Reviewby Melissa Harper, Oct 12th 2006
Gerard et Jacques
Jacques, a teenage aristocrat, is sold into prostitution by his family, only to be freed by his first customer, Gerard, a novelist with a disdain for the nobility. In a twist of fate, Jacques finds himself applying for work at Gerard's mansion as a servant. His goal becomes to prove his worth by his own two hands, and win the respect of his employer.
Some yaoi manga titles manage to balance enticing imagery with deep characters and innovative storytelling. Unfortunately, Gerard & Jacques, a new Blu Manga by Fumi Yoshinaga, is not one of those titles. Volume one disappoints on every front. The story is non-existent, the characters are both poorly written and drawn, and the relationship hinted at in the title barely makes a guest appearance in this volume.
Expectations for story on a yaoi title are never high, but one at least expects there to be one. The premise sounds promising enough; a rich gentleman rescues a boy, sold into near-slavery, from life at a brothel. However, the actual telling of the story manages to wrong at every opportunity. Gerard buys Jacques' freedom while, to be frank, raping him, and the freedom he purchases is in actuality life on the street. Again, this could be a good twist in the story, were it addressed; however, Jacques' impending life as a pauper is only mentioned, and then forgotten. When next we see him, he doesn't appear to have suffered at all, making the whole first chapter meaningless. So, he moves into Gerard's house to work as a servant, where he reads books, and eats cookies. It may have deep meaning that he enjoys works on philosophy, but if so, it isn't addressed in this volume of the series. Perhaps the reader is meant to be happy for Jacques the servant having access to cookies and books, but as he was rich to start with, and only poor for a few days that the reader did not witness, it doesn't feel like he is particularly lucky or blessed. Jacques life at the mansion is quite mundane, and while billed as a romance, there is absolutely none between Gerard and Jacques. The initial affair is the only real encounter between them, and neither seems interested in the other romantically or sexually. The title may be Gerard and Jacques, but there is very little between them on any level.
The pacing of the book is erratic, being more a set of short stories about the characters than a chronologically narrative tale. The story moves from Gerard finding Jacques in the first story, then a story about Jacques being Gerard's servant. The third story flashes ahead several years, showing Jacques as a young man, then the book goes back for a lengthy portion of back story on Gerard, which is easily the best written section of the book; it's a shame that it features Gerard's relationship with his wife rather than that between the titular characters. The strangest jump is the short final chapter, which seems to come between the first two chronologically. As un-enthralling as events are, the disjointed storytelling only removes the reader further from caring about what might happen to these characters.
The main characters in Gerard & Jacques are ridiculously inconsistent. Jacques is at first a stereotypical arrogant boy with no sense of what it means to work for a living. His character abruptly changes about 10 pages in, however, for no apparent reason. Suddenly, he becomes sweet, docile, and eager to learn and be better aquatinted with Gerard. Gerard is also uneven; the supporting characters around him speak of him in ways to let the reader know that he is a wonderful person, and that his taking notice of Jacques is a good thing, but these aspects of his character are yet to be revealed by any action of Gerard's. Other than said comments, he is given no characterization, besides that he likes young boys and dislikes aristocrats, in the first half of the volume. The characterization given to him in the second half, the background portion, seems to directly contradict what little of his character is shown in the beginning. The tale conveys how he came to hate the nobility, and is the most readable part of the book, but one still wonders how the character evolved from the dedicated, devoted husband who is reviled by the thought of being with a man without his wife present into the persona described in the first chapter.
Character designs are plain and unimaginative. Yoshinaga attempted to add interest by way of an eye patch on Gerard, and the hair designs on some of the characters are quite lovely, but the designs don't seem to translate very well into the action of the manga. The characters' clothing is entirely lacking in detail, along with pretty much everything else. Panels are empty; layouts are strikingly bare - there is absolutely no visual interest. The majority of the book looks more like rough sketches than finished material.
All these things make for a horribly uninteresting read, but that could be forgiven. It is a yaoi title after all, and the main point of such isn't really epic storytelling. However, this book isn't even slightly scintillating. It is difficult to believe any woman could be excited by the cold, cruel, clinical way sex is handled in this volume. None of the participants seem to enjoy it much, the text, from font to translation, is simply laughable, and it even disappoints visually. Not much is shown, and the hinting done by random limbs splashed on pages is just silly.
Simply put, this book is just poor quality. For whatever reason you read manga, Gerard & Jacques will surely leave you wanting.
Overall : D-
Story : D
Art : F
+ Originality in premise.
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