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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/20/2008 Archived Entry: "Yaoi review: Restart"

Story and art: Shouko Hidaka
Publisher: Juné Imprint of Digital Manga, Inc.
ISBN-10: 156970726X
ISBN-13: 978-1569707265

Review by Cat

Restart, set in the world of modelling, features a relationship between two models, one is an established name and the other a fast-rising star. It also contains two oneshots: For You features a former child model and a photographer and Overlap features a guy who mourns a lost love but unexpectedly gets another chance to fall in love.

Restart | Step | Clear | Reverse | Contact

Tadashi Yoshizawa's modelling career is increasingly going nowhere and he knows it. He feels this more whenever he sees his kouhai and a fast-rising star model, Akihiro Kudo. Not only that, they spent a drunken night together a month ago and since then, they aren't talking to each other. Tadashi is annoyed because if Aki's going to be like that, why is he keep casting glances his way?

Restart, Step, and Clear are told from seasoned model Tadashi's point of view. Reverse and Contact are from rising star Aki's. His stories revolve around flashbacks to two important events: that drunken night and why Aki becomes a model.

Aki became a model at sixteen and works hard enough to become a fast-rising model. He does it so successfully that he's rapidly passed Tadashi who's been in the business four years longer than Aki has. Tadashi isn't sure how he feels about this guy, who's four years younger and better valued at the modelling agency they share, being far more successful than he's ever been.

On top of that, he has developed feelings for Aki after spending that drunken night with him. So begins a confusing time for Tadashi. While Tadashi and Aki figure out what's going on between them, their agency
manager - Noguchi - provides comedic moments.

Despite the glamour aspect of their profession, it's mostly an ordinary story about ordinary guys who struggle to get by in this ordinary world. This makes a refreshing change from BL manga that revolves around the supernatural world, crazy story premises, or larger-than-life personalities.

It's clear that Tadashi and Aki aren't going to have massive problems coming together in the end. There are no dastardly villains, traumatic events from the past, or anything like that to keep them apart. Just human emotions, such as insecurity, confidence, and motivation. Occasionally these emotions make Tadashi frustrating to sympathise with, especially when it's clear that Aki would drop everything for him.

Then again, that's what makes them so human. I seriously detest stories that revolve around insecurity or overly neurotic characters, but Restart could get away with it because it's set in a world of modelling that's notorious for feeding and distorting anyone's sense of confidence and insecurity.

I especially liked Clear because of how it reveals it's not easy to be a working model, especially when there are hundreds of other models competing to land same jobs. Tadashi has been in this profession long enough to establish his name, but even so, it's all about trends, which means no one is immune to rejections.

The current trend demands the likes of Aki, which affects Tadashi's own career. So he and eventually Aki have to deal with the effect this impact has left on Tadashi. When there are so many manga that show the best side of anything glamour, Clear is refreshing for showing that it's not all roses, even for an established name like Tadashi. I also liked how Tadashi and Aki quietly resolve this issue in their own way. Some readers might find it boring, but I liked it.

Basically, there isn't anything wrong with the main story, but it doesn't have drama or such. It's mostly clearing up mild misunderstandings and communication issues. In a way, it's a soap opera without drama and a big cast, but it's still not that kind. "Slice of life" wouldn't be the right term either. It's just there, with a couple of bumps on a road that they have to navigate. Actually, I can't even - at this moment - recall how their story ends. It ends at a photo shoot, but I think it leaves an impression that, for them, life goes on. It's quite nice, actually, if I think about it.

In short - art, story, characters, and dialogue are pleasant, along with interesting glimpses of modelling. Each chapter features a sex scene, which each is nicely done. Not too graphic and long, just nice and, occasionally, rather steamy. I'd rate it as "medium yaoi," not too graphic but graphic enough to satisfy a typical BL reader.

Although there isn't much to write home about, it makes a nice coffee-break read.

For You (one shot)
Seasoned sixteen-year-old model Shunsuke Honma is both suspicious and bemused when photographer Tomomi Kishida singles him out as a photography subject. Kishida isn't satisfied with Honma's performance, so he pushes him further than Honma has ever been pushed, which sparks the change of the way Honma feels and sees the world and himself.

In real life many child stars who outgrown their younger selves are frequently rejected by the society for growing up. So they struggle to adjust to these changes. Some successfully make it through this awkward phase and some couldn't. And there are some who are still trying to figure it all out.

Shunsuke Honman is such one. He grew up as a successful child model who was constantly praised and in demand, but now as a young high school teenager, he's increasingly lumped with generic male models. Modelling is the only thing he's ever known how to do well, so if he quits modelling, where will he go from here? Photographer Kishida might have the answer.

I still don't know how to react to this story because even though Kishida's clearly gentle, earnest and thoughtful, he's such a weird and, occasionally, creepy guy. He gives off this 'stalker' vibe, which is probably why I think this. Like Clear, this story shows that it's not all roses in modelling, especially for those who spent almost all their childhood years modelling.

Overlap (one shot)
Tomohiro Tatsumi realises too late that he has feelings for his former school friend, Shinozaki, who's presumed dead after he went missing during a trip to the ocean. Tatsumi decides to return to his home town to stay with his parents for summer with a vague idea to putting his unresolved feelings to rest.

While journeying on a bus, Tatsumi spots a guy who looks exactly like Shinozaki. Has he been given a chance to make his feelings finally clear to his childhood friend?

Of all in this book, I liked this summer story best. I actually wished it was developed as a longer story as it has more to offer. Then again, it might be best left as it is as these vague questions left afterwards will make it lasting as a memory. It's also the only story in this book that has some intensity, but like other stories in this book, a gentle ending.

Production values. There's something different about this one. The overall quality of paper, dust cover and the rest seem different. I can't quite put a finger on it. Putting my own stupidity aside, it might be because I don't read enough June/DMP books to recognise the difference. The dust cover is thinner and more glossy, but easily to rip. During a read for this review, there's already two small rips in a spine corner. The paper is textured, which is rough to touch. While I prefer this to the thick or stiff kind, it's unfortunate the printing ink of the art work leaves impressions on the other side of each page. During reading, I frequently took a double take at a piece of drawing or text I thought I had missed, but it was just an ink impression from the other side of this page. This happened quite a few times.

Frankly, I did not mind all this at all because I'm still traumatised over the shockingly bad production quality of Kitty Media's recent release, Mei Sakuraga's I Want To Be Naughty. With this in mind, the production values of Restart are wonderful.

But, why did June/DMP spell Hidaka's given name differently this time? Her other book (also published by June/DMP) Not Enough Time has her name listed as Shoko Hidaka, but on this book, it's Shouko Hidaka.

As to whether it's worth getting this book, get it if you want a story that doesn't rely on any dramatic story devices to make itself worthwhile. Actually, I think it's worth getting, but only if you like ambling through the ordinary side of life in BL manga.

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