Okuyama Puku “Caramel”
I just finished this one this morning and it made me really excited so I really really wanted to write a review for it! Caramel is Okuyama Puku’s third book (both in general, and through Craft) and while it doesn’t seem to have made a huge splash in JP fandom yet the reviews it has earned are all quite glowing. Which I think is definitely well-deserved since, while I do read and enjoy a lot of titles, it takes a really wonderful and fun read to get me so excited I just have to go and talk about it the second I’m done.
All his life Iori has been a good son to his parents and a wonderful sibling to his two younger brothers and one younger sister. And he’s not faking it—he truly loves them with all his being. That’s just the way he is. But now that he’s college-age it’s time to move on with his life and start living for himself. Thus, he starts looking for a roommate so he can move out of his parent’s house. His family doesn’t want him to go—Nanami-chan in particular—but he’s already decided to turn a new leaf in his life. And with perfect timing, someone responds to his roomshare request simply with the question “do you know how to make karaage?”
Within the next week Iori is ready to move out and meet his new roommate. Initially he’s surprised to find the other man, Toudou Roku, lives in a fancy high-rise apartment complex and is also incredibly handsome. But unfortunately Roku’s personality leaves something to be desired; Iori is from a family of people who are incredibly open about their feelings and wants and needs, so super tsuntsun Roku-san isn’t the type he’s used to dealing with at all. Perhaps poor Iori was too naive to think he could move out and get along well with some stranger in a new apartment…? And things just keep getting weirder and weirder—one second Roku-san is yelling at him and acting like he’s a nuisance, yet every night he crawls into Iori’s bed and cuddles close. Iori isn’t sure how much of this he can take, but somehow more and more Roku-san is showing his endearing side. Perhaps Iori shouldn’t be so quick to move out after all.
The plot isn’t necessarily new or innovative by any means—stories where a naive country boy moves to Tokyo and needs to become accustomed to not only Tokyo life but the personalities he meets in the big city are really a dime a dozen. But sometimes a story with such a plot will come along and pull at your heartstrings more than the others did, and that’s what this story was like for me. While I was initially put off by Iori’s character design (that hair…) as soon as I got to know him as a character his personality totally won me over. I’m such a sucker for super sweet, naive characters and he definitely delivered in that regard. He wasn’t a push-over at all, though. As much as he’s an adorably emotional person, that also means he’s quick to anger and pout—especially when Roku teases him for being so young and small and childlike.
But I also really liked Roku. Usually I’m not a fan of seme characters who’re kind of dickwads, but the difference with Roku is that he’s actually a pretty sweet guy beneath the surface. Whenever he touches Iori, Iori is shocked by his gentleness. Roku just doesn’t know how to express his feelings so he gets overwhelmed by them and thus embarrassed and flustered and lashes out. Luckily Iori notices this trait right away and decides to stick with Roku, even though sometimes the older man was frustrating or spoiled or whiny. I think what’s so cute about Roku is that he’s really childish—his rudeness doesn’t come from arrogance or lack of caring so much as it’s just his endearingly immature personality. Also the fact that he’s afraid of the dark for such childish reasons was pretty adorable… *w*)
Then put together with Iori’s sweet playfulness, you have an adorable pair of fools in love. Iori loves to try and force Roku into expressing his emotions (leading the other man to get flustered) and Roku loves to push Iori’s buttons in a more ‘adult’ manner and tease his childishness. I just really, really loved this couple! Their openness and playfulness (and physical intimacy, both in early and particularly in later chapters) was what I always crave when I read romance and it was so satisfying to see. I can’t even pick a favorite moment between the two—the scenes with the tie pin were adorable but so were the scenes with the purin, and Iori smiling after getting off the phone with Roku while they were apart, and even the “you’re mine” scene. Everything about this couple feels so perfect.
And of course, Okuyama Puku’s art is the icing on the cake. I think most artists couldn’t pull off such a cute story—at least not in the perfect way Okuyama did here. Without her silly facial expressions simplistically cute artstyle a lot of the humor and sweet moments would have gotten lost or at the very least somewhat muddled. Iori’s silly sweetness was really punctuated by Okuyama’s humor and storytelling—I can’t think of any other artists who could draw such a wonderfully fluffy character in the same way Okuyama did here and make him so totally so cutesy yet refreshing at the same time.
Not to leave out the sex scenes, which were also really good! They always had somewhat of a “surprise!” element to them, so your heart always skipped a beat. In Okuyama’s other stories there aren’t many dirty scenes and if there are they’re super vague, so to have her write quite ero scenes (which are more than a page or two long) was exciting! Though I have to say just in case anyone might be turned off by it, maybe it was just me but there’s kind of a ‘shota’ feel so the sex scenes between Iori and Roku if only because Roku is much more mature-looking and experienced and he kind of overtakes Iori. It’s hard to explain, but it’s probably just Iori’s childish appearance.
Anyway I reaaaaaally really liked this book a lot! Not that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it, but I would definitely say it’s my favorite so far out of everything Okuyama has released and that’s saying a lot since I quite like her other two books as well. Iori and Roku’s personalities are proof of opposites that go very well together—they even each other out and perfectly fill in each other’s weaknesses and it’s just adorable to read. Mixed with Okuyama’s fluffy art and the very satisfying romantic scenes, I think this is really a great all-purpose book for someone in the mood for a little comedy, a lot of cute and a wonderfully endearing couple!