Author: Yamila Abraham
Artist: Yifeng Jiang
Publisher: Yaoi Press
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: September 2012
Synopsis: “As the son of a former Prime Minister, Vishva could have any government job he wants. He chooses to work as someone who canes political prisoners. Vishva’s despicable personality makes him the most loathed person in the department. That is, until an ethnic minority is hired. Fang took the wretched job because there are few prospects for him in their country. He”s quickly exposed to prejudice and abuse. Vishva befriends Fang because it infuriates his co-workers. But, the more he studies him, the more fascinated he becomes… ”
I’m not personally a big reader of yaoi manga but I, like most people who have been in anime/manga fandom for a decent amount of time, had an idea of what to expect from such a book: two bishounen in a relationship that most likely would be lacking in the consent department. In this respect, Punishment certainly did not disappoint.
Punishment is set in a dystopic world where a Ministry of Discipline exists to met out physical punishment to criminals. Needless to say, the people who are attracted to working for this ministry, namely our leads Vishva and Fang, aren’t the most scrupulous sort. And naturally it leads to developments of the Fifty Shades of Grey variety.
Putting aside the issues I have with that whole lack of consent thing – I accept that it’s something that comes with the genre – I found there was a fair amount in here to enjoy. The problem was that there really wasn’t enough of it.
The best part of this book is the relationship between the two leads and no, I’m not just talking about the smut. Vishva and Fang do have an interesting dynamic and both of them are decently engaging characters. However, given the brevity of the story (which is even shorter than it first appears, since there is a long preview for another book in this volume), all the development that they get has to be really rushed and thus the payoff that could have otherwise been there is lacking. I found this particularly true of the more emotional moments which seemed rather forced. Still, I did enjoy watching them play off each other and there was even some unexpected twists in their relationship that did work quite well, even in the shorter time frame.
The world itself had some interesting aspects to it but almost no time is spent to develop it beyond the dystopia elements. The same can be said about the supporting characters as well, especially since most of them were more part of the setting than part of the cast.
Then there is the art, which is another highlight. It is very stylized and reminds me quite a bit of Tokyo Babylon (which may be no coincidence, given the undertones of that series). Vishva and Fang do look a bit too similar to each other but they can usually be told apart easily enough, which also has the benefit of keeping the book from falling into the traditional tall = seme, short = uke roles. And while there are some moments when it isn’t entirely clear what is happening (particularly the very first scene), usually the art supports the narrative well.
The back of the book claims that this is Yaoi Press’ “strongest work to date!” I’m not sure if that’s true but all things considered it is a decent book. If you like yaoi in general, you’ll probably like Punishment; however, I highly doubt it’s going to convert anyone to the genre.
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Book provided by Yaoi Press for review purposes