Writer/Artist: Kanae Hazuki
Translated by: Kinami Watabe
Adapted by: AJ Glasser
What They Say
Some say forbidden fruit is the sweetest! Voices of Love serves up a steaming-hot collection of five romantic, passionate, sexy stories about modern women and the men they love. The title story follows a relationship between young teacher Mika Tsukahara and Naokazu Kuga, an 18-year-old student at her school. They're neighbors too, and can't control their attraction to each other!
The packaging for this is pretty spot on. The cover is an attractive wrap-around image from the first story that perfectly summarizes the contents of the book. Namely, that is is a book about men, women, sex, and relationships. The binding is sturdy, the cover is glossy, and the whole thing feels good in your hand. So really, the only negatives are the nit-picks that you can do for almost every manga that is put out in America. And, for future reference, those are: chapter title pages that are in full color should stay in full color and shouldn't be turned to gray-scale; keep page borders instead of cutting off the “unnecessary” edges of the art; and especially for books of anthologized stories, page numbers should appear more frequently than randomly every 20 or 30 pages. There is little point in having a table of contents when you have to deduce what page you are on.
I have said before that in manga, on a basis more consistent than any other medium of sequential art, style mimics function; Voices of Love is no different, the very cover screaming jyosei. That said, the art for this is quite good and very pretty. But it's jyosei art, so if you don't like the way that looks, then you are up a creek without a paddle. So all of the characters are rather lanky, features are quite as simplified as they are in typical shoujo or shonen manga, and on average, there are significantly more lines everywhere. The characters are also more fashionable, expressive, and doe-eyed (as opposed to just large eyed). One thing that I really appreciated was how unique the character designs were. Not that you haven't seen characters that look the way these do before, more like they are all easily distinguishable from each other. Too often in collections like these do the female leads look the same in each story, so I'm glad that Hazuki doesn't fall into this trap. The only real problem is that things do get a little sloppy here and there, and while it still fits the aesthetic, it sticks out.
Since it has to be handled a bit differently and is an integral element to all of the stories, it is important to note that the sex is done really well in this. Hazuki did a great job of showing the sex, which is explicit indeed, as something that is both sexy and emotional. Since that is one of the huge draws to a book like this, it's great to see it so well done.
Very good translation and localization on the part of Luv Luv here. Dialog flows very well and it's all quite readable. The sound effects are left in the Japanese with little translations written beside them. One of the things that I really liked was how they left the aside dialog in the Japanese as well and provided translations next to them. Those translations, however, are actually large enough to be read. This is apparently a novel concept since almost every other shoujo/jyosei comic out there prints their aside dialog in font sizes so small that you have to imitate an old man, squinting an bringing the book right up into your face to see what the hell it says. I guess it may be an odd choice to leave whole chunks of original Japanese dialog written on the page with translations next to them, but I thought it was pretty cool.
One of the aims of jyosei manga has always been to have a more accurate portrayal of the complexities of 20-something romances. While Voices of Love accomplishes this just fine, it also helps to prove one of those other complex truths of all romances: women love jerks.
As a male who, unashamedly, loves many manga and anime that are intended for women, I seldom run in to difficulties attributed to my inherent genre handicap – being male – but there a few things in this manga that I understand, but I sure as hell don't “get” it. Let's step back, though, and go over this from the beginning.
Voices of Love is a short collection of five stories that focus on forbidden love. The first, “Voices of Love,” is about a teacher who finds out that she lives next to one of her delinquent students and starts to fall for him; “One Summer's Day” is about a girl who reconnects with her old flame even though he has a girlfriend; “Rainbow Smile”revolves around a girl living in an abusive relationship; “Pictures of Us” is actually mostly about a lonely guy who meets up with and falls for a girl that is a lot younger that she says she is; and “Teach me Love” has another guy find out that one of his friends is pimping out an oblivious girl who is incredibly socially inept.
The thing that's so great about these stories is that they do a very good job of showing those complex relationships that no one really expects to get tangled up in, but from one circumstance to another, almost everyone finds themselves entwined in to some degree. Except for “Teach me Love”; I dare say few people find themselves trying to rescue deadpan prostitutes from friends who lend them out as apologies for broken video games. Just a guess. But other than that, the stories are very real, right down to, in my opinion, some of the girls making some very bad decisions. Personally, I have never agreed with people's overwhelming desire to see “real people in real situations” all the time, but you've got to give credit where credit's due. Hazuki does a fantastic job of getting you involved quickly and thoroughly – which is one of the more difficult things to when you've only got 30-some-odd pages to tell a story from start to finish. Also, to re-iterate what I said in the art section, the sex scenes are done very well and handled in an emotional way. You can truly tell that the sex is not only integral to the stories, but the lives of the characters as well.
So here's the hard part: your enjoyment of this book will entirely depend on whether or not you blame the book for the actions of its characters. As a narrative, the stories are involving and well constructed, but the characters often say and do things that are, in my opinion, stupid. The characters, however, are not written this way out of carelessness; it is design, and this is where my maleness gets in the way. I know that there are women out there that will get this book in a way that I never could because they can see and feel the passion and the mystery of this forbidden love in ways that I can't. The rest of this paragraph will spoil the first story. I know plenty of women that would find Kuga to be really sexy because he's such a “rebel,” but to me he really comes across as nothing but a punk. And even if he is sexy, it's just plain stupid for Mika to willfully start a sexual relationship with a student of hers who prides himself on being a playboy and a pain in the ass. But, you know, he's the bad boy and he gives her that illusive “something.”
Of course, all of the stories aren't like that: the second one is worse, but after that most of the decisions move further away from the “are you kidding me?” zone. So if that kind of stuff really gets to you, step cautiously.
Voice of Love is a good book that does everything it can to get you involved with its characters and its stories. I find myself having different opinions on the overall quality of the book often, though. The sliding scale of opinion really has more to do with what aspect of the stories I'm thinking about at the moment more than anything else. This happens a lot with collections of short stories because they have so many individual details floating together to make a cohesive mass. But the ultimate arbiter of quality still holds true in that overall, the manga has stuck with me on the intervening days between reading and reviewing. Now, I don't consider myself to be a forgetful person, but I know that for me, it doesn't take long for average stories to melt away into the faceless milieu of same-old. So anything that doesn't immediately do that has at least some degree of quality in my opinion. So even though there are parts that I don't like, it's still good. Nice complexities, good relationships, bad relationships, good fashion, good sex, good jyosei.