Bond(z) Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: 801 Media
  • MSRP: 15.95
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1934129003
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Bond(z) Vol. #01

By Julie Rosato     February 13, 2007
Release Date: April 30, 2007

Bond(z) Vol.#01
© 801 Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Toko Kawai
Translated by:Ken Wakita
Adapted by:

What They Say
It isn't unheard of to sleep with your friends after having too much to drink. However, when that friend happens to be a guy as well and you both happen to have girlfriends, things can get a little complicated. From the author of Our Everlasting, Loveholic and In the Walnut, comes a compilation of passion, obsession and love.

The Review
801 Media wants to be a fresh face in the domestic Boys-Love market, but this collection of angsty shorts with happy endings won't help them stand out too much just yet.

801 Media is using the standard industry size for their releases, but quality extras like a dust jacket and color plate will help them stand out a bit in the crowd. The original coverart is used here, featuring Keita and Tomo from the title story. The dust jacket is a nice, heavy stock and includes the author bio on the front flap and an "801-chan" mascot comic strip on the other. Inside, the paper and print quality is on par with fellow BL publisher June Manga. The afterward and a few translation notes are provided. Taking into consideration the high price point, this isn't the best overall packaging on the market, but thanks to the nice outer presentation it is, at least, in the upper tier.

Collected between the years 2000-2003, these stories show quite a range in Toko Kawai's style. Being the most recent, bond(z) shows the most confidence and competency but the style gets increasingly more rough as the stories get older. Faces are characterized by long noses, large mouths and thin eyes; they aren't the most attractive, but every once in awhile a good expression comes along. My biggest complaint would have to be that Kawai appears to have but two characters in her artistic repertoire, differentiated only by varying hairstyles. Even the girls (when they appear) look generically similar.

No typos, honorifics, and subtitled SFX are going a long way here. I had a couple of minor grammatical nitpicks, but overall the script is readable and manages a decent sense of voice most of the time. Fonts are used well. Basically, if you've seen a book by sister company DMP/June Manga, you know what this one looks like.

Contents:(please note the following may contain spoilers)
The description on the back of this book is misleading; although this is actually a collection of four short stories, it refers only to bond(z), the titular first work. Which is something of a shame really, as I found it had the sexiest premise and the best potential to expand beyond the length it was given. Its execution was the best in the bunch, too. The rest of the stories, while pleasant, weren't very exciting.

bond(z) tells the story of two best friends who enjoy a summer of exploration after years of just "joking around." What started as a simple drunken one-night stand escalates into increasingly more daring sex-capades, eventually culminating in separation when real feelings begin to get in the way. This one was good; despite the limited page count it manages to tell a comprehensive story that is sexy, mature, and even with its happy ending, proves the journey isn't always fun.

Kitan Garden is a cute and bittersweet fantasy tale about a flower/fairy prince who falls in love with the young man who tends the rose bush garden with great care.

Homophobia is a recurring theme, appearing in the remaining two stories " Situation and Sakura. The first is another tale of best friends and illustrates the strength of childhood impressions. Yoh and Akira have always been together but ever since being told boys can't fall in love, Yoh grew up trying (unsuccessfully) to distance himself from the devoted Akira. In Sakura, common salaryman Ayatsuji is asked to show the real-life ropes to spoiled company heir Ren for a month. Living an ordinary life opens Ren's eyes up to many things, including himself. As in Situation, a childhood occurrence features prominently here. Learning to throw off the shackles that bind make these stories precious and angsty, (and satisfying if you like that sort of thing), although I confess to feeling a little beat over the head by their themes.

This book was enjoyable as an anthology read, but ultimately somewhat forgettable. The "bonding" theme (ok, the mutual piercing) made bond(z) the most memorable (and sexy) story in the book, but so much so that I'd wished it'd been the only one present. Unlike some compilations on the shelf already, these shorts do benefit from longer page counts fleshing their stories out more, but in the end I can only think of one way to describe the overall content here: It's more of the usual. And our market has plenty of safe bets like these already.

Generally speaking, 801 Media's opening wave of product looks nice enough, has a bit of manga-ka name recognition, and promises to lean on the "heavier" side of things. I'm not holding my breath for too much of the latter to be perfectly honest, and I'm skeptical over the rush to flood the shelves with particular artists' works. (It sure seems like Fumi Yoshinaga's books are everywhere all of a sudden and sister company June Manga's getting ready to ship out Loveholic, another title by Toko Kawai, at the same time.) And lets' talk about price: There will be those quick to point out the costs of licensing and production, or the economics of a niche market, but frankly, for the elevated price point ($15.95!) I'd have liked to see a print job more akin to DramaQueen's releases. (FYI, 801 Media is printing in China.)

To these ends I see 801 Media taking a series of safe opening steps, but I truly believe that in our current market bolder is better. These niche markets have the best chance at bringing in some much-needed diversity. Potential is a powerful motivator though, and so I'll definitely be keeping an eye on their new releases, but I can't say I feel a great wave of enthusiasm for this new entry to the field yet.


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