Laugh Under the Sun Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Briana Lawrence
Review Date: Friday, March 07, 2008
Release Date: Sunday, December 30, 2007



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Yugi Yamada
Translated by:Digital Manga Publishing
Adapted by:Digital Manga Publishing

What They Say
At age 15, Sohei dreamed of becoming the world boxing champion, much to the chagrin of his high school buddies. Sohei was very much a pretty boy and his face was most definitely his best asset. But Sohei’s dreams were shatter two years later when he seriously injured his opponent in a sparring match. Since then, he’s been unable to enter a boxing ring.

Years later, Naoki and Chika are living successful lives, while Sohei’s been using his good looks and charming personality to find women to support him. When his current girlfriend dumps him, Chika finally convinces him to get back into boxing. But where Sohei was once champ material, he is now 25 years old (over the hill in boxing years) and must play catch up with all the 18-year-olds at the gym. To make things worse, Chika’s been secretly in love with Sohei for years, and has about had it with waiting for Sohei to figure it out. With his upcoming pro test, his squabbles with the youngsters in the boxing club, and Chika’s increasingly bold advances, will Sohei finally find some direction and happiness in his life?

From the creator of “Close the Last Door,” “Picnic,” “Glass Sky,” and “Spring Fever” comes a cast of unforgettable characters.

The Review
Insert the required boxing quote of the floating butterfly and the stinging bee here.

Packaging:
The characters really stand out on the cover of the manga due to the plain, white background. The front cover shows a smoking Chika with a pair of boxing gloves draped around his neck. Sohei is laying across his lap, wearing nothing but a pair of boxing shorts and a band-aid on his cheek. The title of the story is at the top of the cover, the letters outlined in pink and white. The back cover shows Sohei and Naoki sitting back to back, Sohei still decked out in his boxing gear and Naoki wearing a bright orange shirt with blue and orange pants. The description of the story is written around the both of them, the title reprinted at the top of the cover.

Artwork:
Yugi Yamada has a very distinctive art style, one that’s easily recognizable as her own throughout all of her works. Her characters all stand out and have their own look, from Sohei‘s thick, dark hair to Naoki‘s ear piercings and Chika’s scruffy chin . There’s also great attention made in the different settings; the boxing ring, both Chika and Naoki’s apartments, even the city streets that Sohei walks through. What I love most about the art in this manga is the way flashbacks are done. The characters and backgrounds are colored lighter, making it look like a dream. Occasionally, flashbacks are done in all black backgrounds with the character’s outlined in white, this technique is reserved for the more painful memories that Sohei has.

Text/SFX:
There aren’t any Japanese honorifics in this story. There are a ton of sound effects, all of them translated into English, and the bigger the sound effect (a loud crash, for example) the bolder and bigger the text is. Anything written in kanji, such as a letter, is translated next to the kanji. Inner thoughts are done in two different ways. Since the story is in Sohei’s point of view, he narrates the events, and those are done in standard text boxes. All other thoughts (which mostly act as side comments made by the characters) are often written in small, thin text.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After reading “Glass Sky” I was craving something else by Yugi Yamada. Much to my delight, “Laugh Under the Sun” stars characters that appeared in “Glass Sky,” and important events that happened in the previous manga are mentioned in this one.

Sohei, once upon a time, wanted to be a champion boxer. He was well on his way until a tragic accident during a sparring match left his opponent severely injured. After that, Sohei decided to never box again. While his two best friends continue to live successful lives, Naoki is a graphic designer and Chika is a freelance writer, Sohei lives off of women and doesn’t work at all. It’s time for some serious growing up on Sohei’s part, and it starts with some forced persuasion from Chika and a letter from the opponent Sohei critically injured way back when. Sohei is ready to step back into the ring, but he’s got a lot of work to do if he wants to keep up with the younger kids in his gym.

As if getting hassled at the gym by a bunch of teenagers isn‘t enough, Sohei has to deal with Chika’s advances towards him. Chika’s been in love with him for years and is tired of hiding his feelings. But Sohei continues to be a total blockhead and is oblivious to Chika’s love for him, and poor Naoki is caught in the middle of the emotional rollercoaster that his friends are stuck on.

Comments
Just when I thought I read everything possible in the boy’s love genre I’m given this story about boxing, of all things. Yugi Yamada is good at doing stories that deal with not just boy on boy love, but real life situations. The characters aren’t two dimensional and aren’t the typical “confused uke” and “demanding seme” that are a common trend in the genre. The plot itself goes beyond the unrequited love between Chika and Sohei, it deals with Sohei’s dreams and his life as a whole. But it’s not just about him, we get to learn about and care for Chika and Naoki too--especially if you’ve read “Glass Sky” and experienced Naoki’s painful story.

There are a few problems that I have with this manga. I fear that there’s so much going on in the story that certain events in the plot feel unnecessary, such as Naoki randomly kissing Chika and Sohei catching them in the act. It felt like a cheap cop-out to get the main character to realize his feelings, but it wasn’t needed in the story because Sohei had already realized that he loved Chika. It built up this odd love triangle that didn’t really exist.

There are also parts that I wanted more details about, such as the incident that made Sohei stop boxing. Why did it effect him so much? Yugi Yamada is so good with her characters, her plots, and her descriptions that I wanted that sort of attention done to every aspect of the story, especially one that was a major turning point in the main character‘s life. And I kind of wanted Sohei to deal with his feelings for another man when, throughout the entire story, he had been sleeping with women. While I do enjoy the “love is love no matter what” message that lots of boy’s love titles advertise, it seems like it would’ve been a bit more realistic for this very heterosexual man (who slept around with women and made lots of “fag” comments to Naoki and Chika) to react more to falling for another man. There were, of course, moments when he freaked out, but it seemed like it was because his best friend kissed him, not because it was another man kissing him.

Despite its problems the story is still rather enjoyable, probably moreso if you read “Glass Sky” beforehand. But even if you don’t read “Glass Sky,” this manga is still a good read on its own.



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
MSRP: 12.95
Pages: 200
ISBN: 1-56970-776-6
Size: A5
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Laugh Under the Sun