Hino Garasu “Seinen wa Ai wo Kou”
I was actually waiting for this book for a long time—all the way back before I made this blog. I remember getting really excited about Hino Garasu’s story from the May and July issues of drap from last year (which are luckily included in this book, considering I was missing the middle chapter from the June issue) because I had recognized her name and art style from the two oneshots by her that were scanlated by Blissful Sin, and that new story also looked very interesting. But, as I said, I was missing the middle chapter and was having trouble finding the June ’09 issue of drap as drap tends to go out of print rather quickly. (Like, a month after release.) And it was already October by the time I got those magazines. So I searched in vain for a tankoubon release date or at least something by Hino Garasu to look forward to. For the longest time there was absolutely nothing—until June or so when this tankoubon was announced.
My general reaction was pretty much “about damn time!” mixed with a little keyboard-mashing since she has released plenty of chapters in drap and various other magazines yet had never been given a tankoubon. This book is a collection of only two of her stories that wrapped up all the way at the beginning of 2010: Seinen wa Ai wo Kou and Achira no Koi. Since those stories were released she has already completed at least one more full story in drap that was not included in this book. Hopefully her other stories will not take nearly so long to get a release announcement if her debut tankoubon sells well. (Hint: GO BUY THIS.)
Anyway, onto the story descriptions. The first story is three chapters and is the title story of the book, Seinen wa Ai wo Kou. It’s about a high school student, Kaede, who realizes in middle school that he’s actually gay and one day tries to dress up a woman. But this causes him to have a breakdown of sorts—he couldn’t make himself look like a girl, and so he believes he will never be loved by men as he wants to very badly. Because of this he even has a complex of jealousy toward the women who get what he wants without even having to work for it. Then there is his good friend, Okuda, who is very gentle and protective toward him and who he is in love with. At all costs, he does not want Okuda to find out that he is gay—he doesn’t want Okuda to see the ugly side of him that was staring back out through the mirror on that day in middle school. But what if that means destroying his relationship with Okuda? And all this time, Okuda is just waiting for Kaede to open his eyes and realize that maybe he also doesn’t want to keep their relationship to that of just friends.
The second story, Achira no Koi, is about a young cameraman named Yoshizaki who gets a job for photographing some gay porn stars one day only to find that his high school’s amazing and beautiful idol Hagino is one of the actors. Ripping Hagino away from the porn studio, he gives Hagino a place to stay and food to eat—anything to keep his school idol from having to resort to porn as a career choice. However, he’s surprised that Hagino apparently doesn’t mind sleeping with men; in fact, he’s gay. The more Yoshizaki is with Hagino, the more he wants to protect his beautiful school idol from being corrupted—or is it something else entirely that has nothing to do with their past and everything to do with their present and future? The second chapter is about Hagino’s insecurities over if he can really be loved, and then the third (a short extra) is about their love-love home life together.
Reading these stories, I can’t help but realize that Hino Garasu likes writing about two things: gay men who have a complex about being men, and men who are terrifyingly beautiful. But I can’t complain, because those are pretty much two themes that I enjoy immensely. I like reading about people having gender complexes and I also like incredibly, femininely beautiful men. So Hino Garasu is right up my alley.
I really love the two couples in these stories—Kaede and Okuda have that great tension that goes along with being friends who are secretly in love with one another but don’t want to let it show. Hino Garasu perfectly showcases their insecurities in the small touches and verbal hints and random actions of both kindness and cruelty. Kaede is somewhat of an unfortunate character in his lacking confidence even though he is so very beautiful that he’s the prince of the school—gorgeous, intelligent, kind, and pretty much every girl’s fantasy. But the twist is that he doesn’t want to love and protect and cherish a woman—he, in fact, wants that attention from another man. And not just any other man, either, but from his best friend.
Then there is the second story which was also dramatic but not nearly so gloomy. Nagino was a very cute character—a devilish and feminine young man who was also carrying his fair share of insecurities with him. Luckily he had Yoshizaki to care for him and pick him up when he lost himself.
These stories were really fun to read, I think. The characters were very cute and just a little relatable, the relationships were sweet and fluffy once feelings were reciprocated and everything was out in the open, and the mood of Hino Garasu’s art style is just right for providing enough drama without making it all too obnoxiously melodramatic. Which is definitely a plus for stories that are so very emotionally-charged. I definitely found myself feeling for the characters who went through pain in these stories—Kaede and Nagino and their issues with just wanting to be loved but not feeling like there would ever be men to love them, and then Okuda and his worrying over being in love with not only his best friend, but his best male friend.
All in all I think this made up a pretty good book. I liked how the stories felt connected in their similar theme, and they balanced each other out nicely. It’s a very nice debut tankoubon for Hino Garasu, and I hope it sells well and she’s able to keep doing what she does so well—draw absolutely stunning characters to juicy, interesting stories.