Manga-ka: Fumi Yoshinaga
Publisher: BLU Manga
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: May 2007
Synopsis: “Hired as a servant by an aristocrat family, Claude works hard to care for the family that took him in. But when the master of the house and his wife eventually pass away, Claude must keep spoiled son Antoine in line and teach him to be a proper gentleman. As the two become closer, a forbidden love develops between them…”
Lovers in the Night is a one shot graphic novel following the relationship of its two main characters; Claude, the monotone hired servant and Antoine, a young spoiled Aristocrat. Though the story begins with Claude as a servant to Antoine’s father, this first chapter merely acts as a stepping-stone to the main story following the forbidden love between Claude and his late Master’s son.
From start to finish, Claude is the ever-present character, a mystery from start to finish. Found working as a young prostitute, Claude is offered a job by a servant working in an aristocratic household. All we, as the readers, as well as those he comes to work for, know is that he is a Frenchman with Chinese blood. We soon realize he is also one of great intelligence, becoming an integral part of the household in little time and eventually taking the role of butler as years past. It is in these passing years we are introduced to Antoine, the young, and only son, of Claude’s Master. With the death of his father, Antoine takes his place as the main character opposite Claude and the true story begins.
The chapters in this book are separated in a way that each is self-contained as its own short story. This gives the book the unique feeling of a compilation of tales instead of one continuing story. This not only works well as it’s own form of pacing but also is necessary in light of the fact that the book has no continuous plot. Though the stories are in chronological order, they bare little to no linear-connection to each other. The stories have their dramatic moments but no set climax or solid ending brings the book together. The last story is just another short story and could easily have been any of the others before it.
The manga-ka has just about all the bases covered to make these stories free of general life complications, from subtle facts about the political events happening behind the scenes, to how Claude and Antoine are able to live a life free from work. This excludes Claude’s servitude to Antoine of course. Now free to focus entirely on the relationship between the two, it is here the story holds all its power.
While the lack of solid plot may sound to some as uninteresting, it actually works very well in this set up. As with all of Fumi Yoshinaga’s works, the stories are completely character driven. Through the antics and events, you will come to learn about the characters, their motivations and quirks. You will laugh, sigh with sadness and be just as perplexed by the characters as they are themselves.
Helping the writing along is the solid art style, beautifully simple and with some of the most expressive characters you will find in modern manga today. Many pages lack dialogue, allowing the expression changes of the characters to tell the story. One of the most defining moments for Claude is the final page of the first chapter, probably the most powerful image in the entire book. The panels are clean and easy to follow. Most panels lack backgrounds but the detailed renaissance clothing and occasional backdrops keep the story firmly established in its time and setting.
Lovers in the Night is also one of Fumi Yoshinana’s series that contains the most sex scenes. It is clearly a story more focused on the characters having sex than developing as people when compared to many of her other titles. However, though they are frequent and explicit, the sex scenes in themselves are used as a means of character development and manage to avoid becoming needlessly pornographic.
Released in English by Blu Manga, effort was clearly put into keeping the story true to itself. Dialogue is well translated and written, suiting the time period with proper speech. Sound effects were carefully replaced with English equivalents and others untouched where doing so would require severe altering of the original artwork. Everything remains as clean and tidy as the original release.
A feature both amusing and worth noting was the display of the cover. Using the original cover artwork, the book cover is fashioned, whether intentionally or not, to resemble the classic harlequin romance novel style. This includes the font, the background pattern and the lace used to separate them from the image. Even the name itself calls out to this genre and with the style of the story inside, perhaps suitably so.
The wonderfully expressive artwork and characters who come alive as more than just two-dimensional sex partners, come together to make this a worthwhile book. It’s an easy read, meant to be light and fun. Fans of Fumi Yoshinaga’s works, in particular Gerard and Jacque, will probably enjoy this collection of short stories and newcomers to her works will be left curious for more; Lovers in the Night providing merely a taste, albeit a good one, of what this manga-ka can really do.
Extra Note: Though Lovers in the Night is a stand-alone book with no numbers to suggest a continuing release, it is closely connected in publication to Fumi Yoshinaga’s other collection of short stories, Truly Kindly, due out by Blu Manga in August of 2007.