Featured Columns

December 30, 2009

Bento Bako Lite: Awaken Forest

Title: Awaken Forest
Author: Yuna Aoi
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing, on their Juné imprint
Volumes: It’s a oneshot, but Awaken Forest only refers to the first story.  There are four stories in this volume, but the last two are connected.  $12.95
Vintage: 2006 in Japan, late spring 2009 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi, mature (18+), for sex, violence (one of the characters beats someone with a pipe), some incest

This one is more smut than it is substance, which is disappointing to me, since I prefer more story.  Part of the balance (or lack of, I guess) is due to the fact that there are four stories in about 177 pages, so things have to move fast if they’re going to get anywhere.  The stories suffer as a result, which is unfortunate.  I disliked the first one for the most part, though the others were alright.

The book starts with “Awaken Forest,” a story about an award winning author and his brother, who have a mysterious relationship.  Yoshimori is sent to author Orito Suga’s house to pick up the manuscript for Suga’s new book, which Yoshimori’s company is publishing.  He gets way more than he bargained for, when he finds himself caught up in some sort of argument between Suga and his brother Masato.  Masato has clear feelings for Yoshimori, which Suga plans to take advantage of for some secret scheme.  Unfortunately Yoshimori is an overly innocent, very shy, and pretty useless kind of guy; basically, he’s totally uninteresting for a main character.  The brothers are interesting but…there’s a brief brush with incest there, which I’m not a fan of.  It’s kind of twisted; Suga is manipulating Masato through guilt over a past event, which is interesting.  More of that, please.

After two chapters of “Awaken Forest,” we move on to the second story, called “Loose Bonds.”  Ren and Aki have been friends for a long time, ever since Ren helped Aki with some bullies when they were children.  Ren has been watching over him since in his way, harboring deeper feelings, which he finally reveals to a confused Aki.  Shortly after, Aki’s fiancee suddenly breaks up with him.  When Aki tracks down her new man and lashes out at him, he calls Ren to bail him out of trouble.  Aki blindly trusts his oldest friend, but perhaps Ren isn’t looking out for his friend’s best interests.  This brief story is much better, if just as twisted.  Ren loves Aki, but he isn’t exactly the caring friend he appears to be.



The chapter pages for "Loose Bonds" and "Be With Me 'Til Morning," from Awaken Forest.


The last two stories, “Be With Me ‘Til Morning” and “Be With Me ‘Til Night,” are about the same characters.  Yuuri serves in Robert’s house as a servant.  He isn’t technically a servant; Robert’s father took Yuuri in after Yuuri’s parents died, and Yuuri works at the house to repay the kindness.  One night Yuuri is searching for a missing Robert, and finds the young master goofing off at a brothel.  Soaked with rain, Yuuri gets down on his knees and begs Robert to return home.  Robert is struck by his beauty, and agrees to go home…if Yuuri will perform the service that the girls of the brothel would have done.  These two stories are much lighter than the previous ones, humorous and cute.  Both young men struggle with their feelings for each other, but remain oblivious to each other at the same time.  It’s cute, though given the resolution of the first story, the second story goes a bit backwards….

I certainly don’t mind a little smut, but I like more balance.  I want more, or an equal amount, of actual story to go along with it.  These stories move way too fast due to their condensed nature, and there’s just not enough substance.  The stories have a clear beginning and a clear ending, but other than “Awaken Forest” (which is fairly self contained, despite how fast it moves), there is more story that can be told.  Oneshots are nice most of the time, because you get a self-contained story, and you only have to invest in a single volume (which is easier on the pocketbook as well as your shelf space).  But when you try to cram several different stories into so few pages, the quality of the story telling suffers as a result.  There’s some interesting stuff to be had here (I rather like those sorts of dark and twisted character relationships), it’s just unbalanced and rushed.


Review copy provided by Digital Manga Publishing.



  1. billy

    More man love? I’m gonna have a talk with your hubby Kris! lol

  2. InfiniteSpeech

    nothing like a story with little substance even the short ones and nothing worse than a main character that you can do without…good review

  3. Ah, I’m just reviewing what they sent me! They sent me a bunch of BL titles, so that’s what I’m writing about. There will be some other stuff later on. Vampire Hunter D is coming out, as well as some other horror and super natural titles.
    And to be honest, a lot of this stuff I don’t even recognize as “oh, it’s two guys mackin’ it.” To me it’s just “two people in a relationship.”

  4. Billy

    @Kris-OK, I was starting to wonder. I thought these were from your persoanl library. lol

  5. Kristin

    Ah, no, I don’t buy a lot of yaoi or BL titles myself. Most of my money is sunk into shojo titles like Skip Beat, or dramas like Saikano. I don’t mind yaoi (when it’s good), but I like shojo a lot more.

  6. “The brothers are interesting but…there’s a brief brush with incest there, which I’m not a fan of. It’s kind of twisted; Suga is manipulating Masato through guilt over a past event, which is interesting. More of that, please.”

    Good call.

  7. Kristin

    I really do like those sort of characters. They’re bastards, true, but they make for interesting antagonists. Fruits Basket has a good character that twists and manipulates everyone around him, and it’s exceptionally effective at destroying everyone in the family.
    So more of that, less of the useless “hero.”

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