Author: Maki Kazumi
Manga-ka: Yukine Honami
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: January 2009
Synopsis: “I wonder why, when I look at you, I get turned on.” With a few simple words uttered by his best friend Ryoji-Toru’s world flips upside down. It doesn’t help that Toru has secretly been in love with Ryoji for some time. But whereas Ryoji wants a purely physical relationship to satisfy his curiosity-Toru wants more. Can the two ever come to terms with how they really feel about each other?
I must be getting used to the different writing style, because I don’t mind saying I had a lot less time to notice the writing in this book, as I was so taken with the story and the characters. As I think back, I’m not sure exactly what it was that caught my attention so thoroughly, but I will say that I was reading on the bus and I missed my stop – twice! The story line is pretty run of the mill – best friends and unrequited love is not new to the genre, nor is the push and pull of unspoken feelings and poor communication. Seems boys just don’t tend to talk to each other.
In this case, the point of view character, Toru – once again the uke – doesn’t think he can tell the object of his affections his true feelings, because how do you tell your best friend you’re in love with him? So when Ryoji wonders out loud why he’s physically excited just from looking at Toru, then suggests they have sex just to see what it’s like, Toru is completely off balance and more sure than ever that he can’t confess his true feelings. So he agrees to the sex, and soon finds himself with a broken heart and his other best friend, Tadashi, warning him not to rely on Ryoji. That’s when things really get complicated, and Toru turns to his art to speak for him.
Ryoji isn’t any better. When it’s clear he’s changing his mind about how he feels for Toru, he doesn’t say a word, and even wonders if he’s worthy of Toru. As a reader, I couldn’t help but feel for both of them and wonder if they were ever going to get what they deserved; Toru his true love, and Ryoji faith in himself.
There are two things that stand out for me in this book, outside of the main plot and characters. First, the acknowledgement of gay love being okay is nice, and not always present in these stories. I found it refreshing not needing to wade through a lot of angst over the but-he-s-another-guy dilemma. There is some, but it isn’t the focus of what keeps the boys apart. Their struggle is much more personal than that, and Toru’s fear of losing what little of Ryoji’s attention he has is well depicted, as is Ryoji’s worry that Toru will never trust him.
The other thing that stood out was the treatment of the secondary characters. They were given enough page time to really flesh them out. I can see why the artist wanted to draw Keigo, even if he isn’t one of the main characters. He does play an important role in the love story, and he isn’t just a flat prop for the main characters to move around to suit their story. He’s been given enough personality to carry a story all his own, and enough emotional depth to make a reader hope he finds his own happy ending. (Not that that’s a nudge to the author, or anything…)
The best friend Tadashi is another character that isn’t passed over as an unimportant element. He’s quite charming, and his nudges to get Ryoji to see the error of his ways make him a loveable character in his own right.
The art itself is very understated, with simple lines and just the right amount of detail. I wish there had been a few more illustrations to enjoy, but what there is makes a nice, simplistic and gentle counterpoint to the heavy emotional content of the story. The emotions of the characters are distilled down into very delicate drawings that are more mood than content, and that’s tricky to do. I especially love the very last line drawing of the boys enjoying their newfound security in each other. Very well done.
All in all, none of the characters were short changed in this book, and that’s what made it so enjoyable for me. I always love character driven stories, and much of Yaoi is just that, but occasionally, you come across one that goes that extra step, and this is one of those times. Over all, Desire: Dangerous Feelings was a great read because whether or not the plot was particularly original, the characters really carried the story and held my interest because they were real, their dilemmas were believable, and they reacted in honest and understandable ways. As a bonus if you like speculating on where the secondary characters go from here, there is tons of fodder for that in this book.