Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hot Limit by Minori Shima and Akira Kanbe review

Hot Limit

Author/Artist: Minori Shima/Akira Kanbe

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A

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

Kazuma Sogou is a college student who hates to go to school. To occupy his time he works several part-time jobs to pay the bills. One evening at the bar he works at, Kazuma sees the most beautiful person he ever beheld. But he was taken by surprise when he found out that this beautiful person is a guy (he thought he was a girl). It turns out that Maya is a regular customer and seems to be able to charm the pants off anyone, literally.

Kazuma gets another part time job working for some rich family. On his first day he is introduced to the young master of the house, Shinya Suzaki. Shinya shares an extreme likeness to the beautiful Maya. It seems that Shinya and Maya are the same person. Kazuma, one day at work, meets a gentleman by the name Seiichirou Tanabe. Tanabe is a Member of Parliament (or a high powered government employee, I’m not really sure). It seems that Tanabe has some sort of control over Shinya. Kazuma accidentally overhears a conversation between Tanabe and Shinya which is extremely disturbing to Kazuma (and to me, too). Tanabe seems to be using Shinya’s other personality of Maya to seduce older businessmen. Will Kazuma be able to pull Shinya out of Tanabe’s grasp all while unraveling a mystery involving his family business?

It is really fascinating that in one shipment of review materials I can have a really good book and an average book. I’m referring to Hot Limit as the really good book. Minori Shima-sensei’s story and Akira Kanbe-sensei’s art are a great combination. I was really looking forward to this book and had planned on purchasing it, but it showed up in my mailbox to be read and reviewed. You can’t comprehend the excitement I felt. After reading Loving Gaze by Kanbe-sensei I found that I really like sensei’s art style. The toning and shading really compliment sensei’s soft art. I have noticed that many characters across many stories all look similar. But the art is so soft and pretty I’m able to overlook it. Who knew that political intrigue and underage prostitution could look so good and be interesting all at the same time. This is a Juné release so you can guarantee that it will be a larger trim size, have a dust jacket, and just look good all the way around. Now I’m a die hard Akira Kanbe-sensei fan thanks to Juné. I hope to see more from Kanbe-sensei and through Juné, which really makes great artists shine that much brighter through their excellent quality. If you like Akira Kanbe-sensei, Juné, or yaoi manga in general, check out Hot Limit.

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

Loving Gaze by Akira Kanbe review

Loving Gaze

Author/Artist: Akira Kanbe

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M - ages 18+

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A

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

According to Juné's website, Loving Gaze is described:

Kazumi is the beautiful head of a design office, and he's head over heels for the younger Yajima, one of the top workers at the building next door. But Yajima is uncontrollably jealous, and so he comes to the office at night -- and kidnaps Kazumi!? A tale of adult love full of sexy situations, this book combines compilation and lots of new material in a story of a company head vs. a nymphomaniac!!

I honestly wonder what book they were reading, and what they were smoking when they wrote that explanation. Loving Gaze is nothing like that. It's a sweet tale of love from a distance.
Kazumi Mizuno owns a graphic design business and falls in love with a man who works in the posh office building next door. He longingly gazes at this beautiful man from his office window, but feels that his love is unrequited. One day at lunch, he happens upon his mystery man in the restaurant he eating at. The man introduces himself as Atsushi Yajima. He comes off as a bit aggressive, but sweet. Mizuno is immediately swept off his feet.

Often times when feelings are confessed, it's usually at the end of the book, right before they hop into bed for a hot session of sex. In this story, the confession is at the front of the story. It's quite refreshing.

Mizuno is a bit of a workaholic, and feels as though he's neglecting his lover, Yajima. Yajima, though a bit frustrated, is patient and is willing to wait for Mizuno to be ready. When Mizuno finishes up his work, he runs into Yajima and some woman in front of his office building. Feeling the pangs of jealousy Mizuno runs off into the sunset. Yajima followed and they head back to Mizuno's office to clear the air. Luckily, the woman was just a co-worker, and Yajima has strong feelings for Mizuno and no one else.

This is a fantastic read. The story follows Yajima and Mizuno with only one side story. The side story involves an employee of Mizuno's and a boss at Yajima's company. It also is a cute story. The art is pleasing to the eye. My only complaint is that our two semes look like one another and ukes look quite similar. The sex was highly erotic and I seriously needed a cold shower to get myself in order. All I can say is wow! I would recommend this book to anyone who likes sweet stories and hot sex. Juné knows what they're doing with their larger size, wider margins, and higher quality printing.

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kiss All the Boys vol.1 by Shiuko Kano review

Kiss All the Boys vol. 1

Author/Artist: Shiuko Kano

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: M - for 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy

Grade: A+

Name: Tetsuo Atarashi
Age: 32
Occupation: Porn Comic Writer
Marital Status: Single with a 15-year-old son

Tetsuo Atarashi has always been virile. I mean he fathered a child at the age of 17 for heaven’s sake! But lately he’s been having trouble keeping "it" up. Yes, he’s impotent. Not only that, but his 15-year-old son Haruka Enomoto, has decided to move in with him now that Haruka’s mother has moved to Europe for a job. Tetsuo hasn’t really been involved in Haruka’s life. His only fatherly duties involved were being listed on the birth certificate as the father. Not a bad deal, until Haruka decided to live with Tetsuo instead of moving in with his mother’s brother, and Tetsuo’s best friend and editor, Michiro Enomoto. Is there a reason why Haruka wants to live with his father instead of the man who was like a father? Hmm…

Tetsuo’s work is also starting to be affected by his impotence. He creates porno comics and Michiro is worried for his dear friend. He is also worried about the quality of work that Tetsuo is releasing. Haruka and Michiro have a very good relationship. It also turns out that both Michiro and Haruka are gay. When Tetsuo finds this out (about Haruka, Michiro is still in the closet as far as Tetsuo is concerned), he doesn’t know how to react. We then find out that the reason why Haruka wanted to move in with Tetsuo. It was not to have a great father/son bond but to move nearer to the school that he and his beloved Hiroto Tamaki are attending.

To get away from all his troubles involving his son and his son’s rampaging hormones, Tetsuo decides to catch a flick at the local adult movie theatre. Instead of being able to enter he is blocked by some dude who can’t decide whether he wants to enter, and passes out on top of Tetsuo. Keiichi Momoyama is new to the whole adult movie world. To be of some assistance, more like hurry and get off the street before more people start gawking, he pulls Momoyama into the theatre. Since this is Momoyama’s first trip to this type of movie, he doesn’t know what to do about his erection that arrives soon after the movie starts. Tetsuo frees willy and helps Momoyama relieve some pressure. When Tetsuo realizes what he’s done he runs as fast as he can out of the theatre!

Things all go down hill from there for Tetsuo. He finds out that Momoyama has moved into his apartment building, he gets along better with Tamaki than he does his own son, and is it possible that Michiro is holding back his true feelings for him? Aye-yai-yai!

Kiss All the Boys is Shiuko Kano-sama at her absolute best. Even though this is one of her earlier works, the art is Kano-sama’s recognizable style. Her men are ultra-hunky, ultra-sexy, ultra-men. They’re crude, they’re crass, they’re men. Haruka is absolutely adorable and helps keep the laughs coming. The way this story is presented you have no idea what way Tetsuo is going to go. My personal favorite is Momoyama. He is so sincere in his feelings for Tetsuo, you just want to see Tetsuo put his pride to the side and accept Momoyama. There is a humorous scene where Tetsuo has had too much to drink and starts coming on to Momoyama and calling him by each of his ex-girlfriends names. There isn’t much in the way of sex in this volume, but that probably has to do with the fact that this is the first of three books. We have to be introduced to the main players and come to love or hate them. Where sex is involved its not as detailed. This is really a great series and I cannot wait until the next two volumes are released. Actually, Kiss All the Boys volume 2 is out by now!

I have really come to expect great things from Deux Press. The books may not be all that fancy, but with the high quality of the materials that are used put other publishers to shame (I won’t name them here). The covers are scored so the book won’t get a nasty looking crease. The paper is of a higher quality and the ink stays on the page, not transferring to your hands. Deux Press also has great licenses. Plus they hold several of Kano-sama’s titles as well. You can’t go wrong with that! Check this title out, this series is definitely worth your time and your money!

***Review Copy purchased by Reviewer***

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I Shall Never Return vol. 3 by Kazuna Uchida review

I Shall Never Return vol. 3
Author/Artist: Kazuna Uchida

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: M – 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! ***

We're half way through the series. What will happen with Ritsuro and Ken?

Ken decided to go to Singapore with his mom. It's just for a short time but Ken feels that he needs the time away to heal. I guess that he's not aware of the fact that when you run away from your problems, they will wait for you to return. Ken hasn't met his stepfather yet. His name is Junta Tsuzuki, he's a freelance photographer and is several years younger than Ken's mom. When they arrive at their home, Ken and his mother get into an argument about the fact that he's involved with another guy. Ken storms out and drives away. Ritsuro on the other hand is dealing with school and his parents. It seems that they don't like Ken and they think that he's a bad influence on their son. Oh, how little they know! Since Ritsuro is feeling lonely, Kazuyoshi Iwasaki is trying to fill the void. Ritsuro must be emitting some strong pheromones, because all these dudes just want to get with him.

Back in Singapore Ken is struggling to keep his emotions in check and crashes into the guardrail on the side of the road. Luckily someone was passing by at the time and this Good Samaritan takes pity on our dear Ken. Ken thinks that this guy who stopped to help looked like Ritsuro. After going to the hospital, the mystery man introduces himself as J and takes Ken out for breakfast. J seems to come on a little strong, and it turns out that J is none other than Junta Tsuzuki, Ken's stepfather. Hmm... it sure seems like the stepfather is hitting on the stepson. Weird. At home in Osaka, Ritsuro and Kazuyoshi seem to be getting along swimmingly. Kazuyoshi apologized for his bad behavior and things have been going well between them. Kazuyoshi decides to drag Ritsuro shopping and then makes him wear a suit home from the store. They stop over at Kazuyoshi's where Ritsuro is introduced to Kazuyoshi's soon to be stepmother and his little sister (who is absolutely adorable!). After dinner Kazuyoshi tells Ritsuro that he wants to formally apologize to Ken as soon as he returns from Singapore. Also it seems that Kazuyoshi is developing deeper feelings for Ritsuro.

The day arrives for Ken to return from his time away when shocking news flies. J wants Ken to accompany him on a photography trip to India and Kazuyoshi makes his feelings for Ritsuro known. Man, the plot gets even thicker. Will Ken go with J to India? Will Kazuyoshi be able to win Ritsuro's heart? You'll have to read this volume to find out.

Man, the plot has gotten that much thicker. No worries though, it's still really good and the story flows well. Moeko does make an appearance in the book but it's getting to the point where if I divulge too much I'm going to ruin the story for everyone and we don't want that. I Shall Never Return vol. 3 is quite gripping. Once I started it I couldn't put it down. Sadly the next one won't be out until September, boo-hoo! As the series moves along the clearer the story is becoming. It's a pretty heavy story and riddled with angst. Who knows what will happen? Deux Press has done a wonderful job and I have to say that the cover art has greatly improved. I still recommend the series. Keep with it, you won't be disappointed. Okay, maybe you will but things happen for a reason and I know it will work out in the end.

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

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I Shall Never Return vol. 2 by Kazuna Uchida review

I Shall Never Return vol. 2

Author/Artist: Kazuna Uchida

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: M - 18 and above

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! ***

It is so hard to review books in a series. You don't want to give away what happened in the last volume, but often you have to do some spoilers. I am going to apologize ahead of time if I ruin anything for you. Feel free to read my review for the first volume here.

Moeko Kobashi still has feelings for Ritsuro Yoshinari. But the only person for Ritsuro is his longtime friend Ken Amafuji. Moeko and Ritsuro are assigned as committee chairs for their senior trip to Okinawa. They are together quite a bit and everyone still thinks that they are together. Ken on the other hand is looking for the bright side in his life and decides to get a decent job and change his outlook on life. That's when Kazuyoshi Iwasaki comes onto the scene. It turns out that Kazuyoshi's father and Ken's mother dated for a while and they were to get married. Kazuyoshi was excited that he and Ken were going to be brothers. Although Kazuyoshi seems to like Ken more than a brother. Ritsuro thinks that the bond that Ken and Kazuyoshi share is strong and thinks that they slept together. But the relationship between Ken and Kazuyoshi isn't at all what Ritsuro thinks.

The day that Ritsuro is supposed to leave for Okinawa it is raining so hard that their flight was cancelled. Ritsuro skipped school anyway. It turns out that Ken and Kazuyoshi's dark secret is they raped a classmate/friend while in a drug induced haze. Not long after the incident, Yuichi (the friend/classmate) tried to commit suicide, was unsuccessful and lapsed into a coma. Yu passed away 10 months after the attempt. Ken wanted to pay his respects and visited the grave. Ritsuro wanted to be there for Ken so he accompanied him to the cemetary. But Kazuyoshi was there waiting for him to kick his butt. After the fight Ken finally gets to ask for forgiveness and put this terrible thing in the past.

Ritsuro and his class head to Okinawa. It turns out that they are staying near a hotel that Kazuyoshi's father designed. While in the lobby, Ritsuro runs into Kazuyoshi's father and finds out that the two of them don't get along. Ritsuro wants to help Kazuyoshi and become his friend. While Ritsuro is trying to help Kazuyoshi, Ken is in Osaka working his tail off. He gets a postcard in the mail from his mom in Singapore. She informs him that she's going to be in Japan and that she wants to see him. The only problem is the day she arrives is the same day Ritsuro gets back from his trip. He feels that Ritsuro is more important.

Ken works as a Mexican pizza delivery boy. While making his deliveries, one stop was for a bunch of dudes. It turns out that they are from Ken's past that he's trying to put behind him. One of those guys happens to be the one who stabbed him in the first volume. Because Ken used to be a prostitute the guys figure that they can take advantage of him and he was gang raped. How will Ritsuro deal with all of this? Will Ken see his mom? You'll have to read I Shall Never Return vol. 2.

If you are at all confused by the synopsis of this volume, I apologize. I tried to keep spoilers to a minimum. This is a very complicated story to put in synopsis form. This volume is really good and I felt much easier to read than the first one. That probably has to do with the fact that having read the first book things made a lot more sense for this volume. The art is beautiful. Kazuna Uchida-sensei did a great job and it has plenty of angst and intense moments. Deux Press has done a great job. They kept the original artwork for the front cover (but I like the covers of the later volumes starting with the third one). They must have changed the paper that they print on because it is much easier to hold. The paper is still high quality, though. This is a must read series, and I have been hooked!

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

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***

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tough Love Baby by Shiuko Kano review

Tough Love Baby

Author/Artist: Shiuko Kano

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: M - 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Grade: B-

Shiuko Kano-sama (notice how I've changed her honorific from -sensei to -sama) is the queen of sexy, real, crass men. I have truly been ruined. I will never find myself a man now, because hers are just too hot for words.

Tough Love Baby follows two different couples. Yoshino Kakei left his hometown three years ago, but decided to come back. Years before, Yoshino had fallen in love with his girlfriends younger brother, Sachi. Once recognizing these feelings he didn’t think it fair to Keiko and Sachi to stick around. Now that he’s back little did he know that the young boy he’s fallen in love with is living next door. It seems now, however, that sweet little Sachi is now a thug and treats Yoshino with contempt. Yoshino blames himself for Sachi’s current bad behavior and wonders what he can do to remedy the situation. Keiko informs Yoshino that when Yoshino left the first time it really screwed Sachi up but if he leaves again who knows what will happen to Sachi’s fragile psyche. He may look like a tough guy on the outside, but he’s just a hopeless kid on the inside.

Our other couple involves Taketora, one of Sachi’s closest friends. It also turns out that Taketora is in love with Sachi. He can’t stand the fact that Yoshino has shown up on the scene once again and figures that Yoshino will hurt Sachi again. We know that Yoshino won’t let that happen; so reluctantly Taketora gives up. Waiting for Taketora is his admirer, Sora. Sora is a couple years younger than Taketora but boy is he persistent. Can Sora’s cheerful disposition cheer up Taketora? Will Taketora be able to find love again through Sora?

You can definitely tell that this is one of Kano-sama’s earlier works. The cover has her trademark gorgeous recognizable style, but on the inside the art is a bit less like what I’m used to. With this being Kano-sama you know that there will be fist fights, blood, drama, and comedy. This has its humorous moments, but it’s a bit more serious. It is sweet that Yoshino has named his pet cat Sachi, after his beloved. In other reviews I’ve checked out some say that they would have rather seen a Sachi and Taketora pairing, but I don’t think that would really work. Sora is adorable with his oversized uniform, but a few years in the future he hits his growth spurt and has actually grown taller than Taketora. I have a couple issues but nothing catastrophic. I’m not to wild about the art style in this volume. I have to say I’m a bigger fan of her later style. This book may be called Tough Love Baby but the guys aren’t really all that tough. They just seem to be your run of the mill rebellious teenagers. The cover, on the other hand, is gorgeous. I would expect nothing less.

This is a Deux Press release. Deux Press may not have all the bells and whistles like other companies, but they do a pretty good job with their titles. I recommend this title to fans of Shiuko Kano-sama and those who might want to check her out. She tends to be on the explicit side of yaoi so by starting out on a title like Tough Love Baby might be the way to go. Just be aware that the art style isn’t up to the amazing work that you can see nowadays from her. The story is pretty solid so if you can just get absorbed into the story quickly, you won’t be wasting your time, I promise.

***Review Copy purchased by Reviewer***