Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Fire in his Fingertips: A Flirty Fireman Ravishes Me with his Smoldering Gaze
Ryo has never thought much about the fact that her childhood friend Souma grew up to be a hot firefighter, although she's noticed it in a sort of off-hand way. She's been doing her best to help him find a girlfriend by setting up mixers, but for some reason, he never finds a lady he likes. Ryo assumes that's because he's sleeping around, but when her apartment building burns to the ground and Souma not only rescues her, but provides her with a place to stay, suddenly she realizes that maybe there was something else going on the whole time.
In recent years, English-language manga publishers seem to have come to a realization: all of those little girls who grew up asking their parents to buy them Cardcaptor Sakura and Tokyo Mew Mew books have grown up. That means that not only do they have their own disposable income, but also that maybe they occasionally want to read something a little…different. While the BL industry has regularly been putting out adult romances, what might be termed the manga side of the bodice ripper sector has lagged behind. With the publication of Fire in his Fingertips by Kawano Tanishi, Seven Seas' first female-oriented Ghost Ship title, that seems like it might be changing.
As choices go, this is a fairly solid one. The story follows a very typical contemporary romance novel trajectory coupled with the tropes of shoujo manga: Ryo, an office worker in her twenties, has spent her entire life completely oblivious to the fact that her childhood friend Souma is in love with her. Since Souma is remarkably bad at expressing his feelings verbally, he takes advantage of Ryo's apartment burning down to seduce her, mistakenly thinking that sex will show her that he loves her. When this fails utterly, he panics, launching the two into a relationship that Ryo doesn't realize is meant to be one. It's a fairly classic set up that should be familiar to readers of romance novels, and is certainly reminiscent of work by Sarina Bowen. It does have some blurred lines of consent (though Souma does back off when Ryo gets truly upset), but nothing as drastic as we see in many stereotypical BL stories or shoujo from the bad old days.
The romance novel comparison is probably the best for letting you know what you're getting into with this book in terms of explicitness. Ghost Ship is Seven Seas' mature imprint and the sexual content here is much more explicit than in even Kodansha's racier releases, like My Boss' Kitten. That said, it is in no way any raunchier than anything in the average plastic-wrapped BL volume and in fact has less depictions of fluids and other markers of what might be termed hentai; really the only difference between Fire in his Fingertips' sex scenes and most BL is the bits the people are sporting.
Story-wise, this is actually a lot of fun. Ryo isn't a damsel in distress except when she's actually in a life-threatening situation, and unlike many Too Stupid To Live heroines (an ongoing problem in the genre), she doesn't waltz blithely into danger. She's a very smart woman who is good at her job, and it's clear that her coworkers like and respect her; in the last chapter of the volume, she's able to save her boss from disaster with her foreign language skills. Souma doesn't begrudge her that, and in fact has always found her competence attractive. Although he doesn't say it, that's perhaps also part of why he has such a hard time telling her how he feels – even though he's good at his job, he might feel like he's somehow not quite smart enough or good enough for her. He's genuinely hurt when he realizes that she thinks he sleeps around, even if his method of trying to show her she's wrong doesn't necessarily help his case. (Like all romances, simply communicating is inordinately difficult. How else would there be tension?) For her part, it seems to never even have occurred to Ryo that Souma might have feelings for her; she's so mired in her perception of him and the idea of him as a friend that she's just not sure what's going on.
The plot does touch on many of the basics of its genre, both in terms of romance and manga tropes. There's a festival with fireworks, getting caught in the rain and needing to take a bath, and of course forced cohabitation. The story functions well within these constraints, though, making them work to its advantage for the most part. Ryo's continued modesty/embarrassment does come off as a bit disingenuous at times, but generally we can understand where she's coming from on those fronts. All of this is helped by a solid translation with some nice turns of phrase (“protection from your wandering wiener” is a favorite) and art that has a better grasp of human anatomy than we often see. That certainly doesn't mean that it's perfect, but for the most part things seem to be in the right place, which is always important.
While it certainly won't be for everyone, Fire in his Fingertips is a fun read for fans of contemporary romance. Ryo is strong, Souma is earnestly trying and slowly learning that he needs to actually speak words to win her, and it's just pure, silly romance escapism. If that's what you're looking for, you're in luck with this volume.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Fun contemporary romance in the genre fiction sense, Ryo is no wilting maiden and clearly looking out for herself. Souma's learning…
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