“ Genre: Graphic Novels / Comics / Author: Souya Himawari / Paperback / 200 Pages / Book is published 2010-04-07 by Digital Manga Publishing „
Mizuo is a pretty typical teenager. He likes to chat and text on his mobile phone. He likes to play video games, and hang out at the local game centre. He likes to watch movies. What he doesn't like is being sent by his mother to learn tea ceremony. What kind of thing is that for an ordinary guy to learn? He skips out on going when ever possible, and his favourite hiding place is a place he has known from childhood: an abandoned neighbourhood temple. There, he can sit on the decrepit empty altar, read manga, text friends, and just hole up for a couple of hours until his lesson is supposed to be over. That's the plan anyway, but on this occasion, something screwy happens. As he sits, he hears weird chanting, and an odd air appears about the place. Before he can get away, he finds himself still sat on the altar, being hailed as the living embodiment of Buddha by a group of monks. Even scarier, he then gets plonked on a horse and taken into battle by a warlord, as a charm!
Mizuo would MUCH rather go home, even if it means facing having to learn the tea ceremony. Having swords swing at you with deadly intent, arrows piercing men about you, and the stench of death filling your nose is not only uncool, but seriously SCARY. Unfortunately, the charismatic leader of the Yamako army, Takakage, has taken a shine to the young Mizuo and wants to take him on as his page boy. Mizuo discovers this is no joke, he has somehow been transported to feudal Japan, with no way seemingly to get home. With what is entailed with being a page, will he decide to stay, or will he continue to search for a way home? If Takak has his say, Mizuo will go nowhere except by his side and into his futon. But fate may have other plans...
Souya Himawari has one other June title to her credit so far, Happiness Recommended, though she has an impressive 27 titles to her credit in Japanese, all in the yaoi and yuri genres. Her manga often have historical themes, and it is refreshing to catch a glimpse of old Japan, with its unique architecture and ways of traditional dress. Himawari does not skimp on accuracy, and here it is often provides a good laugh. The expression on the faces of the household when Mizuo asks for milk, and then explains what is, is hilarious. Likewise the samurai/page sexual aspect is not a mere plot device, but historically accurate as the mentor relationship extended beyond mere soldierly activities in much the same way that the ancient Greek system did with its erastes and eromenos roles.
Aside from the interesting plot devices, the story itself is deceptively fluffy. A quick read will yield a mere romantic romp with homosexual overtones, but taking the time to read it unrushed reveals a lot more. Mizuo is struggling with his sense of self and dealing with having to yield to parental pressures as he is still technically a child, though feeling what he thinks is rather grown up. Thrust into the past where he IS considered to be a person with more adult responsibilities, and with a charismatic and powerful warlord wishing to bind him to him, Mizuo finds he must either accept that he is not as grown up as he thought and run on home if he can, or take the first real steps towards adulthood by accepting certain personal responsibilities and facing what very well could be true love, not to mention his first sexual experience. It is tastefully done, and not overtly explicit, making this a very suitable title for its 16+ rating given by the publisher.
These aspects could bog the story down, but Himawari manages to make excellent use of of her art and prose to convey this in a light, entertaining manner. The facial expressions in particular are well done, with looks of confusion and surprise well done, without the oft seen side effect of looking slightly lazy eyed I have observed elsewhere. Her battle scenes are chaotic, and while we don't see it from the point of view of Mizuo, he is in the midst of it, so we get an excellent feel for how trapped he feels in the melee while getting a good look at the skill being displayed by Takakage as he rides his warhorse and swings his katana in deadly arcs, leading his men, all the while shielding Mizuo sat before him.
The ending closes the current story arc rather well, while opening us up to the next, so I look forward to reading the next volume. It's not out yet, sadly, but in the meantime, you can grab this one in paperback form from your favourite manga retailer. A digital edition is not yet available for purchase or rent, though DMP release titles this way regularly, so it is worth keeping an eye on their release schedule if that format is preferred.
***I would like to thank Digital Manga Publishing for providing me with this review copy.***