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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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10/16/2008 Archived Entry: "Yaoi Review: Tough Love Baby"

Tough Love Baby
Story and Art: Shiuko Kano
Published by Deux Press
ISBN-10: 1934496111
ISBN-13: 978-1934496114

Review by I-hsiu Lin

You can also check out Kris' awesome review of Tough Love Baby, which goes into Kano's unique art style.

“Tough guys need love too.” Shiuko Kano’s Tough Love Baby is all about guys who have tough exteriors but behind their façade, they’re actually quite passionate. Well, not all the guys are tough on the outside. The story opens with Yoshino Kakei who is a pretty relaxed kind of guy. Along with his cat, Sachi, he just moved back to his old city and discovered that his apartment is right next to his ex-girlfriend’s…and her younger brother, Sachi.

Sachi Kitazawa is angry about Yoshino leaving them after breaking up with his sister several years ago. He was always a part of their lives and then he just decided to leave. Unable to forgive that, Sachi pushes away from Yoshino’s worried advances. Yoshino doesn’t know how to approach him either. He was like a brother to him before, but those feelings were mixed up in something else which ended up with him moving away.

Tamotsu Hachisuka is Sachi’s friend from junior high. He grew up with him and witnessed Sachi’s initial shock of Yoshino leaving. Aware of his own feelings toward his friend, Tamotsu is unable accept Yoshino’s sudden reappearance in their lives. Of course, he takes his anger out on Yoshino. “You took him away from me and left him in the end.” Tamotsu’s words forces the other to face Sachi and his own thoughts about their relationship.

Underclassman Sora Oyamada has eyes only for Tamotsu. He accepts Tamotsu no matter what happens, even when he is being teased by him. Sora wants the older male to look at him…only him. But through Tamotsu only sees Sachi in the younger man’s face. An awkward relationship, but one that steadily grows. Sora slowly comes to understand the limits of Tamotsu’s feelings and learns to play by his rules. Only if he wasn’t so tall.

It’s a story about two couples. The transition between the two is pretty smooth and ties together really well since as we leave Yoshino and Sachi behind, Tamotsu and Sora takes over. I feel that out of the four young men, Tamotsu is the one that is the most mature. He is the one most aware of his own feelings and knows the extent of his bond with Sachi. Even though he declared that he will surely get Sachi to fall in love with him, he calmly accepted what basically amounted to a rejection. In the end, he even helped Yoshino acknowledge his own longings for Sachi and in doing so, patched up the relationship between the two. Also, the last story with Sora truly made him the bigger man since he is able to accept being ‘bottom’ in the relationship. Even if it was only for that one time.

Kano tends to draw guys that don’t always fit the stereotype of a ‘pretty boy’ in BL series. The way they look is cute enough, but it’s their personality that stands apart from the flowerly image in other stories. They’re usually crass, blunt, clumsy or awkward. And at times, it’s all of the above. However, it’s within those awkward moments that I’m drawn to the characters.

Those looking for deep, dramatic stories best look elsewhere. But for simple humor and sweet romantic moments amidst awkward timing, that is Kano’s specialty. A rougher sort of BL romance showing the sweeter side of tough guys.

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