Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
In this collection of three short stories, different men try to come to terms with their feelings for other men and to overcome their shyness and social stigma to make their loves come true...except for that one story about yakuza, which is much more straightforward. All three tales deal with the fear of losing the one you love and the ultimate healing power of true love.
Known to the English reading world for her series No Touching At All, published by June, Kou Yoneda returns with a collection of three short stories, NightS, published by SuBLime. Not terribly explicit despite coming in plastic and bearing a warning label, NightS is actually a very sweet, romantic book, so those looking for hotter fare may not be entirely satisfied. If you are in the mood for some charming yaoi, however, look no further than this.
The first story, which is also the title tale, is both the least romantic and the least engaging. It follows a yakuza who hires Masato Karashima to be a “transporter” for his gang's goods. Karashima specializes in moving drugs or other contraband from place to place, keeping under law enforcement's radar, and this makes his services attractive to Hozumi, the man who hires him. Both men clearly feel an attraction to each other, which will ultimately work in Karashima's favor when the plot twist is revealed. The twist itself is not entirely unexpected, but it does manage to keep the story interesting, which is something that the romance itself does not really do here. Hozumi and Karashima's relationship is based mostly on lust, and it suffers from the lack of explicit artwork, particularly in the mini-chapter at the book's end – somehow a frontal shot of a man answering his door naked is less of a shock when he has no genitals. Hozumi is also a fairly unsympathetic character, difficult to decipher, much less like. Fortunately for the book, the remaining two stories more than make up for the volume's first.
“Emotion Spectrum,” which is also available as an e-short on Amazon, is the sweetest of the book's offerings. It follows two high school boys, one openly gay, as the point of view character comes to understand his own feelings, as well as those of the boy he befriends. This story is as much about friendship as it is romance, as Kugo comes to like Usui first as a person before he sees him as a potential boyfriend. Kugo is convinced that Usui is in love with Nakaya, his best buddy, which him plenty of time to observe Usui, and thus to believably fall in love with the other boy. It is this gentle progression which helps to give this story its charm and sweetness.
The final story is the longest, told across three long chapters and one shorter one. The protagonists are a mechanic and a car salesman working at the same dealership who gradually form an emotional attachment to one another. As is the norm for this collection, one of the men realizes his feelings long before the other is comfortable with the idea of being in love with another man, and Yoneda handles this conceit of the genre particularly well. It is actually through the eyes of a third co-worker, a woman, that we see just how much the salesman actually cares for the mechanic, which is an interesting narrative trick. The final story in the sequence also deals with questions of whether or not one of the partners needs to be “the woman” in the relationship, which is not something that I at least have seen often in yaoi manga. Like in Milk Morinaga's Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink, it is ultimately decided (albeit with less fanfare than in Morinaga's work) that it is unnecessary to make such a distinction, and that if they are both men in love, so be it. This makes NightS stand out in the genre and certainly makes it worth a look.
Yoneda's artwork is generally attractive, and is perhaps at its best in the second story. Characters are sometimes difficult to tell apart, but a closer look generally clears that up. As has been mentioned before, there is very little explicit content, and although there are a couple of sex scenes there is nary a penis to be seen. What Yoneda excels at, however, is the warm hug – the strength of arms, the craving for contact – there's a yearning expressed in those moments, and that lends a very nice air of romance to even the weaker stories. Yoneda also achieves a good balance between black, white, and gray spaces, making her work very readable.
NightS is, generally speaking, a very charming compilation of romantic stories from an accomplished author-illustrator. While the stories are not all at the same level, they are all enjoyable, making this a good read. While those looking for hotter fare may be disappointed, this is a sweet, romantic book.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B+
+ Second and third stories are romantic and charming, art is very readable with good body language.
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