Can the ultimate nice guy and a suspected criminal ever really get along?
Translated by:Melanie Schoen
What They Say
Since their parents moved overseas, Toru, Hajime and their little brother Futaba have lived together alone in the Katsuragi house. But then suddenly their problematic cousin Takara arrives! The three brothers' lives are in an uproar, for some reason Takara doesn't try to get close to them, and his childhood friend Toru feels unbearably snubbed. When Toru tells him so, Takara quickly shows him a gentle smile, but what kind of dangerous schemes hide behind that expression...?!
This release is up to DMP's usual high standards, with a full-color wraparound dustjacket that shows off the coverart nicely. The cover is a bright and busy piece that shows off Tooru and Takara in their own unique outfits - very eye-catching, if a touch busy. The paper isn't the nice, bright white paper that DMP sometimes uses, being thin and almost yellowish, but the art reproduction still manages to be very good, with sharp, clean lines and dark blacks.
Sugita's art is polished and assured, with a distinctive quality to it that I really found appealing, that kept it from seeming at all generic. Her character designs are nicely distinct, recognizable even through hair and clothing changes. Expressions seem to be where she really excels - she portrays emotion very well, but Takara's little sideways smirk that he uses on a few occasions really stood out as the perfect expression for those situations. Not all her faces are that well done, though. Her facial proportions on some panels seem to be slightly off, but that's not a frequent occurrence. Her backgrounds are usually screentones and flowers, but when she does draw in an actual background - say a house or a fish seller's shop - there's a level of detail that's very compelling.
All sound effects are translated on the page in a font that closely matches the original. The translation here isn't perfectly smooth, but it certainly gets the job done and I have no real complaints on that score. A few cultural footnotes added in to help clarify a few points were a very nice touch, and much appreciated.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Tooru's family is far from traditional. While his parents are overseas, he and his two brothers are left to fend for themselves. The eldest, Hajime, keeps things mostly under control, but when their parents agree to take in their cousin, Tooru's childhood friend Takara, things start to get complicated.
There are all kinds of rumors swirling around Takara, none of them particularly complimentary. The worst even mention jail time, and Takara's tough attitude doesn't help. Tooru desperately wants to be close to Takara again the way they were when they were kids, but Takara is having no part of it. He gradually starts warming up to Tooru's younger brother Futaba, a situation that leaves Tooru feeling unaccountably jealous. When he confronts Takara about this, he learns the real reason why they took him in, and a big part of the reason why Takara's general attitude is so bad. Tooru's empathy leads to a rather confusing reaction from Takara that leaves Tooru even more lost.
Determined to right past wrongs and clear Takara's name, Tooru visits Takara's former employer. This sets off a chain of events that culminates in a pretty scary situation for poor Tooru, and a shocking confession from Takara. In the end, though, everything might just work out for the best, but Tooru has ghosts of his own that the two need to face before they can really reach a true understanding.
In "Dilemma," Yago and Kureno are lovers working at the same high school. Exams have them too busy to spend much time together, which leads to an embarrassing misunderstanding. These two chapters are decent enough, but there's nothing about them that really stands out as particularly memorable, although Yago certainly has an amusing sadistic streak.
There were some moments in this book that I just adored - the final chapter especially was fantastic, and made everything just click so well. I keep picking this book up to reread primarily for that reason. The various townsfolk and their reactions to both Takara and Tooru added some depth to their environment that seems to be lacking in many BL books, especially as their attitudes towards Takara developed. There's a good amount of angst, predictably enough, but none of it felt like over-the-top angst just for the sake of angst. The way Takara's general attitude gradually changed was very well portrayed (as well as the reasons for his attitude change), and helped move the story along nicely.
That's not to say this was a perfect book - it had its flaws, and it's far from unique. Tooru's sordid past felt like a bit much, almost superfluous. But the story overall was executed well enough to be a little fresh and a lot of fun. The title is pretty accurate - this is brain candy of the fluffy kind, but it's still satisfying for all of that.