Little Butterfly Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, July 06, 2006
Release Date: Monday, May 01, 2006
Translated by:Sachiko Sato
What They Say
Kojima seeks to befriend the class outcast, and soon learns of Nakahara's troubled family life - of his uncaring, abusive father and mentally unstable mother. As Kojima yearns to somehow comfort Nakahara, he gradually becomes aware that his feelings for the other boy arise from more than mere sympathy. When Nakahara declares his own romantic feelings for Kojima, their relationship becomes one of sexual exploration as they face their first steps into adulthood together.
Read. Ache. Repeat. Love. This book is so sweet that it actually hurts.
This is another great-looking release from DMP. This book is presented in A5 size and has a nice glossy dust jacket. DMP uses the original cover art (from the second printing), a cute, playful picture of Kojima and Nakahara surrounded by flowers and butterflies. It's a happy cover. The logo is reproduced in English using a similar font and color scheme so that the overall cover essentially matches the original version. The new "June" imprint label bar runs along the bottom in a nice matching pink. Inside the printing looks good, on par with the previous releases by this publisher. There is a short afterward by the author included at the end, and ads for other DMP titles close up the book.
The artwork in this book moves me - in lots of ways - and I can honestly say I got lost in this book every time I read it, just looking over the pages. The characters work; Kojima is expressive and energetic, and Nakahara is the cutest broody guy to come along since Prince Aram (I just want to rumple his hair on every page). There aren't always a lot of backgrounds and detail, but there is great emotional impact in the characters' expressions. I think most manga in general does this kind of thing well, but some titles really shine in their ability to portray so much in such a simple way. The expressions on Nakahara's face add so much weight to the story that just looking at him hearts my heart, and I love that. The panel layout is fantastic, too, with the pages not only full of artwork, but full of movement as well. They set the kind of pace that allows your eyes to fly across the page, and yet also makes you want to stop and slowly drink in a scene. It's just beautiful. Art reproduction by DMP looks good, too, as usual.
As per usual the SFX are translated using the subtitle method. Their handling looks very good with the translations generally small and complementary in style, and they manage to maintain the flow of the panels pretty well. The adaptation here has laid off on the excessive use emphasis that sometimes plagues this publisher's books, saving it instead for when it seems most appropriate, and there is also some honorific usage on the part of the parents. There was an awkward sentence or two, but the script is otherwise quite smooth. Most of all I appreciate the flow of the dialogue, as the feelings of the characters come across very nicely.
All that said, however, I'm dropping the grade by a letter for changing the boys to high school students. At fifteen years old (their age is even mentioned in the story), they are actually seniors in junior high, and by the end of the volume rising high school, not college, students. While changing aspects related to age isn't unheard of for releases in North America, this book is shrink-wrapped with an 18+ label and yet does not include any explicit acts. Under such circumstances I'd expect them to remain true to the text. I also feel it could affect some readers' understanding of the characters' emotional states, since we're talking about a perceived 3-year age difference.
Contents:(please note the following contains spoilers)
Kojima is a kind, energetic (junior) high school senior who has always wanted to befriend Nakahara, a quiet, sad-looking boy in his class. It's been impossible though, because Nakahara keeps his distance and ignores everyone in class, and they in turn do the same. Kojima's big chance comes on the school field trip however, when his well-intentioned meddling throws them together. See, Nakahara's got some pretty serious family troubles and he'd planned to use the school trip as cover to run away, but when Kojima tries to follow him, naturally everything gets messed up. But a funny thing happens while "on the run" together -- they become friends.
As time passes back at school, the two become better acquainted, though it takes awhile for Kojima's other friends to accept Nakahara. There's some funny stuff going on in the background, particularly with regards to school and these other classmates, but it mostly serves to show just how alienated and alone Nakahara is. One night Nakahara has a terrible fight with his mom, which really sets things in motion. During their fight, Nakahara shoves his mother and she loses consciousness. Thinking he's killed her, Nakahara runs to Kojima for help, who promises to stand by him, no matter what. Things get a bit worse when Nakahara's father comes home, but eventually the two boys are left alone. In the emotional aftermath of this tumultuous evening, Nakahara confesses his love to a shocked Kojima.
Not knowing just how to react to his friend's confession, Kojima keeps his distance for a few days, but when Nakahara stops coming to school, he becomes worried. While he runs around town looking for his friend, Nakahara shows up at Kojima's place; turns out that the more they distanced themselves, the more they missed each other. Moving past their awkwardness, Nakahara opens up some more and Kojima begins to understand just what kind of troubles his friend has had to endure. Even more, however, Nakahara's mature sensitivities begin to stir something in Kojima -- the whole scene is really ardent, touching and honest.
Eventually it's time to for the boys to start applying to (high schools) colleges. Nakahara, desperate to get away from home, wants a (high school) college far away while Kojima and the rest pick a local community (high) school. But Nakahara is torn over leaving Kojima and decides to lay it all out on the line. He brings Kojima to his prospective school, hoping the beautiful seaside campus will entice him, and asks him to apply to the school too. Since Nakahara's effectively asking Kojima to be with him or else give up any chance of a relationship entirely, this is a pretty big step. Kojima still doesn't understand quite how he feels about Nakahara, but he does know he's happiest when they're together, so not long after he decides to apply to Nakahara's school.
At first glance it would be easy to dismiss this as a typical (junior) high school BL story wherein romantic tension plays out between two stereotypical character roles - a moody, aggressive seme and a perky, innocent uke " but it'd be a crime to do so. This book is lovely and Kojima and Nakahara are so absolutely adorable together. Watching their relationship unfold is painful " but in a good way " and leaves me feeling happy. The pace is good; it moves along quickly, hitting the major steps in their relationship in stride without dwelling too much on pointless angst. For the curious, the "action" is very tame, although there is one kissing scene that is quite steamy by comparison.
Sure, there are themes we've seen before but they're made all the more charming by the strength of Kojima and Nakahara's friendship. Nakahara is the moody-broody type because his family troubles have left him damaged, depressed and lonely. However, he's also a boy that wants to be loved and when shown just the smallest kindness by Kojima, proves himself to be sensitive, perceptive and honest. And as their friendship grows, so does his capacity for these traits. Alternatively, Kojima is expectedly perky, but don't mistake his kindness for innocence or his willingness for blind submission. He's the type of guy who genuinely cares about other people; when Nakahara is at his lowest and turns to him for help, Kojima is there to support his friend. He offers Nakahara comfort in forms he's probably never had -- the hugging in the futon was so sweet! -- and is only unsure about how to react to Nakahara's feelings (or his own) because he is not mature enough yet to fully understand their difference.
It took a second reading to make me realize just how much I enjoyed this book, but having since revisited it several times, I know I've found a winner. Definitely a recommended gem for fans of light Boys-Love, but also maybe for anyone who appreciates when a love story makes them ache inside.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Orientation: Right to Left