Yaoi Generation comes onto the scene with plenty of style and production values that put others to shame, but it might take a stronger book than this to pull the fans in once the novelty of a new publisher wears off.
Writer/Artist: Chifumi Ochi
Translation: Katherine Schilling
Adaptation: Katherine Schilling
What They Say
Stopping by his favorite bar in Tokyo s gay district, Yanagi picks up an attractive man and takes him to a hotel room that night. For having accepted the invitation so easily, the nameless man turns out to be a virgin and a sensitive one at that. Yanagi, driven by desire, claims that body again and again in that single night, but when the man awakens from his drunken stupor...
Yaoi Generation is new publisher hoping to grab a piece of the boys-love phenomenon here in the U.S., and if all that mattered was production quality, they'd be a guaranteed hit. Reminiscent of other boutique publishers come and gone, they've put together a really nice product. Using the original cover and letting the art do all the work, this book is colorful and sexy. The summary blurb on the back doesn't try too hard or give away too much and instead lets us focus on enjoying the pretty pictures. Inside, the color plate is included, as is the author's atogaki, and the printing, on the whole, is lovely.
The artwork is quite pleasant and a good deal more polished than Ochi's other work published in English – Honey Senior, Darling Junior. Main characters are attractive; their well-defined features are softened at the angles and toned precisely so as not to overburden the otherwise fine linework. There is a habit of not finishing faces, but it actually adds to the style, rather than detract from the design. Ochi is also able to convey a lot of emotion with expressive eyes and profile close-ups, and the mood is kept intimate by maintaining close quarters in the panels. The heavy reliance on close-up shots does deny variety and movement on the page, leaving the panel layout to do all the work, but it does so with reasonable success. Bedroom scenes are sexy, explicit, and satisfying, although largely non-consensual in this volume.
Text is another part of the production element that truly shines. The adaptation is an easy read, with no rough spots or mistakes. There is some localization, but it works. Honorifics/nicknames are maintained. SFX and asides are all translated and replaced, fitting nicely into the panel and never overwhelming the art. Fonts are used the way they should be. The production in this book reminds me of the work done by DramaQueen, and they undeniably have some of the best-looking product out there.
Contents: (please note the following may contain spoilers)
Kohshi Yanagi is a carefree kind of guy; he's a university student at ease with random pick-ups and friends-with-benefits. He has the best sex of his life with a drunken one-night stand, only to find his partner unwilling and upset come the sobering morning sun. His pride and ego irrevocably bruised, Kohshi becomes increasingly preoccupied by this transgression. When next they meet, he finds that the man, Arata Kirishima, is the salaryman brother of Ten, his current friend-with-benefits. Arata, ashamed and flustered, blows him off again and Kohshi can't help but pursue – by force. And to make mattes worse, so inconceivable it is to him that Arata shouldn't enjoy his company, he blackmails Arata into being his sex slave. What follows is a lot of non-consensual sex and, as per typical BL, two men slowly becoming affected by, and attached to, a partner they think they dislike.
In Ochi's afterword we learn that Arata was initially to be a weary businessman type, but there was pressure to make him a cool beauty instead. The result is something in the middle – a socially inept businessman with an inferiority complex. It doesn't work exceptionally well; he comes across as weak, and rather than feel sorry for him, I was angry at his weakness. The opportunities for growth are there, however. For his part, Kohshi seems like a fun guy when he's not bullying Arata, and I'm a bit desperate to see more of that side of him. The opening pages where he recounts his first love paves the way for his deepening angst towards the end – character development that could go a long way in getting me to forgive the stupid arrogance he pushes on Arata.
The interactions between characters other than Kohshi and Arata are where I find this story shining the most at this point. Ten is a great secondary great character to play opposite both Kohshi and Arata; I love how wonderful he and Arata are as brothers, and how he's a completely different Ten than we might assume given our first introduction with Kohshi, though neither reads as insincere. And there are small humors, too, like dialogue asides and Arata's pathetic excuse for a sandwich, which soften the blow of their relationship. All told, more growth and less slavery and rape in forthcoming volumes would raise my opinions considerably.
It was not without trepidation that I first welcomed the news of a new yaoi publisher – a late-comer in a market becoming oversaturated by underwhelming, cookie-cutter titles? – but I had high hopes nonetheless. I may never know the reasoning behind choosing breath for their debut, but Yaoi Generation has guts, or at least big dreams, to test the waters with a series. I can't honestly say I'm blown away with their choice so far, but I'm reminded of the early days of DramaQueen, a publisher with similar style and a lot of love from the fans. While I don't mean to align the two with this comparison, I am inclined to keep a keen eye on what Yaoi Generation can bring to the table, and indeed, if they can stay the course. I hope it works out for them, because although this story hasn't done much for me yet, I'm interested in seeing what else it can offer.
I thought a long time on whether or not to say this, largely because of its weak start and my distaste for the non-consensual trope, but I think yaoi-fans at-large owe it to themselves to check out this title. Call it support for preserving production quality and market diversity, or, for the collectors out there, the novelty of a new publisher. This title won't disappoint those in it for the sex, and the story may yet prove itself. More series BL is never a bad thing, either, in a market governed by one-shots and anthologies. However you look at it, I think it's worth giving the new guy a leg to stand on, and the production values are far better than other books you're all paying $12.99 for.