Loving Gaze Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Briana Lawrence
Review Date: Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Akira Kanbe
Translated by:Sachiko Sato
Adapted by:N/A

What They Say
Kazumi is the beautiful head of a design office, and he's head over heels for the younger Yajima, one of the top workers at the building next door. But Yajima is uncontrollably jealous, and so he comes to the office at night - and kidnaps Kazumi?!

The Review
Take a handful of generic boy's love scenarios and go SQUISH! There, you've got yourself a manga.

The front cover has the four main characters on it, broken up into two pairings: Yajima/Kazumi and Kunieda/Hiromu. Kunieda and Hiromu are in the background, hinting that they are the secondary couple of the story while Yajima and Kazumi are the main focus. The back cover is a sort of pumpkin orange, which is a poor color choice because it makes the text hard to read since it's a tiny, white font. Both Kazumi and Yajima are standing together, holding hands, and it looks like it's Christmas season due to the snow and the decorations.

Ah, this art takes me back to the days where ukes were pretty, semes were manly, and during a sex scene the boys were surrounded by flowers and happy things. Kazumi is a very feminine looking man and sometimes he even looks frail. He blushes, a lot, and is susceptible to having watery eyes whenever he's getting emotional. Hiromu is the same way, except he looks like he's about 16 years (and hopefully he's older because of the sex and drinking he does). Yajima and Kanieda, on the other hand, are taller and bigger than Kazumi and Hiromu. I also noticed that the semes never change clothes. They're always wearing the same suit, while the ukes are always wearing a different outfit in each scene.

Japanese honorifics are kept in tact in this story, and the kanji for sound effects is also kept in tact with the English translations underneath it. Everything else is pretty standard: narration is done in text boxes, thoughts are done outside of the speech bubbles. Something I did notice is that for the sex scenes, the characters say the sound effects ("Oh," "Ah," ect.) and they have dialogue that reminds me of a romance novel ("Give all of yourself to me," "Let's come together," ect.), which fits with the overall theme of happy, sappy love.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Loving Gaze
Kazumi has a huge crush on Yajima, the man who works in the office building across from his. By chance they end up sharing a table during lunch at a busy restaurant. They start eating together regularly, and one day Yajima reveals that he has been in love with Kazumi ever since he first saw him. They start dating, but Kazumi works a lot and doesn't have much time for Yajima. One day, Kazumi sees Yajima walking out of his office building with a woman and assumes that Yajima is cheating on him, but Yajima is quick to clear up the misunderstanding.

Soon, Kazumi starts working in Yajima's office, both of their companies now working together on a project. It's here that Yajima reveals that he is rather possessive because Kazumi is so pretty and gets a lot of attention. He makes Kazumi promise to never be in the office alone at night because something could happen to him (I guess Yajima knows that he's stuck inside a stereotypical boy's love manga?). Kazumi tries to keep his promise, but one night he ends up alone with another coworker. The coworker tries to rape him, but Yajima comes in for the rescue before anything can happen. As the two are leaving, Yajima and Kazumi end up arguing over the situation, which leads to Yajima trying to force himself on Kazumi. Rape attempt number two! But Yajima stops when Kazumi tells him that he's no better than the other man, and he realizes that maybe trying to force your boyfriend into sex after he's almost raped isn't such a brilliant idea. Kazumi forgives Yajima rather quickly because... this is called "Loving Gaze" so we need to keep the love going? Or something?

To end their story, it's revealed that Yajima was in love with Kazuma ten years ago. He use to see him via the convenience store he worked at but he never got the courage to tell him how he felt. And now, Kazumi remembers that handsome store worker from ten years ago and realizes that he's been in love with him all this time as well, which explains his initial attraction to Yajima. Happy sappy sex occurs the same night of the almost-double rape due to this revelation, and the two live cheesily ever after. There's one more chapter called "My Overflowing Love" where Yajima is away on business for a month, but then he comes home and the two of them are reunited with loving words and more sappy sex.

Love Me Til I Melt
This story focuses on Hiromu, Kazumi's assistant, and Kunieda, who works in the office with Yajima. Hiromu always has bad luck with men. He's never able to have an orgasm with any of his boyfriends, no matter how good the sex feels, and it always drives the men he's with away. He decides to try and be careful with his decisions when it comes to love, but when he meets Kunieda he can't help but fall for the tall and handsome man. As Kazumi's and Yajima's offices start to work together on an upcoming project, Hiromu and Kunieda start to get closer to each other. But Kunieda wears a wedding ring, does that mean that his crush is already taken? Instead of asking him directly, Hiromu gets so drunk that he passes out. Kunieda takes Hiromu back to his place so he can sober up and Hiromu finds out that the wedding ring is fake, Kunieda only wears it when going out so he can push away those pesky girls who try and ask him out. The two of them express their love for one another, and Hiromu realizes that he wasn't having orgasms because he wasn't truly in love with any of his boyfriends. The lesson of this story is: true love brings you the pleasure you've been waiting for... or something like that.

Sometimes, the stories in the boy's love genre throw around the word "love" too frivolously. It makes the word lose any meaning behind it. In a few short pages the characters in this story are "in love" with one another. It's not that I have anything against the concept of "love at first sight," but whatever happened to a guy just liking another guy? When did we skip that phase and go straight to love?

I don't care for the main characters too much in this story. I was fine with them until the rape issue came up. I just can't tolerate a seme who gets so angry after the uke is almost raped that he decides to force himself on the uke too. How stupid can you be, seriously? Why are you so surprised when the uke starts crying, he was almost raped less than 5 pages ago! Then the uke just forgives him, like nothing happened, and they hug and kiss and have happy sex. I hate when boy's love takes rape so... lightly. That definitely should not be something that's forgiven so easily, and it definitely should be something that's more traumatic for the victim. How Kazumi is able to almost be raped (twice!) then is able to go home and have sex with Yajima (who almost raped him in the elevator) blows my mind.

This story is just too stereotypical for me to enjoy it at all. It was very hard to make it through the entire story and many times I was rolling my eyes, ready to puke over the sap and the corny, overdone situations. It felt like the manga-ka sat down and read a ton of boy's love stories before writing this, then they took some already-been-done ideas and inserted their own characters. And to top it all off, the story is just... cheesy, right down to the near-rape scene where Kazumi's coworker "accidentally" spills his coffee on his shirt and says, "Oh, let me get that cleaned up for you," then rips it off.

I probably would've enjoyed this manga if it existed years ago when I was just getting into boy's love and devoured anything and everything I could find, back when the only thing that existed was "Fake," "Earthian," and "Gravitation." But as it stands, this book only left me wishing I was reading something else. The only thing that saves it is the secondary couple... kind of. They fall in love just as fast and are also pretty cheesy with the "love equals true pleasure" message, but Hiromu is cute and at least Kunieda isn't trying to rape him.

Mania Grade: D
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
MSRP: 12.95
Pages: 200
ISBN: 978-1-56970-722-7
Size: A5
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Loving Gaze