Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The First Stage of Love by Kazuhiko Mishima review

The First Stage of Love

Author/Artist: Kazuhiko Mishima

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA - 16 and older

Genre: Shonen Ai, Comedy, Drama, Romance, School Life, Anthology

Grade:A+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

We've all been there once, right? The butterflies in your stomach, the... the tongue that gets all twisted, the twitching. These can be some of the the first signs of love. OK, that beginning was a little cheesy, but the book was a little cheesy as well. It was sugary, syrupy, and sweet. With all the angst, sex-laden, and intense yaoi I've been reading lately, this set of five one-shots was just what the doctor ordered to refresh my spirit.

The first few one-shots in The First Stage of Love are quite short. Strawberry Milk is a story of a student who likes to go to the roof to smoke and gets caught by a teacher. Yui-sensei tells Nanase that he hates kisses tasting of cigarettes. Nanase challenges Yui-sensei to kiss him and is surprised when sensei actually does it. To help Nanase along with breaking the habit Yui-sensei hands over strawberry milk flavored candies to suck on. It's all downhill from there for Nanase.

Worries of the Future tells the tale of salary man Keiichi Mitsuzuka dealing with aging, even though the dude is only 25. He flips out at being called "Sir" by a little girl that he refuses to meet up with his boyfriend. A little while later he's still freaking out when a couple of female coworkers pick on him by pointing out gray hairs, making things even worse. While going through his breakdown, his boyfriend calls, which one of the coworkers answers. The boyfriend freaks and hangs up on him. Will Mitsuzuka realize that we all get older?

In His, Her, and My Relationship Seta and Murakami are coworkers and lovers. Murakami is unsure of their relationship because they just recently consummated it. Now Seta seems to be avoiding Murakami. Not only that, Takahashi - the office babe, seems to be all over Seta. Murakami has a hard time dealing with it and no matter what Seta says to try and clear the air, it doesn't seem to help.

The First Stage of Love is centered on Kikuchi, a young bookstore clerk, and Kaji, a handsome salary man and regular in the bookstore. Kikuchi is immediately drawn to Kaji and finds himself looking forward to seeing him whenever he comes in. One afternoon Kikuchi's coworker asks if Kaji is married because he just purchased a child's picture book. Unable to handle the news, Kikuchi chases after Kaji to clear the air. Is Kaji married, and if he isn't what will Kikuchi do? In The Second Stage of Love the story of Kikuchi and Kaji continues.

Wait Weight Wait is the adorable story of Uehara, a chubby kid, and his best friend, Mori. Mori confesses to Uehara that he likes fat kids. Unable to handle this information Uehara loses weight over summer break. When he shows up for school once the break is over everyone is surprised to see a skinny Uehara. Mori takes it personally, thinking that Uehara hates him and begins to avoid him. Uehara didn't want to lose his friend, and didn't realize that losing the weight would hurt Mori's feelings. So what does Uehara do to try and get into the good graces of his friend again? He tries to pack on the pounds again, without much success. Will things work out like Uehara wants?

I really liked this book. The art style is very clean and very cute. I look forward to seeing more from Kazuhiko Mishima-sensei. Even though some of the story themes weren't new to the yaoi genre, the approach of these five were fresh. The most original story I think would have to be Wait Weight Wait. How often do you see a story about body issues in boys love? I didn't notice any missteps in spelling, grammar, etc., and the honorifics were kept intact. Also when the sound effects were translated, they kept quite a few of the original characters with the translations to the side, but without being in the way. I recommend this to anyone who wants a sweet read, and with it being rated 16+, it's a great introduction to the boys love genre. As with all Digital Manga, Inc. titles the larger size, dust jackets, and higher quality paper make it all around enjoyable!

***Review Copy provided by Publisher***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

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