I Shall Never Return Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Patricia Beard
Review Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Release Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2008



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kazuna Uchida
Translated by:Adrienne Webber
Adapted by:Adrienne Webber

What They Say
Upbeat Ritsuro and downbeat Ken have been longtime friends. Although Ken leads a dark life of prostitution after dropping out of high school, Ritsuro still cares about him. When Ritsuro realizes that what Ken wants is something more than friendship he vacillates between Ken and his girlfriend Moeko, setting the stage for a bizarre love triangle.

The Review
"Upbeat Ritsuro and downbeat Ken have been longtime friends." More like beat-down Ritsuro and beat-up Ken. These guys are certainly in a romantic death spiral. And all for your entertainment!

Packaging:
Deux has chosen a white background to set off Kazuna Uchida's deft pastel highlighting of the drawing of Ken and Ritsuro that comprises the cover. The print quality is good - contrasts are maintained and even the finest lines retain their resolution, things that the paper quality fully supports. As is common in all manga volumes, advertisements for further volumes in the series and other Deux titles are included. This volume also contains an advertisement for the Media Blasters published OAV of the same title. I was disappointed that there wasn't a color insert for this title.

Artwork:
Kazuna Uchida's art is not particularly distinctive, but she does demonstrate a restrained shoujo style and sensibility that really shines in the selection and placement of panels and their contents to tell the story. The matter-of-fact style grounds this story that inclines toward situations that can be a bit over-the-top, and the emotional changes the characters go through are skillfully depicted in posture and closeup. This is an art style of its time (early 90's), but this should not keep anyone from enjoying this classic story.

SFX/Text:
Translations of sfx are placed near the originals and often are given their own graphic representation. The work reads well with only one clumsy bit of dialog.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

It's easy to see how devoted Ritsuro is to Ken - he cleans his apartment, makes him food, almost makes up for the mother who abandoned Ken after her divorce. And he can't quit Ken even after Ken sleeps with Moeko, just as Ken had Ritsuro's previous four girlfriends. But what is Ritsuro to Ken? Friend, lover, substitute for mother?

Ken is a mess. His career as a rent boy is catching up to him and his self-worth plummets even more when he is further debased by his clients. At every downward turn, it's Ritsuro who is there for him. It just seems that he takes and never gives.

The third side of this very unequal triangle is Moeko, who unlike other females in BL works, is more than a convenient prop. It's Moeko who tells Ritsuro that she slept with Ken because Ritsuro wouldn't, more couldn't, do it. When she sees that her repeated protestations of love for Ritsuro, who cannot break with her, mean nothing to him, she embarks on a new strategy symbolized by a new short haircut and an attitude of support and friendship for Ritsuro and Ken that is tinged with maliciousness.

Ritsuro is determined to save Ken, who doesn't seem as if he wants to be saved. But he does want Ritsuro to himself. Will Ritsuro be able to remain steadfast when meeting Ken's "almost" stepbrother who has a lot to say and imply about Ken's past with him?

Comments
Most BL stories start out with uncertain lovers and end with declarations of love and physical expression. Not here. At the opening page, it is made clear that the relationship between Ken and Ritsuro is a sexual one. (Whether the relationship has been consummated at the beginning is ambiguous, this doesn't make it any less sexual.) What makes Ken and Ritsuro different is that they are still searching for what holds meaning for them individually and with each other. It's not completely meaningless sex, but it smacks of despair and desperation, not fulfillment. They need/want each other, but they don't know why. This unfocused and unrestrained desire is brought home by the ever changing sexual attitude taken by Ken and Ritsuro - seme and uke cannot be permanently applied to either of them. While this is common enough in more recent works, seeing this in a work of this vintage makes it significant here.

I'll Shall Never Return has many of the qualities of a soap opera and I mean this in the most complimentary way. While Ritsuro, Ken and Moeko aren't the over-the-top caricatures that one finds in soap opera, the plot lines contain the type of mean and spiteful behavior so associated with soaps, along with some twisted motivations. Good stuff here!

No one in I'll Shall Never Return is very likable. Even Ritsuro is more to be pitied than liked. This will be a challenge to readers who like to form some identification with a character. However, if the reader can maintain some distance, watching the train wreck of a life that these characters have embraced can be very entertaining. The attraction of I Shall Never Return is in its rich storyline chock full of deep, dark behaviors and motivations.



Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Aurora Publishing, Inc.
MSRP: 12.95
Pages: 192
ISBN: 978-1934496053
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: I Shall Never Return