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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: Love Control"

Love Control
Story and art: Ai Hasukawa
Publisher: Juné Imprint of Digital Manga, Inc.
ISBN-10: 1569707251
ISBN-13: 978-1569707258

Review by Cat

What do you get if you put two headstrong, proud, arrogant and highly competitive guys together?

Plain good fun.

Love Control (main story, part 1 and 2)

Interior designer Kei Yamashiro isn't exactly pleased to be told that he's beautiful. He's there on business for Sugimoro Life Design with a view of doing a design job for client Takashi Okumura who owns an Italian restaurant, JIRI, and a few cafes and offices.

Yamashiro immediately senses that honey-eyed Okumura is just like him, therefore Yamashiro isn't about to let Okumura mess him around. In fact he'd dearly love to turn tables round and bring Okumura to his knees.

As if Okumura senses Yamashiro's decision he launches a low-key attack on Yamashiro by flirting and bantering with him. All the while Yamashiro coolly dismisses it as part of some silly games that Okumura likes to play. However, Okumura unexpectedly asks Yamashiro if he could do a re-design job on Okumura's own home. Yamashiro agrees.

As the project progresses, their game gets taken higher a notch or two. Who will come out a winner? Or will there be something else that beats both?

I was surprised and taken aback at how mature these characters are, especially when dealing with issues. They seem so sophisticated and mature that I couldn't believe I was reading a manga. I think I was so used to manga that features basic dialogue, unbelievably naive - and sometimes, incredibly stupid - characters, silly misunderstandings, and some other usual things that makes the yaoi world go round, that Love Control came as practically a culture shock.

Okumura is clearly dominant, but unlike many in other manga, he's not a bully and actually acts as an adult, even when he experiences a moment of jealousy. This makes a refreshing change. Furthermore, Yamashiro is just as headstrong and brainy as Okumura and definitely can stand for himself.

In fact it's unusual for me to see characters so well matched. It's also refreshing to see easily what makes them drawn to each other. You know how many mangaka tend to force mismatched personalities together, regardless of whether it could work or not, and you just learn to get used to it? Well, you won't have to with this one.

Almost everything in the story seems natural - the setting, the pacing, the story flow, characters, sexual situations (which I'd label as "light-to-medium yaoi"), and dialogue. It's almost perfect. It's not even the kind I normally enjoy because stories set in a business or similar world aren't that appealing.

I've thoroughly enjoyed this one. Mostly because I love stories that feature psychological 'cat-and-mouse' games. This element doesn't feature so heavily here, but it's definitely there, which makes it an enjoyable read for me.

Love Control II (sequel)

Yamashiro is in a slow, quiet panic. It's three months since he and Okumura came together and people are starting to notice Yamashiro's softened facial expression and subtle personality changes. Okumura once told him that it's Yamashiro's aloof personality and pride that attract him. If he's becoming soft, does this mean he's losing to Okumura? Or worse, losing him?

I dreaded that it'd be yet another misunderstanding and while it is, it isn't because it offers a different angle. Let's put it this way: Yamashiro is honest enough to recognise his own involvement with his current dilemma, but human enough to allow his flaws to get in the way. Okumura's reaction and handling have surprised me. I must have read so many bad manga to let that be even a surprise to me. I'm not sure whether to weep at how conditioned I have become with BL manga. It's a nice wake-up call.

Either way, although it's less intense and driven than the first story, it's also a good read. I won't say any more than this because I think not knowing what to expect will make a surprising realisation worthwhile.

Chair designer Shinjin "Jin" Takamiya and Azumi Yoshimo from Anata no Tonari ni Suwarasete (Let Me Sit Next to You) - which takes place before Love Control - make a guest appearance here as Yamashiro's friends. Although sadly brief, it was nice to see them again.

Near the Rainbow, And You (one shot)

Chief Shiro Seno of the planning division - and very much emotionally self-sufficient - receives a strange email on his mobile phone: "Find me." Intrigued but irritated, he deletes it. He receives another: "Find me, please find me. I'm at the end of the rainbow."

It's a dark but sweet, poignant and mostly shounen-ai comedy of two lonely people who were left abandoned by those who were supposed to care for them. I simply refuse to share any more than this because it's such a sweet story that deserves to be read with no expectations. I'm sorry if this makes you want to beat me up, but I promise it'll be worth resisting the urge to lynch me.

Early Summer
Yamashiro and Okumura meet outside a cafe to have a drink. Okumura has a pair of sunglasses, which turns their conversation into a short round of amusing banter.

A short amusing glimpse into their everyday life, set in summer. It's quite strange to see both in summer clothes, but good to see that while still at his old self, Yamashiro can be as flirty as Okumura.

It's ages since I've thoroughly enjoyed a BL manga. For me, Love Control is an all-round winner: strong and likeable characters, adult conversations, battles of wits, and it's just plain mature. I also like Hasukawa's layout of panels. It's so well laid out that it increases a sense of drama. This without sacrificing tension and flow of the dialogue.

Frankly, I can't say any more than this: Love Control basically puts the rest to shame. Even most of my favourite manga. It's definitely not for readers who love whimsical or "cute" stories that features a "cute girly uke" and a "bossy seme". Nor is it for readers who want angsty, dark stories.

Basically, it's a mature BL manga for readers who appreciate understated humour, quick-witted banter, subtle tension, and mature characters with the brains that they actually use. Anata no Tonari ni Suwarasete was a top favourite Hasukawa work, but Love Control has left it pretty much in the dust.

Art-wise: it's almost old skool, which isn't my favourite kind, but the dialogue and story are compelling enough to make me ignore these issues with ease. And those eyes! Hasukawa does know how to make her characters' eyes outstanding and sometimes real, which is a weird thing for me to say. Yup, let's move swiftly on. This book is comfortable enough for me to handle with ease. Maybe it's a little too stiff, but it's not as stiff as the other June release, Yugi Yamada's Laugh Under the Sun, which is a good thing. Although ink tones and shades are nicely done, it's a tad too dark for my taste.

I'm unsure if it's because Love Control makes a refreshing change from other manga that makes it a good read or it's the story itself that makes work. Either way it's worth getting. I'm starting to embarrass myself here with all this mushiness, but I hope June/DMP will look to publish more Hasukawa works because I'll certainly buy them for my English manga collection.

All in all: highly recommended.

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