Japanese publisher: Drap Comics/Core Magazine, 2009
Licensed in English? No
Volumes: 1 (complete)
Warnings: domestic abuse, non-graphic violence, a title that always sounds like “Am I joking?” spoken in a Scottish accent in my head, and now it will in yours too (you’re welcome).
Sick and tired of the physical and emotional abuse dealt out by his boyfriend, Taki Hisaya decides to leave his sorry arse for good. Unfortunately, the young man doesn’t have anywhere to go or anyone to help him — until French restaurant owner Sonobe Munekazu literally grabs him off the street. Guaranteed food, lodging and a salary so long as Hisaya agrees to be a waiter at Munekazu’s restaurant, it all seems too good to be true. Soon Hisaya starts to wonder if Munekazu sees him as nothing more than a charity case…or has the older man had more serious intentions all along?
I’ll admit first off that a Cinderella-esque plot where some kind of suave businessman saves the down-on-his-luck protagonist is one of my favourite clichés, so while Amai Jouken is by no means a perfectly-executed manga, I’m willing to overlook some of its faults. Hisaya is a sensitive tough guy who puts on an apathetic front for the world but is scared and bamboozled by the slightest sign of kindness from others. Munekazu is a competent and intense businessman who hides his real feelings behind a whimsical and joking manner; often his interactions with Hisaya are quite edgy because it’s unclear if his sarcastically-delivered sympathy can be taken seriously or not. He is also one of the few BL characters I’ve come across whose hair is canonically blue. Well, why not.
There is nothing particularly original conflict-wise in this manga: romantic misunderstandings abound under a heavy layer of “does he like me, or does he not?” angst. No points for guessing the outcome, of course. But something that troubled me from the beginning was the sheer inexplicable speed of Munekazu’s timely rescue of Hisaya (it happened no later than page 2) — and I don’t blame the latter for wondering if his relationship was predicated on his boss/lover’s whims. It’s not until the manga’s extra that Munekazu’s ‘backstory’ comes out and everything makes a little more sense. I understand most manga-ka are working against deadlines and page restrictions, but I would have preferred the prelude to the manga’s events woven throughout the story rather than dumped in the extra. I suppose that would lessen the romantic suspense, but it would have made for a more elegant execution. Nevertheless, I thought Hisaya’s ‘interviewing techniques’ in the extra chapter rather cute.
The art is good: despite Seiryou Hyuga’s rather stylised faces she is very good at naturally-posed anatomy, though I found the backgrounds a bit soulless and bland (that lovely scene overlooking the city at night excepted). I also appreciated Munekazu’s, er, restraint in not buggering Hisaya every chance he got like most seme in BL manga are wont to do (there is one scene in particular where he unexpectedly holds off and delivers some dashing insight into Hisaya’s character to boot).
Sure, it’s a breezy read that doesn’t have forced sex every ten pages, and also delivers in the Cinderella-y kink department too.