Anybody who's a fan of boy's love should know the name Kizuna. One of the first manga series to really kick the genre off, it was originally being released by Be Beautiful and... we all know how that story goes. Only eight volumes have been released in the U.S., but now DMP has swooped in to re-release the series in its entirety.
Writer/Artist: Kazuma Kodaka
What They Say
Kei Enjouji and Ranmaru Samejima are a sweet couple, but their relationship is put to the test when Kei's annoying bratty half-brother, Kai, decides to put the moves on Ranmaru. Three is a crowd, but the plan is immediately crushed when Masanori Araki cleverly steers him away. Masanori is the yakuza boss's right-hand man, also Kai's life-protector. Gentle and smart, he makes Kai realize that havoc isn't needed and teaches him to leave them alone.
The manga opens in the middle of a kendo match where we're first introduced to Ranmaru Samejima, the president of the kendo club who is known for being 'like a demon' when it comes to kendo. However, a year ago someone managed to score a point against him -- Kei Enjouji. As if on cue, the handsome and cool man enters into the dojo, ready to 'pick his princess up.' Ranmaru challenges Enjouji to a match, declaring that if he wins then Enjouji must take up kendo. Enjouji agrees, stating that his own prize is to be able to ravish Ranmaru. This leads to hot, rough dojo sex, and the two embrace each other up to the chapter's ending. Interesting -- and delicious -- opening, but then we get to the real nitty gritty of the story: Kai Sagano.
We find out that Ranmaru was fast on his way to becoming the best in kendo but then he stopped playing a year later. It turns out that Ranmaru was in a horrible accident. He shoved Enjouji out of the way of an oncoming car and would never be able to pick up a sword again. After Enjouji remembers the tragic incident he meets a young man named Kai Sagano who has a serious grudge against him. It turns out that the boy is Kai Sagano and is actually his brother. Kai has a huge chip on his shoulder when it comes to Enjouji. He found out about him when he was a child but didn't want to have an older brother, especially one from another woman. He also blames Enjouji for Ranmaru's accident since the car was obviously after him and not Ranmaru. Why? Their father is a yakuza boss. Ah, of... course?
Kai looks up to Ranmaru and always watched his matches, so he was quite upset when he quit kendo. Kai tries to force himself upon Ranmaru but it doesn't go as planned -- it never does, kid. This leads to a confrontation between the two brothers where they come to a truce... of sorts. Kai kind of gets over his crush on Ranmaru while Enjouji sort of deals with Kai's existence. But Kai has a tendency to leave home, not really getting along with his father, and he loves to come busting into Enjouji's home and interrupt any time he has with Ranmaru. This leads to a lot of humorous moments, but eventually Kai goes back home when a man named Masa comes to get him. Ranmaru senses something between the two of them and uses it to persuade Kai to go home.
Oh... and somewhere mixed in this plot is an evil teacher who drugs Ranmaru and tries to have his way with him in a gay bar. Kai saves him, but then Kai takes advantage of the drugged Ranmaru. Yeah... I'm not a huge fan of this plot from left field and we never have to talk about it again.
The rest of the manga is... I'd hate to use the word 'perfect' so I'll settle for 'pretty damn good.' We get an absolutely adorable story of Masa and Kai. Kai is in the second grade and always wants Masa to walk him home from school. But Masa -- working for his father and being part of the yakuza -- is always busy and is often breaking his promises to Kai. He sees that Kai has a parent day coming up and decides to go to it since Kai's father can't. Needless to say, something comes up, but he manages to show up at the last minute! After the event is over Kai gives Masa a kiss to show that he loves him very much -- something he saw on T.V. -- and the two leave the school together.
Teeth. Rotting. Sap!
Here's an interesting fact about this scene: in the original release, Be Beautiful edited this moment out. I don't quite understand why, especially when the pages after the moment were kept in and Kai mentions that he had kissed Masa and loved him. So we can keep in the rough sex, the near rape, and the violence of the story but... not the second grader having a happy moment? This makes me wonder how much I missed when reading this series the first time around, but it seems like DMP is going to keep true to the original. Yay cute second grade kiss!
After this we get the story of Enjouji and Ranmaru meeting for the first time and how they fell in love with each other. Back in middle school the two have a rocky start when Enjouji mistook Ranmaru for a girl because of how beautiful he was. Ranmaru isn't really your typical blushy uke, so he smacks Enjouji and the two are late to class. Ranmaru is pretty intimidating, to be honest. He even manages to fight off students twice his size when they try and pick on him. It turns out that the kendo club wants him to join since he has a reputation of being the best. This actually excites Enjouji and he wants to face Ranmaru in a match. Despite his poor technique, Enjouji holds his own and Ranmaru is impressed. The two start a friendship of sorts and Enjouji's energetic nature always seems to break through Ranmaru's tough exterior. But when Enjouji says that he won't join the kendo club, Ranmaru gets upset because he's finally found a rival his own age. This doesn't stop Enjouji from being friends with him and it turns out that's what Ranmaru really wants. The two practice kendo in the dojo that Ranmaru has at his house, and this leads to a sweet kiss between the two boys. They wouldn't see each other again until high school, and that's when their relationship went from friendship into something more.
One day Enjouji gets horrible news: his mother has passed away. Before she passed away Enjouji's mother wrote him a letter revealing who his father is and how she was his mistress. Ranmaru comforts Enjouji, telling him that he will protect him. Ironically, he ends up doing just that when a car goes after Enjouji. We're not told who the driver is, but we can assume that it's someone who has a grudge against his father. Ranmaru pushes him out of the way and is so badly injured that the chances of him moving the right side of his body are very slim. Thanks to Enjouji, he does go through rehabilitation and vows to walk over to Enjouji on his own. The last story in the manga is a short one between Masa and Kai. Kai has been kidnapped by a madman out seeking revenge against Masa. Masa had been with the man's sister, but the man wanted Masa for himself and is now a suspect for his own sister's murder. He takes Kai in an attempt to draw Masa to him -- a big mistake, of course -- and pays with his life.
Deluxe editions can be a handful to read when there's a lot of information to take in. There's a lot of information in this manga, but it flows fairly well... after a few speed bumps. The beginning has a lot of things happening that don't seem to be related to one another. A star kendo student dating a guy who turns out to have a yakuza family? O.K., um... sure? And then there's Kai, who hates Enjouji because of his illegitimate background and because he blames him for Ranmaru's accident. Kai tries to force himself on Ranmaru -- which doesn't end well -- and it leads to a confrontation between the two brothers. Then there's the slimy professor who spikes Ranmaru's drink and tries to take advantage of him, but it's Kai to the rescue who later... takes advantage of Ranmaru. This last part really feels like it comes out of nowhere and it almost takes away from the story as a whole, but then things slow down and we get to know our main characters better.
We get a nice, long flashback of how Enjouji and Ranmaru get together. Somehow, the odd plot of kendo star and yakuza boss son just... works. And their relationship progresses slowly, which I'm a big fan of. From middle school, to high school, to Enjouji's mother passing away, him learning about his yakuza boss of a father and then the tragic accident that left Ranmaru seriously injured. And then we get Masa and Kai -- who's my favorite pairing in the story. Kazuma Kodaka has this knack of making me love her secondary pairings more than the main ones. Enjouji and Ranmaru are the 'slice of life' couple who live their lives together despite the tragedy that hit them, while Masa and Kai go through a hell of a rough road. There's more conflict between the two of them, Masa having taken care of the 'young master' since childhood, but now Kai isn't a kid anymore.
Does Kizuna stand the test of time? Released in Japan back in the 90s and making it's U.S. debut back in 2004, is this series as wonderful as many of us remember? Well... yes, it is. The art feels a tad bit dated, but I'd like to think of it as 'classic boy's love.' The sex is still hot, but that's mostly due to the chemistry these characters have together. Enjouji and Ranmaru are so in love with each other and you want them to be that couple that stays together forever. All of the characters are likable and amazingly strong considering the things they go through, particularly Ranmaru, who protects his boyfriend and recovers from a life changing injury. And Kai, who starts off as a bratty punk... well, he's still a brat, but I find myself growing fond of him -- especially with Masa. All and all, if you haven't read Kizuna, now is the time. And if you're like me and you have read it, grab it again, it's still wonderful.