Author/Artist: Youka Nitta
Rating: M – 18 and up
Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance
*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.org/. Check it out! ***
White Brand is a collection of short one-shots written and illustrated by the well-known master of yaoi, Youka Nitta. The longest one-shot is the title story, White Brand. Keshiki Asano and Izuru Fukaya were at one time very close but after Keshiki lost his father in a tragic accident he distanced himself from his cousin (yes, I mean Izuru.) Now they are students at the same high school. Keshiki still keeps his distance and Izuru wants to break down the barrier. It seems that Keshiki has an aversion to dark things because of the death of his father and Izuru has naturally tan skin. These two boys cared for one another once, can they once again?
The other stories consist of an American who went to Japan to study lacquer art only to be snubbed by most of the Japanese people he came into contact with. The only people to him are his teacher and his family. Another story is about three guys that are living together as roommates and two of them are lovers. They are actors in an all-male theatre troupe. One actor is struggling to grasp his character, a woman who can't have children. The next story is about a young man in New York that seems to have some psychic ability. He rescues a handsome young man off the street much to the dismay of those around him. The final tale is about a guy who has a thing for very tall women but things change when he meets one of his neighbors, a really tall male model.
Youka Nitta-sensei is very well known for such steamy manga like Embracing Love (Haru wo Daiteita) and The Prime Minister's Secret Diplomacy but if you are looking for that in White Brand you will be sorely disappointed. This manga was originally published in Japan in 1998 and Nitta-sensei says at the end that this was her fourth manga. Her manga has gotten much hotter as time has passed.
This isn't one of her stronger titles. Out of all of the short tales I only liked two of them. I found White Brand to be somewhat disturbing because Keshiki was only avoiding Izuru because of his skin. But the story that is on top of my most hated list is Hasta La Vista, Baby. That is the story about the three actors. The one who is struggling with his character decides to baby-sit his nephew for a few days to try and understand the emotions of his character. He nearly suffocates the poor child and then leaves, leaving the poor child with his two roommates. I found this story so disturbing I really hated it. I realize that child abuse happens but I don't want to read it as entertainment. You’re an actor for heaven sake; can't you imagine what your character must be feeling?
The only decent stories were the ones about the American in Japan and the psychic dude. The rest was either disturbing or forgettable. The only thing going for this volume is Nitta-sensei's art and even then it has the problem of any time sensei has portrayed women they all look like her men in wigs (sensei improved drawing women in her later volumes of work).
I don't really recommend this title unless you are a die-hard Youka Nitta fan and even then I say don't expect much. If you want to read something by her that is actually really good, then read The Prime Minister's Secret Diplomacy.
***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***