Reviewby Casey Brienza, Mar 18th 2009
High school student Kazunori Akabane has a grudge against a guy named Moriya because the girl he's got a crush on prefers Moriya to himself. Unfortunately, Akabane's passionate feelings of resentment toward Moriya get him into deep trouble—a close encounter with his rival ends up with them both magically transported to another world chock full of magicians and monsters. A princess of this land has summoned them there, and she has a job for them: Swapping bodily fluids in order to power up her spell casting! Who would have thought that french kisses would become a matter of life or death? Certainly not Akabane. But oddly enough, Moriya seems strangely, unexpectedly enthusiastic about their new “working” relationship…
Lily Hoshino (Alone in My King's Harem) is a popular boy's love (BL) mangaka who has published numerous titles over the past decade or so. Love Quest is the first of a number of her works that Yen Press has licensed for English-language release. It is also that publisher's inaugural BL title, and one wonders why. Do they think that the object of the endeavor is a race to the bottom of the BL pile? This one is a serious stinker, and the only quest involved in Love Quest is the quest you will angrily embark upon after reading it, in pursuit of better BL.
The story centers on high school student Kazunori Akabane, who has just been rejected by the girl he has a crush on. She is only interested in another student, somebody named Moriya. So of course the very next person that he runs into is Moriya, and he is a second away from airing his grievances when the pair are transported to another world! Turns out a princess hailing from a high fantasy world needs them to power up her magic spells. By them exchanging bodily fluids. Uhh, okay… Talk about moronic, forced plot premises. Needless to say, Moriya is oddly enthusiastic about such a prospect, and what ensues is a lot of gratuitous kissing—and just kissing—while taking out big beasties video game RPG style.
The distressed princess of power in question is Marion, a little waif with big hair, impossibly tiny, toothpick-shaped limbs, and impossibly minimalist, chicks'n chainmail-esque halter and thong. Despite her physical assets—or lack thereof, depending upon your perspective—she is without question the most memorable character in this manga, merely on the strength of her bizarreness quotient. Too bad that ain't sayin' much. Save for the fact that she is a damsel in distress who is first determined to save herself and later on determined to save Moriya, Marion's story is for all intents and purposes over before it even starts.
But, lest you be put off by the dearth of gratuitous intercourse of the sexual kind in the title story, there is the twenty four page one-shot “Pheromone,” to compensate. The plot, as befits a piece whose primary purpose is to titillate, is suitably thin: Two high school students are staying after school to wrap up some vaguely specified classroom chores. One declares that he finds the other irresistible (“I'm not gay; I just think you're pretty!” Wow, what an efficient way to be both miserably shallow and needlessly homophobic in the same sentence.) and then…yeah. Exactly what you'd imagine of the genre, in considerable artistic detail. It is, in short, one of the most tasteless BL yomikiri this reviewer has seen in a long time, English-translated or otherwise. Do not do not do not even take a glance at this one if you are easily offended. Because I guarantee—you will be.
As you may have guessed from the above description of Marion, Hoshino's artwork is definitely unique, especially given that commercial BL is a sea of near-identical art styles, and for this her penchant for soft lines and delicately airbrushed color has been featured in numerous how to draw manga books. Unfortunately, it cannot truly be called attractive. Even those who enjoy it will readily admit that it is in acquired taste at best: There is something almost mousy to the facial expressions of her characters, and their bodies are invariably of the boneless, bendy, latter-day CLAMP-like sort. The relative lack of backgrounds only further underscores the strangeness of her character designs.
Most Yen Press titles are priced at $10.99, but Love Quest, in spite of its slightly lower than average page count and typical trim size, is priced at $12.99. One might call the cost differential the “BL Premium,” but in this case there is absolutely nothing “premium” about it—and the good effort that went into the translation/adaptation and retouch just feels wasted on this piece of dreck. Even hardcore BL fans would be well-advised to save their hard-earned money for something that, by any measure, is a modicum more worthy.
Overall : D
Story : D-
Art : C+
+ Well, it's BL, and some BL fans will buy anything if it's got the requisite type of romance.
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