Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Takashi Shiba and Ryuichi Miyashita are “Convenience Men” - workers at a local agency that hires out guys to do any kind of work that needs getting done, from moving heavy furniture to walking ladies home after dark. It doesn't pay well, but it is a chance to make a difference to someone. When Shiba gets a request from someone named Aki to “be his friend,” he assumes it'll be a job like any other. But when Aki turns out to be a man with some real emotional needs, what will Shiba do to help? Later Miyashita gets a strange request from a handsome fellow. Will he accede to it?
Yaoi fans are no strangers to Nase Yamato's works. Several different publishers have brought over her books, and now DMP's June imprint is giving English readers another chance to see her storytelling in action. While Nase doesn't break any new ground in Mr. Convenience's single volume, she does tread the familiar with a comfortable step, giving readers what they like and providing stories with both sex and sentiment, as a good M-rated romance should.
The book is divided into two storylines about two different employees at Shiva, a local agency that will do nearly anything customers need. The one described on the back is Takashi Shiba, the younger brother of Shiva's owner/boss. Takashi is an easy-going, all around nice guy who will do work for food and trade rather than money. His brother isn't thrilled by this, but he can't fault Takashi's work ethic: the man is busy. One of his major sources of “income” is from the local children, who enlist him to do everything from play baseball to finding lost pets. So when the company gets an email from someone named “Aki Kirigaya” asking an employee to “be his friend,” the Shiba brothers assume that it's a sick child in need of companionship. Imagine Takashi's surprise when Aki turns out to be a twenty-six-year-old businessman who just needs someone to listen to him.
The relationship between Takashi and Aki is a nice combination of sexy and sweet. Aki's emotional insecurities seem fairly real, forming a good foil to Takashi's absolute enjoyment of life. Neither man wants to misinterpret the other's intentions, and Takashi expresses (internal) concern that he may have misread Aki's signals. This care for the other partner's feelings shouldn't be rare in romance manga, but as of late has come to seem so. The total consensuality of Aki and Takashi's sex scenes adds to the charm of their story.
While the second storyline, sandwiched between two Aki/Takashi chapters, isn't nonconsensual, Miyashita (called Miya) and his mystery man's tale isn't quite as heartwarming. Miya is a girlishly attractive young man who, he tells us, is frequently propositioned by his customers. He doesn't like it, isn't sure he loves his job with the passion Takashi does, and generally comes off as a less satisfied person. He is naturally suspicious when a handsome suit-wearing man specifically asks for him for a cleaning job, suspicions which are very quickly justified. Despite that, Miya continues to work for him, and soon finds himself having second thoughts about the possibility of a sexual relationship. He essentially tricks his employer into it, which has unforeseen repercussions for both of them. It differs most from the other story in that neither Miya nor his man identify themselves as gay, while both Aki and Takashi do. Yamato does deserve credit for keeping images of prostitution out of the story. These come up more in the Miya section of the book than in Takashi's, but it is difficult to ignore the fact that these are romances that begin because one half of the pair was hired by the other. Takashi is clearly more uncomfortable with the issue and his second chapter deals with that, but Miya ultimately seems to give in to what he perceives to be the customer's wants. That he wants the same thing by that point may make some readers feel a little better, but Yamato is still treading a slippery slope.
Artistically the book is very pleasant to look at. Yamato gets a bit carried away with the screen tones in places, but it doesn't overwhelm her art. Characters do fall into classic uke/seme designs, with Aki and Miya looking almost feminine in places and a little too young when unclothed. Family members look related without being identical, and children look like kids, not small adults. June's translation is smooth as usual, with dialogue sounding natural and narration unobtrusive. Readers unused to yaoi as a genre may be surprised by the explicit quality of some of the scenes, and it does deserve its M rating, but unless you find male/male sex scenes inherently offensive, this is nothing to be too concerned about.
Mr. Convenience isn't anything earth-shattering or new. But it is pleasant, sweet, and sexy with at least two very likeable characters and a nice artistic style. If you like yaoi and just want a break from the real world, this is a good way to take one. While the premises of both stories could have creepy prostitution overtones, Yamato manages to keep them largely at bay, and simply delivers a book about some nice guys falling in love.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B
+ Aki and Takashi chapters are better, with a couple you can really get behind. Story handles both emotional and physical aspects of a relationship. Pleasant art.
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