Manga-ka: Uki Ogasawara
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: December 2006
Synopsis: “Kenzo Shinozuka is a talented but under-appreciated pianist, so when wealthy noblemen Lorenzo Carlucci offers to be his patron, he leaps at the chance. However, being patronized by Carlucci exacts a price that the pianist may not want to pay. For Carlucci is an eccentric and demanding patron, whose temperant often clashes with Kenzo’s own stubbornness. The friction between patron and artist threatens to drive them both to the brink of madness, or that of desire.”
Kenzo Shinozuka finds himself employed by the mysterious and rich Lorenzo Carlucci, a man who asks nothing else of the young talented pianist but to live in his home and play the piano for him. Kenzo is a bit unsure about Lorenzo’s intentions but realizes that the men seems very familiar to him, a figure from his past. With Lorenzo breathing down his neck to be a better pianist, and the two of them soon embracing to do more than play piano together, Kenzo finds himself swept up in the man’s troubled present and both their turmoil pasts.
Virtuoso di Amore is an interesting look into the troubled past of two pianists, how they both deal with their failings and how it brought them both together. Kenzo is straightforward and honest while Lorenzo is more hidden and laid-back, not to mention a little on the crazy side, so the story plays off the contrasts between them and their mingling passions. However it also plays off Lorenzo’s self-allowing abusive affairs and dementia which he blatantly puts in front of Kenzo, making it hard to tell if Lorenzo is doing half the stuff he does just to string the jealous Kenzo along. Together they attempt to revitalize their lives and careers, fighting the drugs and the weird outfits that come along to get in their way. The characters are interesting but hard to get attached to. Reading to find out just how, and why, they do these crazy things to do is really the only hook; curiosity over any real attachment or caring.
Uki Ogasawara has a unique art style with masculine proportioned men and a particular way of doing faces that may be hit or miss with readers. Elongated noses and thin eyes does an equal job of allowing expressive faces and other times acts to make the characters appear a bit too soulless, even in the case of Lorenzo who seems intentionally meant to look tired and stoned throughout the book. Action scenes are sometimes a little hard to follow but they’re few and far between. Most of the action on these pages takes place in the sex scenes which, though short, are uncensored and fairly detailed. Overall the style has a dark and sombre feel to it that matches the tone set by the story.
DramaQueen did a pleasant job with the release; a nicely done cover printed on a shiny cover slip makes Virtuoso di Amore an attractive book complete with full colour image on the first interior page. The translation is easy to follow and free of notable errors, though sometimes the font used in the text bubbles seems to change for no real reason, except for a possible space issue, and it makes thing looks a bit inconsistent.
With a Phantom of the Opera type feeling, Virtuoso di Amore proves to be at least mildly entertaining the first time through but unappealing characters, that fail to allow this book to be as dramatic as it wants to be cause, Virtuoso di Amore to fall short of being anything note-worthy.