Japanese publisher: Libre Shuppan, 2007
Licensed in English? No.
Volumes: 1 (complete)
Warnings: dubious consent, cross dressing, and sex in a toilet cubicle. (Not all at once).
Yoshiaki has a charmed life; he’s talented, making good money, and is beloved by his co-workers. His life is perfect but for one thing — that is to say, one person. Kasumi is a flaky freeloader who treats Yoshiaki like his maid and Yoshiaki’s apartment like a hotel. But no matter how ridiculous and selfish Kasumi’s demands, Yoshiaki always gives in to his sort-of-lover.
I’m generally a fan of Ike Reibun’s work, particularly when it’s focused on a relationship not mired in weirdness and kink. That isn’t to say Yoshiaki and Kasumi are normal, or that their relationship isn’t anything other than (comedically) dysfunctional. Kasumi could have easily been a spoilt and unlikeable character, but the way he is oblivious to how much of a pain in the arse he is manages to be appealing somehow. I also liked how he wasn’t a traditional uke pushover: when he loses his tempter, which is often, he almost always leaves his target a bruised and bloodied mess. Domestic violence is no joke in reality, but Ike-sensei’s sense of the slapstick in this tankoubon is exquisitely timed. I was very pleased to read a BL manga where neither protagonist deflated into a puddle of wretched angst whenever they levelled criticisms at each other.
The plot was nothing too unusual: we have the usual mix of unwelcome love rivals and angst-ridden separations. The sex is explicit but not unnecessarily drawn out, with nary a mysterious Halo of Penile Censorship in sight. The art is generally excellent, though on more than one occasion the bodies are drawn out of proportion when the characters are sitting down.
My only other complaints with this manga were about some of the events in the last chapter. Although (*SPOILER ALERT*) Yoshiaki and Kasumi’s ‘marriage’ was somewhat foreshadowed in a previous scene, it all seemed a bit sudden and unexplained to me (not least because I’m unclear if this is some parallel universe where same sex couples can legally marry in Japan, or if the ceremony was meant to be purely a show of commitment). And although sweet, the highly supportive reaction of Yoshiaki’s parents leeched some of this chapter’s realism for me. I would have preferred uneasy but ultimately accepting parents like those in Kuneda Saika’s Kaze no Yukue (風の行方).
And then we come to the volume’s closing oneshot, ‘Upside Down’. The artistic style in this story is so different from Ike Reibun’s usual drawing that — if I didn’t know better — I’d think it was by another manga-ka entirely. The story is rushed and clichéd: it is either a poor imitation of every of other BL manga set in a school, or an unfunny spoof. While I’m usually more than happy to gobble up any extra work from an author I like, this oneshot left me wishing Libre (and Biblos before it) had followed a “less is more” approach.
Thankfully the rest of the volume featuring Yoshiaki and Kasumi more than makes up for a poor final chapter. However much Kasumi might drive Yoshiaki spare with his antics, they are still hopelessly and irrationally in love with each another.
Definitely for any fans of Ike Reibun’s, and readers who enjoy amusingly dysfunctional couples.