Manga-ka: Tatsumi Kaiya
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: January 2010
Synopsis: “I first met the cool and handsome Narusawa in college. Interested, I approached and said to him half-jokingly,”Let me do you next time.” …that very same day, he was the one who ended up doing me! Then, just when I thought I’d talked myself into believing ours was a purely physical relationship, I came to a sudden realization-I was in love with Narusawa! But I’m always the one calling to see him, and never the other way around. The booty-call has been our only connection-so how can I tell him,”I love you,” now…?! –Kurata”
Physical Attraction is a series of short yaoi stories, ranging from college love to work place drama to a bit of political intrigue. Most of the stories use some kind of boys love cliché as a starting point, but even when the stories are unoriginal they are still solidly told.
The first story, Physical Attraction is the one summarized in the book’s synopsis. Kurata and Narusawa don’t see each other much at school, but after class they get together to have no-strings attached sex. But when Kurata starts to develop actual feelings for Narusawa, it gets complicated. As I said before, it’s not the most unique starting point for a story. But the characters are fun and the pacing excellent, so even when I could tell what twists were coming I still enjoyed the ride.
As far as cliché beginnings go, Physical Attraction has nothing on the next story, ‘February Rain.’ One night while Kon is at his job at a restaurant a patron runs out the door without paying. Kon chases after him only to find that it’s just a teenager. Kon takes the teen, Masami, back to his home and lets him stay there. Masami tells Kon of how he had been ‘kept’ by an older man for the last few years and left because he was sick of it. Kon doesn’t know what to do with the strange boy, but he knows he can’t turn him away.
I can’t count how many romance stories I’ve read that start off with some guy finding some poor soul on the street and taking them in (and it’s not just limited to yaoi: Chobits anyone?). ‘February Rain’ does manage to do something slightly different with the concept while not completely turning it on its head.
‘Anti-Dramatic’ is a cute story about an established couple, Yushima and Shiba, who are already living together when the story starts. It’s the little touches that really sell them as a committed couple: Shiba marvelling over the simple breakfast Yushima makes, the two taking silly pictures of each other with their camera phone. When Yushima starts a new job he’s home a lot less, making Shiba feel lonely. Meanwhile, there’s a guy at Shiba’s school who’s interested in him and decides to make his move on Shiba.
The story is very understated, almost a slice-of-life. But despite being not as dramatic as some of the other stories in this volume, it’s my favourite. The way the characters react to things are entertaining while still being realistic.
The next story, “Let Me Knock on the Same Door,” follows two young men who work at a game company. Imamura is a game designer while Toyohara is an artist who works on character designs. Imamura has been at the company longer but Toyohara is a rising star. They have an interesting relationship, in that Imamura tries to look out for his junior colleague but at the same time they bicker and fight like equals. I thought these two made really believable friends, but I wasn’t quite sold when the relationship turned physical. I just found them more interesting as friends and co-workers than as lovers. To give the story credit, it’s one of the more unique stories in this book, at least in terms of the plot. How many yaoi stories do you see set at a game design company?
‘Cooled Passion’ is a little darker and more angsty than the light-hearted stories that fill the rest of this book. Arisaka is a journalist who does political reporting. He’s working on a story involving a diet member who happens to be the father of an old friend of his, Eiichiro. When the two meet a lot of painful feelings come to the surface. While political intrigue doesn’t play a major part in this story, the bits that are there are entertaining. And while the middle may be dark, the hopeful ending made me like both the story and the characters more than I would have without it.
The final story in the book returns to Kurata and Narusawa. There’s not too much to it: it’s just a short, sweet story showing how the boys’ relationship has changed them.
The art in each of the stories is fantastic. The characters are attractive without being blindingly pretty. It’s also nice that none of the guys featured are overly feminine or super-manly: they just look like regular guys, not semes and ukes. There’s a nice naturalness to the character’s expressions and body language. For example, in one story we see a character lounging on the couch, eating a bag of chips. Before he even says “I’m bored” the reader already knows from the look on his face.
The layouts are nice, able to go from dense to sparse when needed without giving the reader whiplash. Some of the pages have a ton of text and panels, so props to digital manga for doing such a good job on the English adaptation.
The whole book is consistently good, which is rare with yaoi anthologies. Usually there’s a story that’s the weak one out, but not here in Physical Attraction. Sure, some of them might be built on clichés, but they still manage to work thanks to the story-telling and great art.