Manga-ka: Isaku Natsume
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: December 2007
Synopsis: “Akimoto has just started his high school career at Miya High and is burning with enthusiasm; he is overjoyed to finally be able to meet his long time Judo idol Saitou! Akimoto has watched Saitou ever since his middle school days, but the real Saitou isn’t matching up to the Saitou of Akimoto’s dreams. Foul mouthed, with a bad attitude and superiority complex, Saitou has decided to use Akimoto’s admiration against him and turn him into his slave. Saitou also hides a dark secret, and when it’s revealed, what will Akimoto think of him then?”
In Dash, we’re introduced to Akimoto, a high school freshmen with a love of Judo. Attending his school as a senior is Saitou, Akimoto’s idol after watching him flawlessly win a Judo competition a few years ago. Eager to get closer to him and see him in action again, Akimoto tries to befriend Saitou, and it works to a point, but there barely seems enough room for Akimoto next to Saitou’s ego.
Dash is a pretty impressive piece. While the initial synopsis left me fearful this would just another stereotypical boys’ love story, I ended up really enjoying it and felt a real uniqueness here thanks to Isaku Natsume’s storytelling. Akimoto and Saitou were both very well written for and their emotions felt grounded and real. I love the push and pull manner of their relationship (which stays more like friendship than anything else), as who’s really ‘in charge’ of their interactions keeps changing dependant on the situation.
Akimoto is constantly battling with his changing feelings towards Saitou and it was refreshing watching him deal with it in a semi-sane manner, trying not to let his erotic dreams affect his relationship with Saitou, and giving himself time to figure out his feelings. It felt much more believable than if he had jumped out of bed sporadically one morning, deciding he loves his friend unconditionally now, as is a common sudden plot leap in other boys’ love stories.
Taking up the second half of this book is a different story. While I didn’t find it as engaging as the first, it was still a good read. The star of this story is Taka, a college student whose cousin suddenly shows up one day after having run away from home. Far from the bright-eyed and innocent face from his memories, Taka is shocked to find his cousin Yoshirou is now rude, uncouth and on top of that, a complete playboy. Through the story, Taka tries to understand why Yoshirou acts the way he does, even if it seems a losing battle, and he along with readers are carried along their emotional relationship through friends, old lovers and honest revelations about Yoshirou’s life since he’d last seen Taka. As with the title story in this book, there is no really defined romantic relationship between these two characters but their adventures teetering on the line between cousins and lovers at the end is really cute and amusing.
The artwork in Dash was also really nice. It sort of gave me the feeling of a shonen style mixed with a more classic yaoi style. Character designs are very simple and the guys look like guys. Everything is very clean and tidy with a really great sense of pacing throughout both stories. While I sometimes found their eyes to be it a bit oddly unfocused in the first story, I absolutely love the expression work with their big eyes and wide mouths. Honestly I didn’t think much of the art when I first flipped through, but after actually reading it cover to cover, and realizing how well it complimented everything about the story, I have to give my thumbs up.
Overall, Dash takes some pretty average boys’ love plotlines and gives them life in a way that’s entertaining and fresh. With nice pacing, well-rounded characters and some suiting artwork, I’d recommend Dash for some simple, quality character drama with some boys’ love sprinkled on top.