Manga-ka: Souya Himawari
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: April 2010
Synopsis: “Roh is an outrageous orphan who has survived on the streets relying solely on his own strength. When he is taken in by a loving grandfather and grandson, Roh begins to believe that life may not be that bad. But when Seishin’s grandfather dies unexpectedly, Roh finds himself responsible for more than just himself!”
A one-shot collection of short stories, Moonlit Promises easily surpasses the mediocrity of other similar collections. Visually pleasing artwork and tender stories that vary from a genetically-engineered song-bird to a genie trapped in a ring and two boys becoming mercenaries to make a living, this trio of stories is worth having on any boys’ love readers’ shelf.
The first story is really nice in regards to the main couple but there’s some ick-factor playing out in the background. The story revolves around individuals who are genetically designed to be born with animal features (fuzzy ears, wings, tails, etc.). They are coveted as rare and referred to as ‘pets’, sold by the hour to patrons or outright sold altogether to their new ‘masters’. The pets seem generally happy with the set-up from what we’re shown but it’s clearly in a strictly master-and-pet way – they’re breed for loyalty. While the fetish is handled tastefully (never too explicit), less can be said for the general age of all the pets involved with sole exception of the main character. All the background photos and other shown pets are clearly young children, and emphasized as such verbally by characters, and yet they go hand in hand with the purpose of having sex with. This will undoubtedly prove unsettling to some readers. Yes they’re ridiculously adorable but put them in context with “I’m going to sleep with one of them tonight for sure!” and it just gets unsettling, to say the least.
That aside though, the story of a man reluctant to indulge in this fetish but soon coming to care for a disregarded pet-model is charming, if not on the melancholy side. He takes the young man in, wanting to live with him as a near-equal over a pet and disregards others’ interference to remind him that his song-bird likely only has a few months to live. The ending feels too neatly resolved though for fans of a happy ending shouldn’t disappoint.
In the next story, which takes up the largest portion of the book, a spunky child living on the streets is taken in by an older man who wants a friend for his grandson who has emotionally shut himself away after the death of his parents. Roh, said plucked-from-the-street child is spunky and dedicated, actually reads pretty naturally for a kid and sets out to befriend the old man’s grandson, Seishin. The two grow up together and become good friends before the death of their grandfather leaves them with only each other. Their relationship feels strictly brotherly for the first portion of the story until a moment of emotional consoling slips between the sheets. Not just emotional-brothers anymore! What adds a definite kick to the story, and an unexpected one at that, is that soft-spoken Seishin takes a job as a security guard which eventually leads him to taking lives for the sake of his patrons. Distressed at his lack of ability to understand the pain this causes Seishin, Roh quits his job as a bartender and signs up to be a mercenary – a job that will not only pay better but perhaps teach him a thing or too.
I really didn’t see the mercenary angle coming but far from being just a quirk for the sake of it, the arc of this short story involving Roh as a mercenary was actually really compelling, albeit brief. He trains, speaks to his superiors about the ramifications of the work they do and interacts with his fellow comrades who, though sparsely in appearance, all feel fleshed out the perfect balance to make them feel real but not a lose end. The story’s end feels a little cliché as Roh struggles with the realization that he’s left Seishin alone, essentially doing the worst possible thing in attempts to help him, but it’s still sweet, mushy and well executed finale utilizing a dramatic could-possibly-die scenario to spark the climax.
Shifting things around yet again, the final story in the book is about an older man, Robert Wilkonson, who inherits a fortune from his deceased Father. Despite his wealth however he wants nothing more than the chance to pursue his dream to design and fly airplanes (the story itself taking place early in the last century). During an expedition to Egypt to follow-up on his late-Father’s work, he discovers a ring that, when-worn for only a moment, releases a genie who offers him a wish. The genie, Khatam, has been trapped in the ring and bound to grant wishes for others until he can make amends for a crime he committed many years ago. No one else can see Khatam except Robert and the young genie quickly becomes a sounding board for the man’s thoughts and a witness to the aristocratic but stifled lifestyle he leads.
This was my personal favourite story of the book. The artist succeeds in creating a very sympathetic mood for Robert’s dreams and it’s hard not to feel for him each time he looks into the sky lost in thought, or when he subsequently falls in love with Khatam as someone he can finally share his dream with. Robert being an older man (young-to-middle-age anyway) was also a notably pleasant element and he came across as reserved and mindful as I can only assume the creator intended.
Handling a variety of similar but distinctly unique in some respects stories really helps show the skill of the artist. Her art is really appealing – well proportioned characters who are attractive without being effeminate and all sporting clothing and mannerisms distinctly suiting to their individuality. Little things stood out a lot to me, like the array of casual clothing worn by Roh and Seishin in their story and I found many moments worth a stop-and-stare, such as the squeal-inducing cuteness of the pets and the Egyptian locale and attire of the final story (plus the genie, who though standard in design, is no less a good cool/cute combination). I would love to see more from this artist.
Overall I really enjoyed Moonlit Promises. Short story collections are usually hit or miss with me and often the boys’ love available here seems disproportionately saturated with them at times. This book however feels so fresh with each story that it escapes the crux of being the same story rehashed multiple times in a single book. Excusing some background skeev-factor in the first chapter, these stories are all generally sweet, well drawn and offer plenty of pleasant surprises.