Manga-ka: Naono Bohra
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: June 2012
Synopsis: “Way up in the mountains, far from any major cities or towns, Kaya Susugi runs a small cafe by day and guards a haunted cemetery by night. Then, one night, he comes across werewolf brothers Tarou and Jiro. Cheerful but klutzy younger brother Jiro quickly falls head over heels for the capable loner Kaya. What results is a dive into the hot, tail-twitching delight of werewolf mating season!”
Three Wolves Mountains is an assortment of ‘finally!’s before I even took off the plastic wrap. It’s among the first of SuBLime Manga’s print editions , and only the second Naono Bohra work to be released in English. While the plot’s execution has its bumps, SuBLime made a fun and memorable choice in releasing a genre fan-favourite that serves up supernatural puppy love (of the sexy, mature-reader only variety!).
The story begins with Kaya, a man who lives up in the mountains and single-handedly runs a cafe for his few but dedicated customers. At night, he monitors and defends a graveyard from intruders and thieves (quite a job combination!). Kaya isn’t especially surprised with the appearance of two werewolves, after he realizes they’re not there to disturb the graves at least. The two werewolf brothers are Jiro and Tarou. While Tarou is a large dog (who can speak), Jiro is predominantly human in appearance excluding ears and a tail that appear during the full moon. Kaya takes the two in and they all become a quaint little family who together run the cafe and guard the graves.
At first I wasn’t too keen on Kaya who comes off as rather flat in personality and too serious in conviction to lighten up. Fortunately we see the facade fades pretty quick when he opens up to people. His empathy for those around him is sweet, as is his caring attention to both Jiro and Tarou. We learn later why he walks around with the world seemingly on his shoulders. His personality works well with Jiro who is the opposite in a lot of ways – energetic, needy and open, Jiro has the personality of a puppy in the body of a young man. He gets attached to Kaya very quickly, an attachment that goes further initially when the wolf-pup goes into heat. Those two are the series’ couple but Tarou still plays a fun role as the protective but accepting older brother who looks out for them both. The free food and bonus fur brushing is a welcome bonus for him too.
Likeable as the characters are individually, they were a little lost amidst the lacking story. The pacing is a bit erratic and often times decisions are clearly made just for plot purposes instead of natural development. A good example is the simple initial invite that Kaya extends to his sudden new house guests. For a loner-type, he was sure open to two strangers turned long-term roommates quick. The suspended belief needed to enjoy the story isn’t anything new to readers though, even if that is just an excuse based on expectations of a genre’s common flaws. Affection for other elements of the release will likely win over readers regardless.
Once Jiro and his brother are living with Kaya, which takes a whopping five pages, events after that are pretty brief and circumstantial. Most of those scenes allow us glimpses at the characters’ families – first Kaya’s, where we learn some very grim details about his past, and then the werewolves’, whose family dynamics certainly make for some entertaining encounters. Kaya’s work as defender of the graveyard also creates reason for some bloody action sequences that give the book a dark atmosphere and a sense of severity that works surprisingly well alongside the more comedic moments.
For any of the book’s story issues, Naono Bohra’s artwork makes them seem like small quips. It’s clear just flipping through why she’s such a well requested manga artist. She’s been one of my most-anticipated artists in English for years. Her men have strong builds compared to the lithe, effeminate look you see in a lot of other stories but instead of going the muscular-route, they all look very natural – excluding the whole werewolf thing of course. Sex scenes in particular are well worth stopping at just for how well she draws her characters naked with some actual meat on their bones. Is that a fold of skin and you-need-it-to-live fat I see there? Egads, they’re human! The sex is passionate, messy and very refreshingly fleshy, a description that may need to be seen to understand. With attention paid to detail on backgrounds and clothing, emphasized by some nice ink and tone work, everything else feels nearly as well defined as the men themselves.
SuBLime’s work on the book lives up to expectations as well. This is the first of two print books they’ve put out since they launched and I was eager to see how it would look. I was confident boys’ love fans wouldn’t be disappointed though, with long-time yaoi fan Jennifer LeBlanc as editor and the manga publisher megahouse, Viz Media, behind it. The trim size is the same width as their Shonen Jump titles and about half an inch shorter. The print quality looks great and a nice full-cast, full-colour illustration was included at the beginning. I love the simplicity of the cover design which emphasizes the artwork above all else. The lettering all looked great too, and like their other titles they put the extra effort into replacing all the Japanese sound effects with English equivalents that visually fit right into the scenes. I was happy with the PDFs version of previous releases I bought from them, but doubly-so with the print edition that shows no skimping on something they know doesn’t have the wide-market appeal as their more mainstream titles.
At the book’s end it has a little bio about the artist where it notes that Naono Bohra has created over 20 manga, yet only two of them have been released in English (the other being Yokai’s Hunger from Media Blasters). I really hope this is the start of something. Despite some plot bumps, Three Wolves Mountain is a solid one-volume with fun characters, great atmosphere and art worth ogling, more than enough to assure any future works of hers will be on many a boys’ love buyers’ list.
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Book provided by SuBLime Manga for review purposes