Manga-ka: Sakurako Hanafubuki
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: November 2008
Synopsis: “Ayukawa is a hot up-and-comer in the flashy world of celebrities…but he pales in comparison to the superstar Mizuhara! It’s impossible to pass a newsstand or television set without seeing Mizuhara’s perfectly chiseled features or delicious body. So, when Ayukawa agrees to a special “transaction” involving his incredible idol, he figures it’s just part of his rise to the top…but is there something (or someone) lurking behind the velvet curtain?”
Male modelling is the backdrop for the main story in this collection of boys’ love tales, but unfortunately the manga-ka doesn’t take full advantage of the story’s setting. Making your main characters models raises the bar in terms of character design: if you’re going to make them models, they better be pretty darn hot. Ayukawa and Mizuhara may be good looking, but nothing makes they extra special. There are better looking couples in the book, many of whom also have a more interesting plot line.
When idol Mizuhara makes pass at newbie model Ayukawa, Ayukawa just assumes that this is how the modelling industry works: you sleep your way to the top. Mizuhara’s intentions are actually a lot more honourable than that: he just really likes Ayukawa. When Mizuhara learns that Ayukawa thinks their relationship is just one of convenience, the two re-evaluate where they stand with each other.
In the second story featuring them, Ayukawa and Mizuhara deal with a persistent paparazzo. It’s a good chapter in that it moves forward their relationship, but it also makes Mizuhara out to be a little crazy which seems at odds with his depiction in the previous chapter. Not that a character can’t have range, but it’s a bit of a stretch to have a character be a nice, pure hearted guy in part one and have him be a violent psycho in the next.
The next story is about a young boy (around 10) named Yuta who has a crush on his 14-year-old neighbour Kakeru. Yuta may look like a little angel but Kakeru knows better. However, when Kakeru’s parents’ fighting causes him to run away from home, it’s Yuta who follows him and comforts him. The characters were a nice match for each other with Yuta’s mischievousness contrasting with Kakeru’s more practical nature. Readers should be warned that the story does go pretty far with the physical nature of their relationship, especially considering the age of the characters.
The next story follows two high school students in a complicated relationship. Haitani is known for being willing to have sex with anyone as long as he gets paid. Rin doesn’t know that when he falls in love with Haitani, and propositions the other boy. When Haitani realizes that Rin actually likes him, the two start going out. But Haitani has a dark past, and decides he needs to cut Rin loose before he pulls him down. Rin however, is not that easy to shake.
This story could have been better if Rin had been a little bit more believable. He’s almost always happy and accepting of everything Haitani does or says (he even comments repeatedly on how beautiful Haitani’s scars are and how well they suit him, which strikes me as more than a little creepy). He never gets discouraged or mad. Basically, he doesn’t seem like an actual human being, which made it hard to care about him and Haitani as a couple.
The next story is also about two high school boys in love. When Mitsuru learns that his classmate Kamijo is an insomniac, he teasingly tells him that sex would help tire him out and go to sleep. Kamijo surprises Mitsuru by taking him up on his half-serious offer, and the two start having a regular thing. While Mitsuru enjoys their meetings, he figures Kamijo isn’t serious about them as a couple. But it turns out that Kamijo has more than one surprise in store for Mitsuru.
The story is cute, and Mitsuru is an interesting, grounded character. While he figures that Kamijo will eventually grow out of his attraction to him and go back to girls he doesn’t resent Kamijo for it. By the end of the story their relationship seems pretty close to your typical high school romance, regardless of gender.
The last story in the book is also the most underwhelming, largely because of a rushed ending and poorly executed love triangle. Megumu and Aki were childhood friends and are now roommates and lovers. Megumu is head over heels in love with Aki, while Aki still goes out (and sleeps) with girls on the side. A mutual friend of theirs, Senno, is worried about the two of them and tells Megumu to clean up his act. However, eventually Aki goes too far and Megumu runs away. Aki will need Senno’s help if he wants to patch things up.
The storytelling in this segment is pretty weak. I’m still not entirely sure what finally caused Megumu to leave Aki. Since Aki’s pretty much a jerk through the whole story, it must have been something big, but we never see the actual confrontation. That’s a big problem in this chapter in that we’re always shown the fallout but never the actual event. For example, when someone leaves a room, instead of seeing them go out the door we’ll see a door with a sound effect to show that it was just slammed shut. Or when Senno punches Aki, instead of seeing the punch we see Aki say something mean and the next page he’s sitting down with a bruised cheek. Seeing the before and after is just not as exciting as seeing the actual event, and it also makes the story unclear.
The art overall is good, though not especially eye-catching. The character designs especially could use a little pep. There are a few times when we’re told how good looking the characters are (i.e. Mizuhara is the hottest model in Japan or Megumu is prettier than a girl) but the characters actual looks just don’t back these claims up. Sakurako Hanafubuki does best with her more expressive characters, as she is good with expressions.
Junior Escort doesn’t have any one really strong point that can be used to recommend it, but if you’re just looking for a light piece of yaoi fluff than it should work.