Only the Ring Finger Knows (novel) Vol. #01 - The Lonely Ring Finger (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Release Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Writer/Artist:Writer: Satoru Kannagi / Artist: Hotaru Odagiri
Translated by:Allison Markin Powell
What They Say
Not only is Yuichi the most mysterious, sought-after guy at school, he's got an excellent shot at getting into any prestigious University...and no one knows this better than his secret love, Wataru. But instead of a vacation break spent celebrating beneath the fragrant sway of summer blossoms, both boys must surrender to Yuichi's grueling study schedule. How can they possibly sweeten the deal? A bet that promises to take their young relationship to the next level is in the works, but Wataru complicates matters when the very ring that symbolizes their precious bond goes missing. Prying girls and wisecracking best friends only fuel the flames of gossip, and soon the small white lies that were only meant to protect the heart of Wataru's beloved become poison arrows. With the test and their relationship on the line, can the boys hold on long enough to survive the sticky meltdown of their longest summer?
Tender longing and young curiosity unite in The Lonely Ring Finger. Follow the cycle of a teasing friendship that takes a serious turn and spirals into an intense romance. The ring on each boy's finger is a symbol of two hearts that beat together despite the prying eyes of classmates... and this is one couple who must weather a storm of scrutiny to discover if their love is truly meant to last.
The manga adaptation of Only the Ring Finger Knows left fans swooning and craving more, but some wishes really do come true! At long last Wataru and Yuichi's adventures in angst continue in DMP's first offering from their new "yaoi novel" line.
DMP uses the original cover art for this novel, a picture of Wataru and Yuichi, each looking somewhat wistful and surrounded by pink flowers. This book is actually quite small, if still a bit taller than the A6 measurements of the original. It's a cute size -- different, easy to carry or hold, and no doubt hopes to camouflage the short nature of the story inside. The coverstock is quite heavy though and as such is tightly bound. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (the book should hold up fine if you fall asleep reading!), just don't expect to hold this book gingerly; prepare to ditch the collector's mentality and give it the proper loving a book deserves. Also included are a double-sided color plate and several black and white illustrations. Ads for other upcoming boys-love novels from DMP close up the book.
For the most part this aspect of the book is really good. The text generally flowed smoothly and it was ridiculously easy to sink into the story; the manga-like feel of the conversations somehow even comforting. I can't speak to the accuracy of the translation itself, but by and large things seemed as they should be. That is to say, the perfectly corny romantic phrases don't feel a bit out of place (and I'm now convinced that "rising body temperature" is a euphemism for something else). Subtle humor was aptly portrayed, though I must admit there were a few descriptions that could have used a bit of rewriting finesse.
However, I'm disappointed to report that after a vast majority of error-free pages beforehand, careless mistakes really started cropping up in the homestretch. (Of course, the first half of the book could have been lifted from the manga script, so maybe that was just the easy part?) They were mostly innocuous translation-to-rewrite issues, e.g. sentences made awkward by including more words than necessary, the odd mistaken pronoun or proofreading typos of the same ilk ("he" for "her" for example). Only a couple of times did something really confuse me, though. Overall, this is not a bad job for DMP's first foray into novels though it's worth noting the need for tighter proofreading (and maybe a bit more license to rewrite) for future productions.
Contents:(please note that the following may contain spoilers)
Exactly one-half of this book is comprised of the story from which the manga was adapted. As the manga adaptation was especially faithful, it is likely that those reading this novel will be familiar with this portion already. To recap briefly, at Wataru Fugii and Yuichi Kazuki's high school it's the latest rage to share paired rings with the one you love. Turns out that Wataru and the extremely popular upperclassman Yuichi have the same ring and rumors abound. Wataru and Yuichi angst " Yuichi because he's been secretly in love with Wataru and had his ring specially made to match his, and Wataru because he doesn't understand Yuichi's weird attitude towards him or his own growing, unsettling emotions. Misunderstandings and botched confessions ensue, but finally the two reconcile their feelings and their rings become a symbol of their mutual love.
Once becoming an official (but secret) couple, Wataru and Yuichi enjoy their new relationship. Stealing secret moments in the park, visiting out-of-the-way coffee shops and just enjoying each other's company, they've entered the "honeymoon phase." But summer is fast approaching and Yuichi's shooting for Tokyo University, which means prep school, prep school, and more prep school. Though saddened by the prospect of not spending much time with Yuichi over the summer break, Wataru wants most of all to support his boyfriend and not cause him any more suffering. (How keenly aware he is, of the difficulties he must endure to have the stud of the century as his boyfriend!) He's determined to keep a positive attitude, thinking the brave face will inspire Yuichi, while in fact it affects indifference to him instead. With a dose of déjà vu, Yuichi angsts over Wataru's seemingly unequal feelings and Wataru angsts over Yuichi's weird attitude.
Feeling anxious over their eminent separation Yuichi asks Wataru to sleep with him, but the younger boy isn't quite ready to take the next step. They cutely fumble their way into a bet - if Yuichi makes the top thirty on the entrance exams, they'll sleep together as a reward. (Not exactly what Wataru had in mind when he thought things should take their "natural course!") But as Yuichi feverishly studies (keep your eyes on the prize, Yuichi!), there is no time left for Wataru. More angst, confused feelings and woe ensue.
To make matters worse, Wataru's ring, the very symbol and soul of their love, goes missing one day. It isn't long before the mystery is solved but the new game in town is blackmail. Forced into situations just begging to be misunderstood by the school's new freshman hottie Miho, Wataru tells a steady stream of white lies to keep Yuichi's feelings from being hurt. Sparks fly when Yuichi finally finds out Wataru lost his ring and with a gap quickly widening between them, Wataru worries that there's no returning to the carefree days when he and Yuichi could be happy, secretly in love. Finally, as rumors fly and feelings are at their worst -- the boys each unable to do anything publicly about them -- both Yuichi and Wataru come to the same conclusion: Return to Toko (Yuichi's cousin and jewelry-smith) for a replacement ring to patch things up! A bit of drama and a big exposé later, the two are reunited and closer than ever before.
Oh, and Yuichi took 27th place on the exams...
Ok, I'll be honest, you've got to take this book for what it is: It's an angtsy, fluffy, adorable little BL high school romance. If that's what you want, this book is for you. It's not serious literature; it's got all the trappings of these sorts of stories, there's some corny dialogue, and there's embarrassing romantic prose, but Wataru and Yuichi have something really special together on the page. It was great fun to be able to read about them again.
So what about that? Well, compared to the first chapter (the manga's story), the continuation of their trials does lack some of the feeling of anguish that so easily pulled us in just pages before. Perhaps it's just that they're together now and we don't need to worry anymore or maybe simply because Miho's character gets in the way of their perfect vibe. So no, the new story didn't make me ache as much, but the boys are still as cute as can be, even when they're misunderstanding each other. It was also really satisfying to see just how much his relationship with Wataru consumes Yuichi, especially given the (mis)portrayal of his character throughout most of their "courting phase." And to top it all off, there are some really steamy kissing scenes and a charming, believable love scene. Fans who've read (and re-read) their copy of the manga won't want to miss this.
Allow me a brief editorial in closing, as there's something else this book makes me consider. While the English market for novels associated anime and manga is only just starting to take hold, many long-time fans have been waiting with great anticipation for the day when they could read the further (or original) adventures of their favorite characters. I doubt anyone can deny what the success of the Only the Ring Finger Knows manga meant to both DMP and the English boys-love market. But perhaps even more significant is how the popularity of this one little story may have set in motion the next big step for the genre here. DMP is particularly good at spotting niches to fill and with this and several other boys-love novels lined up for release, DMP is clearly seeing their potential. As a boys-love fan I am excited to think about the doors this could open. (And boy is my wish list huge.)
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: All
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Orientation: Right to Left