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Review: Fevered Kiss

Reviewer: Jaime Samms

Author: Arika Kuga
Manga-ka: Taishi Zaou
Publisher: DokiDoki
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: November 2009

Synopsis: “On the night of the year-end party, in high spirits and under the influence of the party’s free-flowing alcohol, Satori ends up sleeping with Asou. Since then, every day that Asou comes over, he does nothing beyond kiss Satori over and over, and as much as it perplexes him, Satori is unable to resist his advances. But one day Satori hears a nasty rumor that Asou has a girlfriend!”

This is the first boys’ love novel I’ve read that isn’t a June publication, though it is published by another Digital Manga imprint, Doki Doki. I enjoyed it – for some reason, it had a different feel to the prose. It maybe sounded a little less like it had been translated from Japanese than the June novels tend to do, and a little more like the English you might expect from a native speaker. I don’t know that either style is necessary better, or even that I like one or the other better. They’re just different.

The characters in this book are well rounded. The uke, Satori, from who’s point of view the book is written, is studious, smart, and generally a good student, but I like that those aspects are just a part of who he is. He doesn’t come off as a geek or someone who doesn’t know his own worth. He may wonder what the hottest guy in school sees in him, but he doesn’t think of himself as a mouse or shadow; just an ordinary guy with ordinary friends and an ordinary life.

Asou, on the other hand, is extraordinary, but if you read between the lines when he’s in the scene, you can see that he doesn’t necessarily think he’s all that like the other students do. He has a past he doesn’t like to talk about, and it colours his impression of himself. It makes him act more aloof than he really feels inside, and the author has done a good job of letting us see this, even through the eyes of Satori, who doesn’t see it at all at first. I liked the way the author’s created characters who are a lot deeper than what even they themselves see.

The complication (so often used to get reluctant ukes to see how much they really want their semes) is that of the rumoured girlfriend, giving an added twist to the story. It’s Asou’s own doing though. He sets Satori up to think there’s a girl in his life so Satori will be shocked into realizing how he really feels about Asou. It’s perfect, showing just how unsure of himself Asou really is. Usually, this device turns out to be just a misunderstanding, but in this case, the fact that Asou connives to trick Satori is just another facet to his personality that makes him a real character, and not just another pushy seme.

For a story that isn’t actually that long, (just 68 pages), the plot has a surprising number of little twists and hiccups to keep the lovers apart but not so far apart you get overly frustrated with them. There’s a lot of internal dialogue so you’re never left wondering what’s on Satori’s mind. By the time he gets to the point of knowing he can’t be with Asou, even though he’s figured out he loves him, you want to cry with him. I found him an emotionally strong, satisfying character and well able to carry the story.

The book’s ‘bonus’ story, Hold Me Tighter, is actually longer than the title story, at 84 pages, but it reads so fast I didn’t even notice. Now that the characters are introduced, and there’s no need to go into quite so much depth (though I did notice there were brief explanations about how the boys had got to this point, ie: very short summaries of Fevered Kisses here and there), there’s more room for plot and actual story. And a lot more glimpses into Satori’s head where we get to see him in all his neurotic glory. I did get a bit frustrated with him in this story, but only a bit. The introduction of Asou’s past, including an old hook up, gave Satori lots of reason to angst.

As for Asou, he was actually absent for a lot of the story, present only through Satori thinking about him, missing him, wanting him, searching for him, and ultimately, deciding to love him no matter what. This was very much Satori’s story, and he undergoes a lot of growth throughout the tale.

The illustrations in this book were fantastic, and I can see why fellow-reviewer Lissa mentioned this is one of her favourite manga-ka. There is a lovely amount of detail in the drawings, especially in the clothing and expressions, although, there are a disconcerting number of pictures in which Satori looks a little stunned. What’s nice is that the manga-ka doesn’t skimp on background, and that finishes the illustrations off making them look more complete. I do have to say my favourite is the very first within the story itself. Although it’s one of the images in which Satori looks a little stunned, it also shows off a bit of his nice little ass. The best part is the gentle, almost hopeful expression on Asou’s face. I love that picture.

I would definitely recommend Fevered Kiss to anyone who likes that extra bit of introspection in their stories, and the illustrations have whetted my appetite for more of this artist’s work, for sure.

Review written June 28 by Jaime Samms
Book provided by Digital Manga for review purposes

Jaime Samms

About the Author:

Jaime Samms has been writing gay romance and fiction for quite some time now, and reviewing it for almost as long. She's published with e-publishers Freya’s Bower, Lovyoudivine Alterotica and soon, Total e-Bound and Drollerie Press. "Writing is quite a passion for me. I’ve been asked many times why write about love affairs between men, when I clearly am not one, and really, it feels right to me. Not a terribly informative answer, but there it is."

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