yakuza in love
Yakuza in Love
Shiuko Kano, Deux Press, 2008

Love. Really – love. Hand-flailing, stupid grinning, trying to cover up the sex scenes with my hand on the crowded train love. I love Shiuko Kano – I love Tough Love Baby, and I love Kiss All the Boys. But I have a special love for this three-volume series. I mean, yakuza. In love. If you need much more than that, you’re a hard woman or man indeed.

Yes, yes, I know; it could have all failed miserably. Of course it could have. But it didn’t. It’s brilliant. The art is consistently good, with a slightly sort of hard-boiled style that reminds me of boy’s manga (you know – sort of), and the splash pages are so amazingly awesome I kind of swoon over them. The story is as funny and sexy and goofy as you could hope a title called Yakuza in Love would be.

Let me be completely clear: This is a ridiculous series. There are good gangsters, who are honorable and kind, and bad gangsters, who do bad things. That’s one of the reasons it works – the ridiculous holds together so well, is so seamless, that it is unassailable. It’s a smooth, perfectly spackled, freshly painted wall of ridiculous. And it thrills me. It reminds me of what I love so much about this genre – lovable characters who teeter precariously but don’t quite fall off a sheer cliff of absurdity. Also, batshit crazy plots and even crazier subplots, all mixed liberally with unapologetically over-the-top romance and hot sex. Really, Yakuza in Love is a delight, all three volumes of it. Order it right now, before Deux goes out of business. Seriously.

Wait just a minute, I hear you saying. I love Deux, too, but that’s $35.85, plus tax and/or shipping. It’s a recession, you dizzy tart. I need serious persuasion to lay down that kind of money. OK – I hear you. Here, without further teasing, is the “ZOMG You Really Need YIL in your Life, Buy It Now or I Swear to God I’ll Use More Acronyms” list.

1) The main character is a doofy, coltish baby gangster with a huge, cross-shaped scar on his face (like Kenshin!!!!!). He rises quickly in the organization – which is named the Flower Gang (which may not actually be funny in Japan but made me giggle happily) – because he saves the boss’ life. Not because he’s bad (well, maybe in the Michael Jackson sense of “I’m bad”), but because he shoves the boss aside when he’s about to step on a baby bird. (It’s one ugly-ass little bird, too.)


Every time I think about this page, I die again.

2) Cute, doofy, scar-faced baby bird saver picks up an older, mature, more gangster-like gangster (not picks up as in, “Hey baby, I’ve got a daddy complex, buy me a drink?” but as in driving the car to prison and holding the door open so the guy can get in). Tall, dark, and good-looking the younger falls in love with tall, dark, and good-looking the elder at first sight, complete with staring at him in the rear-view mirror and blushing. If you cross yourself at the thought of a daddy set-up, I’m right there with you, but this – is adorable.

3) The old-fashioned, good gangsters are honorable and promote chivalry.

yakuza in love

The bad, decadent new gangsters traffic in bad and decadent things like snuff films. Come on. Snuff films! This is good stuff. (Lighten up, y’all – they don’t really exist. They’re an urban myth. It’s OK to laugh.)

4) Dog reaction shot.

yakuza in love

5) Trans characters who are, yes, played for laughs, but arguably not more than any of the other characters. There’s a trans character with a small but important part who’s extremely likable and not treated like a freak. And within the context of the story, manly gangsters going to the trans bar is not considered exceptional behavior. This pleases me.

6) These gangsters are not afraid to show their emotions. They are very sensitive gangsters indeed. It is – you know what’s coming – adorable.

7) Super alternate ending, with absurdity warning!

OK. If you need more persuading, this series is obviously not for you. I can’t quite fathom how this could be, but I dimly understand that people do occasionally disagree with me. Go in peace anyway.

yakuza in love

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