40 pages less and this would be my new favorite fluff.
Writer/Artist: Yoshimi Amasaki
Translation: Leona Wong
Adaptation: Leona Wong
What They Say
University students Junya and Atsu have been friends since they were kids. But when Atsu tells Junya, "I want to get with you so bad," their whole relationship changes in a flash! But Atsu is at a loss as to how to turn Junya's tendency to monopolize everything towards himself. In the space between friendship and love, which way will the pendulum of burgeoning affection swing?
Presentation for this title is something of a mixed bag. 801 Media, like sister publisher JUNE, no longer includes a dust jacket with its releases - a bitter pill to swallow for the price - but at least we still get the color plate. 801 Media uses Amasaki's original cover art of Junya and Atsu, but the puzzling font choice, purple gradient and strange flame motif is all them. The image itself, from bare chests to hilariously bad belt buckle, tells us everything we need to know about what we'll find inside.
Inside the cover finds a vast improvement. The script is great: free from technical error while maintaining an easy flow, clear voice, and lots of humor without over-localization. SFX are subtitled in complimenting fonts as per the usual, and I saw no missed text among the many asides. Panels can get a bit cramped with all the text, but with so much going on it's unavoidable. And while the cover probably won't particularly wow anyone, the art style really works inside. The contemporary bishie fare standard is a deceiving first glace; it's plenty erotic when it's supposed to be, but Amasaki easily switches to the adorable and hilarious on the fly. Pages are packed tight with panels of all sizes, each filled with plenty to look at. And the splash pages are a real treat. Hot stuff! Visually speaking, this manga manages to be utterly sexy, charming, and funny all at once. Art reproduction looks good, with clean lines and dark inks.
It's almost impossible to summarize this book in a way that makes sense and still convey why it's so entertaining. Perhaps that's why the solicitation copy does such a bad job at it! Junya and Atsu are childhood friends, now in college and suddenly embarking on a love affair. Atsu is the popular, bubble-headed type, while Junya is more serious and unapproachable. Atsu adores his friendship; Junya adores his best friend. It's a standard setup to be sure, but all the aspects of young love are represented in turn – passion, embarrassment, insecurity, and intense jealousy. Theirs is an adorable and sincere courtship, funny and utterly relatable for anyone who remembers being young and in love. And all that without even mentioning the dog and cat angle! (Perhaps for the best, since it's harder to make sense of -- but it sure is cute!)
More specifically, the story is told through episodic chapters loosely tied together by the course of their relationship. Things start with Junya's confession and Atsu's cautious acceptance, and they quickly give in to sheer desire. There is dating and discovery, a pinch of insecurities to blend humor and angst, and Atsu's aquarium confession is so sweet your teeth will rot! Their respective fits of jealousy are so hilarious (the old men for Junya! The puppy for Atsu!) that you forget there is truth in them. For the most part it's all good puff-piece fun, but the one over-arcing story point present is also the book's biggest weakness: Throughout the story, Junya is plagued by the feeling that Atsu doesn't wholly reciprocate his feelings. This mostly manifests itself in blushing gazes, cute angsting and sexy lovemaking, but the very end of the book trots out one of my most-hated tropes, wherein, through a lame setup, a drunken Junya rapes Atsu, trying to test his feelings and/or make him "his." For some readers this scene won't be a turn off, and the resolution might make it more palatable for others. Still, the whole scenario is completely unnecessary and feels out of place with the lighter tone of the rest of the book.
Eighty percent of this book is pure shiny, A-grade fun: It's a rare thing to find a story that is chock full of sexy love-making, sincere enough to be cute, and also laugh-out-loud funny. (Plus, there are cat and dog boys!) True, there isn't much plot to speak of in this magical eighty percent, but strangely enough the book doesn't really suffer for it. The characters are likeable, the story light, and there are one-liners and visual gags that will have me laughing for weeks. (The futon! The fat cat! The blowdryer!) It's the other twenty percent that gives me pause – some tacked on angst and a jarring non-con scene - though for some readers it'll just be another kind of kink. For me, the end leaves something of a bad taste and a lower grade, but how much this sort of thing ruins an otherwise fun story will vary by reader. Recommended, but with this caveat.
It's worth noting that 801 Media presents this book as if it were a one-off (and it may have been when originally licensed), but in actuality it's an ongoing series. Don't let that fact deter a purchase; this volume of DogxCat stands alone just fine. But if the rest is just as entertaining, I sure hope it comes stateside. Please, 801?