Reviewby Lissa Pattillo,
Your Love Sickness
Another assortment of boys' love short stories, Your Love Sickness's cover story is that of two fox spirits guarding a shrine. To those passing by they appear to be noble foxes seated upon their pedestals but when alone, they're two long-time friends and passionate lovers. But struggling between A'Ura's wish to get frisky and Unka's want to stay focused on the job, they also faced racial issues in their youth as they both come from different places on their societal pyramid. Elsewhere a man becomes lost in the woods only to be found by a sultry-spirit and in modern-day, bento becomes the language of love and a police officer finds an old love in the most unexpected of places.
The story of the book's title characters begins in their present-day lives as guardians of their humble shrine where they debatedly find balance between doing their jobs and enjoying eachother's company. Intermittently things go back to their childhood as tiny, bright-eyed fox children before shifting forward to their first romantic encounter. While A'Ura has some pressures over his position as one of the top-ranking of the fox spirits, and the object of many a fox's affection, Unka has faced adversity his whole life as one of the lowest ranking foxes and the scrutiny of all - except for A'Ura of course. The racial barrier between the two makes up the greatest tug-and-pull aspect of their relationship yet it's never handled that seriously past Unka being repeatedly nervous about them interacting and A'Ura subsequently losing face.
The moment where A'Ura sees Unka naked for the first time is probably the most memorable of the story. Not only is it paced well but the semi-surprise factor, for both reader and A'Ura, when seeing the contrast of Unka's nervous, sparkle-inducing personality to his well-toned body, is plenty of fun in itself. It also sparks their first of several sexual encounters that prelude their lively relationship which sees A'Ura quite happy to perversely follow the more reserved Unka about.
The story 'Disappearing Into The Dew' keeps a similar vein of spirits and a feudal-era timeline. A man traveling in the woods finds himself going around in circles until he's suddenly in the presence of a confident spirit who has become interested in him. A tasty meal and many interested sexy-eye gazes later and it's clear the spirit is keen on seducing his new acquaintance. Though the human is awkward, the sex scene is still entirely consensual, which is a trend consistent throughout the entire book. The chapter ends abruptly and it feels a little rushed after a fairly smoothly-paced beginning. Still, it does so with the kind of open-ended resolution that successfully achieves it's intended legend-like feel.
For readers more a fan of the here-and-now kind of stories, Your Love Sickness takes things forward into modern day with its next story titled 'Cheeping'. Rick is a successful male model who finds himself trapped at home after an accident on the set leaves him with a broken leg. Offering him the chance to make the best of things, his co-worker organizes it that a local bento shop manager stops by each day after work to bring him his favorite food - a man that Rick has been fond of for a while. Through tasty food and attentive care, the two open up enough about their mutual feelings to lead to a steamy interlude and the beginning of a presumably charming relationship. This story doesn't have a whole lot to it but still reads well based on the likable characters and progression of their interactions over time.
This short-story collection ends with some one-sided tension between a police officer and a member of the yakuza out to do good by his socially frowned upon position. Despite the potential angst of the story's premise, the whole thing is pretty light-hearted in tone thanks to the upbeat personality of Mickey Nishi, the scarred yazkua with a heart of gold. He coes and coddles over his 'Kaoru-chan' after the two are reunited for the first time since childhood. While Kaoru debates the morale repercussions of their involvement with one another, a childhood promise preludes their inevitable, but no less fluffy and briefly-steamy, boys' love coup-de-grace.
Following each story is a single page where the author shares her inspiration and ideas for the short along with an adorable chibi-style image of the couple that sums up their relationship. These bonuses are great additions to the book, not only because they offer pure sugar for the eyes with the bonus art but also because they really benefit the short-story style of the release as a whole, offering interesting little fun facts about each portion and letting readers get to know the creator a bit better.
Speaking of the visuals, the characters here are all masculine in their appearance - attractive and fun in their designs while none should fall victim to any scrutinizing eyes over any abundance of androgyny. The title story, and following short, sport detailed Japanese fantasy-style clothing and hairdos for the spirits and Gods that star in them, while following chapters are set in modern times and thus offer an assortment of men in casual clothing and suits. If Hayate Kuku's style appears familiar to some, it's likely due to the similarities to the look of boys' love fan-favourite, Naono Bohra (who's had one of their own short story collections released by Media Blasters). Hayate Kuku doesn't have many books under her belt just yet but any fans of Naono Bohra's work should definitely seek out this book for a similar vein of both visuals and storytelling.
Released under Digital Manga's June line-up, the trim size of the book itself is more akin to the size of their 801Media books - which is closer to the English-released standard size as set by Tokyopop and Viz Media. While it's a pity readers can't stare at Hayate Kuku's lovely artwork in a larger format, it's still a really quaint size and the overall quality of the binding and design is top-notch regardless.
Collections of boys' love short stories are hit or miss. There's also more than enough of them to choose from released in English since they come with less risk compared to multi-volume series. More often than not you'll get a few gems and a few stinkers in each one which makes it hard to outright recommend any book in full. Your Love Sickness is a pleasant exception to the expectations. While some stories will resonate more favorably than others depending on what floats your boat, the overall artistic and entertainment-value quality of each chapter here makes Your Love Sickness a great addition for any fans' collection. Hopefully this isn't the last we see of Hayate Kuku's work which easily impresses.
Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : B+
+ A four-part assortment of boys' love stories that mix likable characters with appealing artwork and steamy consensual scenes; combination of fantasy and modern-elements offer a little something for everyone with nice author commentary on each individual story
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