locks up, worried that the emotions he has tried so hard to let die inside of him might be coming back to life, which would interfere with his personal mission. In his confused state, he lashes out at Nanao, which leaves them in an uncomfortable state on their next mission. In an attempt to cut himself off from Nanao, Aoi insists that they split up during the mission (normally Nanao is by his side). As he tries to focus on his ultimate mission, knowing that he has come to Shiki to use his sword for a specific purpose, he realizes that the fact he has not yet killed anyone is not by simple chance, but because Nanao has always intervened. Just as he comes to this realization, he is attacked from behind, and before Nanao arrives, he takes his first life. Still in shock when they return home, Nanao offers to distract Aoi, and the desperate young man nearly begs for the comfort of Nanao’s embrace. After that brief respite of passion, Aoi tries to gather up the courage to go through with his original plan, and starts buy drawing his sword on Nanao. Aoi breaks down, unable to kill him, and Nanao convinces him to tell the truth behind his reason for joining Shiki. When Nanao realizes that revenge is Aoi’s reason for living and for joining Shiki, he decides to take matters into his own hands to make sure Aoi doesn’t have to dirty his hands again…and to give both he and Aoi a new reason to live.
What does a soldier do when the war is over? For Nanao, a trained fighter, without battle he has no reason for living. When Professor Osuga reaches out to him and gives him a new purpose, it’s understandable that he (and the other members of Shiki) becomes incredibly devoted. However, his devotion isn’t to a person, but rather to a purpose. When a stronger purpose comes along, a new reason for living, he tosses the Professor aside without much hesitation. Aoi’s path is similar. Revenge drives him, but slowly Nanao’s presence begins to overcome that purpose. When Nanao takes away that purpose in one fell stroke (quite literally), Aoi is severely shocked, until he realizes that Nanao has given him a new reason for living. Aoi, who spent years locking away his emotions, it a bit slower to realize Nanao’s presence in his heart, but it’s lovely to watch his heart slowly melt and warm to his new-found emotions. This is really quite a gentle story, and a very pleasant read. There’s real growth in the character’s and the relationship between Aoi and Nanao is genuine. The characters have strong motivations, and the plot is plausible and and easy to follow. The only real complaint I have has to do with the art. Akira Minazuki has some strange shading and depth techniques, resulting in some rather distracting line work on the characters’ faces. Otherwise the art is solid, and quite beautiful and expressive.
Title: An Even More Beautiful Lie
Author: Kei Kanai
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Volume: One-shot, $12.95
Vintage: 2010 by Taiyoh Tosho Publishing Co., July 2011 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi (16+), drama, romance
Driven by his love for a particular artist’s work, Kurosu Keiichiro decides to attend Teio Art University. On the train home one evening, the other lone rider on the train forgets his umbrella. Driven by impulse, Kurosu rushes off the train to return the umbrella, but the doors shut behind him and he’s stuck. The young man turns out to be Yukari Yohito, an art prodigy who is famous at the school, and the artist whose works have captivated Kurosu. Yukari invites Kurosu to his house to stay the night, where Kurosu is surprised by Yukari’s perfectionist passion and social awkwardness…and physical beauty. As he continues to hang out off and on with Yukari, he realizes the young man is fairly incapable of taking care of himself, as he gets totally consumed by his work. Just when Kurosu begins to think there’s no room for him in Yukari’s all consuming world of art, he realizes that Yukari is almost like a child, and needs someone to look out for him or he’ll forget basic elements of survival. When Kurosu suggests Yukari find a girlfriend to take care of him, Yukari bluntly admits that a relationship with him would never work out, as he always puts painting first, and has nothing to give to anyone. Touched by how lonely Yukari is, Kurosu reaches out to him affectionately, and things get a little heated. Slowly, Yukari begins to realize that Kurosu isn’t like most people. Kurosu doesn’t want to use him, is unconcerned with his fame, barely bats an eye when he learns how famous his father is, and accepts him for who he is. One afternoon, struck by Kurosu’s beauty as he studies in Yukari’s studio, the painter is seized by a burst of inspiration and begins sketching Kurosu in a frenzy. While Kurosu is modeling for him, Yukari opens up about his past and his relationship with his parents. After seeing the drawing by Yukari, the other students are impressed, and one girl approaches Kurosu to be a model for her. Kurosu refuses, but the girl persists, and Yukari lashes out angrily in an obvious display of jealousy, then asks Kurosu never to come to his house again. However, back at home, a group of masked thugs are waiting for Yukari, where they tie him up and start gathering his paintings to sell. As they are planning to sexually assault him, Kurosu suddenly arrives and beats the crap out of the thugs. As a bloody Kurosu assures Yukari that everything will be OK, Yukari sits shocked by the experience, and horrified by what appears to be a severely injured Kurosu. As Kurosu spends some time in the hospital, Yukari waits alone in his apartment. However, when Kurosu at last returns, he is pleasantly surprised to find that Yukari has changed under the influence of Kurosu’s friends.
Another very sweet tale of romance. Yukari views the world differently than others; everything is vivid and alive to him, and it reflects in his paintings. Everyone is awed by his talent, but Yukari lives a secluded life, consumed by his art, and rather socially inept besides. When Kurosu enters his life, things begin to change. Previously, he was hounded by those who were only concerned with his talent, who wanted to change him so his popularity would grow. Yukari doesn’t really care what other people think about him, and he paints for himself in a quest to find the truth in his art. He paints straight from the heart, and that’s what gives his works such beauty. Kurosu, although he is in love with Yukari’s paintings, sees through to the person Yukari is, and accepts that person. Yukari notices this, and slowly, though unconsciously, allows Kurosu into his life. Before he knows it, Kurosu has become such a presence in his life that he feels empty without the other man around, so much that he even stops painting when he’s gone. For Kurosu, life is about not living in regret, and he lives much of his life on impulse. He impulsively chose to attend Teio Art school, he impulsively decided to jump off the train to return Yukari’s umbrella, he impulsively chose to make a move on Yukari, and impulsively decided to get off the train anyway when Yukari told him not to return. In a way, Yukari also lives impulsively, as his inspiration often comes to him like a bolt of lightning. But he’s also far more consistent, and it’s Kurosu who shakes up his familiar routines, such as they are. The art here is beautiful and expressive, the line work is sharp, and the inking creates a lot of depth. Watching Kurosu and Yukari grow closer and affect each other’s lives is pleasant, but the quick progression and the story’s one-shot nature may leave you (as it did me) wanting more. It’s satisfying, but there’s room for a bit more, and I enjoyed it enough to desire that.
Review copies provided by DMP.