Manga-ka: Tsuta Suzuki
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: June 2011
Synopsis: “Hart Matsumoto will never be able to erase the painful memories of his abusive mother and her rotating cast of lovers…but he also can’t help but be drawn to Shibuzawa, one of the kindest men to ever set foot in his tumultuous home. Is this strange yakuza actually the best thing in Hart’s crazy life? And how will Shibuzawa react once he discovers Hart’s true feelings?”
Short story collections of boys’ love are kind of like buffets, in that you get your pick of several different dishes. In Your Story I’ve Known, there’s a story between a yakuza and a naive young man, another featuring two high school students, another one about a teenage boy and the ghost of a long-dead samurai, and a romance between two co-workers. But, while you can count on buffets and BL anthologies for variety, sometimes the quality isn’t as good as you’d get in a normal restaurant or single story graphic novel. Sometimes you’ll love one dish and the others will leave you wanting. And, unlike a buffet, you can’t go back for more of the dish you like.
The main story revolves around Shibuzawa, a Japanese gang member, and Hart, a young man who works at a host club. Hart and Shibuzawa have a history together as Shibuzawa used to go out with Hart’s mom. The two have remained friends, though it’s clear that Hart is in love with Shibuzawa. As for Shibuzawa, his feelings for the kid are a little more complicated. You can see him struggling to be the father-figure/big brother Hart never had while at the same time not giving in to his more romantic feelings.
When Shibuzawa finds out some tragic news about Hart’s mother, his protective instincts kick into overdrive. Without telling Hart what he’s learned, he takes the kid into his home and finally confesses that he loves Hart back (oh, and in case this is starting to sound too fluffy, they also have sex). But while the two of them make a cute couple there’s a dark undercurrent to their happiness. Shibuzawa knows that he should tell Hart about his mother, but he just can’t stand the thought of hurting the kid. Of course, this just makes it all the worse when Hart does find out.
Being the title story, Your Story I’ve Known is the longest story in the book, clocking in at a hundred pages and taking up a third of the volume. Despite being considerably longer than the other stories, I still wanted more when I was done. Hart and Shibuzawa are a really cute couple and the manga-ka adds just enough twists in their relationship. Shibuzawa and Hart look like the typical seme and uke pair- Shibuzawa is tall, dark and brooding while Hart is shorter, blond and eternally cheerful- but in the sex scenes Shibuzawa is the one who bottoms (though he still is the dominant partner in bed too, setting the pace and telling Hart what to do).
I would gladly read a whole graphic novel featuring these two. Not only are they interesting characters, there are still lots of places their relationship could go. Also the manga-ka does a good job of creating an engaging world around them filled with interesting side characters. I’d love to dive into the minor cast’s stories, like Hart’s wingman at the host club or Shibuzawa’s yakuza boss.
But, instead of sticking with Shibuzawa and Hart, the book moves onto the next story. The next story, ‘Sautéed Onions’ does not feature onions of any kind, unless ‘sautéed onions’ is slang for ‘horny teenage boys’ (I just can’t keep up with slang today). Tama and Negi have been friends since they were in elementary school. Now that they are in high school they’ve started to see each other differently. The story bounces around chronologically and the manga-ka doesn’t do a good job of establishing the different time frames. At its heart it’s a pretty straight-forward story and it feels like the manga-ka added the time jumps just to make it slightly less conventional. Instead it just makes it confusing. It also didn’t help that I didn’t find Tama and Negi to be all that interesting. It seemed like theirs was less of a love story and more of a ‘hey we’re best friends and we’re both really horny, so wanna do it?’ line of events.
‘As Long as You Can Hear Me’ has slightly better characters, but it was another one that I just couldn’t get into. Shota is a high school tough guy, but he only uses his fighting prowess to beat down bullies. Zengo Saito is the ghost of a samurai. Zengo is impressed by Shota’s sense of honour and starts following the poor kid around everywhere. While at first Shota is ticked off at having a ghostly stalker, eventually he comes to like, and even fall in love with, Zengo.
The story was cute and light-hearted, but I just can’t get into ghost-love stories. I can’t see things working out between someone who still has their whole life to live and someone who doesn’t even exist on this mortal plane anymore. That’s my own personal taste and ‘As Long as You Can Hear Me’ didn’t bug me as much as these kinds of stories usually do.
The last storyline in the book, ‘Without the Gods Seeing’, is my second favourite in the collection. When Narasaki’s co-worker, Wakakki, asks him out, Narasaki doesn’t know what to think. He doesn’t see why anyone, let alone another guy, would want to go out with him: he’s anti-social, quiet, and hides behind his ridiculously long bangs. But as Wakakki (and the reader) can see, he’s cute in his own way, and a kind person as well.
Wakakki isn’t as fleshed out as Narasaki, but he still seems like an intriguing guy from the bits we see. The relationship between them is cute but realistic: when Narasaki agrees to go out with Wakakki, it’s with a ‘let’s see where this goes’ attitude rather than ‘We’ll be together for ever!’ declaration that a lot of yaoi manga go for. It’s also interesting that it’s hard to pin down who’s the uke and who’s the seme. The manga-ka herself confessed that she couldn’t decide, hence the lack of sex scenes in Wakakki and Narasaki’s story.
Even though the stories were hit or miss, the ones I liked I liked a lot. Plus, I’m a big fan of Tsuta Suzuki’s artwork. She’s able to draw a wide variety of characters and make them all appealing in their own way. I especially like the way she does noses: they’re small but she still manages to get some detail in there. She strikes a good balance between using things like screen tones and background detail to add to both the setting and atmosphere of a story.
Your Story I’ve Known is well worth checking out if you want a collection of cute boys’ love stories. Sure, there were some that didn’t do much for me, but mostly because of my own tastes more than any misstep on the manga-ka’s part.
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Book provided by Digital Manga for review purposes