A mansion owned by an extremely wealthy and politically connected family headed by an aged matriarch. Two handsome male cousins in the direct line of descent. A beautiful young woman who is the key to inheriting the family fortune. A storm is brewing over the Kourenji family, and with it sways not just the destiny of the three young people, but of an entire business empire. No, it's not a re-run of Dynasty, it's Tateno's Boy's Love manga, Ka Shin Fu. Having said that, there are definitely soap opera elements here that more than give a nod to the likes of Dynasty and Dallas.
Grandmother is one tough cookie, hiding a will of iron behind her elegant, aged façade. Thanks to the enormity of the family business empire, family politics are quite complicated and even outside friendships often come with a price tag. Long ago, grandmother's eldest son did a disappearing act, while two of the daughters married outside the clan. Grandmother's favoured candidate for heir is Mitsuko, but Mitsuko is not a direct heir, so is out of the question. That leaves Yuuichi and Shuu, the sons of the two daughters, and grandmother had hatched a plan so that her beloved Mitsuko can still enjoy the benefits of inheritance. All Mitsuko has to do is marry one of the two grandsons, and produce the next heir. Stifled into unwilling obedience, the two young men pay joint attendance to the young woman so that she may decide which one is to be grandmother's sacrifice.
This is of course more personally complicated than it may at first seem. Yuuichi and Shuu were lovers during high school, only separating when Shuu realised grandmother's ambitions would see them pulled apart and sent to different parts of the company and possibly far away, or even worse, married off. Calling it quits before they fell in too deep, and distracting himself with women seemed to be his best bet to keep his emotions in check. But Yuichi never awoke form his love dream, and still quietly pines deep inside his heart. Has Shuu truly moved on? He plays, but never settles for any one woman. And what about Mitsuko? Quiet, obedient, and dedicated to grandmother, everyone seems to overlook the fact that she too must have dreams and feelings. Feelings which touch off a storm and sends the family reeling and that just may leave Yuichi and Shuu free of grandmother's plottings after all. It is a storm whose beginnings actually began long ago, and whose repercussions reach forth to yet a third generation...
I quite enjoyed this volume. The story was much different than Tateno's usual offerings, but very well done. A multilayered, multi-generational tale of family fortunes, skeletons in the closet, coerced sex, forbidden loves, blackmail, corruption, and greed all make up the ingredients to a never ending buffet of delights. Shuu plays the carefree playboy, while inside, his heart is actually a mess and dedicated to only one person. Yuuichi is the reserved businessman, whose quiet demeanour masks his deeply passionate nature. Mitsuko is the quiet one whose waters run deep. Later cast additions Kaoru and Ryuugo are no mere tacked on also rans either. Kaoru's tragic past sets the stage for more machinations and provide the recipe for revenge, while Ryuugo is the face that brings the long ago past back to haunt the family, as skeletons come falling out of the closet. Is he the devil come to destroy the family? Or is he the one that can save them all? Tateno leaves us guessing right until the final page, and leaves us with a sigh of satisfaction as her carefully crafted plot is brought to a close.
Tateno's signature art style is used to excellent advantage here. Filled with clean lines, large brooding eyes that can go from calculatingly cold in one frame to smouldering desire in the next, we do get our fill of her pointy chinned beautiful men with gracefully sweeping locks of hair. She is not a one trick pony however, as we also get wonderfully detailed portraits of lovely young women, and older men and women who while not of flowery beauty are a treat to look at thanks to her graceful rendering of their ageing visages. As usual, she also makes excellent use of her backgrounds, with plenty of detail as needed, and set up in such a way that they serve almost like stage backgrounds against which characters play out their lives. The panel work is uncomplicated but combined with her art contributes to the feel of watching a play or TV drama, serving almost like scene changes.
Rated an 18+ due to mature themes and sexual situations, this tale of generational drama is available for purchase in a variety of formats. There is the traditional paperback edition, available from major manga retailers, as well as a electronic edition available for users of Amazon's Kindle platform (available to buy Amazon, of course). In addition, an electronic version for the PC is available to read online via the publisher's own Emanga site, which users can rent once, or pay to keep and have stored on their account on the publisher's own server. For those in regions where importing manga is difficult, or where one encounters region locking issues with Kindle, this can prove to be quite handy as the Emanga.com site is not region locked and can be used by anyone over the age of 18.
I'd like to extend my thanks to Digital Manga for providing me with this copy for review purposes.