High Pressure – Totsuki Eko
You used to be my teammate. And together, we formed the strongest duo. Now, you’re my rival, and also my lover. Under your adoring gaze…I cower.
A seesaw game that hovers between the threshold of Lover and Rival.
High Pressure is a one-shot of two basketball rivals AND lovers, Ogata and Hasegawa.
Hasegawa has an injured knee and cannot play right now. So he watches from the sidelines and admires Ogata playing for a rival team. He worries about how his lover thinks about him. There is a possibility of a permanent injury. Ogata has said before he like Hasegawa as a basketball player the most.
The two have most likely been friends for a long time. They are an established couple very much in love, but you could also see the easy camaraderie born from a childhood connection.
They mutually admire each other as athletes. Their life revolved around basketball. Ogata’s words seemed callous in a way. I loved how it later paved way for Hasegawa’s change of perspective, taking what seemed a negative into a motivation.
The way this unfolded was the best part. It was super poignant. It’s why one-shots could be devastating or devastatingly good in their shortness.
Mitsumei – Katou Erena & Totsuki Eko
Ivan, Lieutenant and spy in the service of the Russian army, must investigate the right arm of a mafia boss. But his target is a very close friend he made in the military academy and who he hasn’t seen in ten years, Edward. Ivan can’t help but wonder, how could such a compassionate man with a passion for art, become a part of the mafia? When they meet again, Edward seems to be as nice to Ivan as in the past and Ivan, facing a dilemma in his mission, is invited back to his home. But, the next day Edward’s attitude completely changes and Ivan realizes that he’s been kidnapped!
Dive into the frigid depth of Russia, in the heart of St. Petersburg, and discover the exciting story of two men who oppose each other! Will friendship and love be enough to overthrow fate and bring two ruthless enemies together again?
Secret Life is a friends-to-enemies-to-lovers story of military school buddies Ivan Asimov and Edward Zelenin. The two drifted apart then were reunited after ten years. Ivan is now a lieutenant and a spy for the Russian Army, Ed the second in command for the Russian mafia. Ivan was tasked to infiltrate the mafia through Ed to get information about a virus capsule.
The first couple chapters set the stage and give us the backstory of the two childhood friends. Ivan is a rarity among manga characters. He is half-Georgian. His mother is a ballerina. His distinct Georgian appearance makes him stand out in Russia but makes him blend in with other parts of the world. He is considered a good spy who does not let his feelings get in the way of the mission. He is also known for his honesty and incorruptibility. These were sorely tested in this mission.
Ed is the son of a politician who joined the mafia after his father died. He has always been a stalwart friend, always offering comfort to Ivan. As a top-ranking mafioso, he is cold, ruthless, and cunning. He had no qualms using his and Ivan’s shared past to trap the spy and keep him chained in isolation for days. This while hopelessly in love with said friend since forever. The friend was clueless.
We get mostly Ivan’s POV. Through him, we see Ed, as a kind friend in the past and a hot/cold frenemy in the present. I prefer the dual POV but the manga was able to effectively convey Ed’s intense feelings for his friend even when he’s being mean. After the mission was complete, he was sweet and adorably possessive.
This is a story of forbidden love set in the middle of political intrigues. The plot has all the twists and turns I always loved in spy novels. The middle chapter rushed to conclude the mission while the last chapters are more on the lovey-dovey side. I enjoyed the romance, but the mission deserved a few more chapters to cover some plot holes. I also found Ivan too weepy for a spy who doesn’t let his feelings get in the way of the mission.
There’s a lot of liberties taken and handwaving done to give the couple their happy ending. However, there is enough conflict present that kept the things from being too much like a fairy tale. I really enjoyed this! I hope there is a sequel.
Look at that cover! The artwork is pretty! I loved the character designs. Ivan looks especially good in his military uniform.