You might not totally surrender to this collection of short stories.
Writer/Artist: Hiroko Ishimaru
What They Say
Yuya works at a famous design company. But he seems more interested in fantasizing about his mentor Yoshihira instead of actually getting his work done! Yuya is determined to confess, but every day that passes makes the task more arduous. At his wits end, Yuya decides to move into Yoshihira's neighborhood so he can watch him from afar at work and at home. But... don't most people consider that kind of behavior stalking?
The cover art is of Yoshiro and Yuya of Love Conquers All?!, the two-part story that closes out this collection. It nicely represents the art inside. The book wrapper that had been a standard of DMP/June releases is still here. The print is clear and crisp with a good balance of light and dark, and the paper is of good quality. Included is an author afterword and DMP/June advertisements.
Hiroku Ishimaru's artwork isn't particularly distinctive, but it is competent and workmanlike, and it does get the job done. Her character designs are pleasant, attractive and do manage a fairly wide range of emotions, and while the range of her designs is limited, there is no issue with character differentiation. Panel backgrounds, including the use of tone, provide enough environmental detail without making the pages look over ornamented, and the panel placement is varied enough to provide a lively overall impression.
The text reads well with no glaring errors and sfx are subtitled with no ill effects to the artwork.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Short stories have the challenge of providing a fullilling reading experience under circumscribed conditions in dramatic structure. Short stories generally have fewer characters and fewer points than longer narratives, and those points they do have are made quickly. Collected short stories have the additional challenge in maintaining reader interest and involvement from cover to cover. Total Surrender falls a bit short in accomplishing these tasks.
Total Surrender is a collection of six stories whose variable quality makes a lopsided u-shaped trough between the covers. The first story, Just You and Me, about unacknowledged yearnings between fictive brothers, has some tender and touching moments that manage to redeem it. It's not a strong opening story, but it makes its point. And it's certainly better than what follows. From here, there is a step off into the deep in Even If It's Secret Love, a story of two office workers, lovers who never can find the time for each other. This is slice of life that has gone dry and stale. There is no real dramatic turning point here and what tries to pass for one - the revelation that the lovers can solve their problem by living together, is guaranteed to underwhelm. Very slender excuse for the sex.
While Even If It's Secret Love fails to impress, the next story will grab attention and not for the best of reasons. Perfect Partners is the story of the secret passion of a medical assistant for the icily professional doctor for whom he works. I'll leave the details, but it's never a good sign when the very put-upon, hit-upon and ravished doctor manages "I...I've been in love with you, too." as a closing remark No siree, there's no reason for this kind of dialog...ever. (Note to translators and adaptors: I'm not a purist the way some are and should be the choice be made to modify this kind of dialog, or even leave a blank balloon, I'm good with it.)
A young president of a prestigious corporation secretly desires that his manservant violate the master-servant contract in a very personal way in The Secret Mantra of Love. Of all the stories in the volume, this is one that would have benefitted from being longer. There is a more complex story that could have been developed, but we get only superficial treatments. The "resolution" is rushed and unmotivated. Konoe, the servant, is of a family of long-time retainers to Noriaki's family and it's difficult to reconcile the hastiness of his actions with the deliberation and reflection that would be expected in such an old and established familial relationship. Yes, a little decorum and more narrative "foreplay" was needed here.
Things pick up with the final two stories. These are comedies, and with comedies faults are often forgiven if there's a laugh to be had. The story of two high school lovers looking to rev up their sex life (Approach!) has modest aims and a length that doesn't wear out the story's welcome.
The story that concludes the volume, Love Conquers All?!, seems the most satisfying and it may largely be due to the two-part length that allows for more exposition and character development. Or it could be the cute dogs which happen to bring a bumbling employee and his boss together?
For those interested, the level of sex exposition varies depending on the story, but is never overly explicit.
The key phrase here is "your mileage may vary". Habitual and long-time readers of BL, especially of anthologies and collections, may find the stories wanting. New readers or those new to collections could find this readable, but be aware that better crafted collected stories have been available.