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February 4, 2011

Bento Bako Bonus: Jazz

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Jazz
Author: Tamotsu Takamure, original story by Sakae Maeda
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Juné)
Volume: Volumes 1-4 (complete)
Vintage: 1999-2006 by Shinshokan in Japan, 2005-2007 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi, romance, drama, doctor/patient

Koichi Narusawa is a respiratory doctor at a small town hospital. He is called in late one night to see an asthma patient named Naoki Segawa. Naoki is suffering a difficult attack when Koichi arrives, and he quickly notices that the boy’s overprotective mother is causing him stress. He makes her leave the room and instantly Naoki’s symptoms fade. Stunned by how the doctor handled his mother and his gentle manor, Naoki asks to be switched to his care. With Koichi’s help, Naoki’s health vastly improves, and his life greatly changes for the better. To thank the doctor for all his help, Naoki takes him to dinner after he graduates high school. Koichi is a bit embarrassed, but goes along, and is met with the surprise of his life. Naoki subtly slips a drug into the doctor’s wine and takes him to a hotel room where he proceeds to have his way with him. Desperate to reveal his feelings before they go their separate ways, Naoki expresses himself by forcing his desire onto the doctor. Some time passes without any contact between the two, until Koichi receives a letter to meet Naoki in Tokyo. Frightened by what such an impetuous person might do if he refuses, and also drawn to the young man’s passionate nature, Koichi shows up, only to be pulled into the depths of Naoki’s twisted love once again. His empty soul warmed by Naoki’s passion, Koichi continues to see the younger man on the weekends under the guise of working overtime on his research. As their relationship continues, there are many ups and downs. Koichi’s doubts plague him incessantly, and Naoki’s selfishness and jealousy continually cause strife between them and pain Koichi physically and emotionally. Koichi gets pinged for a research project in America, and it nearly tears the two apart until Naoki makes a move and chases after him. They live a pleasant, almost fairy tale life in America for a time, but on their return, have to deal with Naoki’s parents who discover their relationship, resulting in a serious crisis for the two. Throw in some jealousy around a medical colleague of Koichi’s and a female classmate of Naoki’s, and suspicions soar as well. Naoki’s out of control passion causes a lot of tension, as does Koichi’s lack of self desire or ambition. Often Koichi doesn’t have the strength to stand up for their relationship, and often feels that Naoki would be better off without him. Naoki is of the mind that he can’t live without his beloved doctor, and has no qualms about impressing this upon his lover, even if that means a little emotional manipulation. Naoki’s going to have to do some growing up, and Koichi’s going to have to discover what he wants for his own life, if their relationship is going to last.

Sometimes I love this one, and sometimes I hate it. I love that the characters are filling the emptiness in each other’s lives, easing their loneliness. But sometimes when I look at Koichi, all I see is a woman talking about how she’s OK with the fact that her boyfriend is abusive, because he doesn’t really mean it, he really loves her, he’s not always like that, etc. This would be a really brutal, nasty manga if it were a male/female pairing instead of two men, and even then it still gets a little uncomfortable sometimes. There’s rape here, some violence when Naoki loses it, and emotional manipulation (like when Naoki threatens to become asthmatic again, or to kill himself, in order to keep Koichi with him). Naoki is really unstable at times, and it seems to come from his background. He’s from a rich family with overprotective parents who babied him and spoiled him, so it’s not surprising that he always expects to get what he wants. In Koichi, he sees a kind, gentle older man who saved him and released him from his emotional oppression, who accepts him for who he is. In reality, Koichi’s kindness is an affectation. He feels empty inside, the reason for his chosen path in life having vanished with the death of his parents. He spent his entire life working on their dream (to be a doctor) to make them happy rather than developing his own desires, and doesn’t understand what it means to desire something on his own, or what it means to love someone else (since he isn’t even able to love himself). Being with Naoki, who is open with his feelings and goes after what he wants, eases Koichi’s loneliness; Naoki is a warm flame that draws him in. If you can get past Naoki’s violent nature, there’s a lot to indulge in here. The title of the series comes from a bottle of cologne that Naoki gives to Koichi called Jazz. It’s used a couple times in the story, serves as a catalyst for Naoki’s rage, and binds the two men together with its scent (Koichi wears it initially to make Naoki happy, which the younger man eventually comes to realize as a sign of Koichi’s hidden feelings; later the two wear a set of scents that mingle together to create something that only exists when they are together), but its presence isn’t as strong as it could be for a title named after it.

For yaoi fans, the art is actually done by Yuna Aoi (her style is pretty distinct so if you’ve ready any of her other titles, there’s immediate recognition). Tamotsu Takamure is another of her pen names. The story was originally a series of light novels by Sakae Maeda, who also wrote Blood Ecstasy (Takamure slipped two characters from that series into Jazz). The art is solid, but if you don’t like the pretty, floaty, weak looking uke-type, which is common for Aoi’s works, you won’t like Koichi’s design or personality. Naoki is of the tall, dark, and handsome variety. You can view a brief sample of volume 1 on eManga.com.


Review copies provided by Digital Manga Publishing.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Digital Manga , Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: New #yaoi #manga review: @digitalmanga's Jazz 1-4 (complete) https://comicattack.net/2011/02/bbbjazz1_4/ […]

  2. […] Ishida on I Am a Hero (Daily Yomiuri) Todd Douglass on vol. 4 of Ichiroh! (Anime Maki) Kristin on Jazz (Comic Attack) Sean Gaffney on vol. 7 of Kimi ni Todoke (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Julie […]

  3. Marfisa

    You sort of glossed over the fact that in the first volume the sixteen- or seventeen-year-old Naoki blackmails Narusawa into becoming his lover after the initial rape by threatening to tell his parents and the hospital that Narusawa sexually molested *him* if he doesn’t cooperate. Even if this didn’t land the doctor in prison, it would definitely have cost him his job, if not his entire medical career.

    Although Narusawa eventually does develop a certain amount of Stockholm Syndrome-type feeling for his unscrupulously lovesick patient, he secretly applies for the fellowship in the U.S. specifically because he feels trapped by the nonconsensual arrangement Naoki has forced him into, and this is the only way he can think of to escape. When he gets the fellowship, the doctor sneaks out of the country without giving Naoki any warning, leaving all the money the rich teenager had given him to compensate for not working on weekends behind in an envelope in the apartment Naoki rented for use as their love nest. Naoki gets the point, remarking that he feels as though he’s had an engagement ring returned to him (or words to that effect). It’s only after the now-chastened Naoki follows Narusawa to the U.S. and manages to win him back by persuasion, not coercion, that I felt their real relationship began.

    Back when this series first came out in English somewhere in the middle of the first wave of translated BL (it was one of the first yaoi titles DMP published after TokyoPop blazed the way with “FAKE” and “Gravitation”), I was so appalled by the nonconsensual way Naoki and Narusawa’s relationship began that I didn’t even buy the last two volumes, although I did read them in the store to find out how the story ended. Of course, compared to some of the many other BL series I’ve read since, such as “The Guilty” (I think that’s the title), that DMP series of light novels about the naive young book editor whom a famous author blackmails into becoming his sexual plaything in exchange for meeting his novel deadlines (not to mention various scanlated manga series such as “No Money” and, especially, “A Toy in Sadness,” in which the hapless uke is completely at the financial mercy of a bastard-seme rich guy who turns him into his sex slave), “Jazz,” for all its initial non-con/dubious consent issues, seems like a disturbing but ultimately relatively non-exploitative work of art–or at least relatively artistic porn with some redeeming social value. In contrast to many of those other series, “Jazz” portrays the characters gradually developing enough psychologically to confront and deal with the coercive nature of their initial relationship, eventually managing to atone/forgive and move past this in a reasonably convincing way. In the context of my current knowledge of just how prevalent and extreme the non-con/dub-con trope can be in BL, “Jazz” seems much more artistically legitimate and worthwhile in retrospect.

  4. Kristin

    Does he threaten to tell everyone? I don’t remember that part…. Also, he’s 17 or 18. He’s graduated HS when they get physical and is going to college shortly after.

    OK, I flipped through the first volume, and the only “blackmailing” he does is threatening to get asthmatic again in order to keep the doctor around. Which I mention specifically in the review. There’s a line in there where he says something like, “I’ll black mail him, whatever it takes to keep him.” But that’s an inner monologue, and he never goes through with anything like that.

    I meant to use the term “Stockholm Syndrome” to describe their relationship, but it seems I forgot to put it in.

    Anyway, as I said in my review, there’s something to enjoy here, though no doubt the forceful and often violent sexual relationship will be uncomfortable. If you can look past that, it’s a nice story of two people growing into new people through their relationship.

  5. […] This sort of rape-inspired relationship seems common in Aoi’s works, as it also kicks off her Jazz series (the similar character designs for this story made me connect the two works even more). […]

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