Ever since reading and enjoying Hey, Sensei?, my introduction to boys’ love manga, I have made a point to follow the work of Yaya Sakuragi in English. And so I was particularly pleased when Hide and Seek—one of her most recent series, completed at three volumes in Japan in 2014—was licensed. The first volume of Hide and Seek was published in Japan in 2012 while the English-language edition was released in 2013 by Viz Media’s Sublime Manga. Hide and Seek is a spinoff of another of Sakuragi’s boys’ love series, Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, which in turn is tangentially related to her earlier four-volume manga Tea for Two. (Tea for Two and Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love share a supporting character while another supporting character in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love is one of the leads of Hide and Seek.) Although technically all three series are loosely connected, it is not necessary to have read the first two series in order to understand or enjoy Hide and Seek. However, those who have read Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love will better appreciate some of the secondary characters and minor references that are made.
Shuji Tanihara is single, divorced, and currently the parent who is primarily responsible for taking care of Chii, his young daughter. Granted, sometimes it seems as though she is really the one taking care of him. Between Chii, tending the small candy store he owns, and the occasional drink with friends, Shuji doesn’t have much else going on in his life. He’s happy, but also a little bored. But that changes when his shop unexpectedly gains a new customer—Saji, a young, successful doctor whose serious and reserved personality is the complete opposite of Shuji’s relaxed, easy-going attitude. Saji is gay and Shuji, while not usually attracted to other men, has developed an interest in him as well. Though in the past he was a notorious heartbreaker, it’s been a while since Shuji has dated anyone. He intends to enjoy his fling with Saji, but what he didn’t anticipate was actually falling for the guy.
Hide and Seek may very well be one of Sakuragi’s strongest manga yet. And, if the first volume is anything to judge by, it’s also one of her works with the most sexual content. What is perhaps most thrilling about that is the sex in Hide and Seek is completely consensual between two mature, adult men. There are absolutely no dubious connotations, means, or coercion involved. (Sadly, all of this seems to be somewhat rare in boys’ love manga.) Both Shuji and Saji know what they want in bed and they actually communicate, going on to enjoy themselves without shame; Shuji is sexually adventurous and Saji, it turns out, is an especially skilled, experienced, and considerate lover. Though they have their differences, the two men enter into their relationship as equals. Most importantly, they respect each other, which is wonderful to see. Their interactions both inside the bedroom and outside of it reveal a lot about them as individuals.
The sex in Hide and Seek is great (Shuji and Saji would be the first to admit this), but the series’ drama and heart is found elsewhere. While there is still plenty of humor and lightheartedness to be seen in the first volume, Hide and Seek is one of Sakuragi’s more serious manga, especially when compared to its immediate predecessor Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love. Shuji in particular comes across as a slightly more responsible adult than he did in that earlier series, although he is still very carefree and gets a kick out of provoking people to get a reaction out of them. His personality both conflicts with and complements Saji’s. This becomes the basis of much of the series’ humor. It’s also the source of the manga’s drama. Saji, despite his kindness and thoughtful nature, can be socially awkward and has been rejected many times before by other flighty partners reluctant to take a relationship too seriously. Shuji and Saji are a mismatch but seem perfect for each other. I’m anxious to see how their relationship continues to develop.