Manga-ka: Chifumi Ochi
Publisher: Yaoi Generation
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: December 2008
Synopsis: “Stopping by his favorite bar in Tokyo’s gay district, Yanagi picks up an attractive man, and the two spend a passionate night together. The next morning, however, the stranger proclaims that what they did makes him sick and then bolts from the room. With the weight of confusion and frustration crushing him, Yanagi thinks he’ll never see the man again… until he finds out it’s his good friend’s twin brother, Arata. Even when confronted, Arata refuses to accept what happened that drunken night, so an angry Yanagi comes up with a plan to make Arata his sex slave as punishment… “
Marking the first book released by the fledging, Yaoi Generation, the story of breath begins in a pretty straight-forward manner. Guy goes to bar to find a date for the night, meets an attractive man, takes him to a hotel, gives him a night of pleasure he’ll never forget… and is then is bombarded with insults, slurs and regretful exclamations the following morning. Now what’s a guy to do?
Unfortunately what a guy, a young man by Yanagi in this case, did was meet his one-night stand again and proceed to force himself on him. I feel compelled to share this minor spoiler because non-consensual scenes are something some readers would often prefer to avoid. The ensuing blackmail doesn’t help Yanagi’s case any against the turmoiled, Arata, and yet, still there remains a story with its own admintant charm.
What really helped me enjoy this story was the short inner-monologuing of Yanagi, who is followed for the majority of this first volume. He’s understandly bothered by Arata’s initial reaction after a night of sex that certainly seemed consensual when it happened. His following decision may not have been the best nor sympathetic, but at the very least its easy to see why he sought out a confrontation with Arata in the first place.
Both characters are pretty well fleshed out in this first volume with Yagani as the more laid-back playboy with a mischevious side, and Arata as a fairly timid, socially-awkward young man whose semi-reliance on his more outgoing twin brother makes him hesitant towards accepting things from others. The two were easy to follow and get attached to, and I liked how the story is so patiently paced, without rushing too head long into anything, and leaving a potential growing connection between the two in only its enfancy by the book’s end.
Chifumi Ochi’s artwork helps make this book a worthwhile purchase in its own right. It has a very professional look to it with a well-established style and the artist made some good panel choices that allow the story a smooth transition page-to-page. The few characters were easy to tell apart from eachother and each one was rendered with attractive but distinctly male features. Fans who like it smutty won’t be disappointed either with a fair portion of the book dedicated to diversely angled and uncensored sex scenes that bare all with the well-accustomed flare of yaoi execution.
As breath is also the first book released by this new publisher, I spent a good portion of my time paying attention to Yaoi Generation’s English-edition work, and most of my opinions on it are positive, though also oddly familiar at times.
Almost immediately upon my initial flip-through, I got a feeling very reminiscent of DramaQueen. Fortunately, especially admist all the recent unpleasantness regarding that particular company, all comparisons were based on good attributes and are purely observational. At first it was the book’s spine which is designed in a fashion very similar to DramaQueen’s, not very flashy on a bookshelf but it gets the job done with its two-colour strip and small cropped image in the centre. The book itself also has a similar cut-size to those familiar with DQ’s releases though a little smaller, making it slightly below average size-wise. This book has the same dimensions as Kitty Media’s release of Crimson Spell. There’s no dust jacket with the covers printed on stiff, one-sided paper and inside, there’s a full-colour illustration. The whole book definately takes a no thrill approach to the release but it does so with quality so I doubt many could find reason to complain. My only quip would be the stiffness of the book, which can tire the thumbs after holding it open for nearly 200 pages’ worth.
The interior of the book treated me to a very well done translation. Admittedly translation quality is often lost on me unless I come across some really stiff dialouge or grammatical errors, but in this case I kept thinking to myself what good choices were being made. The dialouge was all very smooth, including some well-used slang tossed in there that was never overdone, just enough to make it feel natural. The attention to personality in the manga-ka’s afterword was also fun to read and so lively. Ultimately I was just really impressed with all the write-work so kudos to them!
I also enjoyed YG’s choice of font which changes dependant on if its being used in a thought-box, side speech or dialoue bubble. Sometimes I can find this approach uneven but here its used very consistantly. Again, this visual choice for text was very reminiscent of DramaQueen and infact the font types used are very similar, setting off the nag in the back of my head again (and what repeatedly nags at me always gets atleast a mention or two to my readers). All the original sound effects were removed and replaced with English equivalents, also handled with tidy and varying type.
Overall, breath is looking like a very solid start for Yaoi Generation. The production value is simple but solid and the story itself is certainly one I’d call slightly above average in the well-saurated boys’ love market. The non-consensual nature of the story may not appeal to all readers, but forming beneath it is a surprisingly endearing love story that’s patiently taking its time to build a relationship off more substance than your stereotypical love-at-first-sights. YG gets what will hopefully be the first of many thumbs up from me and I eagerly look forward to the next release.