Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly – Kou Yoneda
Harumi falls hard and fast for Ryo when they meet at a bar. But Ryo is straight, or is he? When Ryo finds himself attracted to another man, Harumi realises he has a chance – and he has to take it.
I really enjoyed this manga’s style. The urban city life of late night bar conversations and falling asleep on the train richly evoke the life of young Japanese professionals, and Harumi is a great character, covering his emotional vulnerability with wit and self deprecating humour even when alone.
The dialogue is informal and flows easily, especially between Ryo and Harumi during the love confession. Their push and pull of feelings is really interesting and moving to read as they try and cross the divide of gay and straight. I even laughed out loud during the love scene as Ryo’s approach is hilariously awkward and feels refreshingly human. I would definitely like to read more manga from this author.
Ten Count (Volume 1) – Rihito Takari
Don’t be fooled by the sexy cover art and “Explicit Content” warning, volume one of Ten Count is quite a refined, slow placed affair. The story follows polite and dedicated corporate secretary Shirotani whose life is turned upside down when he meets Kurose, a counsellor who accurately diagnoses him on the spot as a man struggling with germophobia and OCD.
I’m not sure if it was an intentional attempt to avoid controversy on the author’s part, but the manga seems to aim to skirt around the ethical issues of a counsellor and client falling in love as Kurose from the beginning decides to counsel Shirotani outside of a professional setting, not asking for any fees and stating that he wants to be Shirotani’s friend. All the same their relationship remains largely professional, with Kurose outlining a ten-step program for Shirotani to work through.
I found Ten Count to be in some respects almost as rigid as Shirotani’s secretarial suit and gloves. His mental illness felt well portrayed as the story nicely balanced his triumphs and setbacks, complete with the physical symptoms and traumatic flashbacks and his relationship with Kurose is well realised but both Kurose and Shirotani’s emotions and interactions are often subdued which makes it harder to connect with their characters and relationship at times. Nonetheless this a very elegantly drawn and told story and I would consider reading the next volume to see how Shirotani overcomes his condition.
7/10 (but there’s room to grow in later volumes)
Flutter – Momoko Tenzen
Asada is always spellbound by a handsome coworker he sees every morning on his way into work. When the two are paired up on a project, he can’t believe his luck. The manga is quick to blur the lines of their professional relationship when Asada goes drinking with Mizuki and wakes up at his house the next morning, and then ends up going to see a movie with him.
Flutter unfolds as a pretty standard romance, with the obstacle to Asada and Mizuki’s relationship being one of Mizuki’s old flames, a university professor. The art style is also very typical for yaoi with angular faces and large broad bodies, but the expressions are well conveyed and the story flows well with no panel ever feeling flat.
Flutter doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary for a yaoi manga, but it does it well so if you’re looking for a typical boy’s love read, give it a go.
N.B. Another thing I enjoyed about all of these manga is they all steered clear of the seme/uke stereotypes yaoi is known for in which an older/more masculine man pursues and seduces a younger/more feminine man often in a disturbingly non-consensual way (Junjou Romantica, I’m looking at you).