My oh my, what is a crime boss to do? The modern day Yakuza have all funnelled their funds into legitimate businesses, applying their cut throat practices to making money in ways that will keep them out of prison. Well, most of them have anyway, but there are still hold outs that prefer the "old glory days". Sadly for them, they are looked down upon by the other Yakuza as being low level scum, and the police crack down on them harder and harder each day. Yeah, these are bad guys, so no tears shed there, right? Not quite, for these are people and each person has a story. In the case of Tatsurou Yamamoto, his is a tale of neglect and a struggle for a sense off family and respect. Unfortunately, before an elderly factory worker managed to pick him up from the streets as a boy, he had already been picked up by Kantou Hinodegumi and gone through the sake drinking initiation ritual. So instead of reforming into an average citizen, he got the joy of becoming a hardnosed old fashioned thug who fancied himself somebody because he inspired fear that he mistakes for respect.
But with the rackets going belly up thanks to the police and pressure from legitimised yakuza groups wielding much more power, what is a low level gang to do? Why, become debt collectors of course. You know, ring up people who do not pay the TV loan company back their money on time, say nothing illegal, but scare the bejesus outta of them with your tone and verbal implications. And if they don't pay up, go pay 'em a visit. The kind where they see a flashy gangster and have horrible thoughts about black market organ sales and what not and hand over the dough. Lovely might be the name of the finance company, and they might offer easy to acquire loans for desperate people , reassuring them with their TV ads with a cuddly puppy, but lovely they are not if you default on even a single payment. It is Lovely who pay a fee to the Kantou for collecting on bad loans, so it is Lovely who ultimately pay a cut of the collected loan payments to Tatsurou. All goes swimmingly well until one day, an elderly factory owner is the client. Yakuza always pay their debts as a matter of honour, and Tatsurou gets a memory flashback. A neglected, scared boy, a factory, and a moment of kindness all come back to haunt him.
Crap! What is he to do? Pay the debt of eight million of course and in only two days, but with the Group reduced to just taking percentages off of defaulted loan payments, how is he to get the cash? Enter Lovely, of course. Or rather the CEO of Lovely, one Yoshiaki Sagami. He is quite willing to loan Tatsurou the funds, but the terms are very old style Yakuza. "Just to let you know, there will be interest on that eight million. We need a million every month, plus interest. If you pay late, I intend to enjoy your body." In fact, don't pay the whole amount due, and Tatsurou must pay with his body. It is a dirty tactic often used by Yakuza, forcing male and female clients into the skin trade, but this is not just business. It is personal; for Sagami is a charismatic man with an iron will that he is determined to bend a defiant Yakuza to. Does he manage to tame this violent man? And just why the hell does he want to do THAT with Tatsurou anyway?
This is Barbara Katagiri's first yaoi (boy's love) light novel for Biblos, and presented to us in the English speaking world by June Manga. Being a light novel, the vocabulary is not overly difficult, being at a high school level so easily read without having to think too hard. This does not detract from the story, however, for despite the uncomplicated language use and comedic nature of the characterisations, it is not an ill conceived and executed story. Rather, it is one that is written to provide light entertainment, and this it does quite well. From the opening paragraph, the reader is aware that Tatsurou is literally in a bind, tied up on some guy's bed. This hooks one right in as Tatsurou then reflects just how the hell he got himself in such an undignified mess, and while this could have been heavy, it was not. Katagiri managed to pull this off so that it is genuinely funny. Tatsurou knew what he was getting into, but he is tied simply because when it comes to crunch time, he can't help put up some resistance as payback to the perceived affront to his yakuza dignity. It is his very rigidity and sense of self importance that not only rings true, but makes him so amusing. His inner vulnerability is revealed as the story rolls on, and adds depths to his personality that keeps the reader interested in his plight, though I must admit I did not feel too sorry for him when Sagami got his hands on him. It is literally a fun romp, through the underbelly of Japanese society to between the sheets and back again.
It is a romp made all the more enjoyable by the insertion of the wonderful illustrations made by Sakuya Fujii. From the full colour glossy frontispiece to the black and white full page illustrations scattered through out the novel at key points, these really help feed the story along as we get a full visual image of the styles and personalities of the two characters. Tatsurou's tacky but expensive designer suits and bleached hair really spring to life, providing a vivid contrast to the elegantly suited Sagami. The animal print shirts favoured by Tatsurou really add impact to the reader's impression of Tatsurou as a wild beast of a man who needs to be taken down an peg or two, and perfectly tailored hand made dark suits of Lovely's CEO provides the perfect visual foil. If you are looking for porn though, you will have to look elsewhere. The pictures are not of explicit scenes, bar one, and even there you can see what they appear to be doing, but nothing is actually shown. Likewise, while the story seemingly has a somewhat smutty premise, it is a romantic comedy, and as such the focus is love, not smut.
Still, with a title like this, and a rather obvious cover illustration, this is not a book that you want to pull out on the beach during a family holiday. But for a quick read on the way to work on a crowded train, or a rainy evening when nothing is on the telly, this will no doubt suit fans of romantic comedies. It's chick lit, but with two guys which somehow, I rather enjoy, despite hating normal chick lit. Seems I am not alone, as readers in this genre apparently expand exponentially worldwide with each passing day. With quality offerings like this, it's no wonder. Indeed, I am hoping more of her works get translated. Regardless, you can pick this up from Amazon as well as June Manga's own website and other manga retailers. Just don't leave it lying around due to the mature rating, ok?