Saturday, August 9, 2008

I Shall Never Return vol. 1 by Kazuna Uchida review

I Shall Never Return vol. 1

Author/Artist: Kazuna Uchida

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: M - for ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: B+

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

Ritsuro Yoshinari and Ken Amafuji have been longtime friends. The two are complete opposites. Ken is a high school drop-out, his parents are divorced, he lives on his own and to make ends meet he sells himself. Ritsuro on the other hand is a good student, he has a warm loving family life and works typical jobs high school students have. Ken is headed down a path of self destruction, but Ritsuro won't leave him. He's too good of a friend.

Ritsuro was approached by Moeko Kobashi, a girl in his class. She confessed her feelings and convinced him that even if he doesn't feel the same way now, those feelings will eventually develop. By a dumb twist of fate Moeko ran into Ken and felt sorry for him. To try and help Ken feel better she ended up sleeping with him. All that did however was tick Ritsuro off. It seems that Ritsuro hasn't been able to sleep with Moeko, but he's more than capable of doing that and more with Ken.

Ritsuro seems to be constantly taking care of Ken while he spirals down into a world of self-pity and loathing. It seems that Ritsuro wasn't upset that Ken slept with his girlfriend, but that his girlfriend slept with Ken. Ritsuro discovers that he's fallen in love (or at least lust) with Ken. But he must choose. While he's struggling with his emotions Ken's mother gets remarried and moves to Singapore. She wants Ken to move with them, but he doesn't want to. He wants to stay in Osaka with Ritsuro. With all this going on Moeko is involved in an auto accident. To help her out, Ritsuro stays by her side. Ken on the other hand ends up getting stabbed by a former customer (a sex customer). After dealing with these two tense events Ritsuro decided to break up with Moeko and stay exclusively with Ken. But storm clouds are coming over the horizon with the entrance of Kazuyoshi Iwasaki. He seems to know Ken fairly intimately and knows some troubling things in his past. Who is this guy and what information could Kazuyoshi know that Ritsuro doesn't?

Kazuna Uchida-sensei has written this five volume series. I was worried at first because the Japanese version consists of six books. To clarify the situation I sent an inquiry to the publisher. Thanks to Michael Perry at Deux Press I was reassured that the first two volumes had a series of one-shots included. They wanted to focus on Ken and Ritsuro's story so they cut out the one-shots and they condensed the rest into one volume. Voila! Problem solved, fears allayed. One more tangent and then I'll get to my thoughts on the volume. Uchida-sensei is the older sister to one of my favorite mangaka...Shiuko Kano. I wonder if Kano-sensei worked with her sister because when you look at some of her earlier work in Playgirl (Kano-sensei's art book) it looks very similar to Uchida-sensei's. Okay, tangent over.

Initially I didn't know whether I liked this manga or not. The story is full of angst and really quite heavy. Not only that, I struggled with trying to understand what was going on. After a second reading, I figured out the story. I can now proudly say that I really like this manga series. It was written in the early 90's and you can definitely see that in the art. The hair and clothes are dated but the story is strong enough it is possible to overlook them. The art is soft and tender and extremely detailed. The characters are engaging and interesting. Deux Press is a great publisher. The titles are great (they have several Shiuko Kano works, which is always a plus), the paper is high quality which helps the art pop off the page. I have noticed that the first three volumes of manga Deux Press released (Hate to Love You, Spring Fever, and I Shall Never Return vol. 1) are stiffer than the later books they've printed. It's usually like a steel cage match between you and the book to try to keep it open without injuring yourself. But don't let that hinder you. It does require patience and understanding but is worthy of your time. Stick with it and you will be duly rewarded!

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

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