Warning(s): A non-consensual handjob. There’s really no other way of putting it.
Prince Uriel is ‘cursed’. Shunned by his family and country, his only consolation is reading books about the lost African city of Rowadis. But when Uriel’s passion for Rowadis leads to an archaeological tour that goes awry, he is captured by the mysterious clan leader Ald. Forced to hide his true identity and fight off Ald’s relentless advances, Uriel may yet discover that the city of Rowadis he loves so much is not so ‘lost’ after all.
Tsuki to Yabanjin is quite unusual for a BL manga because it is a single-volume historical romance with a clear plot arc. The episodic style of storytelling favoured by Sera in Ousama ni Kiss — and yaoi manga in general — is absent. Instead, the reader is treated to an old-fashioned romantic adventure told in the best bodice ripper fashion.
Uriel is the classic hero(ine) archetype, a young man with strong moral convictions and an innocence that inevitably attracts the attentions of a dark and brooding alpha male. Ald fulfils the functions of his role admirably: he is arrogant and dangerous, but also fiercely protective and incredibly (I mean that in both senses) tender when Uriel goes wandering off a cliff (for example). And, of course, Ald is a champion in the sack. Actually, he’s kind of a monster in the sack, which the reader is left in no doubt of thanks to a complete lack of genital censorship in the early chapters. Um, thanks?
Anyway, as you’d hope for in a historical manga, the art is absolutely sumptuous (though at times I thought the characters’ eyes were just a wee too big…yes, even by manga standards). I did think Sera did an admirable job rendering the vast desert landscapes and the semi-frequent action scenes, though, especially considering her previous volumes had modern urban settings.
One volume really doesn’t leave much room for subplots or a vast cast of supporting characters, but I never felt cheated by the story — even if it does seem to whiz past when you’re reading it as a tankoubon and not in serialised form. My only real qualms besides the usual romantic clichés was that Ald and the other members of the supposedly ‘African’ Seldira clan seemed to be whitewashed. The only character with dark skin is Badis, who unfortunately conforms to the strong-but-silent ‘savage noble’ stereotype. Rather than mutter darkly about it, I’ve decided to give Sera the benefit of the doubt and pretend she just ran out of screentone.
I was lucky enough to be in Japan when Tsuki to Yabanjin was first published as a tankoubon, and so my copy came with a special fan book commemorating Sera’s 10th Anniversary as a manga-ka (yay!). The fan book contains two extra ‘epilogue’ chapters of Tsuki to Yabanjin, in which I was annoyed (but not surprised) to discover that Badis and that amusing prick Alvie are now doing the dirty in the desert. Simply, I suspect, because they were otherwise romantically unattached at the end of the main story. Oh well. The fan book also includes rough sketches, characters profiles, fan art, and an extended atogaki.
I really enjoy historical romance novels with all their ridiculous clichés, so Tsuki to Yabanjin was a rare treat in manga form. So long as you have a sappy heart and aren’t looking for complex storylines or realism of any kind, I highly recommend it.