* Prices may differ from that shown
I'll admit it. I love reading romances with gorgeous hunky men, svelte beautiful men, sternly handsome businessmen, dangerously sexy yakuza, you name it. All of which are, to put it more succinctly, different flavours of drop dead gorgeous. It's pretty well much the done thing, right? We swoon over the handsome princes and these tales of romance fulfill our dreams of romantic perfection. But that's not even close to real, though admittedly many of us have kissed enough frogs for that part of fairy tale romance to be at least true, even if they never turned into Mr So Gorgeous I Could Just Die. In a refreshing twist, the Japanese mangaka with the surprising pen name of Psyche Delico hands us a book of short tales that feature stories of true love but with VERY flawed human beings as the cast of characters.
In the first short, 'Cause I love Every Bit of You, we get what at first glance seems to be pretty average, par for the course fare in the Boy's Love genre.Tthere is the the waif like, ethereally pretty high school student Minamibo Yoko and his "manlier" good friend Saito Yukio. Yukio has a huge crush on Yoko (surprise, surprise) and begins to imegine all sorts of horrific abuse scenarios to account for the minor injuries that Yoko seems to be sporting recently. They are in some places that are not only visible without too much prying, but in areas that help fire up his overactive and hormonally fueled imagination. needless to say, these scenarios are all rather adult in nature, and lead him to believing that his fair Yoko is needing rescuing. Boy, does he ever get a surprise when he discovers the truth, which after some of the far fetched sex scenarios he'd been envisioning "his" fair Yoko to be suffering through, is all the more hilarious.
The second story is one of fumbling cuteness, with comic book nerd Ishimoto ecstatic to discover that the new client he is to teach at his driving school is none other than THE Kanaya, who writes his favourite manga. The two hit it off and Ishimoto is thrilled, as they end up hanging out and drinking together. This is where it all gets a bit muddled up in the way only an alcoholic fueled haze can be. He simply recalls Kanaya sharing how lonely his life is, and thinking how surprisingly cute Kanaya is with that vulnerable expression on his face. Then there is an occurrence where they were messing about, but were they wrestling or...? Ishimoto has no idea and his imagination runs away from him, with comic results.
Things get a bit squicky in the third story, as Aki returns to the family home after 2 years. When he'd left, Hirofumi was a cute 11 year old boy following him about, only now, at 13, puberty has turned him into a much older looking youth who seems nothing like the baby brother he was looking forward to spoiling some more. They are "A Delusional Couple" indeed as the strange youth with Hirofumi's name is slowly revealed to Aki, to be the same kid inside, and Aki begins to try to reconnect. Only Hirofumi is shy, awkward, and desperately avoiding his big brother. A strange courtship is born, brotherly on the one hand but with some definite hints of something more taboo on the other. It makes for a story that surprisingly is as sweetly funny as it is uncomfortable.
The next to the last story shares its name with this anthology, A Love Full of Scars, and thankfully we are back on more comfortable ground. This story is very much the heart of the book, taking up more space than any of the otehr stories. Once again, the setting is high school, but this time, we meet two delinquents. Kanda Seishiro and Uesaka Kaname have been facing off as many times as they could meet to beat the holy crap out of each other. not that Kanda is going out of his way for a beating, but Kaname seems to want to shadow him for the sole purpose of getting an opportune moment to start a beat down. You'd think they'd hate each other, but Kaname has this strange code of honour about how he goes about it, and Kanda can't seem to help but find that endearing. not that that stops the insults and punches, as when Kanda decides to own up to his feelings, he says and acts out the complete opposite. Kaname figures it all out though, but that's not the end of the matter. Nope, after that, he has to go face Kanda's older brother, who's raised Seishiro alone after their parents were gone. Kanda Seishiro's older brother is a drag queen with a demonic personality hell bent on protecting his "sweet" "baby" brother, and it makes for quite the moment when these two face off.
It's a tale of three misfits who find their way somewhat, though the older brother doesn't find his niche completely until the final story, A Vortex of Love, and it shows us that sometimes we don't really see what is right before our face. Having had to support his little brother for so long, Kanda Kotaro had to say good bye to any dreams of university and accept employment that paid enough to pay the bills and provide for himself and a child. To this end, he accepted a job at a local drag club, and so "Ruby" was born. But now little Kanda Seishiro is all grown up and is finding his way in the world, hand in hand with his love. But where does that leave Kotaro? All he has is Seishiro and "Ruby"'s existence at the club. Love seems to be something he can't reach for, as memories of a youth from his past rise up to torment him. He'd callously hurt the youth who proclaimed his affections for him, and you'd think he'd have gotten over the guilt of it, but he hasn't. Why not? Because co-worker Misato Yuji has always been there for him at work, trying to cheer him up whenever he needed it, and offering him his unconditional love. His behaviour painfully reminds Kotaro of that youth and his own perfidy, but why is that? Misato Yuji knows why and it's why he refuses to back away...
Not shying away from the lewd and at times definitely perverse parts of human relationships, this manga really stands out from the crowd of titles populating the Boy's love genre. the stories are not only non standard fare filled with quirky characters, but the usual tropes are absent here too. there is no way of predicting who's a top and who's a bottom, or if they're strictly one or the other anyway. Nor are they all young and beautiful...we get pretty youths, bashed up hard faced guys, older men, and even drag queens who stretch beyond the stereotype. Nor are they all neat, smooth skinned and fairly tidy folks...we also get guys with body and facial hair, something not seen too often outside of bara (comics aimed at gay men as opposed to this genre, which is aimed more towards women), and to say that they are not all perfectly groomed and in cool designer suits would be an understatement. These are guys you might see at random on any public street and to be honest, it's one of it's charms. it brings the fairy tale of the happily ever after to a more personally realistic level, allowing s to believe that amongst the ordinary mortals we consort with, our own attainable happily ever after can actually be lurking, though it may be somewhat unconventional in form.
This is currently available as a paperback from manga retailers (Amazon, Book Depository, etc) or to read as a chapter by chapter rental (25 US cents a chapter, first chapter free) over at the publisher's online reading portal Netcomics.com. I'd like to thank them for providing me with my review copy and happily recommend this as a pleasant way to while away some time. Please note that this is an 18+ rated title, due to explicit content and adult themes.
Love Full of Scars is a compilation of several short stories that gravitate around rough but surprisingly cute men. Of course we also have several bishies here, but it was such a pleasant surprise to find hairy, old and though men acting in such a lovely way.
'Cause I love every bit of you is the first chapter. This is an hilarious story about two high school students that met by chance, Minamibo Yoko and Saito Yukio. Yoko is completely beautiful and seemingly fragile in Saito's eyes. Besides, since he is always sporting some kind of minor injury, Saito feels bothered to the point he starts imagining all kind of scenes that seem taken from your average boys love story; Minamibo is sexually abused by almost anyone in these delusions. However, appearances are deceiving, especially with these two boys.
Then we have Driving School Romance were Ishimoto meets the creator of his favorite manga character, Kanaya, in the driving school. They easily become friends, even getting drunk together. Ishimoto is touched by the loneliness of Kanaya to the point of thinking of him as cute. The morning after is a combination of confusion and a completely hilarious train of thought, as Ishimoto realizes he might have done something more than just wrestling with Kanaya.
A Delusional Couple's Romance is a crazy story, more like a comedy with touches of shounen and...well...a bit of incest. Aki is coming back home after 2 years, eager to meet with his cute little brother but, guess what he finds instead? a 13 years old that looks more like an adult tug. Aki's dreams of pampering his younger brother are shattered for a moment, until he realizes Hirofumi is still the same inside. Well, that's when his weird delusions and attempts at brotherly love start, but Hirofumi is now avoiding him, causing things to spiral into an incredibly hilarious nonsense that manages to be very cute.
Love full of scars is the main story for this book, composed by three chapters (and an extra at the end of the manga). Kanda Seishiro and Uesaka Kaname are both school delinquents, you could say they are the toughest guys in there. Since he was defeated for the first time, Uesaka keeps on following Kanda around to fight with him. And, only god knows why, between all that beating, Kanda felt in love with the honorable Ueasaka. However, that doesn't seem to stop his punches and insults; even when Kanda wants to express his love he only manages to do exactly the opposite of what he is thinking. Quite endearing, really, he is like a lovely maiden on the inside and a foul-mouthed violent tug on the outside. Uesaka has my total respect, not only he manages to sort all of that out, he is also resolved to convince Kanda's deamon drag-queen older brother of his good intentions. How amazing is that!
The last one, A Vortex of Love, features the demon brother's side of the story. Kanda Kotaro has been working in a club as a transvestite, called Ruby, for a long time. Ever since their parents death, he has become the only family and support to his little brother Seishiro, until the point that he never thought much about himself. Seeing his brother grow up and find love, Ruby is becoming very lonely. Misato Yuji, a co-worker, is always trying to cheer Ruby up, to offer him his love. The problem is Ruby only thinks that way of someone he hurt deeply in the past, even when he barely remembers that little boy from middle school. To top it all, Misato's kindness only seems to trigger those regretful memories even more.
Honestly, Psyche Delico won me out with only this manga. Because all the stories are amazingly cute, hilarious and touching at the same time, I couldn't help it. They are all very sexy too, without being extremely explicit, in the intimate scenes; the strong, violent and rough appeal of the characters is what provides this effect. The mangaka doesn't shy away from some facial and body hair, not so cute hair styles (really what's up with Hirofumi's hair? That thing is alive!), bashed up faces, oldies and drag queens. Not only that, these characters are full of quirks, sometimes very weird ones, and aren't they lewd with so many delusions? What I liked the most, of course, was the unexpected ways the roles took, not following the usual pattern in BL were you could easily predict the top. All that diversity is very welcomed, especially with the smooth and simple art style that makes all the characters attractive: Love Full of Scars is a bunch of sexy awkward rough men on a plate.
This manga might not be considered a masterpiece, but it's a really nice pick if you want to feel good and get into a story without excessive amounts of drama. The surprising turns, hilarious characters and engaging flow are its outstanding points. I just wish there was more of these one-shots, after all, I love them that crazy.
Special thanks to NETCOMICS for providing a review digital copy. You can rent this in their page for 0.25$ a chapter. You can also read it in Kindle.