Embracing Love (aka: Haru wo Daiteita) Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Be Beautiful
  • MSRP: 15.99
  • Pages: 216
  • ISBN: 1-933440-02-3
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Embracing Love (aka: Haru wo Daiteita) Vol. #01

By Julie Rosato     September 19, 2005
Release Date: September 05, 2005



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Youka Nitta
Translated by:Melanie Schoen
Adapted by:

What They Say
Life reflects art for Iwaki and Katou, two hugely famous adult film stars who are considering retirement from their sordid careers.

However, when they're invited to audition for a new erotic film, they realize that this may be their last chance to achieve mainstream success. Unfortunately, things sour quickly when the director asks them to make love... with each other... to determine who will get the lead role. What follows next is a roller coaster ride of romance, longing, and passionate sex that will alter their careers... and their lives... forever!

The Review
Packaging:
BeBeautiful uses the original cover image of Iwaki and Katou and places it over a new light green background. Not the most flattering color matches ever, but the indigo text nicely compliments the color of Katou’s jacket and highlights the watermarked Japanese text behind it. The title font is quietly elegant and overall nicely done with the inclusion of the original Japanese title and logo. The back cover sports a sexy shot of Katou, with his hair and jacket blowing back to expose his bare chest. There are plenty of age and content related warnings on this book, both inside and out. Character profiles, staff credits, and the table of contents done in the theme of a news & photo collage precede the story and ads for other Be Beautiful books can be found at the end.

BeBeautiful books all seem to suffer from some cropping at the margins, as well as an occasional bit of ink bleed. While I don’t fancy the loss of art off the sides, the tones and shading look very good here, the lines are crisp and the blacks solid. The production of this book is a clear step up from their earlier wave of titles.

Artwork:
Youka Nitta draws very nice-looking men. These are grown men, not young bishounen waifs; tall, sleek, and with strong, well-defined features. Her lines are very clean, with good use of tones and shading. The details, while simple, appear lovingly rendered. I find Iwaki, in particular, very sexy with his strong jaw and piercing eyes. Backgrounds are largely nonexistent and simple when present. Panel layout is as straightforward as it comes, nothing innovative or special, but I do love how, even in the midst of action, she can make a page crawl with an aching sense of slow motion.

SFX/Text:
SFX and action words are all translated in panel next to the Japanese text. It is a job very nicely done with a variety of matching fonts and sizes, generally as unobtrusive as possible, and therefore setting a great example for other companies to follow.

I did notice one typo, but overall the translation read very smoothly with no other obvious mistakes or poor grammar. The "-san" honorific is retained when Katou speaks to Iwaki, but there are no other instances in which honorifics are used. Emphasis and fonts are used very well here.

Contents:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
"This story tells of two men in the adult film industry who, caught up in a life of meaningless sex, come to truly love each other." So opens the book, a description of Embracing Love, a popular novel about to be adapted into a movie. Two rival porn stars, Kyosuke Iwaki and Yoji Katou, are chosen to audition privately for the "lead" role in this movie. Upon meeting author Nagisa Sawa, they are shocked to learn that this audition requires them to have sex with one another. Katou, a young man determined to advance his career, instantly agrees, while Iwaki hesitates. However, for fear of losing to Katou, the fire of determination alights within Iwaki and he passes the audition. The real surprise comes afterwards though.

The movie's international success leads to a TV drama series, pairing up our prickly rivals once again. Despite having gained critical acclaim for his performance, Iwaki is reluctant to revive his role opposite Katou, too bent on his own insecurities. As the show skyrockets in popularity, Iwaki becomes more and more agitated over their private lives getting more attention than the drama, a situation not helped by Katou's glib manner with the press. As the tabloids ask, is their relationship a result of working together, or was the story of Embracing Love instead modeled after them?

A bold request by novelist Sawa convinces Katou to be honest with himself, and with Iwaki. Katou attempts to bridge the divide that has opened between them, and as the TV show wraps production, he realizes what his true feelings are. Desperately acting on his desire to keep hold of Iwaki, Katou forces himself on his co-star during the filming of the series’ final love scene, the ramifications of which Iwaki is not yet ready to face. Katou, however, refuses to give up.

After the main story concludes, there is a side story chapter in which a young Iwaki look-a-like obsesses over and stalks Katou. It doesn’t serve any real purpose other than to provide another sex scene (albeit imagined), and make Katou look good when he rebuffs the young stalker’s advances.

This volume also includes a bonus short story about a high jumper with a hero-worship complex for the star of the team.

Comments
Youka Nitta is an artist I've been longing to see released domestically. I am relieved to see no censoring of this volume has taken place, to the best of my knowledge. The fate of future volumes is obviously unknown; however I would like to believe that BeBeautiful has listened to the fans and stepped up to deliver a quality product with this title. I am perhaps most interested in this series for its length and potential for plot and character development, as most of the available Boys-Love titles are short series or one-shots.

Seeing Katou through Iwaki's eyes passes all of the latter's doubts onto the reader; Katou's seemingly careful manipulation of situations do not instill faith in his proclamations to Iwaki, which themselves alternate between feeling sincere and reading like lines scripted for effect. Katou's rape of Iwaki on the set of the TV drama left me feeling betrayed for daring to believe in him after the incident at Sawa's house. However, the fear and anguish he feels when faced by his accuser and his stubborn, rebellious determination to be recognized by Iwaki began to win me over at the end.

Iwaki fears being seen as gay, and balks at having sex with a man pretty much every time it comes up. This struck me as odd, given that he's a porn star, and made him seem conceited. Furthermore, his self-depreciation and adolescent outbursts tell a tale of insecurity and uncertainty typical of many Boys-Love manga, but the vulnerability he showed Katou during a moment of weakness was surprisingly profound to me. The exploration of self (and the accompanying angst) is one of the things I like most about the genre, so for now I'll forgive Iwaki his waffling misgivings and stubborn refusals in exchange for the hope of watching him grow and change as this relationship dynamic progresses.

Truly an initial volume which leaves me too much room to negotiate, so that in the end I'm left wondering whose story is more tragic -- the desperate, unaccepted Katou or the prideful, insecure Iwaki. Will they work together towards true love and a happy ending? Can they grant each other - and perhaps more importantly, themselves – forgiveness and unconditional acceptance? Starting off with the kind of tumultuousness Boys-Love is known for, Embracing Love looks to be a bumpy ride --one that I'm happily strapping in for.

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