Gorgeous artwork illustrates stories that don't break any new ground. Nonetheless, they're competently presented and well-represent the genre.
Writer/Artist: Kae Maruya
Translation: Sachiko Sato
Adaptation: Sachiko Sato
What They Say
Kazuto wakes up one morning with a killer hangover. Not only that, he is in a strange bed with an even stranger man! Kazuto has no memory whatsoever of the previous night. But, according to his bedmate, Takasugi, he sold himself for $10,000. Luckily, Kazuto had his wits about him to stipulate only a month of servitude... A fall-in-love-with-my-master story full of titillating love arrives in Kae Maruya's highly-anticipated debut comic!
This volume is the standard DMP trim size with cover. The print quality is very good considering the challenge that Maruya presents with her often visually complicated backgrounds and generous use of screen tone. Although this is a volume of shorter stories, only Kazuto and Takasugi, the principals of Lover's Pledge, are depicted on the back and front covers. There is a two page author afterword and the usual DMP advertisements.
Kae Maruya's character designs are beautiful with a demonstrated range of emotions and postures that deliver their message. Unfortunately, sometimes the message gets blunted with the over-use of tone that makes the pages look chaotic and messy. But the number of pages affected is few. That criticism aside, the artwork is wonderful to look at and Maruya's sensibilites deliver a romantic and sexy read.
The text reads with no obvious grammatical or spelling errors. Sfx are subbed unobtrusively.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Lover's Pledge is a compilation of shorter stories, which, contrary to the backcover blurb's assertion of young-boys-to-men theme, is less about that and more about the misunderstandings and misperceptions that lovers and would-be lovers must overcome to find their love.
Lover's Pledge and its companion story, Happily Ever After, concern Kazuto and Takasugi, whose relationship begins as a monetary transaction and is challenged by Kazuto's insecurities in the pursuit of something more meaningful and permanent. The title "Happily Ever After" makes the outcome never in doubt, but it's the struggle that's the attraction here.
Mutsuki and Gaku (Prescription for a Kiss and After Effect of a Kiss) are high schoolers who have been friends since childhood when Gaku moved next door to Mutsuki. Mutsuki has always watched over Gaku, from drying his childhood tears with a "magic charm" to currently making sure he was tutored for a physics exam. But the shy and fearful Gaku of childhood has developed into quite the player, often engaging behavior that shocks Mutsuki, who maintains an attachment to Gaku in spite of it. But is Gaku's behavior all that it seems, and can Mutsuki work out his emotional confusion with respect to Gaku?
In Too Close for Love, sixteen year-old Fumiya has lived with his aunt and uncle for eight years, ever since his parents died in an auto accident. His cousin Eiji, who had tenderly cared for him when he first arrived to live with his aunt and uncle, has become an intrusive, derisive and nagging sempai. Fumiya is discouraged and disheartened and doesn't undertand this change in the loving Eiji that he knew as a child. However, the chance of a romance provides the opportunity for Fumiya to assert himself and make a play for adulthood. Can Eiji put aside his mocking and contemptuous behavior to help Fumiya become more confident?
The stories in this volume have a good unity of tone and a sense of completion within the individual stories. The aims for each story are modest and Kae Mayura fulfills them leaving the reader with no need to revisit the couples.
Aside from the some pages with excessive use of tone that leads to a bit of visual frenzy, a small criticism can be made in the familiarity of the stories, especially Lover's Pledge. Twice, I never made it past the first three pages because I thought I had read it before. Romance with a tender, insecure rent boy isn't particularly fresh, no matter what circumstances affect the outcome. More successful were Prescription/After Effects of Love and Too Close for Love. The familiar high school setting never overtakes the importance of the relationships. The lovers are distinctive and their stories are focused and well-told.
Explicit sex scenes are confined to the Kazuya-Takasugi stories and readers will not be disappointed in the level of eroticism. The high school stories may not be as graphic, but the depiction of loss and yearning and the resolution of the emotional and romantic turmoil drive the stories rather than sex.
More seasoned readers could find the stories familiar, but the beautiful artwork will be a draw for everyone.