Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Shall Never Return vol. 5 by Kazuna Uchida review

I Shall Never Return vol. 5

Author/Artist: Kazuna Uchida

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A-

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

We find out what happens with Ken, Ritsuro, Moeko, and Kazuyoshi in this final volume of I Shall Never Return. I'm going to apologize for divulging any spoilers from here because volume 5 wraps everything up.

Ken is currently taking photographs with his stepfather J in India while Ritsuro is still in Osaka preparing for his college entrance exams. Ken and J were able to walk away from the auto accident with a few bruises and scrapes but nothing too serious. Ken wants to get J to a hospital to get him checked out because he's having dizzy spells but J really wants Ken to see the Himalayas. Kazuyoshi still isn't speaking to Ritsuro because he's still heart broken. But there are some storm clouds blowing in because of Ken and Kazuyoshi's past. Because of this past and the thugs they used to hang out with Ritsuro gets caught up in the middle of it. Thankfully the cops show up but also because of this incident Ritsuro's parents find out about the nature of Ken and Ritsuro's relationship.

Meanwhile in India, Ken's mom hadn't heard from J and Ken so she decides to go look for them. While she's tracing their steps Ken and J are at the base of the Himalayas when J passes out. Once he comes to we find out he's gone blind. Also it turns out that Ken's mom is pregnant so things are all topsy-turvy in Ken's life too. How will things all wrap up?

I Shall Never Return is a series that I was surprised at how good it was. Even though it was written in the mid-90's story wise it still holds up well and you are able to overlook the outdated fashions. The characters all change and grow and become much more interesting. The most compelling character in the book, in my opinion, would be Moeko. Usually when women are portrayed in yaoi they are usually jealous shrews. But Moeko rises above that stereotype and is really the most amazing character in the series. She has a boyfriend but ends up sleeping with her boyfriend's boyfriend (confused yet?), she can't seem to seal the deal with her boyfriend, she gets into an accident and ends up losing her boyfriend to another guy, she still harbors feelings for her ex, her homeroom teacher hits on her, and on and on and on. The girl has moxie. She was able to pick herself up from this experience and grow. Plus she was able to create a lasting friendship with both Ritsuro (the boyfriend) and Ken (the guy who stole her man). She also seemed to be the conscience of the story as well. She is a yaoi heroine we can all admire and appreciate because you don't see amazing female characters like her all that often.

Kazuyoshi is also another interesting character. He softens up to the point that he is able to stand tall and be proud of who he is and what he has become. He's changed from a strung out party kid to a smart guy headed to Tokyo. We have Ritsuro to thank for that.

Obviously the story is centered on Ritsuro and Ken and their relationship. It starts out as one filled with lust and sex but morphs into one of love, respect, and need. Ken's parents are a little more understanding and accepting of their relationship whereas Ritsuro's parents act exactly how you would expect them to act.

I initially had no desire to read this series but I have been put in my place. It is filled to the brim with angst and sex but there is an actual compelling story there. Often times when it comes to the sex in yaoi manga you have one character who is the uke and one who is the seme. But with this series the two characters switch so neither character is the designated uke or seme. The art started out as interesting but Uchida-sensei's style grew on me (it also helped that she's the sister of one of my favorite manga-ka, Shiuko Kano-sama), the art also became more polished, more detailed (if that was even possible), and more beautiful as the series progressed. I have to give my props to Deux Press for taking a huge chance in licensing a title that wouldn't have made it to our shores otherwise.

I recommend this title highly. Of course you want to make sure you read the entire series and I'm pretty sure once you pick up volume one you won't be able to stop until you've read all five, in one sitting!

Here are the links to my reviews of the previous volumes of I Shall Never Return:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four.

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

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