Restart – Harada
A one shot about two fuck buddies and their complicated relationship.
Restart is a one-shot by Harada whose style I’m getting more familiar with. Like One Room Angel, this features MCs who are typically outside society.
Miki and his unnamed lover started off as a “make-believe relationship” or as Miki puts it “fashion relationship“. Then he dashes off to Thailand with the intent to become a woman because he wanted to bear children. He gets hit by a tuk-tuk and returns home with a faulty memory.
His lover started thinking deeply about their relationship when Miki got excited about Japan’s new same-sex partnership law. It was sweet how Miki’s lover takes care of him. He tries to maintain the carefree nature of their relationship and I love that he lets Miki be himself.
This is a deeply nuanced psychological story about homosexual relationships and being different. The art almost has an unfinished look to it. The characters are dressed with edgy fashion, tattoos and piercings, reflecting their status as outsiders. The two are seen holding hands in public and we see the reactions from other people.
The mangaka’s stories usually has shades of angst, sadness and bittersweet endings. This one is no different but has a lighter, more hopeful feel to it because the two lovers were happy and still together (and alive) till the end.
Fukou-kun wa Kiss Suru Shika Nai! – Gamoko Tsuyu
College student Fukuhara Kouta has bad luck that causes problems everywhere he goes. One day, Shinomiya, a student with super good luck, helps him out. Now, in order to divide the luck between them, they need to be with each other all the time.
Fukou-kun Can Do Nothing But Kiss is a humorous story about a spectacularly unlucky guy trying to neutralize his bad luck by going out with his school mate known for perpetual good luck.
Fukou puts up a friendly, all-around nice guy face to hide the fact that he always suffers some misfortune everyday. Later, the claws come out. He is actually a potty mouthed, hot-tempered dude with a mean right hook. Strangely enough, he was more likable like that.
Shinomiya is the genuine all-around nice guy who loves making people happy. He frequently shares winning lottery tickets to friends but some unscrupulous people secretly used him and resell the tickets.
The two started going out. At first Fukou was just using Shinomiya but he soon noticed how Shinomiya always do things to make him happy. Feelings, confusing, conflicting feelings ensued.
I had high hopes for this. The manga had a great premise but weak execution. The humor was vaguely amusing but not the laugh out loud variety. The romance also needed a little oomph. The connection of the two MCs is there but missing a lowkey fluffy scene or two to show the depth of feelings. The artwork is a bit generic but it looked good overall, especially the characters.
Ginza Neon Paradise – Unohana
In 1940’s Japan during the war, long-time friends Aoi and Takahiko part ways as Takahiko is enlisted. For years, Aoi stayed in their hometown with the looming worry that his friend might not come back. He never received word from his friend and so he feared the worst. Now, Takahiko shows up all of a sudden and Aoi is not sure to what to make of this. Anger, relief, paid, all of these emotions overwhelm Aoi as he was certain his friend was gone because he never received a letter or any indication he was alive. Can the two reunite as friends or are they long past the point of friendship?
Ginza Neon Paradise is a historical, childhood friends to lovers drama set in post-war Japan with flashbacks to the war time period.
Aoi and Takahiko couldn’t be more different from each other. One was a serious bookworm who later became an interpreter for the American army, the other was a carefree womanizer who was disinherited by his grandfather.
The two were separated when Takahiko was drafted. After 3 years of radio silence, the solder finally showed his face and was now an actor.
I called Takahiko carefree but he’s really a callous good-for-nothing who trampled all over his friend. He lives with Aoi and frequently comes home smelling of booze and women’s perfume. He put Aoi through a wringer. The man was one of my least liked seme.
I preferred the kind-hearted American Lieutenant Walter, Aoi’s boss, to the deadbeat Takahiko but alas, Aoi’s heart was forever loyal to his friend. Takahiko did redeem himself at the end. But barely. There was even a ridiculous fight because he was jealous about Lt. Walter’s attention towards Aoi. Tsk! What an ass.
Unlikable love interests aside, this manga did a great job rendering a slow-burn, angsty, passionate love story amidst the backdrop of post-war Ginza. There were some liberties taken to eliminate homophobia but it retained most of the historical elements such as the bomb wreckage, poverty, shy interactions with the Americans, the glittering clubs, etc. My favorite part here was them walking around the city in the middle of the night just feeling the vibe. I always wanted to do that
All in all, this a sepia-tinted homage to a district that never lost its luster.
One Room Angel – Harada
When one door shuts, another opens.
There are a lot of things that Kouki doesn’t have – no hobbies, no friends, no lover, no stable job, and no will to live. So when a random tussle with some kids gets him stabbed, he thinks maybe this is finally his ticket out of this crappy life. But just as he’s about to pass out he sees a beautiful “angel”… How is Kouki supposed to cope when less than a month later, he’s mysteriously healed, has astronomical bills to pay, and suddenly has the same beautiful angel as his amnesiac roommate?
This is the kind of manga where you know it would end bittersweetly once the realizations set in to twist the story. I never saw them coming.
One Room Angel is the story of down-on-his-luck, perpetually penniless, part-timer Kouki who lives in a one room studio apartment. He has a scary face, fabulously messy hair (love his hair!) and a prison record that made it hard for him to land a decent job.
One day, Kouki was stabbed and as he lay dying, he saw an angel descending from the sky. Later on, he saw the same angel appear in his room. Thinking this is the luckiest he could ever get, he took the angel in and tried his best to make him comfortable.
The angel turned out to be blunt and bratty but I love that he never failed to point out that Kouki is a good person. Especially during moments when the man was being too hard on himself. Despite his intimidating appearance, Kouki struggled with his self-esteem. He is also dealing with guilt about his past and how his brother was badly injured and ended up as a yakuza because of him.
Another unconventional character here was Arisa, Kouki’s mother. She is impossibly youthful and very beautiful but has the personality of a delinquent. She runs a bar. She’s tough but she cares. She sometimes sends Kouki money when he’s down to his last penny.
This is one of the purest, gentlest, slow-burn love story out there. I don’t even think of it as romance. It is really about two disparate individuals who shared small kindnesses, developed a strong connection and saw the good other people overlooked. It also a deeply nuanced story about one man’s eye-opening journey to find things worth living for.
Yes, this might end in tears but luckily, we are gifted with chapter 8.
Bitter Like Light – Nago Nayuta
A Like a Sugar Spinoff featuring Morisaki and Taguchi.
Cheerful, soft-hearted Morisaki and cool, silent Taguchi have been friends and lovers since their high school years. While their relationship has not been without its challenges, they’ve managed to get past them and live happily together…
But they’re not actually “living together,” unlike their friends Yoshimura and Shima, who shacked up halfway through their college life. Will their friends’ decision inspire Morisaki and Taguchi to start thinking about their future?
The volume comes with an extra story of Morisaki and Taguchi getting it on in the hot springs!
Bitter Like Light is the spinoff of Like A Sugar which I have yet to read. It opens with an atypical third party POV where a young uni student frequently hears his next door neighbor having sex with his girlfriend. He secretly admires and cheers his neighbor on only to later discover, the girlfriend was a boyfriend.
Then the POV shifts to both MCs , two high school friends turned lovers. They had opposite personalities. Taguchi was impossibly cool and unflappable while Morisaki was the more excitable and blushy one.
The story depicts their relationship’s progress through day to day as they interact with friends, plot their future careers and internally agonize over living arrangements when they see their other couple friends from Like A Sugar moving in together.
Went gaga over Taguchi who looked like Kuroo from Haikyuu!!! His cool as a cucumber persona was virtually impossible to break leading his boyfriend to scheme how to break his composure. The great thing here is that while he is indeed super chill, he’s not a frosty asshole. He’s a really nice guy and you can clearly see he adores Morisaki. Because Morisaki IS adorbs!
The neighbor appeared a few more times in the story. He became friends with the couple and even offered support. I hope he gets his own gay-for-you moment.
I love the art, especially the character designs. It matches the character personalities. Overall, the manga was executed really well both visually and story-wise.
Kimi ni wa Fureru to Naru Toko ga Atte – Hayane Dento
Touji is an average high school student who is terrible at dealing with people and struggles with physical contact. On one rainy day, all of Touji’s struggles come to a head when he encounters Itsuki Yato, a fellow classmate who touches him casually even when they first meet. Even though Touji isn’t great at socializing, Itsuki goes out of his way to talk to him and spend time with him. Gradually, Touji starts to want to learn more about Itsuki…
Every Time We Touch, I Hear That Sound is a slow-burn, friends to lovers manga with a gentle, peaceful vibe of lazy summer afternoons.
Introverted, socially awkward Touji meets extroverted, touchy-feely Itsuki on a crowded train when Itsuki’s earbuds tangled with Touji’s button. The two struck up a friendship. Or more like, Itsuki decided to adopt the shy high schooler.
Itsuki’s sunny personality and talkative nature drew Touji to him. I love how he saw beyond Touji’s fumbling attempts to converse to the true personality hidden underneath. He helped give him the courage to come out of his shell.
The two lived near a mountain. Touji is most comfortable when exploring. His character shone the brightest when he is at home on the slopes.
I love how these two boys were connected by the local festival. This is where things came full circle and where Touji showed his mettle and Itsuki found his god.
Machigitsune to Hito no Ko – Nmura
1920, the 9th year of the Taisho era.
Kiyo Fukasaku, a student freshly admitted into the Imperial University, lost his way while heading to his rental dormitory and met a man named Ozaki.
Ozaki, who lived in a huge mansion, learned of Kiyo’s financial troubles, and invited him to live in his mansion. However, Ozaki had many secrets—he was a fox spirit in human form, and he had invited Kiyo to live with him as a way to repay his debt to Kiyo’s grandfather, Seishirou.
The two continue living together, surrounded by secrets.
The Waiting Fox and the Human Child is a slow-burn, age-gap love story between a fox spirit and a university student. It had the makings of something great but was failed to deliver a convincing connection between Ozaki and Kiyo.
Ozaki was too distant. The usual subtle romantic development frequently present in BL manga was there. This is something I truly enjoy about the genre but here, it wasn’t enough to convey what strong feelings were there.
I wasn’t that interested in Kiyo either. I was more keen on the grandfather and Ozaki’s shared history. The grandfather had more personality. Too bad, he died young.
Tonari Ni – Basso
The first time he saw him, Tohru was on his way home from his hobby of taking photos. He’s queued for the Shinkansen’s unreserved seating, just right next to him…
Seven years after her previous work, “Naka-san no Nagare,” the latest BL from basso is finally here!
I am of the opinion that when it comes to slice-of-life, nothing beats Japanese authors at the game.
Next To You is a perfect example of this. It is a story of a young man crushing hard on a much older man he saw at the train station. Tohru is a photography hobbyist who loves taking pictures of race horses. He chanced upon Makoto at the train station who made an strong impression on him. He couldn’t get the older man out of his mind. He saw him several times until one day, Makoto struck up a conversation. He turned out to be a nice, amiable fellow.
Many of the scenes here were pretty mundane, just standing around waiting for the train, sitting inside the train, sharing a couple of beers, brushing teeth and so on. But somehow, it encapsulated a whole gamut of emotions simmering beneath such trivial ongoings.
The mangaka was able to perfectly capture that exhilarating thrill of seeing your crush once again when you least expected it, the fervent longings of a young man who realized he was in love, the heartbreaking helplessness of seeing the one you love getting hurt and not being able to do something to help him. All of which was done without breaking the soft, subtle atmosphere that was reflected in the gentle idiosyncratic art.
There’s something really pure about this manga. Truly beautiful!
Just When I Thought I Came Here to Die – Matsukura Yuuko
When our protagonist came to an abandoned house to commit suicide, the house owner may have something to say about that.
OMG!!! This is a riot!
So a young man was just fired from work and was dumped by his girlfriend on the same day. He tried to kill himself but was stopped by a sudden appearance of a mysterious masked man. Said masked man then proceeded to feed and house said young man. Stockholm Syndrome a.k.a. feels ensued…
So imagine Jason Voorhees was gay and fell in love with a guy who was about to kill himself. The manga breezed through suicide, murder, Stockholm Syndrome, psychological trauma, blood and other heavy topics in such a ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek way.
You couldn’t help but root for our dysfunctional couple as they navigate through unmasking (yeah, the guy’s face was nasty but our boy quickly got over it), the dark past and the taking it to the next level moment, where our boy tried to get his monster boyfriend in the mood with some kinky nurse cosplay to hilarious results.
This silly little one-shot is comedy gold!
Kitsune no Natsu – Nacolat
Norihiro returns to his hometown during summer vacation with a lingering feeling that something is calling to him. On the way back home, Norihiro encounters a mysterious fox man in a wedding dress waiting for him. Who is this fox and why does he want to “consummate” their marriage!?
The Summer of the Fox is a cute paranormal tale between a young man, Norihiro and his childhood friend, the fox spirit, Tsunetsuki.
Tsune patiently waited years for Norihiro to come back to him and fulfill his promise. This one-shot is filled with melancholy, longing and yearning but also nostalgic joy as the Norihiro remembers playing with the fox during summers past.
It is an explicit manga. We get the graphic details of them consummating their marriage.
I like the artwork. Tsune is pretty. Even with only one chapter, the manga was able to tell a complete story. But it also left me wishing this is a full length volume.