Manga-ka: Lily Hoshino
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: March 2008
Synopsis: “The powerful Souda family is big on tradition… and to Shinji Souda’s dismay, the tradition they’re keenest on involves him marrying a boy! And not just any boy, but his classmate Aoi Uno, who doesn’t seem to be at fazed by the news of their engagement. With their attitudes at odds, are Shinji and Aoi headed for a lifetime of unhappily ever after?”
Family customs step up to create some seemingly unlikely couples here in Mr. Flower Bride when the unexpected announcement of a male birth leads to a kick-in tradition that demands every young son in the family be married off to another man.
I hope I’m not the only one who thinks this plot is actually pretty snazzy. Sure its likely been done in similar fashion before, but none-the-less, the sheer logic of it made me happy. Eldest son of family has a son, meaning that child is due to be heir of the family estate. To avoid any quarrels that may arise when younger siblings have children of their own, each younger son is made to marry a male. This ensures that no family-recognized child can come of their union, and thus, no problem! Sure you can cheat on your husband (or wife as the case may be), and sure you could get a woman pregnant, but a child born of a affair would hold no position to stake claim to the estate regardless. Nip those problems before they arise!
Okay, so I spent a little longer than was likely intended rolling around the plot-premise in my head, but it already meant the book was off to a good start. The purpose behind putting the boys together was decent, and more substantial then an abrupt ‘I-love-you-I-love-you’, so thumbs up from the get-go. The majority of the book follows the cover characters; Shinji Souda and his classmate-turned-wife, Aoi Uno. While Aoi has had his eyes on Shinji for sometime, Shinji is more than a little perturbed that he suddenly has to marry a boy, let alone a childhood friend. Drama ensues! Nothing too over-the-top though, just some cute awkwardness and turmoil that make for a sweet little modern-day romance.
Following Shinji and Aoi’s story is one about another couple born of their family’s tradition. In this one the dynamic is a little different, with the older of the two actually the one whose more slight in size. He doesn’t seem turned off the idea of being the ‘wife’ though, atleast not by title anyway. This story isn’t as developed, nor as romantic, as the first (no means no!) but it still has its short-lived sugary moments.
One thing that stood out to me during my first reading of this was the sex. While it is a pretty standard yaoi formula to spend the majority of time building a relationship and having short sex scenes, in this one the lack of foreplay, and only really showing the end result between the married couples, was an attribute that, whether intentionally meant by the manga-ka or not, I thought really suited the nature of their relationships. There’s something that feels understandably amiss about a man suddenly deciding he’s into another man and then promptly being open and up for delivering all the intimate foreplay. Mr. Flower Bride didn’t have that and it was actually a detail, albeit a small one, which seemed well handled enough to stand out.
For those who like their yaoi with more on the sex side, the final (and shortest) story in the book offers a little more in the details; ironically sporting the most anatomically rendered male anatomy I’ve seen by Lily Hoshino but of course on the most feminine-in-appearance character in the book.
On that note, along with having a pretty solid story, this is also what I’d say is one of Lily Hoshino’s stronger books art-wise. There’s an attractive level of consistency throughout and no shortage of eye-candy, from pretty details to expressions oozing with emotion. Her character designs here also fare on the more masculine side when compared to her other series, and find a nice balance where even her cutely designed characters appear more youthful than they do simply underage, a common complaint from some in regards to her style. As one who’s always found her fantasy-styled work to be very eye-catching, I was pleased to see the last story here offered some beautiful out-of-day illustrations as well, to take a short break from the modern-day setting of the rest of the book.
While I still find Yen Press releasing yaoi to be a bit of a surprise (so accustomed I’ve become to companies creating separate imprints for these kinds of titles), I can’t deny that there’s a certain appeal in having the books released alongside all their others. That said, Yen Press has given Mr. Flower Bride the same quality treatment I’ve come to pleasantly expect from them. A full colour illustration will greet readers when they open the book and the back of the book includes some short but helpful translation notes. I have no qualms with any of the writing in the interior, which read smoothly, and the text placement was very neatly handled and wasn’t impeded by any of Yen Press’s earlier gutter problems.
A fan of Lily Hoshino myself, this is probably the most rounded of her boys’ love works that I’ve read. The plot is surprisingly believable (even if the fairytale endings do take some obvious liberty) and the characters, though only vaguely developed due to time-constraint, were still likeable. It was a neat seeing the plot played upon in having two couples featured, and the unrelated side stories at the end were a pleasant icing on the cake. If you’re a Lily Hoshino fan, then you’re already behind if you haven’t picked up this fun little gem, and I think that many boys’ love fans could enjoy this release which is lighter on the little-girl appearances the manga-ka is known for and spends more time on some fluff that’s emotionally-dramatic and satisfyingly sweet.