Awaken Forest – Yuna Aoi
Published by June (DMP)
A warning to readers looking for romance and fluff: you won’t find it here in this collection of short stories. Any attempts at it was superficial at best, a light coat of sugar overtop much darker themes, including incest, rape and violent bullying. Those stories that did end with a semblance of romantic joy were the least likeable in the whole batch, in full because they didn’t feel justified or believable.
The first story was the most notable example of this, where the age-old ‘love at first sight’ excuse is used to have two men fall incomprehensively in love with one another. The obstacle, if you would call him that, in their way is a younger brother who treats his elder sibling as a slave in retribution for a past injury. The story was surprisingly dark and twisted for something I went into expecting the usual boys’ love romance, and admittedly I found that made for an engaging read as the issues formed between the brothers made up the bulk of the story’s attention. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the relationship haphazardly formed between the two leads, which was laughable at best, and thrown in for good-yaoi-measure in the end.
With following stories of sadistic bullies and abusive masters, it’s a bit hard to see why Digital Manga would pick up such a title and slide it into their June imprint, which (though with a few exceptions) is more the romantic or comedic variety of boys’ love. While some readers may find the content of Awaken Forest unsettling, for those who can stomach it, they do prove the real spark to the chapters.
If only the half-hearted attempts at romance, bad by even stereotypical boys’ love standards, weren’t there to spoil what otherwise could’ve been a darkly satisfying read of twisted psyches. An engaging read for those looking for some harsher content, and willing to put up with its slogging romances, but a definitive no for those looking for light-hearted material who would likely be offset by the abusive nature of the stories.