Constellations in My Palm Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, November 19, 2007
Release Date: Monday, October 15, 2007
Writer/Artist:Chisako Sakuragi / Yukine Honami
Translated by:Sachiko Sato
What They Say
Enji is moving on to college and it turns out he'll be living with his cousin Mizuho, who he hasn't seen in seven years. Enji, once the younger cousin that Mizuho thought of as a cute little brother, is now a tall, handsome man practically oozing with cool. And yet, despite how close they used to be, Enji's giving him the cold shoulder. Has Enji simply grown out of being Mizuho's surrogate younger brother, or is he trying to hide his true feelings?
The sheer amount of text obscures the artwork somewhat, and the overly girly bar at the bottom -- cursive and roses and all -- is kind of juvenile. So is the advertisement for June's seme and uke teddy bears on the otherwise nice dust jacket. Nonetheless, it's a decent reproduction of the original Japanese cover, and that's always a nice to see. On the back is a summary, parental warning, logos galore, and a pretty image of Enji and Mizuho in a pool of light at night. On the actual book itself is a blue-and-white version of the cover, minus text. The only color page is reprinted in low quality black-and-white.
This is my first time with Honami's work, and it's definitely not going to be the last. Her art isn't extravagantly detailed, in fact it's rather basic and the backgrounds are pretty minimal, but the characters have a very pleasant, low-key vibe about them. These look like real people you could meet, not ultra-stylized stereotypes like in so many titles. No slim-hipped, teary-eyed ukes here, thank goodness! Another surprise was the cute women who exude personality through just their looks in the story. Many times yaoi artists will give them very little attention to the girls, and it's so nice to see just as much effort put into them as what many consider the 'main attraction'.
The original Japanese sound effects are left intact with the English equivalent to the side. With the exception of a small spelling error, it's a smooth read.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When they were kids, cousins Mizuho and Enji were best friends, and spent many nights together looking up at the stars and dreaming of becoming astronauts or astronomers. But after an embarrassing fall out of a tree, Mizuho intentionally tried to avoid extended family get-togethers and pretended to not be available every time Enji called. Eventually, he just gave up, and seven silent years passed until Mizuho's family lets Enji move into an old bedroom just temporarily while he attends college to study astronomy. This brings a rush of bewildering emotions to Mizuho: shock at seeing how handsome Enji has grown up to be, how much more mature he is than Mizuho, and embarrassment because his mere presence drudges up those awkward memories of his immature behavior.
To make up for what he did, Mizuho tries to work up to an apology, but Enji gives him the brush off which makes him just give up altogether. Time passes, and some of Mizuho's female classmates encourage him to invite Enji out for drinks as group outing, and on their night out, Enji makes a drunken confession to Mizuho. He's so stunned he can't reply, and Enji says it was just an alcohol-fueled mistake. They make an unspoken agreement to never speak of it again.
A surprise 'friend' of Enji's who shows up to get a tour of his new hometown throws poor Mizuho into a tizzy of confusion and jealousy. He turns to his best friend, Issei, who is openly bi, for help on sorting himself out. After giving him real advice, he playfully tackles Mizuho to "practice his wrestling moves" and Enji walks in at just the wrong moment. Of course, this just sends more mixed messages to Enji. With his newfound confidence in his true feelings, Mizuho gets everything straightened out, and even though he resigns himself to his ordinary life, he's thankful that he finally pursued his dreams in the end.
While the bare bones of this story (a childhood friend scorned, then thrown back into protagonist's life) are quite common, I found myself drawn into the story and enjoying it very much. It could have gone wrong in so many places, but managed to do just the right thing each time. I found myself cringing when Issei, Mizuho's friend, was revealed to be bisexual because I assumed it was a detail added just so the author could throw in another rival or something equally unnecessary. Instead, I was delighted to see they remained just friends, and that Mizuho consciously made this distinction in his inner-monologue: "Even with Issei so close like this... I feel nothing. But with Enji, I feel as if every nerve in my body is pulled taut." Nicely done.
The story is fairly simple, and could have been easily cut down to a one-shot. But extended over five chapters like it is, it feels like just the right length. It gives time to explore Mizuho and Enji's relationship to the fullest and let Mizuho discover his feelings more naturally. The extra effort is key, because I doubt this would have been much of a standout otherwise. For once, the characters felt like real human beings who had something to say besides corny, true-love-focused dialogue, and their troubles weren't easily solved Three's Company-style gags but genuine misunderstandings. It's difficult to describe exactly why a story that is plain on the surface is so enjoyable, but is really is.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B-
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Constellations in My Palm