loveholic Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, March 08, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Translated by:Issei Shimizu
What They Say
27-year-old Nishioka is a selfish and irresponsible yet talented young photographer living on his own in the world. Then there's Matsukawa, a man working for an advertisement agency, who infallibly makes Nishioka's work a smash hit. At first glance, these two look like they don't get along, but underneath it all there's actually a burning love for each other...
Well-written tension with a hint of sadness makes Loveholic a nice change from the usual batch of broody boys and their romantic misunderstandings.
Presentation for this title is the same as previous releases by DMP's June Manga imprint. The tall A5 size and glossy dust jacket make this book stand out nicely. June uses the original cover art featuring a playfully romantic picture of Nishioka and Matsukawa, looking happier and more relaxed than they did at any point inside the book! Inside the printing is decent, on par with the other releases by this publisher. Bonus comics and the author's afterward are included at the end.
I find Toko Kawai's style most recognizable by her characters' faces; features are elongated and prominent but they tend to be flat and indistinguishable in profile. While Kawai isn't my favorite artist being published domestically, the artwork in this title has improved over Our Everlasting and even parts of bond(z). Progress is apparent within this title too, as there are marked differences between the first and last chapters. Kawai still has trouble with certain angles, but proportions have improved and her characters have better expressions here, making them much more readable. The angst works a little better with the characters breathing more life into the panels, but she still lacks range when it comes to character designs. Layouts and backgrounds barely factor in here; they aren't horrible, but they're generic and set up just like dozens of other manga of this ilk out there. Whatever works, I guess?
I did spot a couple of text errors, but overall production looks okay. Honorifics are included and text elements and SFX are subtitled as usual. I found the honorifics really helped with characterization here (particularly for Nishioka), but conveying individual voices for the characters met with both successes and failures. The best example of this is actually Nishioka who, according to two key scenes, speaks with an Osaka accent and purposefully embraces this dialect at times. The English script makes no attempt at distinguishing his speech. That Nishioka uses his accent as a means of protecting himself says a lot about his character and failing to illustrate this in the adaptation reduces the impact. Accents are tough to convey (well) in translated manga but I feel like we're missing an essential piece of his characterization this way. Because of this I can't grade the text above a "B."
Contents:(please note the following may contain spoilers)
Matsukawa is a successful manager at an advertising company; Nishioka is a popular commercial photographer with a bit of an attitude. Often working together to produce hit campaigns, these two seem to have a special connection and (more importantly) they harbor hidden feelings for one another. They've both experienced heartbreak in the past, but how they've dealt with that pain and how they now view romantic entanglements is quite different. One thing is for certain - neither one is currently capable of acting on the feelings they both know are there.
Things aren't all rosy at work, either. Matsukawa's colleagues are jealous of his rapid promotion and good ideas, and have taken to undermining his projects whenever possible. Nishioka, too, has made an enemy in the renowned photographer under whom he used to work, who now uses any opportunity to trash talk Nishioka's style. Together though, these two men somehow rise above all the pettiness and bring out the best work they are capable of.
Nishioka is so intent on keeping others at a distance that his true feelings only come though in the photographs he takes. Matsukawa knows Nishioka's repressed feelings are eating away at him, but the more he tries to be let inside, the more Nishioka pushes him away. Working closely together on a big campaign featuring a popular idol pushes these two men to their limits, leading, inevitably, to a break in the wall.
I'd heard so much hype about this series that I picked up this book and waited for it to wow me. At first I really thought it didn't, so I put it aside a little disappointed. But when I went back to it, I found that what I'd missed the first time was just how well the writing does its job. Loveholic cultivates the kind of angst that light BL titles seem contractually bound to creating, but it manages to do so without overwhelming the reader " or the characters. This story isn't about broody guys or misunderstandings (in fact, they know just what's going on); it's about simmering romantic tension and having the courage to let down your guard in order to embrace what you really want. Readers after graphic content should look elsewhere; this book manages its mature feel without being, well, too adult. One thing I do hope to see more of is Nishioka and Matsukawa's past together. It seems they've known each other a long time, and more than anything else I feel this is the piece we're missing most. If volume two delivers in this regard I bet I'll feel even more strongly about this couple.
A story full of subtleties is easy to misjudge if you're reading on the fly; it needs time to seep into your consciousness. Loveholic is one of those stories. Take the time to savor this one.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Orientation: Right to Left