The Dawn Of Love, by Kazuho Hirokawa
November 2008, Digital Manga Publishing
I had one of those moments, when I saw this on the shelf. I often go trolling for yaoi, and I’m often disappointed. But every once in a while, I spot a cover that makes me suck in my breath and pause a moment, building the anticipation. Is this going to look as good when I pick it up? Flip through it? I sort of circle the book for a moment, glancing at other titles, trying not to rush the moment. Flirting with it. Then I pick it up and find out if it’s love or what.
Different things attract me. Sometimes it’s the design; sometimes it’s the art. Pretty colors, even. (I’m just a magpie of a yaoi enthusiast.) Maybe a combination thereof. When I saw The Dawn Of Love, I laughed out loud. It’s the gayest looking cover I have ever seen. Really. Look at it. Oh, wait; you need to see the back, too.
ZOMG, as they say. Big, pink flowers, frilly clothes – and, holy shit, a pink velvet suit! – classic romance novel pose, pink nail polish. So gay! I was delighted. Delighted, I tell you. I didn’t even look at the plot synopsis – I didn’t care. It’s not like I wanted to discuss string theory with it, right? I am capable of being incredibly superficial in cases like this, and after staring at the cover of this book for a few seconds, I was ready to buy it a drink and take it home.
Or to a love hotel, which would be appropriate for this title, since there’s a lot of sex, and almost all of it happens in love hotels. That’s significant to the plot, by the way. The author’s notes include this adorable bit: “Unbelievably, [the main characters] spend 45% of the time naked! The story still manages to progress somehow, thanks to these two characters, the love hotel guidebook I obtained several years ago, and my photo-illustrated manual of sexual positions, The Shijuhatte.” (The Shijuhatte, known as the Japanese Kama Sutra, is a trip by itself – there’s a Japanese version you can browse on your cell phone, but for English speakers, this NOT EVEN REMOTELY WORKSAFE but strangely hilarious site will, er, fill you in.) Anyway, there’s a lot of sex in this manga. A lot. Well-drawn sex, in my opinion. And lots of it. All in service of the plot, mind you. (That was a little joke there. Get it? Service?)
There is a plot, really. Masahiro, who’s a goofball, but studly, falls head over heels for Takane, who’s a man-slut, but – well, that’s all. It must be the perm. He’s appealing, no doubt about it, but we don’t find out a lot about why someone would fall so hard for him. No matter! Masahiro has enough personality for both of them, and Takane does eventually come around (presumably that isn’t really a spoiler; for the love of God, look at the cover!). The characters really are endearing, in part because their faces are so expressive. Kirokawa really has a knack for capturing broad swathes of emotion and telling little nuances.
Within the first few pages, Masahiro convinces Takane to have sex with him. (How? He asks.) After being with Takane once, Masahiro decides he must have him, and Takane agrees to be more than casual “sex friends” if Masahiro can keep him entertained for an entire week. Masahiro is up for the challenge, and his condition, upon winning his prize, is that Takane kiss off the rest of the guys he’s been seeing. Complications ensue. Complications are resolved. It’s satisfying. Masahiro and Takane sail off into the big gay romantic sunset. Happy sigh. (And suddenly I’m thinking of that Lemonheads song from the ’90s – “Big Gay Heart.” I like that song.)
You can’t really tell from the plot synopsis, but this manga is full-on charming. Takane is sultry and comes across as a free spirit. Masahiro is kind of an idiot savant. He’s loud and profane and kind of embarrassing, but he understands about love, and he’s arrogant, self-assured, and smart enough to make Takane understand, as well. His asides are the kind of thing that usually make me wince – and I did wince a few times, but I always laughed. Maybe I’m more in touch with my inner Kiss t-shirt wearing 13-year-old boy than I should be, but “relieve my errant wood” cracks me up. And “But your wiener’s pretty good, too, right?” “Of course! Another guy could never beat my wiener!” I mean, it’s painful, but it also made me laugh so hard my coffee came out through my nose. (Beat my wiener. Heh.)
There’s also an older story, “A Flower Awaits Summer.” The art is much less subtle (in the author’s notes, Hirokawa laments this: “Why? Why are the lines so thick, me of three years ago?!”). It’s still cute, though, and those expressive faces are already in evidence. The theme is not drastically different from that of the main story – a younger man who’s afraid of being hurt is convinced to give love a chance. (In the main story, which is rather nuanced, strange as that might sound, the one who needs convincing needs convincing because he’s never been in love and doesn’t understand what it means.) It’s short and sweet, despite the thickness of the lines.
Romantic sex. Sexy romance. Character development. Happy endings. Lots and lots of flowers. Wee!