Affair Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, June 23, 2008
Release Date: Thursday, May 31, 2007
Translated by:Vivien Chien
What They Say
Affair is a collection of short stories from a manga-ka whose men ooze testosterone. Shiuko Kano has never been shy about portraying real adult relationships and while Affair is a bit more subtle than her usual fare, it is by no means an exception. Two high school friends reunite; two yakuza sons find they have more in common than shady business dealings; and the stakes get raised in a mahjong game after work.
801 Media is using the standard industry size for their releases, but quality extras like a dust jacket and color plate help them stand out a bit in the crowd. The original cover is reproduced here, featuring Haruomi and Yoshiyuki from the title story. The dust jacket is a nice, heavy stock and includes the author bio on the front flap and an "801-chan" mascot comic strip on the other. Inside, the paper is pretty thick and the print quality good. The afterword and a few translation notes are provided. The high price point is difficult to swallow, but the nice presentation helps.
Covering some four years worth of works, the art in his book shows some range and difference in techniques. While some of the art is simpler and more straightforward, other chapters make more use of tones and dynamic panel layouts. It's an interesting collection of material when viewed from a technical standpoint. Across all of the stories, however, there could be better use of background areas; Kano tends to focus on close-up shots, leaving little room for setting, and is overly fond of using tones in place of actual artwork when the shots pan out a bit. As for the character artwork, Kano's style is certainly recognizable; her men are big - tall, broad, and well-built with defined features often accentuated by heavy linework. These characters have a very sensual quality about them that really works for the genre - no matter how rough they get, or how sweaty the sex is, there is always a presence on the page and an incredible, luring seductiveness in the eyes.
No typos, honorifics, and subtitled SFX are going a long way here. The script is quite readable overall and usually manages a decent sense of voice. Fonts are used well. Sign text and the like are translated in extra text boxes rather than overlaid, but this sometimes has the unfortunate side effect of covering artwork. Basically, if you've seen a book by sister company June Manga, you know what this one looks like.
Contents:(please note the following may contain spoilers)
Affair is a collection of four shorts. In the title story, two former baseball teammates with a complicated past meet up on the street - a reunion that picks at wounds barely scabbed over. The bickering and awkwardness escalate between them until things blow up, but it allows them to finally let go their past injuries and lies while alleviating their pent-up sexual frustrations to boot. This is not a pretty relationship in many ways and may turn some readers off, but the way Haruomi opens up in the final pages moves their relationship from one that hurts to one that heals. It's a powerful ending.
"My Dear Mad Dog" tells the story of two yakuza brothers - both sons of the family's boss. One is jealous of what his brother has; the other ashamed of what he's taken. There are several layers of deceit and treachery tightly wound around this story's plot as well as two very emotionally scarred young men. In the interest of the story, I'll leave the summary there. However, the love in this story is driven largely by guilt and need, and if incest is a squick factor for you, note that there's a double layer of it here.
"One Lucky Guy" is a story about Takei, a guy whose perennial good luck gets him the boot from work, and his co-worker, Hirose, who tries to defend him. The two end up living together while Takei gets back on his feet, and feelings soon blossom. But when a rival company tries to take Takei away, a mahjong game becomes the deciding factor in more than just their jobs. This story had potential it didn't quite live up to; the characters and pairing dynamic were interesting, but there was a narrative disconnect between Takei's confession and Hirose's decision to accept it. The mahjong game was also a lot like the sex in Kano's more explicit works; it became the focus rather than a tool for storytelling.
Finally, "Love Machine" is a tale of two college students; a popular but slightly aloof boy who's in love with the big, helpless seme-to-be that he's teaching to drive. This story is pretty much just a fluff piece, but it's very cute, and lends a feeling of lightness to the closure of an otherwise heavier collection.
As with many collections like this, some of these stories worked better than others. Thematically, they're all pretty similar; the conflict is solved by someone manning-up (pun intended) to admit feelings when faced with losing a loved one. One thing I liked about both "Affair" and "My Dear Mad Dog" is that there is a complicated, emotional backstory for this theme, rather than just the pure romance aspect found in many boys-love books. "Love Machine" did fall on that side of the spectrum, with Tamiya's spunky uke and Yagi's almost childlike seme, but it made for a fun, almost cleansing end to the book. Graphically, these stories are a little tamer in comparison to some of Kano's works, focusing more on story than sex - a nice change for this reader - but the lovin' is still the bottom line and so there's plenty of action here all the same. Certain relationship elements (almost non-con, incest) will be a turn off for some, however.
Although this collection is, overall, somewhat average in terms of storytelling, the tone is refreshingly mature, and it's an interestingly weighty read for fans of Kano's other books.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: 801 Media
Orientation: Right to Left