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Tsukasa Shinozaki knows he has done something really stupid...he dated his boss, and now has been dumped. Even worse, he got dumped by his boss for a woman, and Tsukasa knows it is probably because he simply has not enjoyed having physical relations. The truth of the matter is, his boss always played the seme (the top or giver) and Tsukasa quite honestly found being on the receiving end of anal sex (aka being the uke) very painful. So, while heartbroken as he loved his boyfriend/boss, he believes that he understands all too well that his cold beauty on the outside has proved him to be frigid and not so enjoyable in bed as well.
Drowning his sorrows at a hotel bar, he is approached by a handsome stranger. This guy is someone that Tsukasa would have considered way out of league; elegantly dressed, suave, and extremely good looking this is a man who could have his pick of partners, so why is he looking at Tsukasa, who at one glance you can tell is a frigid guy? Flattered beyond belief, Tsukasa finds himself accepting the stranger's invitation. What follows is a night of exquisite passion that awakens Tsuakasa to the true pleasures of the body and leaves him literally screaming for more. The only thing is, this guy won't tell him his name, but instead makes arrangements to meet Tsukasa again on a regular basis, at the same hotel. What follows is four months of blind passion, with Tsukasa never learning his sex partner's name.
Convincing himself that it is foolish to fall in love and that it is best to just indulge in the pure sensation, he manages to lie to himself about his true feelings for the mysterious stranger. He is unable to maintain his fantasy though when reality comes walking through the door. For Tsukasa gets a promotion and is made secretary to the new company director in charge of sales, and it is a very familiar face indeed: the man from the hotel bar is his new boss. Is Tsukasa about to repeat his earlier mistake?
I have to say it out loud. This is one prose novel that has become a nosebleed inducing guilty pleasure of a read. It is yaoi and has the only the occasional piece of full page art, so if you are looking for a true graphic novel or manga, this is not it. Having said that, if you love the genre, then this is definitely not a treat to deny yourself. For starters, this is not your typical yaoi story of two young men taking their first steps into love. The protagonists are two mature working men in their twenties and thirties. As such, the insecurities relating to past failed relationships, employment worries and the attendant corporate executive work culture, as well as the cultural ramifications of being in a same sex relationship are explored along a lot farther than you would get in a story dealing with younger protagonists who do not yet carry the same quality and quantity of life experience, nor the weight of societal expectations that can come to roost upon their shoulders. Indeed, the pressure cooker is steaming away at Tsukasa, and when he is unlucky enough to hear a certain piece of information, he ends up making the same sort of rash decisions that many others in love have made to their folly, regardless of gender.
Likewise the sort of sex the two have is more on the grown up side. Indeed, Tsukasa discovers this very fact with his new lover. Where as before his experiences were of the kiss>grab>stick it in variety generally associated with the young and inexperienced (or at this age, REALLY bad in bed), this time around he feels the sensations of being touched and made love to. Not that it is all gentle, for his lover loves a little (mild) S and M, but neither is it gut wrenchingly painful as he takes his time to ensure his partner is enjoying it as much as himself. It is simply exquisite ecstasy, and it is this revelation that literally makes Tsukasa a slave to the man who offers him his body each week. Tsukasa also learns something else along the way, that empty sex has no meaning, and that his heart must follow his body, and with that comes great risk. Can Tsukasa accept this and move forward, or is he going to be as emotionally frozen as he believed himself to be? As for his lover, is he just another guy cunningly getting his rocks off while also enjoying having the upper hand over Tsukasa's livelihood?
At a relatively short 152 pages long, things do move along at a rather brisk pace, so while not entirely stereotypical, we do have many of the usual yaoi conventions for plot convenience. Older, more experienced seme with submissive, insecure beautiful uke is of course one, as is the "I tie you up because I love you" scenario. Having said that, many chick lit novels follow similar conventions, so this is pretty standard romance novel stuff, just with the heroine being replaced with a male character. What lifts it above the rest is the honest look it takes at the modern approach to love and sex within the dating scene, and I found it quite refreshing, though I should warn you, the prose is graphic enough at telling you what is going on that you don't need frame by frame drawings to get the picture, though it skilfully manages to avoid being pornographic. To put it cinematically, Eyes Wide Shut strayed much closer to that direction than this, so unless you are very conservative and/or homophobic, this is not going to turn your hair white and your limbs to stone.
Pictures we do get however, just not any of THAT sort. The colour illustration for the cover and the black and white full page inserts scattered throughout are extremely lovely to look at. Artist An Kanae is as gifted with her actual drawings as author Yuiko Takamura is with painting with words. The illustrations are simply beautiful; the backgrounds are as rich in detail as the finer expressions upon the faces of the characters, making for a snapshot type effect that greatly adds to the feel of realism within the novel. Her unusually skilful use of tone and shadings rendered these to near masterpieces on their own.
So is it all good? Well, no, there are a few minor quibbles. The translation was well done, without any stilted feeling to the English but someone needs to whip the proof-reader with a wet noodle as they let some typos slip past. Not very many, but the overall quality was such that they were glaringly obvious as I encountered them. I hope any subsequent reprints will have corrected this and the proof-reader taught a good lesson with a nice piece of al dente. Other than that, the only caveat I have is this: it has a well deserved 18+ age rating on it so don't leave it where someone underage could pick it up. You might not want your gran picking it up out of curiosity either, so put it on the top shelf. Also of note is that is available both as a paperback as well as a Kindle edition, which can not only be read on a Kindle e-reader, but as well as on the I phone, Blackberry and the PC with the free Kindle application from Amazon installed.