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Writer: Maki Kazumi
Artist: Yukine Honami
Published by Digital Manga Publishing; $12.95 USD

The cover of Maki Kazumi’s and Yukine Honami’s single-volume manga, Desire, explicitly labels the book as a “yaoi series,” the peculiar to some Americans sub genre of girl’s manga which depicts stories of love and sex between young men. I don’t know that the label is entirely necessary, however, as the cover art depicting two pretty teenage boys looking pensive and sexy while ethereal white light and feathers float about them promises the sort of delicately drawn, randy romances for which the genre is famous. In any case, Desire makes good on this promise.

The story and characters are fairly simple, but the creators do a good job of sustaining an appropriate amount of tension throughout. The plot gets rolling on the first page: Ryoji, a handsome boy known for his success with girls, confesses to his best friend, Toru, that Ryoji is “turned on” by Toru. The shy Toru, of course, has harbored a secret crush on Ryoji for some time, and is shocked by this revelation. Before Toru can get too excited about the prospects of a romantic relationship with his friend, Ryoji suggests that the two of them sleep together, largely to satisfy Ryoji’s own curiosity about his feelings towards Toru. The proposition both offends and intrigues Toru. Although he is desperately attracted to Ryoji, the prospect of a sexual relationship devoid of romantic context is devastating to him. This inner turmoil is not unlike that experienced by many teenagers, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and Toru’s conflicting emotions serve to underscore and heighten the sexual tension that leads up to the inevitable sex scene.

And what a sex scene. For twenty pages (counting shower foreplay) Kazumi and Honami depict the encounter between the experienced Ryoji and virginal Toru with an astonishing amount of craft and eroticism. This is not pornography, however. We don’t see any naughty bits, but it is nevertheless clear exactly what these boys are doing and how they are doing it. The creators do not shy away from the fact that this is gay sex, and while some of the activities engaged in by the boys are particular to those practiced by gay males, the clarity and passion which the author and artist bring to the depiction of said activities allow the scene to resonate with a universal emotional truth. It is worth noting, too, that the sex scene occurs only about halfway through the book, and the following chapters deal with the aftermath of the encounter, maintaining all the while a sexy and dramatic tension until the book’s conclusion.

I don’t mean to make too much of Desire. The work is not really groundbreaking and the themes it wrestles with are fairly modest in scope. The ending of the story wraps things up a bit too neatly for my tastes, but it is more or less consistent with the characters and tone previously established. On the whole, Desire offers an engaging tale of love and lust between two boys which is genuinely erotic and compelling. The book should more than adequately satisfy the demands of its target audience.

-- Pat Markfort

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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