Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Hide and Seek
GN 1 - 3
Shuji, a former host and current divorced single dad of an elementary-aged daughter, runs a small candy store in his neighborhood. It's not an exciting life, but it seems to suit him. Then one day he takes his daughter to the doctor and sees that the regular physician has been temporarily replaced by his attractive grandson, Dr. Saji. When Saji tells Shuji that he's gay and attracted to him, Shuji decides to have a one-night stand with the other man, just for kicks. But little does he know that he's about to jump start a relationship that will come to mean more to him than he ever anticipated...
Yaya Sakuragi is that (decreasingly) rare yaoi mangaka who has had multiple works translated and published in English. With SuBLime's release of her three-volume yaoi title Hide and Seek, she's had three separate publishers bring over her work (SuBLime, Blu, and DMP), and the quality of her work certainly shows why. A spin-off of the earlier Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Hide and Seek is a story that explores the transition between casual and serious relationships as one of its protagonists comes to realize that it isn't that he can't have a long-term relationship, but more that he's never initiated one with the right person.
Shuji, a side character from Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, gets most of the narration and internal monologue for the series. He's a divorcé raising his daughter, a very competent little girl named Chisuzu. Despite her ability to help around the house, Chii is just in elementary school, and she catches all the colds the class is passing around. Shuji takes her to the local clinic to find that the regular Dr. Saji has been temporarily replaced by a much younger Dr. Saji – Dr. Takafumi Saji, the elder doctor's grandson. This doctor has a sharp, cold face, but he's good with his patients, winning them over with small toys. These he purchases from Shuji at the old-fashioned candy store he runs, and it is this habit that makes Shuji start to realize that there is more to the good doctor than he at first assumed. When the two become closer, Dr. Saji tells Shuji that he is both gay and attracted to him. Having been a host, and just generally being easy-going, Shuji initiates a sexual encounter, marking the start of their relationship.
This is one of the more interesting aspects of this series. Dr. Saji never beats around the bush about his sexuality – he just lays his cards on the table. Shuji, for his part, has no initial homophobic reaction and never really questions his own feelings of desire for another man. As far as he's concerned, he is who he is, and if the person he loves happens to be another male, well, fine. It's a surprise, but nothing to get upset about. Making homosexuality a non-issue was definitely part of the appeal of the series for me, largely because it simply allowed Sakuragi to get on with telling the story. It has many of the other aspects of a romance, gay or straight, from denials of the relationship's seriousness to jealousy, and to make it a good story it simply did not need the added drama that we sometimes see in other BL series. That Shuji is such an accepting person as well is a nice touch; he isn't creeped out by the doctor or his former boyfriend. It makes for pleasant backdrop to the love story, particularly since it is Shuji who has the most emotional growing to do, convinced as he is by his failed marriage and history of short-term relationships that he just isn't capable of having a serious, long-term love. We even see this in his attitude towards Chisuzu; there's never the feeling that he doesn't love her, but there's still the sense of him holding back. When her mother and a new husband re-enter the picture in volume three, you can see that while he is sad at the thought of less time with Chii, there's also some relief, and not because it will be easier to have sex with his boyfriend.
Sakuragi is not of the missing genitals school of sex scenes, although she also isn't terribly explicit. The scenes are all consensual, a major bonus for some readers, and the shrink wrap is warranted. Her art is a bit odd in general, an odd mix of capable and attractive and anatomically suspect. Faces are very sharp and flat, with Dr. Saji's in particular looking almost scooped out from some angles. Chins could be used to cut cheese in most panels, and arms and legs tend to look spindly, especially when compared to the torsos they are attached to. When the characters are clothed they look much more proportionate (faces aside), and Sakuragi is better able to draw a variety of figures clothed than naked.
There are no life-threatening events in Hide and Seek, no desperate situations. It is simply the story of two men falling into a relationship and eventually love, with one learning to be a bit less clingy and the other that he is capable of lasting love. While the title is not a direct translation of the Japanese, it does suit the nature of Shuji's feelings, which seem to play a game with him as he comes to realize that he does want this to be real and to last. At three volumes, this is a series that is easy to read and still feels substantial enough that you have the sensation of having really read something. It isn't the hottest or sweetest, but it is enjoyable, and even if you haven't read the volume it is spun off from, it's a nice way to spend some time.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Nice emotional evolution for Shuji, fully consensual and the romance is generally believable while avoiding some genre clichés.
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