Manga-ka: Makoto Tateno
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: December 2009
Synopsis: “Innocent Naoyuki fell head-over-heels for drop-dead gorgeous senior Shinobu when he was just a shy underclassman. But after a whirlwind fling filled with first kisses, first drinks (and much more!), Shinobu vanished on the very day that Naoyuki was set to confess his feelings. Years later, the two grown men suddenly cross paths in a chic city bar where the exotic drinks flow freely… and the trysts only last one night! Can Naoyuki convince the cool and distant Shinobu that what was once a childhood dalliance is now deep and passionate love?”
How To Capture A Martini – it wasn’t until the end of the book that I figured out the title’s figurative meaning. Despite my personal ‘duh’ moment in regards to this clearly laid out reasoning, it doesn’t change the fact that the name itself suits the story very well. It throws a pleasantly cheeky spin on the largely emotional foray of the two leads, well-embodying this one-shot tale of their adolescent romance’s second chance to flourish.
Shinobu and Naoyuki are in love – or at least that’s what Naoyuki thought. Their happy years of dating in high school came to a sudden and unexpected end when Shinobu disappears on graduation day without so much as a goodbye. Flash-forward a few years and life has gone on for the heartbroken Naoyuki. He now attends college and is dating a presumably nice young woman (alas though to be a yaoi-girlfriend). However, a trip to a well-known bar leads to an unexpected reunion when Naoyuki and Shinobu come face to face for the first time since high school.
Adding insult to injury, Naoyuki returns to speak with the now more-attractive-than-ever Shinobu only to become an accidental audience to one of his ex-lover’s sexual escapades strewn across the bar top. Far from the moral ideal that Naoyuki remembers him, Shinobu now spends his days practicing as a talented bartender and serving up much more than drinks to other men as he pleases. This includes the bar’s owner, who has his own creepy skeeze factor involving his cute but eerily cheeky younger brother.
Melodramatic as it occasionally becomes, I enjoyed the interaction between Naoyuki and Shinobu. Most enjoyable was the potentially interchangeable nature of their quasi-relationship where there isn’t always a clear dominant or submissive. Naoyuki spends the bulk of the book callously refusing Naoyuki’s renewed advances but by the end is reduced more so to a weeping willow who just wants to be loved. Admittedly he was more compelling as a jerk but the plot-convenient transformation doesn’t feel as hollow as it could. This is because of how reasonably well the story establishes that he’s succumbing to his own repressed desires rather than caving to Naoyuki’s. Being a little drunk during these pinnacle moments didn’t hurt either.
On the other hand you have Naoyuki, who we see in flashbacks as an adorable bright-eyed young man. He carries himself very differently these days, both in appearance and in our interpretation of his relationship with Shinobu. For most of the book he’s trying to win back Shinobu’s affections and learn what really happened back in high school. In a sweet but notably cheesy action, he hopes to seal their love with a pair of matching rings he’s held onto for years, a failed graduation present to his lover. These rings serve as the catalyst for the crack in Shinobu’s ice-wall that romantic-purists can only hope leads to a relationship resembling monogamous.
Predominantly set in a bar, alcohol mixing and drinking scenes are sprinkled throughout the book. There isn’t much to learn from these scenes about it, nor any exceptional push to drink, so it serves more backdrop than substance. Still, it gives a certain classy adult-air to the story and offers something for the characters to focus on at times that isn’t just their own romantic trepidations.
How To Capture A Martini falls in the realm of your fairly standard yaoi-fare: light on reality and generous with the fluff and flair. Shinobu ultimately proves more interesting before he falls to Naoyuki’s determination but it’s still near impossible to deny the lovey-dovey charm of the inevitable. Add on top the attractive pretty-man style that Makoto Tateno is known for, plus DokiDoki’s sharp production values, and you have an entertaining one-shot that’s worth having on anyone’s boys’ love shelf.