Art of Loving (aka: Renai Koufukuron) Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, November 05, 2006
Release Date: Saturday, April 15, 2006
Translated by:Sachiko Sato
What They Say
As the son of a prominent and wealthy family, Yutaka wears the mask of a genteel elite student. Frustrated by this facade he must put up and stifled by a future already laid out of him, the only way Yutaka can find to deal with the boredom and unhappiness of his empty life is through sexual release. Then one day, Tohno, a delinquent-looking student with blonde-dyed hair, suddenly transfers into Yutaka's class. As Yutaka finds himself more and more obsessed with a deep abiding lust for this young man, his daily descents into sexual fantasy begin to interfere with his life, until the ferocious impulse to possess Tohno for his own leads him to a diabolical scheme.
What could have been a dark contrast to much of what's currently on the market is instead weighed down by melodrama and slow pacing.
As with all DMP yaoi releases, this comes with a very nice dust jacket. On the front is a rather simplistic picture of Tohno and Yukata, who look to be caught in the middle of something steamy. The title font and color could be better, especially the color as it's nearly the same shade of blue as Yukata's head and somewhat fades into the picture. The spine is gray with the same title lettering as on the front. The on the back there is another picture of Tohno and Yukata, with Yukata's right arm thrown around Tohno's shoulders possessively. The blurb is underneath alone with the rating and price. Extras included are a message from the author, a teaser for the next volume, and some four panel comic strips about the making of the story.
Eiki Eiki's art is somewhat simplistic, without a lot of attention paid to styles of clothing or backgrounds. She also likes to use a lot of close up shots of the characters and not many distance ones, which can make things feel a little claustrophobic at times. Having said that, her character designs are attractive and solid. It's a little like Koujima's in that respect, but Eiki Eiki's sense of proportion is many, many times better.
Though I've been a little harsh on DMP in the past because how stilted the dialogue in some of their series reads, this isn't really the case in this one. It's not particularly inspiring, but nothing particularly stands out as awkward. As for the sound effects, smaller ones are translated and edited, but larger ones just have the English translation next to them and remain unedited. DMP chooses to translate honorifics instead of leaving them.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A man named Tohno has a rather unusual relationship with another man named Yutaka. Sometimes Yutaka will stop by Tohno's place for sex, and Tohno will always oblige him, even if he has other plans with someone else. Tohno is clear that Yutaka is the only one he really loves, but has no trouble sleeping around with women in between Yutaka's pit stops. Of the two, Tohno comes across the nicest, because even though he sleeps around, and has a belligerent attitude, he also seems to genuinely care about people and has no problem showing it. Yutaka, in contrast, is cold and deliberately cruel. He only shows that his feelings for Tohno are mutual when he's alone and thinking to himself.
As it turns out, this relationship began several years ago when the two of them were in high school. Yukata works hard to keep his grades at a position that will please his wealthy father, but feels empty and distant from the entire family. Only masturbation relieves his pent up emotions. After meeting a transfer student named Tohno--who comes to class with bright blond hair and bruises all over his face--Yukata finds a focus for his overactive libido. As he becomes closer to the unwary boy, Yukata finds himself unable to concentrate on his schoolwork. He begins fighting with his family and his class rank slips further with each following test.
Tohno, on the other hand, increases in the ranks and begins to make friends amongst his classmates. This drives Yukata to distraction as his desire to monopolize all of Tohno's attention builds. Yukata even goes to far as to order an investigation on Tohno in order to learn any possible weaknesses. After a fight with his father, Yukata ends up staying the night at Tohno's place while his aunt and uncle are out of town. Before he can take advantage of the situation, Tohno gets a phone call telling him that his aunt and uncle have both died while on their trip.
This is the chance Yukata has been waiting for. He rushes home to his father and apologizes for his earlier behavior. Yukata ends up promising his father that if he will take Tohno into their family and provide for him, then Yukata will take over the company no matter what his personal desires might be. Having made that deal, Yukata rushes back to Tohno and tells him the good news. Tohno is a little overwhelmed by everything, but Yukata doesn't waste any time explaining that since he made a contract with his father giving up his future freedom, Tohno will have to make it up to him with his body.
If you didn't laugh out loud at teenage Yutaka's theatrics concerning his sex drive, then you're certainly a better person than I am. The way he goes on, one would expect him to admit that he's murdered a few people, or he sneaks into people's houses and rapes them, but instead he's just a guy that masturbates a lot. Though one does wonder what exactly he's masturbating to, considering he says that he finds women disgusting but has never thought of sex with a guy before he met Tohno...
That rather hilarious plot point aside, the dark tone is a change of pace compared to most of the sweet-as-sugar high school romances currently on the market. It's unfortunate that most of the time in this volume is taken up by the high school portion, though, as the most interesting parts of the book deal with Yutaka and Tohno as adults. Obviously there is a twisted relationship going on that continues to adulthood, but this volume only brings us to the starting point. In that respect, the pacing feels too slow. With nearly two hundred pages, it would have been nice to have more of that tangled relationship from the beginning instead of spending so much time on Yukata angsting and whacking off.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Orientation: Right to Left