Manga-ka: Toko Kawai
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: December 2008
Synopsis: “Daisuke Matsukawa and the up-and-coming young cameraman Kentaro Nishioka have developed from comrades who work well together into friends who are called lovers. But even though he’s sexy, the shy Nishioka is also obstinate and naughty. Poor Matsukawa has no idea where this love affair is headed.”
Though I’d read several of Toko Kawai’s work before, it’s never really clicked with me. Her art that always seems to have a certain retro-feel to it that I didn’t find appealing and her classically branded semes and ukes failed to offer me anything substantially unique for boys’ love. Despite my previous thoughts, I’d heard a great deal of good regarding her series Loveholic and decided to give it a go, leaping in at volume one and finding myself greeted by a pleasant surprise.
Despite coming into the story partway, I was still able to get caught up on the who’s-who in the first few pages. While this does seem to undermine the importance of the first volume, the enjoyment I had reading this book made no secret of its subtle charms. The story follows Nishioka, a popular up-and-coming photographer, and his lover, Matsukawa, a well-established and successful agency worker. The volume has a nice balance of their relationship and dealing with their respective jobs (which of course overlap for creating drama’s sake). It was this time-share between the story’s important elements that really worked in its favour.
I like Nishioka as a character whose hard working and pretty devoted to his work, as well as the often entertainingly reluctant uke. Not against-my-will reluctant thankfully so despite his energetic complaints, there’s nothing but love here between the two. Matsukawa made for a pretty stereotypical seme, embarrassing his partner with honest declarations of his physical affection as the two come to terms with admitting their emotional feelings. I liked how jealously reared its inevitable head for Matsukawa and his handling of the situation proved to be both believable and sympathetic, much better than the often ridiculously cruel expressions of ‘love’ that some boys’ love characters often portray in similar situations.
Toko Kawai’s art also seems considerably more consistent here than some of her other works and though I didn’t find it especially enthralling, it certainly has its own charm that helps to carry the story along nicely on a visual level. There isn’t a lot of variation in the character designs though fortunately a very small cast stops this from being an issue in this two-part series. Overall I also feel the art is much better appreciated in black and white than it is coloured, so I recommend viewing the inside before making any judgments based on the cover.
This second volume of Loveholic was to me a simple, charming series of love and affection between two working men, and the manga-ka’s ability to work with both aspects of the story fairly proved to be its winning feature. Entertaining characters and a pleasant art style rounded this release out as a book that was fun to read and warrants some reconsideration on my part of Toko Kawai’s future works.