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The location: The Underground Hotel, a federal prison located 30 meters below ground in Long Island, USA. The more dangerous criminals are on the lowest level, level 3, where the sun will never reach them.
The prisoner: Sen Owari, Japanese university exchange student. Newly arrived, less than 6 months ago.
His Crime: Convicted of murder, he is sentenced to life to be served at the Underground Hotel. His story doesn't end here, however. It has only begun.
Having became the lover of the prison shot caller, Sword Fish, Sen is protected from random attacks and petty grievances. As the only Japanese in the facility, he has also caught the attention of the new half Japanese warden, Travis Muto. Made into Muto's secretarial assistant, Sen discovers he has a second safe haven in the prison office. But is everything as it seems? The warden seems to have his own agendas with Sen and Sword, ones completely unrelated to the other. Just what sadistic plans does Muto have in store for these two, and for what reason? All the machinations stir up Sword all the more, as he struggles to accept his deepening love for the still naive Sen, and the fact that he quite likely will never get to see the outside world ever again. Can he use his connections as the prison shot caller to escape with Sen? Is it possible for the two two escape their physical and mental prisons and love each other under the sun? With the eyes of the warden and vengeful fellow prisoners with scores to settle, it is definitely not going to be easy, and the consequences for failure can mean the certainty of death, or even worse, separation from the one whose entire being has come to mean life itself...
This omnibus edition is the second volume in Digital Manga's Under Grand Hotel release and features the entire second half of the story of Sen, Sword, Norman, and Walter. The inner politics of the justice departments and the prison system are well used here both by inmates and employees to further their own personal plans. Sadahiro's plot threads are as intricate as her men are hot, filled with a greedy passion, sometimes driven by greed,at other times by an innate sense of justice, and of course, lust. It is, after all a Boy's love title, and once more, Sadahiro does not disappoint. The artwork is as stunning as ever, but I will put out a cautionary note here.
This is an 801 Media title and rated for extreme content, notably graphic depictions of sex and violence. This will be no surprise to those who are already familiar with the story, but what may startle some readers is that while in this manga one usually sees fully detailed sexual organs, and fluids on full display, at times they seem shadowed or encased in a light effect. It is NOT an act of censorship; these occur in the originals as well, and as they seem random, and occur in panels where the mangaka has done some other arty tricks of her trade, I am going to say that these are deliberate and intended to highlight the action and attending deep emotions of the scene rather than a prudish attempt at desexualising. I certainly found the instances harmoniously fitting, while I usually dislike obscuration.
The translation work here is generally excellent, though I did catch one error. In this case, the word "books" was used instead of a word that means "writing" and refers to calligraphy. Sen's father is not an author or a scholar, so DMP please take note when approving text. Sen's father would have sent a handwritten letter because he is good at WRITING...being a CALLIGRAPHER. It is a small mistake, and I can understand how it became confused, but given the context, it should have been rather obvious so it made me chuckle. XD
I quite like how the ending was handled, it is every bit of explosive as the love affair shared between the men., and to have it punctuated by including the art gallery section of extra drawings was simply delicious. The letters from Sadahiro to her fans and the one from her idol (and fan), Kaoru Kurimoto (creator of Guin Saga). This is a particularly poignant piece of manga history, as it is Kurimoto's letter to fellow fans of UGH that was penned in May, 2009, just before it saw reprint by the Japanese publisher Futabasha, whose edition Digital Managa used. That very same May that Kurimoto penned the letter, she died of pancreatic cancer in a Tokyo Hospital. I hope she is sunbathing in heaven, with the BL couple she loved the most, as she certainly felt the aliveness that shone forth from the depictions of the UGH characters. Altogether, a fitting piece of Boy's Love with a riveting story sure to tickle fans of hard yaoi, as well as fitting memory of a fellow fan we never got to meet, except through the pages of books.
I would like to extend my thanks to Digital Manga for providing me with my advance review copy.