Manga-ka: Duo Brand
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: December 2008
Synopsis: “The delicate edge of a perfect sword can slice through flesh without a sound… but only the rarest weapon houses an apparition-battling spirit, too! Two warriors – one naïve and one experience – must wield their special blades with great care in order to conquer their opponents. Elsewhere, a clumsy young scientist and a cautious priest feel the sharp pangs of desire… and an ancient-monster lashes out for the one he loves.”
I’m a huge sucker for stories involving priests and monks, and in a lot of cases, traditional Japanese clothing in general, so some of these short stories had me at the get-go. Personal interest aside, however, this collection of inter-connected stories managed to earn few brownie points for itself past that quirk.
All the short stories in this one-shot booked connect to each other one way or another. The first story in the book, and also my favourite, is about two priestly-warriors who use swords (that are later explained in somewhat detail later in the book) to battle and vanquish evil spirits. Reasons why I liked the story: short, sweet, had its amusing moments and, most importantly, the characters were already involved with one another when it started.
Two characters being involved with one another in the first story, allowed it to escape the flaw that made me really dislike most of the following stories. The worst of these examples being the story of a young man chasing a demon who he believes ate his brother’s soul. SPOILERS AHEAD: But naturally the demon did not eat his brother’s soul, he actually saved his brother’s soul which is the moment that the young man chasing said demon realizes he’s actually madly in love with him since he saw him cry a few times. Oh angst for the demon! The demon who lied to the foolish human so he would hate him because he wants his heart so bad (for some reason) that even hate would do. Bleh. At least one enjoyable quirk of the story was a problem involving their inability to touch if not for the magical sword of magicalness.
Magical swords of magicalness are actually swords that take human form and live as humans. Thanks to the repetitive third person narration, we will never forget they are not human despite having no attributes to suggest otherwise minus the need to keep their blades close at hand… or something.
The second story in the book involves a naïve scientist who somehow keeps finding a way to tease his boss at every turn and he talks to his priest friend about it (who also loves the scientist). Bad things happen, priest and scientist… well, you can figure it out. This story failed through sheer amounts of silly thanks to the boss character who wants this scientist guy so bad that the mere sight of flesh counts as a horrible tease that he can’t possibly be expected to ignore. The priest and ‘scientist’ turn up briefly in another story.
In the end, shards of affection are only I really ended up having for this book. Duo Brand’s art was nice for the most part (more dark and solid than many of their other works but nothing spectacular), and a few stories did play on some of my interests, and I did like the first story as a standalone, but the disconjointed plots and completely baseless relationships that oozed unsupported mush made it pretty ridiculous in every other way. Seems I’ve long since lost my ability to accept such ‘i-love-you-forever-and-always-just-cause’ plot turns that yaois are notoriously known for. Shards of Affection had in that spades, and didn’t do a nice enough job straightening out the rest of the plot elements for me to really recommend it unless you’re a fan of Duo Brand… or really, really want more monk/priest stories in your life.
Extra: As a quick publisher note, no qualms from me for DMP’s work on this though it is relevant to note that I believe it’s the first book in their June line-up to not have the dust jacket. I repeat, no dust jacket! But I like it this way honestly. In fact I think I may almost prefer it over the dust jackets, the only real loss for me is the amusing author bios that usually adorn the inner flaps of their jackets. High quality, shiny printing remains as does the nice cut size. Now it’s just easier to hold, easier to read and easier to slip into a busy bookshelf. It’s altogether a really good quality package and the loss of a dust jacket I say is actually an improvement. Alas, no cut in price though.