Reviewby Lissa Pattillo,
The Tyrant Falls in Love
It's been over a year since Tetsuhiro Morinaga confessed his feelings for love to Souichi Tatsumi. Bad idea that was. Souichi is a very years his senior and about as reversed as could be in regards to his notions of male-male relationships. Cranky and callous, Souichi wants nothing to do with it and shares his homophobic believes on a regular basis, even calling to harrass his little brother who is living happily with his boyfriend. But when a night out drinking with a friend puts a bottle of aphrodisiac in his hands, it remains to be seen if Morinaga has found himself the perfect opportunity or the worst-case-scenario.
The Tyrant Who Falls In Love has at last landed – the long awaited spin-off series to Hinako Takanaga's boys' love fluff-tale, Challengers. Originally licensed by DramaQueen, Tyrant fell into limbo when the company stopped business for a number of years, but while DQ may've let it go, fans certainly didn't. Scooped up by Digital Manga in a move both expected and anticipated for years, this cheeky non-con tales of boys 'love is finally available in English for the eager hands of its supporters.
Tetsuhiro Morinaga has been in love with his upper-classman for over four years, but it's a bit of a unique case when the object of his affection is a temperamental, high-strung homophobe. It's quickly, and loudly, apparent that this isn't going to be another tale of blushing schoolboys.
First seen in Challengers as the dangerously overprotective older brother, Souichi Tatsumi is as anti-gay as ever and he will never let a situation go where he can share his thoughts. Granted his outbursts are mostly belligerently brief ramblings but his passion for hatred is always there and he even does his research to inspire it, such as rambling around the same-sex marriage movements in California. He goes so far out of his way to freak out over the smallest implication at times that even readers who can't see the obvious direction the story is going may still be left hoping he gets broken in just to shut him up. At the same time, it's the same things that make him so funny. He's a jerk alright but it just makes us want to read about him more, see how things go.
Non-consensual sexual acts can never be morally justified but Tyrant plays with the idea coyly even by boys' love standards, making Souichi feel far less a victim than the weeping, submissive types seen in most other stories. It doesn't make it okay but you'd hard pressed to find a fan who doesn't find the immense tug and pull of their ‘relationship’ to be the real engaging part of the story. We don't want to see Souichi get raped but we guiltily don't want to see him stop protesting either.
Quick to give the characters a sharp push forward, a night of drinking leads to Souichi drinking a bottle of some kind of aphrodisiac. While at first it looks like he may be unaffected, soon he's at attention with no sign of abating. And he'll be damned if he deals with it in the same room as Morinaga. But a combination of sympathy and not wanting to let the chance go leads Morinaga to taking long, toying and messy care of Souichi – a fairly lengthy scene that despite some negative connotations shouldn't disappoint any sexual connoisseurs. In the morning all conceptions of Souichi are proven accurate as he awakens with a painful hangover and promptly seeks vengeance against his attacker with a broken wine bottle.
What results however is a surprisingly gut-wrenching emotional hit as Souichi exposes himself truly hurt by the act, assaulted regardless of the situation by someone who he sees as a friend, regardless of what he thought of his sexual preference. Out of guilt, Morinaga prepares to leave the university the two work at together while his subsequent absence wears on Souichi's mind over time. Yes, he's still upset and disturbed over what happened, but he also can't deny the hole that's left by Morinaga not being there, both in regards to their work and as an acquaintance. He becomes increasingly frustrated by Morinaga's decision to run away over facing what he did, while even beginning to fear that Souichi may've exacted vengeance on himself and taken his own life when no one seems to know where he is.
Eventually though, Morinaga does resurface and Souichi is right there to punch him for it. A lot of cussing and yelling later, the two come to a sort of understanding, or at least a long-in-the-coming honest talk. Little surprise though when it gets Morinaga all fired up and he passionately gets Souichi back on the bed. The tyrant continues to exclaim he doesn't want the this sexual encounter any more than he did the first, while even Morinaga points out to him that now, under no influence of alcohol or drugs, that if he really didn't want it, he could easily push him off or just leave. Of course, Souichi doesn't do either. Cue another cuss-filled, denial-ridden sex scene!
While the story already manages to fit in a compelling amount of emotional resonance and steamy sex scenes, the stand-out moments of the volume are definitely the humourous ones. Soichi is hilarious and his reactions are both so crass and honest about any given situation that you can't help but at least chuckle. Being disgusted by a post-sex shower and discovering after-effects trickling down your leg may sound more gross than funny, but when noticed by Souichi, it's another moment to laugh out loud. We fans feel for him, we really do, but it's impossible not to laugh all the same. He takes everything one step further than it needs to be and the over-reaction is more than half the series' fun.
Hinako Takanaga's art style aids in this immensely. Morinaga, despite his more dubious of decisions, is a sympathetic character with his doey, caring eyes. His mop of black hair and lab coat make him cute but easily distinguishable as the proper age. He seems dull in comparison to Souichi though, who in spending most of his page-time looking pissed off, is rendered perfectly to that effect. His mannerisms and expressions are hilarious, so full of spite for life and accentuated by some fun panels and close-ups. This is a man who is going to die young of stress-related disease (completely of his own doing) and the art shows it well. His long ponytail, even at the risk of stereotyping, seems a little odd for someone who is feverently against being feminine or homosexual, yet as far as character designs go it makes him both distinct within the story and in the artist's repertoire of other characters. Plus he just looks good with it.
Digital Manga's work on the series shows the care taken to a fan-favourite. There're a lot of wordy pages in the volume, not in quantity but in sheer style and format – many moments of screaming and various levels of emotional outburst that make this a much louder manga volume than most boys' love tales – and the adaptation handles them all well. Soichi's foul-mouth and anger is especially venomous while still reading with a very natural flow. The text is well placed, though some of the sound effect work looks a little sloppy and potentially mistaken for out-of-bubble speech. The cover art design, which sits upon a nice large trim-size, utilizes bright colours that actually suit the tone of the story a bit better than the more pastel colours of the original. The colours themselves could stand to be a little less neon orange and green though. It appears Digital Manga is playing around with the colour schemes on each subsequent volume, however, and previews of the second volume's cover already show a vast colour-scheme improvement.
Ultimately, The Tyrant Who Falls In Love proves itself worth the wait. The story itself doesn't feel entirely fresh but the characters more than make up for it and then some. Soichi is such a standout character that Morinaga almost feels like a dull liability purely in comparison. The two make for a fun ‘couple’ through and through – playing off each other's reactions in a way that won't always be comfortable for readers but is never, ever short of entertaining.
Overall : A-
Story : B
Art : A
+ Soichi Tatsumi is a hilariously crass character who gives the whole book a brimming energy; Hinako Takanaga's artwork is eye-catching and responsible for the majority of the series' most poignant funny and heartfelt moments, not to mention some satisfying sex scenes for all involved
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