Love Lesson (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Lesson number one when reading this manga: just because the words “forbidden” and “heart-wrenching” are used to describe it doesn’t mean that the manga will deliver the goods.
Translated by:Translation By Design
What They Say
Shirai is a math teacher with a problem - a handsome young problem named Akagi. Akagi is an actor, but he's still in school, and can't always make it on time to class. As a result, Shirai has to give him individual instruction to ensure that his studies don't suffer. The problem is, Akagi is in love with Shirai, and won't give him a moment of peace!
Shirai and Akagi
Let’s start by rewriting the description on the back of the book, because Akagi isn’t just some lame kid that Shirai sees in detention. Shirai is actually his tutor because Akagi is an actor who is always late to class due to his busy schedule. The rest of the description is right: Akagi flirts with Shirai, Shirai suffers from clueless uke syndrome despite being the adult in the relationship, Akagi makes his move and Shirai pushes him away. Not only is Shirai a clueless uke, he’s a misleading uke who -- when Akagi expresses his feelings towards him -- goes from saying things like, “How can you like me I’m not even that attractive,” to, “Wait, you’re my student!” The clueless/misleading uke syndrome is sort of acceptable on a school boy, but not a grown man dealing with a student who has a crush on him.
After the incident between the two of them Akagi’s schedule gets very busy, so he has to stop coming to class. While watching him do an interview on T.V., Shirai sees that Akagi is sick, so he decides to send him a text message. This sets Akagi off, who confronts Shirai and asks a very legitimate question, “What’s with the text message? Is a math teacher really supposed to be this concerned for his student?” Shirai doesn’t have an answer, and Akagi decides to drop out of school -- only to come back and sweep Shirai off of his feet since he’s technically not his student anymore. And Shirai... just goes along with it. The two go to a hotel, confess their love for one another, and live happily ever after.
Tetsu and... nameless main character?
I cannot figure out the name of the main character, come to find out that his name is never said. So... we’re going to call him Bob, I guess. One day, after going out with a few friends, Bob decides to jump into a fountain for some strange reason -- he says something about it being a nice night and being excited? He goes back to his friend, Tetsu’s, place to shower and get a change of clothes. And this is where we find out what else is wrong with this story -- besides me having to call the main kid Bob. It’s terribly inconsistent. We find out that Bob and Tetsu have been friends for a while, but in college Tetsu came out. They still remained friends, at least according to Bob, who remembers how Tetsu use to tell him about his boyfriends. Apparently, the two drifted apart -- which doesn’t really explain them hanging out and being all buddy-buddy tonight. They’re obviously close enough for Bob to come over and change clothes, and close enough for Tetsu to know that Bob is kind of a ditz and will jump into fountains at random? When did this drifting friendship happen? So then we get this moment where Bob asks Tetsu if he’s drunk, to which Tetsu says that yes, he’s a little drunk, but he’ll never do it again. Bob runs off, saying that Tetsu never gets drunk off of a little alcohol, and... it’s never brought up again. Really, why bring up the drinking? Does he have a drinking problem? Does Tetsu drinking make Bob angry? I just... don’t quite understand why this scene was necessary.
Weeks pass and Bob doesn’t see Tetsu in class or hear from him -- so I guess this is supposed to show how they drifted apart despite them spending time together before? I’m not too sure, but eventually Tetsu calls and asks Bob for his shirt back, saying that he needs it for a group date and emphasizes that it will not have girls. So... is Tetsu being gay a problem? Why emphasize there being no girls when Bob knows that he prefers men? And then Bob thinks to himself that Tetsu... smokes too much. Um... what? What does that have to do with anything?! Bob decides to bring Tetsu the shirt and I swear, this leads to the fastest love confession(?) I have ever seen. Bob tells Tetsu not to go on the group date and says how he’s always there for him, Tetsu kisses him, and then Bob says something about not jumping into fountains ever again. The end. Seriously, that’s it. I’m still not quite sure what I just read and there’s still more couples to read through!
Daiki and Tachibana
At least both characters are named this time. Tachibana is a tutor at the college Daiki goes to, but Daiki would like to think of the man as him boyfriend. One day, Daiki finds a dish in Tachibana’s cupboard, but Tachibana brushes off the subject. Later, Daiki finds out that the dish was a gift from a man named Takahata, someone who Tachibana use to date but who left to go work in China. This, of course, leads to some jealousy on Daiki’s part and he decides to return the keys to Tachibana’s place and leave for good. Apparently, every time Daiki comes to see his lover he sees a “shadow of who Tachibana use to be.” It would be nice to get a glimpse of this shadow instead of being told that Tachibana use to be this great guy... he doesn’t seem too bad to me! When Daiki returns the keys he accidentally breaks the dish and runs away when Tachibana sees it broken, thinking that he’ll be angry with him. It turns out that the dish actually means nothing to Tachibana. He’s completely into Daiki and wants to be with him.
Oddly enough this leads to... more questions from Daiki. He doesn’t believe him and wonders why Tachibana doesn’t want him to call while he’s on campus, or why he’s so composed all the time, or why he tells him not to be so persistent. Well, maybe its because he’s an adult and a tutor at the same school you go to! I mean, seriously! Daiki gets the answers he wants, but he’s still not happy and keeps pushing, as if wanting Tachibana to still be in love with his old lover when he’s not! Finally -- finally! -- Tachibana convinces him that he’s the one he wants and Daiki is happy, because a piece of Tachibana is finally his. I’m not quite sure that he never had him to begin with!
Tohma and Kiyomi
Finally, a story with an interesting plot. Kiyomi is one of Tohma’s many uncles, but he’s the one who spends the most time with him. Tohma loves spending time with him, and 10 years later the young boy finds himself in a relationship with his uncle -- technically, grand uncle, perhaps that’s thrown in there to sort of justify the relationship? We’re told that they’re “not that blood-related” so... yeah, I guess that’s supposed to make it o.k.? No matter how you say it, Kiyomi is related to Tohma, and hanging around him as a kid, watching him grow up, and sleeping with him is going to get some dirty looks. This is probably why neither has gone out to visit Tohma’s mother or the rest of the family. Kiyomi coming out to them caused enough of a mess, but for some reason we don’t get to see that confrontation. This is odd to me since the story set up this huge focus on family by showing the gatherings repeatedly, why not show the one gathering that changed everything? Nevertheless, him coming out was one thing, but the two of them going in as a couple? Wow, this manga just gave us a rather intense plot! I can’t wait to read what-... oh, it just ends with them heading out to the get together? Well, of course it does! All this story is is build-up build-up build-up and... failed delivery.
Tatsuya and Fumi
Another story with relatives, this time cousins -- who aren’t blood-related! The manga likes to throw in the “not blood-related” disclaimer in its family member x family member stories. This reminds me of those boy’s love stories where the characters looked terribly young, but the translation would have a character say something like, “my my he looks awfully young but he’s actually 18,” to try and make it look like the creepy old guy wasn’t hitting on a young kid. This story is just as unthrilling as the last ones, showing Tatsuya heading back home after being gone for a long time for college. When he gets back he’s surprised to see his -- sigh -- “not blood-related” cousin, Fumi. The two haven’t seen each other since Tatsuya left... I think. We at least know that before, they slept together, but Fumi left town, and then Tatsuya went to college, but they really make it sound like that they’ve done this “sleep together, leave each other” thing before because when they see each other afterwards Tatsuya says he’s not falling for it anymore. Not falling for what?! I don’t understand!
They get on a train together, Fumi gets off, but Tatsuya follows after him and says that he’s going home to Tokyo with him. So... does Fumi live in Tokyo, too? Or... argh, I am terribly confused! I also wonder why they had Tatsuya’s mother calling him in the beginning, saying that he should come home to visit for the anniversary of his grandfather’s death... that never came up again! Why did we need that detail at all?
Tomo and Harada
Harada is a performer and a bartender -- who has time to do both?! One day, he kisses Tomo at one of his concerts, because he apparently kisses someone in the audience at every performance. To add to this crazy plot, Tomo apparently goes into the bar that Harada works at all the time and picks up a new guy every night. How he doesn’t recognize Harada if he’s such a regular is beyond me. When one guy tries to get too rough with Tomo, Harada rushes in to save him, and this starts a relationship between the two of them... sort of. Tomo wants Harada to just “stick it in already,” but Harada vows to take his time and not do anything until Tomo loves him. Things are going o.k. until Tomo finds out that Harada asked his friend to take him to that performance that night. I’m... not quite sure why this is a big deal, but Tomo sees it as Harada wanting to sleep with him like all of the other men in his life. But... if Harada wanted to sleep with him, he could’ve just... “stuck it in” when Tomo told him to. Tomo doesn’t realize that, getting upset at Harada for knowing his bad reputation of sleeping around. But wait! Didn’t Harada already mention to him in the beggining that he knew Tomo picked up a different guy every night? So why is Tomo upset now?! Tomo runs off, finds another guy, the guy gets mad when Tomo doesn’t sleep with him, Harada saves him -- in crutches(?!) -- and explains that he really does care for him and the two get together. End of manga.
Have you ever read or watched something where the dialogue, the plot, and everything else seemed to move too fast? It feels like a scene starts, you blink, and you’re already in the middle of the next scene and you don’t remember getting any sort of transition in-between them. This is one of those stories. You sort of feel like some huge plot point happened 10 pages ago and you missed it, or maybe they forgot to add in a couple of pages, there’s just something missing because all of these stories feel like unfinished, rushed drafts. And the worst part is that you know what’s missing, you’re reading and you’re asking all of these questions about the stories that wouldn’t have been too difficult to answer, like, “what is the boy’s name in the story with Tetsu?!”
The characters in this book are not only forgettable, but they aren’t very likable either. They’re not the worst people in the world, but I just don’t care if they get together with their lovers because I don’t care about them period. And you know that moment in a boy’s love manga where you can just see the two characters falling in love and needing each other for the rest of their lives? You never feel that moment. I’m not saying that I don’t believe in “love at first sight” or anything like that, but if you’re going to, for example, set up a teacher/student taboo scenario there just needs to be more... conflict, I would think. I swear, it’s one page of conflict, half a page of resolution, and the last two pages are devoted to love confessions -- that’s just not enough! It gets a little better with the tutor/student story... a little, but that one has the most insecure seme in the history of semes, who keeps pushing his lover into admitting that he’s still in love with his ex when he clearly is not. Then there’s the friendship story where the characters use to be friends but aren’t anymore, but then they’re hanging out like they’re friends but apparently they haven’t spoken in a long time? And let’s not forget the incest stories -- sorry, not incest, because no one is “blood-related.” Just when there’s something remotely thought provoking, the story pulls back and wraps things up in a neat little bow. No. No no no. No. I’m sorry, I don’t care if he’s not blood-related, he’s a) ten years older and b) the kid was raised calling this man his uncle. There’s no way you can end that neatly! The story with the cousins is just as pointless, and the one with the rockstar bartender who takes home ukes who sleep around is just bland.
I rarely give a story a completely failing grade, but I cannot find anything that makes this manga worth the $13. The art and the sex aren’t pretty enough to want to flip through it to stare at the boys, the plot moves too fast, and the one story that felt like it was going somewhere just ends. Don’t buy this book. Period.
Mania Grade: F
Art Rating: C-
Packaging Rating: C
Text/Translatin Rating: D
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Orientation: Right to Left