Manga-ka: Ryoku Tsunoda
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: January 2009
Synopsis: “Takayama hides the fact that he’s gay from his co-workers, but finds it difficult to avert his eyes whenever he’s around Ishikawa, his pharmaceutical sales company’s top dog. When a coincidental meeting outside of work “outs” Takayama to Ishikawa, complications arise. Even though Ishikawa is straight, he can’t resist the lure of blackmail and forced sex where Takayama is concerned. In an office affair such as this, can a purely physical relationship ever be enough?”
Takayama is a hardworking businessman for a pharmaceutical company, who for simple reputation’s sake, hides the fact that he’s gay from his fellow employees. Unfortunately for professional relations at work, he’s found out one night by fellow worker, and company top dog, Ishikawa. But instead of an awkward confrontation or dirty look, Takayama finds himself at the literal receiving end of Ishikawa’s stress release.
While the book opens up with a fairly non-consensual scene, take heart in knowing that its a small part in the book and one quickly moved past without repeat. Takayama is surprised, but not terribly upset, by the unexpected advance by Ishikawa and actually takes a little pride in seeing that the most successful man in the company isn’t without his faults. Using Takayama’s sexual orientation as an excuse however, Ishikawa continues to make sexual advances towards his co-worker until the two enter into a continuous physical relationship. But Takayama gives Ishikawa his warning, that though this relationship for them may only be physical to Ishikawa, Takayama is gay and could fall in love with him, adding an obvious complication to their personal and professional lives.
Takayama’s honesty, to both Ishikawa and himself, was a strong part of why I think I enjoyed this book so much. At first he went along with Ishikawa because the sex was good but eventually had to admit to himself the risk he takes in continuing such a relationship. Takayama knows that he’s falling in love with Ishikawa and that no good can come of falling for someone who will never return those same kinds of feelings. He seeks to end their little arrangement before he gets in too deep and gets hurt, which is a nice self-preserving attitude that feels much more true-to-life and relatable than the often ‘all-for-them-none-for-me’ state of being that many relationship stories can gag on.
The story also gives perspective from the two of them, and I actually found the both of them likeable as characters. Some secondary-characters are tossed in there to give the story a bit more bulk (including the obligatory female-love-interest), but the majority of the story remains well-paced and focused on the cautious relationship between Ishikawa and Takayama. An unrelated short story near the book’s end acts a nice little bonus, and a charming read in its own right, as it tells the summed up story of childhood friends discovering special feelings for one another.
Ryoku Tsunoda’s art style also makes this book a really fun experience. While it didn’t leave much of an impression on me at first glance, by the time I was done, I was already looking up other books by the manga-ka. It’s a very solid style with simple, but distinct, character designs and is very consistent throughout with regards to both the designs and the anatomy. Its a good example of the salary man genre done right in my eyes, with guys who look good in suits instead of like misshapen bricks propped upright.
My favorite part of the book art-wise though was the physical humour, with some hilariously well-placed (and well paced) ‘chibi’ designs that fit neatly into the story and always managed to make me chuckle. Characters were so vibrantly expressive that the story, while strong in its own way, would’ve fallen flat without the visuals to hold it up.
Where Has Love Gone? is another cover slip-less release from DMP/June in an effect to cut production costs. It’s also another no-complaints from me release. The lack of cover slip is a big improvement in my opinion, and I love how squared the spine is. Fits so neatly on a shelf! The large cut size remains as a compliment to the artwork and the vibrant cover printing and interior quality remains intact as readers have come to expect.
Overall I had a lot of fun reading this one and I think other boys’ love fans would too. The story premise isn’t all that original, but a few tweaks in character relation and some humour well-mixed in, allowed Where Has Love Gone? to rise above its similar peers. I definitely recommend this one as an easily likeable one-shot and look forward to checking out more of Ryoku Tsunoda’s work.