Empty Heart Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Thursday, July 06, 2006
Release Date: Saturday, April 01, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Minase Masara
Translated by:J Wang
Adapted by:

What They Say
High school art teacher Jun Usami has loved his best friend, Ryuuta, since they were high school students. Unbeknownst to Jun, Ryuuta's younger brother, Takumi Kajiwara, has been in love with Jun since he caught Jun stealing a kiss from his sleeping brother. As fate has it, Takumi has grown into the exact image of Ryuuta. Now that Takumi is a high-schooler and Jun's student, it's the perfect chance for Takumi to get close to his 'Usa-nii'.

The wheels of fate begin to move in Takumi's favor when Ryuuta announces his engagement to a beautiful coworker. Eager to comfort Jun, Takumi rushes to Jun's side and offers himself as Ryuuta's substitute.

As though being in a love triangle is not complicated enough, Jun's ex-lover enters the scene to steal Takumi away! What will happen when Jun has to face the reality that Takumi is not Ryuuta's substitute?


The Review
Packaging:
This is my first experience with Drama Queen LLC's work and I have to say I am extremely impressed. Starting with the cover, this book comes with a very good looking dust jacket. The cover art features the two main characters in a strange position looking up at the reader as they lay on a white background. This is an extremely personal image that shows off Minase's character design style well. The opposite cover has a long volume description next to a portrait of main characters Usami and Takumi embarrassing. Oh, look at Takumi showing off some skin! Kyaa! On the flaps of the dust jacket there is an artist profile and ads for DQ titles. Very nice.

Take off the dust jacket and like many Japanese books the actual cover does not even feature art, just the book logo and the brand logo. DQ provides a nice looking color plate at the start of the book; once again with Takumi and Usami. The rest of the book is printed on nice pretty heavy paper that shows off their solid printing work. Minase's line work looks great and the screen tone is consistently free of miore effects. At the end of the book, DQ includes and afterword from Minase-sensei, translation notes and a short but racy preview of Mandayuu and Me.

Artwork:
I love Minase's art. Her guys just look good. Strong upper bodies with just enough variation on their frames to show some variety. And even though all her characters, yes even her gals, have strong chins, Minase's faces show variety with different line weight and detailing around eyes and brows. I like her sense of proportion too. I did not feel her characters were too tall or thin. They really just had a good look to them. Minase's sense of style complements them well also.

Backgrounds are very stale but that is too be expected. They layout is very passive also. If Minase did not vary up her use of panels and their sizes this would be a pretty slow simple read.

SFX/Text:
The translation for Empty Heart is excellent. I hardly had any problems with the title at all. I think I noticed only one typo throughout the book. Then, DramaQueen kept all of the honorifics in the book. Even some of the more obscure terms were left in. At the end of the manga DQ provided a glossary of terms describing the usage of the honorifics. Dialects are pretty tough to deal with. Making a choice on whether to adapt them or not can be difficult. In this book, one character speaks with Hiroshima-ben, so DQ consulted a language services group for direction. The publisher used a southern style here based on the information provided to them, and even if I think that was a little general for my taste (people say the same for Kansai-ben but the two are not the same just like Texas and Mississippi are not the same style of southern) I commend them for taking that extra step. Another extra in their notes is a pronunciation key. All the names are broken down phonetically to help readers get a better handle of the language nuances.

SFX are all translated with overlays. The new FX look pretty good for the most part. But more importantly they do not compromise art. The retouch is very clean and DQ did a good job providing FX that were functional and looked good (though the fonts used made them look impersonal).

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It is not Takumi-kun's fault that he is good looking. Long light colored hair, nice skin, subtle features and a slender body can make almost anyone appealing. But Takumi goes to an all-boys high school and the guys there have been making advances since he was a freshman. Almost every other day there is another one from a random classmate and at times he really does not know how to properly, or is it safety, turn them down!

See Takumi has his eyes on someone else. He likes one of his teachers actually. And he has liked him ever since he met him years ago. This person is a bit older than him. Actually he is in love with one of his teacher's who also happens to be his brother's best friend. Takumi knows Usami-sensei superficially as he has had years to watch him and fantasize about him. However Takumi has also seen the personal side of Usami. He understands his feelings and his reasons for loneliness. They both are having issues with their one-sided romances that are driving them both to drink!

Drunk and lonely these two come to realize that they can only take comfort in each other. Usami can see his love in the face of Takumi. He can reminisce of times past and lost. Takumi can look forward to making Usami his own. This will be the formal start of something special. But along the way they both have to realize that if they trust each other neither will have an empty heart (just a slightly twisted one according to Takumi's brother).

Comments
Minase's Empty Heart is a wonderful short title. At it's core this story is really a tale of longing and communication. The main characters have a long established history with each other and there has at least been one-sided love there for years. Through the years, their time together developed into friendship, lust and then love. The progression appears to be a natural development of a relationship that was much more than a one-sided hard crush. Minase turned this into real love with its pains and risks. And having the lovers be a teacher-student combo made the risks even more apparent.

As soon as you open this book up the feeling of longing is immediately there. Main character Takumi struggles with the fact that he has not been able to act on his feelings because of the position he is in. Boy-boy love is not the issue here, as he is in an all-boys school. However, a relationship with a teacher taboo in every culture. Usami's loneliness is not quite as obvious at first. Minase takes her time showing Takumi's side and finds a thing the two share in common to transition to Usami's troubles with love. There is a sense of loneliness there that came through that was profound. His feelings were suppressed because of his lifestyle and because of the choices he made.

A short drama builds out of how these two cannot, or better said, will not take chances on each other for love. Here is where Minase really takes off though. Her ability to not only create tension between lead characters, but to also use supporting characters to reinforce the story through additional perspectives and personalities helped really round out this title. The lovers' spats and the way these friends push each others buttons was so much fun, I found myself seriously pushing for all their wishes to come true. And they only had one wish for Takumi and Usami to come together.

Everything from the art to the cast was focused on bringing filling those hearts up. Minase's pacing is impeccable. Her humor comes through well, as she appears to have fun with her cast as often as possible. And like the relationships here, the sex is pretty loving as well. A great short romance title that does not forget that love is about taking chances at times presented in DramaQueen's beautiful packaging (definitely worth the price).



Mania Grade: NA
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: DramaQueen L.L.C
MSRP: 12.50
Pages: 176
ISBN: 0-9766045-8-2
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left