Manga-ka: Hinako Takanaga
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: November 2009
Synopsis: “After fleeing Tokyo, trying to escape a personal crisis, hapless Itary winds up drunk and passed out on a neighbourhood trash heap. His misery is documented by prickly cameraman Kouki, who works for a local cable station, and soon the two end up roommates and co-workers. But with a company full of quirky characters, including a perky, winsome cross-dresser, and their own personalities to content with, will Itaru and Kouki ever truly understand one another?”
While out on assignment, Kouki stumbles across a runaway sprawled in an alleyway. A good deed not going unrewarded, he finds himself both puked on and his new camera smashed! None the less he generously takes the young man, Itaru, back to his apartment to get cleaned up – but with Itaru having no where to go and no money for payment, he soon becomes a more long-term tenant of Kouki’s home.
…and no, not in the way you may think when starting a yaoi. At least there’s something a tad amusing seeing a fluffy-haired, bright-eyed uke-intended character in a situation as down and out as drunk and vomit-encrusted in an alleyway. It’s not a pretty picture but it’s a entertaining change of pace from the usual rose-coloured glasses view of boys’ love.
Kouki is a cameraman working for a small channel studio, and to pay off his debt, Itaru is given the opportunity to help out around the studio until his debt for the broken camera is paid off. The job comes with more than the opportunity to pay off the $2000 however as Itaru is given a second chance at his love for writing after an incident at school proved the initial cause for his running away.
The story’s leading side character manages to keep the entire cast male while also providing the often-obligatory female-friend role. Kurumi Tokita sees himself as a woman and dresses and carries ‘herself’ as such. Her enthusiasm and passion for the job at the studio, which she runs, gives a great energetic spark to the story. She serves as both a source of jealously for Itaru and a pusher for Itaru and Kouki’s blossoming relationship.
Once these three characters who make the entirety of the story are introduced, the rest of the book continues to follow their everyday affairs while readers see Itaru begin to fall in love with Kouki. While his insecurities regarding Kouki are cute, they fall short of being satisfying for boys’ love fans because the story ends before it really romantically begins. Liberty Liberty is more over a story of their friendship, and though it’s clear that Itaru and Kouki would eventually become more, this one-shot focuses more on them meeting, living together and basically just getting to know one another. There are a couple kisses but they’re still prelude over substance.
At the very least there’s still Hinako Takanaga’s artwork to smooth over some of the story’s less rewarding moments. There’s lots to like about her sketchy art style and expressive characters and she balances different emotive situations well. One particular scene where Itaru lets slip his feelings proves especially funny as the more-often placid look on Kouki’s face is replaced by one much more pronounced. I’m a fan of her adorable ukes but I’ll also be among the first to admit that they’re age is often easily misinterpreted, which when comparing the two leads in this story is certainly a possibility.
From a production standpoint, BLU has done an excellent job with the presentation, which includes a return to a higher quality paper that differs wildly from previous recent releases. The interior clean-up and lettering is certainly up to their professional standards also. My favourite part though would be the cover which was given a really snazzy overhaul while still utilizing the original artwork.
While there are some really charming moments in the book, they sadly don’t combine as a wholly fulfilling read. The boys’ love aspects of the story are present but ends before they really begin, and though it could work as an enjoyable first volume, it falls a little short as a one-shot. Not a bad story, just an incomplete one. I’d still recommend this sweet read for fans of Hinako Takanaga but those looking for through-to-the-end boys’ love would do better looking else where.