Manga-ka: Yamimaru Enjin
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: November 2007
Synopsis: “When Shinichiro’s beloved dog, Flappy, starts acting up and disobeying commands, his trusted bet gives him a strange and unexpected referral; he sends Shinichiro to his long-time friend, Narusawa, a college professor who can apparently communicate with animals. At first Narusaea denies that he has this special skill, but a snarky, talking black cat gives away Narusawa’s secret and reveals that Shinichiro may have this special gift himself…”
After a trip to the vet warrants no help for Shinchiro’s dog and his sudden strange behavior, a referral leads the concerned owner to Narusawa, a cold and unconcerned college professor. Shinchiro learns that Narusawa, despite his standoffish attitude, has the amazing ability to speak to animals. Shinchiro wishes to have this power as well and learns that it may actually already possess the talent. He wants Narusawa to teach him to understand animals but doesn’t realize that it may not be that simple.
Voice or Noise has something that few yaois manage to achieve; a strong stand-alone plot that doesn’t rely on the relationship to hold it up. While the book does maintain the light, implicating feeling of a yaoi with an impending relationship looming in the future, it remains just that, something for the future. This first volume focuses more on the characters’ initial meeting and the unique ability they possess, pokes at alternate dimensions and shows their effects on animals. Hands down, one of the most interesting characters in the book is Acht, a talking black cat as well as Shinchiro’s dog, Flappy.
The book has a great sense of pacing, fitting the elements of tension between Shinchiro and Narusawa with the animals seamlessly. It’s easy to forget that it’s odd the occasional animal will speak and they’re given character just as strong as any human in the book. The plot and dialogue manages to stay interesting throughout, maintaining a balance of drama and humour.
Yamimaru Enjin’s artwork is really attractive and works well with her story. While sometimes attributes of the characters are a bit inconsistent, it’s still an easy to follow style with expressive characters, both man and animal. Pages can sometimes seem a bit cluttered but nothing that some care when reading panel to panel won’t fix.
The cover is eye catching and made of a nice material, however the printing seems a bit lopsided causing the spine to overlap onto the cover and thus the back onto the spine. There’s also some awkward placing and font of the artist’s name, which makes it hard to find and read. Overall though, some good choices were made and it’s visually appealing while keeping at least the title and volume number very clear. BLU also did a notably good job with the visual editing and layout with the interior of this release, taking great care to maintain the artwork while replacing the sub-text that often covered it. The original sound effects remain in place.
In the end, Voice or Noise is a very pleasant surprise. The described plot could have gone in a variety of directions, not all good if other similar sounding stories act as indication, but the artist really pulled it off here for an opening volume. For readers looking for a more traditional relationship-heavy series, this may not be the one for you but it certainly has strong potential in that aspect and many others. It’s an intriguing plot that never goes too over the top, feeling very grounded while still integrating some more fantasy-like elements. Voice or Noise, volume one, was an enjoyable start to this absorbing tale with much promise for volume two.