Only the Ring Finger Knows (novel) Vol. #02 - The Left Hand Dreams of Him (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, February 08, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Writer/Artist:Writer: Satoru Kannagi / Artist: Hotaru Odagiri
Translated by:Duane Johnson
What They Say
"Let's go on vacation together before you get too busy with exams." - Yuichi, who has just been accepted into an extremely prestigious national university, has planned a vacation for his exam-ridden boyfriend, Wataru. Looking to raise money for the trip, Yuichi agrees to a short-term job with his college senior Asaka, whose cool attitude and mature personality makes for an uncanny resemblance of Yuichi himself. Taking a liking to Wataru, who frequents the college campus to visit Yuichi, Asaka makes no effort to hide his interest and advances. How long will Yuichi be able to contain his frustration and jealousy?!
If the second half of this book is where this novel really wanted to go, why does it take 100 pages to get there?
The packaging for this book has improved a little over the first volume. This time around the cover stock is not nearly as rigid, making the book more flexible and much easier to hold. The rest remains as the previous volume: DMP uses the original cover art of Wataru and Yuichi, this time surrounded by purple flowers, and includes the double-sided color plate and several black and white illustrations. The back cover does nothing special, using a repetitive blurb that says too much. Notes from the author follow the story and ads for other boys-love novels from DMP close up the book.
I've been lenient on DMP in the past, referring to poor readability as being merely awkward, but truthfully, competent re-writing and proofreading are sorely lacking here. The translation itself might be correct and include appropriate romantic prose and angsty flavor, but there is often poor flow and unnatural phrases left too literal to properly convey meaning or nuance. Typos are frequent and sometimes horrendous. Additionally (and to great detriment) there is very poor differentiation for thoughts, making one frequently confuse the 1st and 3rd points-of-view. Thoughts should be italicized or set apart from the normal narrative text in some fashion; it's standard practice in English writings.
Having said all that, it's not impossible to get through this book; its elementary composition assures us some understanding. And truthfully the awkwardness of the adaptation could be in part a product of the source material -- but that certainly wouldn't excuse the lack of decent editing and proofreading.
Contents:(please note the following may contain spoilers)
It's been a year since Wataru and Yuichi confessed to one another and they've been taking lovey-dovey advantage of Yuichi's off-campus apartment. But pretty soon Wataru's going to be busy with college entrance exams, so the two boys decide to take a trip together. For that Yuichi'll need a part-time job. Enter Asaka, Yuichi's enigmatic, charming senpai (and object of loathing); cue angst.
Working on a building renovation project under Asaka's supervision isn't Yuichi's idea of fun, but he perseveres, asking Wataru to visit as often as he can. Seemingly always at a struggle to understand what's going on inside the mind of his boyfriend, the changes Wataru witnesses in Yuichi, brought on by the job, make him feel even lonelier. Add to this, of course, Asaka monopolizing cute little Wataru whenever possible and we've got an endless string of misunderstandings and an ever-widening gap between the boys.
Eventually an accident at the job site brings reconciliation between the two, and so nearly 100 pages of alternately heart-aching and hair-pulling angst come to a close. Things move on, finally (and thankfully), to their big trip to the beach. It's this second half where I believe the book really wanted to go, and thus it begs the question: Why did it take so long to get to it?
In Okinawa the sun is shining, the atmosphere is luxurious and everything is just perfect for a romantic getaway. Or, it is until Asaka appears. But even more troublesome than Asaka is his traveling companion -- none other than Shohei, Yuichi's older brother! He's a formidable opponent by all accounts, and now their secret is out. His opposition unexpectedly galvanizes the young lovers' resolve but does Shohei really mean it when he declares himself Yuichi's enemy?
I wasn't too enthusiastic over the "new" material in the first novel, and I have the same sorts of problems with this second installment. Where this book fails is in its excess meddling. Yuichi and Wataru are magic when they're alone together, but Kannagi wants to rely on the supposed antagonism from an outside character to drive the story. To this end, Asaka's role here is purposefully ambiguous - sometimes obnoxiously so. (And unfortunately, it looks like he'll be a recurring nightmare...) It may be a staple of Boys-Love to perpetuate angst through interference, but these two boys already have it in spades. More isn't always better; sometimes it's just unnecessary.
Thankfully, this book is divided into two rather different parts. While the first is an angst-fest of stunning proportions, the second shines with character development, culminating in a place I believe the story of Wataru and Yuichi has been heading for all this time. The lack of direction in the first half fills it with bratty tantrums, making it feel too much like filler, but the second chapter has the boys opening up to one another and expanding their world. There's still some conflict getting in the way and that can be frustrating, but when they are talking earnestly or impulsively breaking through a wall on their own accord, these two are as cute as can be. More importantly, this book has a great ending sweep full of resolution and capably expresses what light BL is all about. When Wataru and Yuichi are faced with a real life test of their relationship rather than some ambiguous threat they don't wallow in apprehension, they meet the situation head on and make it their own. Adversity is going to force their love to move forward, and it gives us a reason to continue rooting for this couple.
Given its history, I imagine the forthcoming installments of this series will chose to delay this growth, dallying in more angst-filled predicaments, but if their conviction proves true, then the future Wataru and Yuichi carve for themselves might be worth the wait. I just wish I didn't have to wade through so much muck and clumsy scripting to see it.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: All
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Orientation: Left to Right