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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: A Love Song for the Miserable"

A Love Song for the Miserable
Story and art: Yukimura
Publisher: Juné Imprint of Digital Manga, Inc.
ISBN-10: 1569707189
ISBN-13: 978-1569707180

Review by Cat

A Love Song for the Miserable is a five-chapter (plus a bonus short oneshot) manga. This is, for me, unusual because it's been a while I read a full standalone manga. Those June/DMP books that I have are mostly the 'three-chapter story with two oneshots' type. Those that aren't are part of a series.

So to have a full standalone manga to read makes a nice change, but will the story itself be any good?

Itsuki Asada isn't happy. He's working for Shikishima department store, but he wants to be transferred to a different department, but his request gets denied. Not only that they don't even bother to take a look at Asada's proposed business plan

This affects his confidence enough for him to go on a drinking binge that night with a co-worker.While drunk he topples over a short hedge and as he lies there in a heap, he thinks he couldn't sink any lower than where he is now.

At that point, Sunao Iwasaki appears like some kind of a saviour. He helps Asada up while explaining he's glad to see Asada because he's utterly lost. Asada begrudgingly helps him by drawing a map on his rejected business plan paper. In return Iwasaki scribbles a map of his own on a ripped piece from the business plan, which symbolises Asada's desired career. Iwasaki cheerfully tells him to come to his family's newly founded bakery, Star Bakery, for any sweets Asada might want.

A chance sight of a wall poster Shikishima department store's annual sweets fair has Asada visiting Star Bakery, but Lady Luck isn't on his side. But Lady Luck isn't that cruel as Asada manages to see Iwasaki whose name, Asada learns, is Nao. This encounter somehow leads Asada to becoming Nao's personal food critic. From there their friendship grows at a comfortable pace.

Then, one day, Nao announces that he's moving to France for a couple of years to improve his pastry-making skills. Asada isn't happy. In fact he's so pissed off, especially at a sudden realisation that he has feelings for Nao yet couldn't express it, that his reaction stuns Nao enough for them to part on bad terms.

After three years' absence, Nao returns to Japan where he finds a job at the bakery, Polar Star. News and raving reviews of Nao's amazing creations reaches Asada who's now working in his dream department, events planning. Part of his job is help organising Shikishima department store's annual sweets fair. One scheduled pastry chef has to pull out, leaving a painful gap.

It's down to Asada to bring Nao in as a replacement. However, Nao - still smarting from Asada's painful parting words - refuses to have anything to do with Asada. Not only that there's something not quite right with Nao's sweets.

What can Asada do to get Nao to agree to appear as the replacement? Nao's involvement could further Asada's career, but more importantly, what can Asada do to make it right between them again? In fact, what can Asado do about his feelings, which are still going strong, for Nao?

As I said before, it's great to have a full standalone manga for a change, but I admit I wasn't sure if Yukimura's story could carry it off. It both does and doesn't. It does for those who like character-driven stories and it doesn't for those who want more excitement or a faster pace.

Well, although I say it's a character-driven story, it quite isn't. It's quite strange because there isn't much of a plot either. If I were to describe this, it's a gentle and mature tale of two people learning how to get what they want - from each other and their own careers - in their own way.

It's largely Asada's story, so the story revolves around his internal struggles over his fears, confidence, and frustration of not getting what he wants. Strangely, not much about insecurity even though it's mostly about that. When he has a chance to grab an opportunity, he chooses to run, which in turn frustrates him. He goes in a spiral to the point where he'd let his true feelings break through. And when it does, he runs. And then it happens all over again.

It's a bit like watching a hamster hopping on a wheel with an occasional stop for a break or two. I thought I'd get annoyed by his social awkwardness and introversion, but I wasn't. It's his personality, which is what makes it, in a weird way, work. There isn't much spent on the development of Nao and Asada's relationship, even though almost all Asada's thoughts and feelings are tied up with Nao.

Although largely underdeveloped, Nao has his issues to deal with, which directly affects Asada's own issues. It actually works, which is weird. I won't say any more on this as it's best to leave it for readers to discover how so.

Production values, it's a good job done. Easy to handle, comfortable enough to read with ease, and the typesetting is standard nice. Even though it sometimes made me feel as if I was reading a scanlated manga because it uses certain typefaces that are frequently used in the scanlation world. All in all, it's a good job done. Nothing exceptional, but nothing horrible either. It's predictable and nice.

In spite of my occasional irritation with Asada's persistent Eeyore-like tendency to look on the negative side, I liked A Love Song for the Miserable. It's not unique. It's not that wildly exciting. It's good enough for me to regard it as a basic satisfactory read.

It's ideal for those who want a break from fast-paced, plot-driven, sex-driven or comedy romantic manga.

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