Yakuza in Love Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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Info:

  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Aurora Publishing, Inc.
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 978-1934496077
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Yakuza in Love

Yakuza in Love Vol. #01

By Danielle Van Gorder     June 11, 2008
Release Date: January 30, 2008


Yakuza in Love Vol.#01
© Aurora Publishing, Inc.


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Shiuko Kano
Translated by:Adrienne Webber
Adapted by:Adrienne Webber

What They Say
Aoi Ichimura is a member of the Yakuza family known as the Hanagumi (or "Flower Clan"). Aoi has a reputation as a tough macho-man with guts to spare, but in reality he's just a timid guy with incredibly good luck. When he's assigned as the subordinate of fellow Yakuza, Yuji Sakiya, Aoi learns to be manly in a different way... trying to be the perfect lover for Sakiya.

The Review
Packaging:

Aurora has put together a nice looking book. The cover has a fabulous shot of Aoi looking dangerous, knife and gun in hand, and while the overall design is relatively simple, as a whole it works very well. The paper they use is nice and bright, and the art reproduction is excellent overall, with nice, crisp lines and dark blacks.

Art:

Manly men with square chins and sharp eyes grace every page. With such a large and almost exclusively male cast, it's really impressive how Kano has managed to keep so many characters visually distinct. Her ability to express nuances of body language and facial expressions more than makes up for the fact that most of her action sequences rely heavily on speed lines. She also seems to have a much better grasp on anatomy than many manga artists. While it might not be as simply pretty as some other books, I can't help but be impressed.

Text/SFX:

The translation here flows extremely smoothly, not stilted in the least. There seem to be some liberties taken in order to achieve this affect (chillax?), but they seem to be choices made to preserve the original tone of the piece. Yakuza aren't expected to speak in perfect, polished language, after all, and the distinctive voice that each character is given reflects their personality in a way that most adaptations can't come close to matching.

All sound effects are translated on the page with the English equivalent subtitled under the original effect. Where word bubbles contained smaller Japanese text, the Japanese is retained and a translation included near it, which was a somewhat unusual choice. In some panels this left the page looking a little cluttered.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

Five years ago, a rival gang killed the godfather of the Flower Gang. Sakiya, currently the Flower Gang's underboss, avenged his death and went to jail for it. Fresh out of prison, he's discovering that the gang under the new Don is nothing like the old gang he remembers - instead of respecting the Yakuza traditions of honor and duty, the Don cares only about making money at any cost.

Aoi Ichimura, a rising star in the Flower Gang, is assigned to be Sakiya's apprentice, tasked with serving and protecting Sakiya, even with his life if necessary. He attracted the Don's attention when he saved the man's life - although his real goal wasn't quite so lofty. Aoi has a secret, though, and not one that he hides particularly well - despite his tough exterior, he's really quite a softy inside, not at all suited to the life and death struggles that he finds himself in.

Sakiya, now - Sakiya is a real man, honorable and tough as nails, just the sort of man that Aoi aspires to be. The more time they spend together the more Aoi finds himself drawn to his new boss. Sakiya and Aoi both have more troubles than they know, however, and enemies on all sides. Their very lives may be on the line as rival gang factions plot behind the scenes and attempt to gain power.

Comments
How do I love thee, let me count the ways. I'm a sucker for yakuza stories to begin with, but that's not what makes this so good. Unlike many BL titles where the relationship (and sex) are the point of the story, the relationship between Aoi and Sakiya is merely a part of the story - an important part, true, but Kano also spends time developing the various factions and fleshing out the side characters. The overall effect is that of small-scale human drama played out against a larger theater of deadly political power games. It almost requires a mental map to keep track of the various shifting alliances, and the true motivations of some characters still isn't clear.

The characters are fully realized and fascinating - from the innocent looking but deadly Ozawa, who sees his love for the player Chihiro reflected in Aoi's devotion to Sakiya, to the beautiful, sadistic, and utterly amoral Don. There are so many fantastic characters here that I could go crazy just talking about them all, and how they the interplay between them all works so well. Highly recommended.

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