Pathos Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, July 10, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Translated by:Sachiko Sato
What They Say
Ace's life with the gorgeous author King and the hypnotic, aloof J is nothing short of paradise...unless J is in the mood to tease, harass and torture! Surprisingly, J's callous treatment only serves to confuse the young Ace. The stinging bite of first love is impossible to ignore, and Ace's very blood throbs whenever J is nearby. Is there a dark secret entangling the lives of this "happy family"?
Pathos pulses with the energy of two mesmerizing men of the night...and the bodies they feast upon! Although King and J have taken care of the innocent Ace since his parents were savagely killed, they seem to push the young boy away just as often as they draw him close. Ace is confused, heartbroken...and growing suspicious of his beloved caretakers. It's feast or famine in this tale of bondage, betrayal and hidden desires.
Pathos! More like bathos. But Mika Sadahiro shows that she can tell a good story in spite of it.
June does a decent job with what has to be some very uninviting cover artwork. Ace, who is much too old for for those shorts, is standing on tip-toe, gluteus muscles all tensed and round, with his tongue extended ready to lick something, well, someone, I guess J. I found this schoolboy sexed-up posture a bit creepy. I can't figure if it's an attempt at sensuality that failed or the mangaka finds the tawdry and coarse as "sexy", mistaking the queasy feeling for erotic experience. Another unpleasant drawing is included as an extra - it's J in a stereotypical vampire pose: standing perfectly erect (no, not that way!), arms extended to allow his cape to fall to his side, face en profile. We've seen this pose a thousand times, but instead of the traditional, over-starched white shirt, J is wearing a see through shirt, all the better to see his highly erect nipples. This is even creepier than the cover. The print quality is good, the artwork does not provide any particular challenge for it.
The art here is functional and efficient with layout and pacing appropriate to the work. The character designs are another matter. It's not so much that that the designs are bad, they just don't seem to mesh well, almost as if the individual characters were pulled from different types of manga and are inhabiting the same time and space. It's subtle but distracting.
Sfx are subbed placed unobtrusively next to the originals. The text reads well, but there are some passages, likely not the fault of the translator, that are unintentionally droll.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
"This isn't it...the color of the liquid I want". Thus begins Pathos, with the thoughts of the nearly eighteen year-old Ace upon completing some sextracurricular activity with a schoolmate. The post-coital chat between the two, just as Ace is to depart for home after being sent away for years, winds up being Ace's reflection on his life with his brothers and the situation that forced Ace to temporarily part from them.
Ace's "brothers" are vampires. He has been taken in and nurtured by King out of atonement for the death of Ace's parents for which he was responsible. However, King seems to more than redress the wrong against Ace out of guilt, he seems truly fond of Ace and provides for a normal future for him. He also protects Ace against the predatory J, who is aroused by the scent of the smallest amount of Ace's blood. Ace, for his part, is attracted to J, but is confused and conflicted as to why.
King recognizes that he may not be able to always protect Ace, so he sends Ace away to school for four years, until Ace turns eighteen and can join his brothers at an appropriate age. (No one wants to be fourteen forever and this is what would happen to Ace should he be "turned" now.) During that time King and J will sleep, four years is nothing for immortals, and await Ace's return.
Mika Sadahiro has set up an unusual vampire BL story, one that relies on vampire lore, traditional or invented for its sexual underpinning. This vampire tale is not just the usual sex plus fangs. King and J are lovers, bound by a dark kiss and an exchange of bodily fluids - blood, not seminal. This is their "pathos", as they refer to it, and their ecstasy.
After the first read-through I had intended to give this a much lower grade, but when it came right down to it, I realized that I did want to read more. There is something here, even though I might be loathe to define it, and recognition of that is deserving of a higher grade than I had intended.
My initial problem was with Ace. I felt he was a disruption from the more compelling story of King and J. (Jack? Joker? Yes, I get it, but is there a point?) For much of the book, it's the juvenile Ace that we see interacting with King and J. While this interplay is important in defining the relationships, the more adult exchanges of lovers King and J, defined by the vampire world that Sadahiro imposes on them, are really more fascinating. I have come to realize what Ace means for the future of the story, he just seems to be a bit of a drag here.
Sadahiro makes it quite clear that the mortal avenues of sexual gratification means nothing to her vampires. They are numb to anything below the waist. However, this doesn't mean that they don't use the sexual desires of mortal humans to attain their own satisfaction. I was charmed and delighted (very euphemistically) by the threesome composed of King, J and a bar pickup, and how each individual got gratification in a way meaningful to him. Mika Sadahiro can be very surprising, direct and sexy, and she pulls these off in this scene. At a time when so much BL is for me a case of "same ass, different tatami mat", this inventiveness is a welcome surprise.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: C
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Orientation: Right to Left