Manga-ka: Shiro Yamada
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: July 2011
Synopsis: “The sky was a bright shade of blue on the first day of university and Ritsuki Ban hopes for a fresh start. As mysterious past regrets continue to linger in his mind, Ritsuki collides into a man who takes on an immediate interest in Ritsuki’s looks— a man whom he later discovers, is one of his new professors! The confident Professor Takagi does nothing to hide his feelings towards Ritsuki; however the reclusive Ritsuki refuses to become teacher’s pet. As Ritsuki and Takagi find themselves sky gazing together one day, they are moved by each other’s expressions and begin to find out more about each other.”
Clichés can be executed well. Sometimes a manga-ka can take a situation that has been done a thousand times before and still make it sing. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Sky Link. Shiro Yamada’s story only highlights how absurd and tired these clichés can be.
It doesn’t help that the main characters are unlikeable. Ritsuki is an apathetic, stoic guy who has as much personality as a bag of potatoes. And yet, even though he’s pretty much a blank slate, his professor Takagi falls for him immediately. Why? It’s never really clear. Beyond his good looks, Ritsuki has nothing going for him. Actually, that’s a good analogy for the manga as a whole: it looks pretty but there’s nothing underneath.
For a while the two do a little dance where Takagi follows Ritsuki around and teases him, and Ritsuki storms off and angrily tells him to leave him alone. There are some barely there sub-plots, such as a classmate of Ritsuki’s who has a thing for Takagi and a guy from Ritsuki’s past showing up and hassling him, but like the main plot they are half-hearted and barely register. Besides, no matter what obstacles are in their way, anyone who has ever read a yaoi knows that it’s only a matter of time before these bland, pretty people have bland sex.
There are actually two stories in this collection, ‘Sky Link’ and ‘You Through a Kaleidoscope.’ Kaleidoscope is slightly more interesting than Sky Link, but only in the way that tapioca pudding is slightly more exciting than vanilla. Kazu is a gruff high schooler who is friends with Yuki, a half-white, half-Japanese student. Kazu is supposed to take over his family’s kimono shop after graduation but doesn’t know if he wants to go into the family business. Yuki meanwhile loves all things Japanese but has to go back to the UK once high school is over. Both boys are in love with each other but neither of them has ever confessed their feelings.
The characters in Kaleidoscope have a little bit more depth to them than the ones in Sky Link, but Kazu is still a clichéd tough guy who pushes Yuki away and Yuki is still an energetic cute boy who sticks by Kazu no matter how mean he is. The minor characters are largely pointless and seem to exist only so that the main characters can deliver exposition.
The second story has slightly better artwork too. The characters are still really beautiful but the designs are slightly more interesting. I especially like Kazu’s design, with his spiky hair and glasses (another character describes him as looking like a hedgehog). The layouts also appear slightly more thought out than in Sky Link.
I’ve been using the word ‘slightly’ a lot when comparing Kaleidoscope to Sky Link, and that’s because even though it might be better than Sky Link it’s still not great. If I had to describe this manga in one word, it would be underwhelming. Or maybe bland. Or mediocre. So hard to choose! Pretty art is great, but if it doesn’t connect with the story then it’s just ink on a page. There are plenty of yaoi manga that look as good as this but also have characters and a story worth getting invested in. You be better off spending your time tracking down one of those than reading Sky Link.
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