“ Genre: Graphic Novels / Comics / Author: Keiko Konno / Paperback / 196 Pages / Book is published 2007-09-26 by Digital Manga „
When businessman Hirokawa stumbles across his company's young R &D researcher Hoshimi Sudou singing on a street corner with an amateur jazz band, he is more than a little surprised. His carefree attitude is afar cry from the image he projects at work. Not that his work reputation is that great, as he has earned himself quite the reputation for sleeping with several of the office ladies, taken or not, and being a rather cold fish about further relationship development when pushed. Intrigued by the juxtaposition, Hirokawa approaches his co-worker the next day while at work.
What he finds is a socially awkward young man who merely has trouble relating to others. Offering some pithy friendly guidance leads to Sudou learning how to better approach his co-workers and surprisingly to make real friends amongst them, including ones he unwittingly cuckolded in the past. It also leads to a surprising discovery for both Sudou and Hirokawa. Despite him being male, Hirokawa finds himself attracted to the vulnerable Sudou and sets out to seduce him, who in turn realises that he longs to find comfort and a cherished feeling while lying in Sudou's arms. With Sudou wrestling with his own insecurities and needs, as well as how he thinks people will view them as a couple, what unfolds is a drama in which two men realise that true love can find you unexpectedly, no matter who you are.
Keiko Konno's art is rather unique. Her men are definitely masculine, though not brawny, and she avoids the androgynous bishonen look so common in shoujo and yaoi manga. One of the men even sports a bit of a beard and some interesting sideburns, and it makes for a nice change from the usual fare. The writing is slightly quirky, and while there is angst, it is not over the top or played for an over dramatic effect. Watching two adult men work through feelings they find perplexing and surprisingly deep is a real treat, and it is as well done as I would expect from the writer of the classic "Words of Devotion". The sex scenes are tender and romantic, but not overly graphic, moving at as gentle a tone as the pace of their love story does. The story is episodic, but then these two men don't work in the same department nor do they live close to one another, so the story flows naturally from chance encounters at work and while out and about, moving forward from these casual encounters to more deliberate arrangements to meet and then to date.
With a likeable cast of characters that have distinct personalities sense of personal style, the reader is drawn to each of them as if they are making real acquaintances. Sudou's polar split in his personality is easily understood once one gets to know him as it is not so much a dual personality as it is an unintentional social ineptness, with his mental rationales hinting at mild Aspberger type tendencies that are reinforced by his comment about his parents' own social issues. He has known the band members for quite some time, and they are at ease with him, and he with them, and he sees them as safe, fun acquaintances. Work is work though, and he doesn't grasp the social niceties of office politics, thinking he has no personal connection to them beyond work. This of course leads to his troubles, as misunderstandings ensue.
It is all due to his personal inexperience in social situations, with him being barely out of school and into work, while the slightly older Hirokawa not only has social and business experience, but a knack for dealing with others that comes in handy for the type of position he holds in the company. His natural flair for looking beyond the obvious and using what he finds to market a product is put to good use when he encounters Sudou, offering his advice and observations to the younger man, who finds that the simple actions help make him more likeable socially to his co-workers. Hirokawa's interest in Sudou deepening is done naturally, and he is mature enough to accept it for what it is. Sudou's own bad relationship experience and social ineptness leads him to question things, and even cause him to look introspectively at whether or not his needs and feelings emasculate himself.
One comes away from the story fully satisfied, wishing this couple all the best as they move ever forward in their new found love, yet also wishing for slightly more. Keiko Konno certainly knows how to hook in a reader, and this is no exception. I'd like to thank Digital manga for making this available for me to review. You can purchase this as a paperback under DMP's June manga imprint from Amazon, the Book Depository, and other distributors of manga and other kinds of graphic novels. You can view a preview sample of the GN at http://www.junemanga.com/books/456/ (sample shows "safe" content!).