Dash!! Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Julie Rosato
Review Date: Friday, January 11, 2008
Release Date: Sunday, December 30, 2007



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Isaku Natsume
Translated by:Duane Johnson
Adapted by:

What They Say
Akimoto entered the judo club because he was a huge fan of Saitoh. But all that was waiting for him was a daily life being an errand boy. Things liven up when Akimoto finds out that Saitoh has a deep, deep secret?! Don't miss this charming volume of pure love between a cute boy and an ideal man, and of a devilish cousin's anguish at the mercy of a beauty.

The Review
A sweet, feel-good read featuring perennial favorite couplings.

Packaging:
Dash! sports the standard June packaging, notably the tall A5 size and glossy dust jacket. One thing June definitely does well is mimic the original cover design; the artwork, layout, even the title font all match up here. The front cover features Akimoto and Saitou from the title story, while cousins Taka-chan and Yoshirou from the second story are pictured on the back. This book looks light and playful, perfect for the YA age rating. The paper used inside is the brighter, thicker paperstock sometimes used by this publisher.

Artwork:
The characters in this book are mostly the manly, athletic types, with generous features and broad builds. Natsume shies away from the effeminate stereotype (and in fact would have you believe these guys are hardly attractive at all), but of course everyone's still plenty gorgeous - even cute, when the need arises. Comparatively speaking, if there is a flaw here at all, it's that the characters hardly look their age. College student Taka looks no older than high school freshman Akimoto (nevermind that flashback to his eighth grade self!), and "pretty boy" Yoshirou is probably the only character who could pass for his age. Frankly though, this is hardly a true criticism; I dig the older-looking characters and a break from the wispy high school bishounen is sometimes in order. However, the best aspect of the artwork is actually how well the designs carry personality through to the reader. Akimoto truly looks like the genuine, friendly kind of guy he is, and Saitou has a cocky, yet utterly infectious, grin that completely matches his persona. Even Yoshirou's aloof pretty-boy look can't hide his vulnerable, childlike admiration for his cousin. This is good stuff.

Layout is pretty straightforward and basic, but it gets the job done. The big panels actually work well with the close-up shots, giving the reader plenty of opportunity to appreciate the character's expressions. Composition often renders background art unnecessary, though it is present at fairly consistent levels. Art reproduction is clean and bright.

SFX/Text:
Overall the script read pretty well; there were only a couple of rough spots and I didn't notice any typos. The often-improper use of commas was pretty distracting, however. SFX are translated using a mix subtitles and overlay, though overlay seems to be the favored choice this time around. I spotted the occasional missed SFX or poorly-done overlay, but mostly things look good. Fonts are used well and generally don't overwhelm the artwork or get in the way of the existing Japanese SFX.

Contents:(please note the following may contain spoilers)
This book is divided into two stories of about equal length. The page counts work really well, giving the stories just enough depth without needing to fill in gaps with angst. I gave two grades for content above, one for each story.

Dash! is a kohai/sempai story featuring members of a high school Judo team. (Fans of boys in judogi throwing each other around will enjoy the art in this story.) Fueled by admiration and competitive spirit, Akimoto has followed Judo prodigy Saitou to his high school and joined the Judo club there. What he doesn't know, however, is that Saitou had been in a terrible accident since Akimoto last saw him in competition. No longer able to compete, Saitou puts on a cool front that drives Akimoto crazy, and unable to let go of his hero worship, he forces things to the point where he finds out the truth. But rather than be disappointed, Saitou's inability to give up really impresses Akimoto, and a new kind of bond is formed between them. As their passion for Judo brings them closer, Akimoto struggles with the feelings he has for his sempai. Things work out as they usually do, but it's watching Saitou deal with the assaults (amorous or otherwise) on his pride that really makes this story worthwhile.

Cheeky brings us another cousin-reunion story. Yoshirou is a troubled pretty-boy high schooler who suddenly calls on his college-student cousin Taka, hoping to score a place to live while riding out a rough patch. The promiscuous Yoshirou, long carrying a torch for his cousin, is nothing like the innocent kid Taka remembers, and hardly something he can handle with grace. In time though, he begins to see Yoshirou's lonely, vulnerable side, the side that has clung to the memory of a protective older cousin, and so Taka vows to stick it out. Despite this decision Taka is continually flustered by Yoshirou's behaviors, but like all these stories go, he eventually realizes that, somehow, his changing feelings had caught him unawares.

Comments
I love a younger, aggressive seme and a reluctant, prideful half who gradually acquiesces to feelings; lucky for me this book has both at once! (Twice!) While not unlike others in the genre, Dash! is a cute story with likeable characters that make you want to root for them. Spread out over three chapters, there is time enough to get to know them while still exploring larger themes like not giving up your dreams and braving the line between admiration and love. It's a nice, feel-good kind of read. Likewise, Cheeky is the type of story that wants to tug at your heart with a cold-but-secretly-vulnerable guy being cherished by the one he loves most of all. Not quite as accessible as the title story, but gruff, clueless (and occasionally hapless) Taka provides plenty of amusement. This isn't a graphic book by any means, as evidenced by the YA rating, but there are plenty of steamy kiss scenes and some vague romantic interludes. This is the kind of book I could re-read on any lazy Sunday and can easily recommend for fans of light BL.



Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
MSRP: 12.95
Pages: 200
ISBN: 1-56970-756-1
Size: A5
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Dash!!