Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 4

Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 4Creator: Yaya Sakuragi
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421552354
Released: May 2013
Original release: 2011

Ever since reading and enjoying Yaya Sakuragi’s Hey, Sensei?, I’ve made a point to follow her work as it’s translated into English. Sakuragi’s boys’ love manga tends to make very heavy use of the genre’s tropes, but generally with a slight twist or unexpected approach that make them just a little bit different. I enjoy that aspect of Sakuragi’s manga, her somewhat quirky sense of humor, and the lanky designs of many of her characters. I also appreciate that she includes important female characters in her stories. Taking all of that into consideration, I was pretty happy when Sublime Manga, the boys’ love imprint associated with Viz Media, licensed one of Sakuragi’s more recent series Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love. The manga is tangentially related to another of Sakuragi’s series—Tea for Two released by Tokyopop’s Blu Manga imprint back in the day—and Sublime has also licensed Hide and Seek, which is a spinoff of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love. The fourth and final volume of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love was originally published in Japan in 2011 while the English-language edition was released in 2013.

After strong urging from his brother, mother, and grandmother, Ao has finally made up his mind to bury his own feelings about the matter and live with his mother and twin. He does have some regrets though, especially considering that the move will mean he won’t be able to see his beloved Ryomei very often anymore. But although Ao has made a decision, he is still torn and uncertain. To make the situation even more complicated, Ryomei has started to return Ao’s feelings and has even begun to express them physically. But thanks to some miscommunication on both of their parts, Ao believes that Ryomei is acting out of pity rather than genuine affection. Mostly because he finds it embarrassing, Ryomei has never been particularly forthcoming about his developing feelings for Ao, whereas Ao has never felt the need to hide his love for the older man and doesn’t hesitate to be very vocal about it. Now that Ryomei is showing his interest only after Ao has announced his decision to move, the younger man can’t help but feel confused.

Throughout Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love it has always been obvious that Ryomei cares very deeply for Ao. He looks out for him and his well-being and even goes out of his way to do things to make him happy—granted, more often than not Ryomei does so in secret. However, I was never entirely convinced that those feelings were of a romantic nature; even Ryomei seems to have to work to convince himself that they are. Ultimately he is able to show and declare his love, but it feels less like natural growth and more like a convenient plot development. It is kind of cute to see a grown man so completely flustered and embarrassed, though. And then there’s Ao, who I’m pretty sure is incapable of embarrassment and is completely lacking awareness of socially acceptable behavior and conversation, which can be pretty entertaining. He’s very much a horny teenager, so in the fourth volume of Bond of Dreams Bond, Bond of Love it’s nice to see him start to really become aware of the emotional aspects of his and Ryomei’s relationship in addition to his fixation on the physical ones.

After a fair amount of teasing on Sakuragi’s part, Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love reaches its climax with the fourth volume. Dreams—wet dreams, daydreams, and even the occasional nightmare—have been a part of the series from the beginning, but now those dreams (the better ones) are becoming a reality for Ao. This more or less means that he and Ryomei finally have sex. Actually, there’s quite a bit of sex in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 4. The series has been building up to it and the scenes, like the rest of the manga, have a somewhat ridiculous sense of humor to them. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love is not at all a serious series. What it lacks in believability and realism it makes up for with its slightly absurd characters, their clashing personalities, and their amusing interactions and relationships. I admit it: the manga managed to make me laugh on a regular basis. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love can be a bit uneven at times, and the series isn’t my favorite manga by Sakuragi, but for the most part I ended up enjoying its silliness. And I do still look forward to reading Hide and Seek.

Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 3

Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 3Creator: Yaya Sakuragi
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421549781
Released: February 2013
Original release: 2010

Yaya Sakuragi has had several of her boys’ love manga released in English. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love was the second of her series to be licensed. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love is loosely connected to her earlier series Tea for Two. Reading Tea for Two isn’t at all necessary to understand Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, but it does provide more details about one of the character’s back stories. Sakuragi was actually my introduction to yaoi and boys’ love manga and I continue to be very fond of her work. I like her particular sense of humor and lanky character designs. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love isn’t my favorite of her works, but I’m still largely enjoying the manga; it’s a rather goofy series. The third volume of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love was originally published in Japan in 2010. The English-language edition was released in 2013 by Sublime Manga, the boys’ love imprint associated with Viz Media.

There are some big changes occurring in Ao’s life. One of the biggest is that he might be moving out of his grandmother’s place and transferring schools in order to live with his mother and his twin brother Aka. Ao’s not too keen on the idea, especially since it would mean he would see Ryomei less, but more than one person has encouraged him to make the move, believing it to be in his best interest. Even though Ao’s life has been thrown into turmoil his preoccupation with Ryomei is still foremost on his mind. He somehow even manages to convince the older man to go on a date with him, though it doesn’t exactly turn out how either of them expected it would. As for Ryomei, he continues to be somewhat baffled by and conflicted over Ao’s advances. He’ trying to work out just what his feelings really are for the younger man, but it hasn’t been an easy process. And with Ao potentially moving away, Ryomei had better figure it out sooner rather than later.

Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love started with a wet dream (Ao’s, to be specific) and dreams and daydreams have continued to be a recurring element in the series. But now with the third volume, Ryomei has to deal with them, too. It’s a nice way to tie the narrative together and show the parallels between Ryomei and Ao’s feelings as the develop. Another way that Sakuragi show these parallels is through Ryomei and Ao’s not-quite-date, which is handled exceptionally well in the manga. Though the two of them are on the same outing they are experience it very differently. As a reader it’s interesting to be able to simultaneously see and compare their thoughts and reactions while they themselves are completely unaware of how the other person is interpreting the events. It’s a situation in which the lack of communication is completely believable. Both Ao and Ryomei are holding back, but for different reasons—Ao is worried about scaring Ryomei off while Ryomei is understandably concerned about his changing feelings for Ao.

For me, Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love works best as a comedy and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, which is not to say there aren’t some genuinely touching and occasionally bittersweet moments. However, the series excels in its humor and reaction shots. In general the characters’ faces are all very expressive and dynamic, but Ryomei, who tries so hard to be serious and reserved, has some of the best expressions. He has become hyper-aware of how he interacts with Ao and it shows. Despite the focus of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love being on Ao and Ryomei, the series actually has a fairly large cast of secondary characters who all have their roles to play, too. This includes a fair number of important female characters, which can be a rarity in boys’ love manga. However, it’s Ao’s best friend Shunpei who remains one of my favorites. (Shunpei is also the character from Tea for Two; I’d love to see him get his own series at some point.) Ao’s twin brother Aka, who is constantly on edge, can be pretty entertaining, too. With its slightly ridiculous and over-the-top characters and interactions, Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love has really grown on me, and there’s still one more volume to go.

Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 2

Creator: Yaya Sakuragi
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421549583
Released: November 2012
Original release: 2009

Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 2 by mangaka Yaya Sakuragi was first released in Japan in 2009. The English-language edition of the volume was published in 2012 by Viz Media’s boys’ love imprint Sublime. I consider my self a fan of Sakuragi’s work and so am very happy that Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love is being released in English. It’s her second series to be licensed, following the tangentially related Tea for Two. Sakuragi also previously had two one-shot boys’ love titles published in English: Hey, Sensei? and Stay Close to Me. Although Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love isn’t my favorite manga by Sakuragi, I still quite enjoyed the goofiness of the first volume and its characters. I was looking forward to reading the second volume, and not just because I’ve already read everything else available by Sakuragi in English.

While at first Ao wasn’t sure, after somehow convincing Ryomei to submit to a kiss he is now certain: he is in love with the older man. Ryomei on the other hand, while being rather fond of Ao, isn’t quite ready to accept those affections. Unfortunately, turning Ao down without crushing his feelings turns out to be a difficult task and Ryomei is a little harsher than he really intended to be. Heartbroken after being rejected, Ao comes to realize how much he really does care about Ryomei. Shunpei, who feels he’s partly to blame for the situation, is concerned for his best friend. He, like Ryomei, didn’t understand just how serious Ao was about the neighborhood Shinto priest. And to make matters worse, Ao’s brother Aka, who he doesn’t seem to get along with well at all, is in town with some potentially troubling news.

Sakuragi admitted in the first volume of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love that the series reflected some of her personal preferences when it comes to boys’ love manga, specifically a couple with a significant age difference and traditional Japanese attire. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, while remaining its own series, incorporates many elements found in Sakuragi’s other works: a younger man aggressively pursuing an older, more reserved partner (Hey, Sensei?), karate and traditional Japanese culture, not to mention Shunpei (Tea for Two), cakes and pastries and a slightly airheaded lead (Stay Close to Me), and so on. But even though Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love shares these and other characteristics, the way that Sakuragi has pulled them all together in the series doesn’t really feel repetitive even if it does seem as though she’s thrown in anything and everything she personally likes. And I’m perfectly okay with that.

So far, Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love is a rather silly manga and won’t be to everyone’s taste. For me, that is part of the series’ odd charm. I don’t think I would like Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love nearly as well if Sakuragi had taken a more serious and realistic approach with the story. Most of the humor comes from the characters’ personalities. I was unsure of Ao at first—he’s very different from most of Sakuragi’s characters—but he’s really grown on me. He is delightfully crass and blunt, readily speaking his mind and completely oblivious to the discomfort and social awkwardness this causes others. He doesn’t embarrass easily (if at all) unlike Ryomei who is constantly being caught off-guard and greatly flustered by Ao. At this point in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love it is clear that Ryomei cares deeply for the younger man, but this has yet to develop into a romantic love. I’m very curious to see how their relationship will progress.

Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 1

Creator: Yaya Sakuragi
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421549569
Released: August 2012
Original release: 2008

Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love is the fourth yaoi manga by Yaya Sakuragi to be licensed in English, but only her second series. I have been a fan of Sakuragi’s work since reading her one-shot Hey, Sensei?. I like her character designs and enjoy how she gives small twists to the tropes commonly used in the boys love genre. I was thrilled when Sublime, Viz Media’s new boys’ love imprint, announced that Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love had been licensed. The series is one of Sakuragi’s more recent works. The first volume of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love was originally released in Japan in 2008. Sublime’s English-language edition of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 1 was published in 2012. I actually wasn’t familiar with the series until Sublime had announced its acquisition. But even though I didn’t know very much about it, I was still very excited to see more of Sakuragi’s work being released in English.

Ryomei has been an important person in Ao’s life for years. Ever since Ao was small Ryomei, one of the priests at the local Shinto shrine, has been keeping a protective eye out for the younger man. Ao is now in high school and despite his cutesy looks is fairly capable of taking care of himself, at least when he isn’t completely oblivious to what’s going on around him. But when Roymei appears in his wet dream, Ao is at a complete loss as to what to do. He’s always been fond of Ryomei, but never expected his feelings would evolve into that kind of fondness. Curious, and against the advice of his best friend Shunpei, Ao beings his pursuit of the older man. As for Ryomei, he’s left aghast and confused, caught off guard by Ao’s sudden advances. The cute little kid he used to look out for has now become a horny, pervy teenager. Roymei never even considered that he would become the object of Ao’s desires and affection.

I didn’t realize it at first, but Shunpei is actually a character from another of Sakuragi’s series, Tea for Two. I was delighted to see him again in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love. In Tea for Two he was an elementary school student, but in this series he has now grown into a fine young man. I was also delighted with Ao’s character. Although initially I wasn’t that fond of him or his character design (Sakuragi deliberately set out to create a cute uke, but I much prefer her usual, lanky designs), I came to like Ao very much. He’s a bit of an airheaded goofball with a one-track mind who at the same time is easily distracted. Much of the humor in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love revolves around the fact that Ao’s personality is seemingly at odds with what might be expected from his innocent looks. He’s a cute character, but he’s also the most dirty-minded person in the series.

Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 1 is not at all a serious manga, tending more towards a lighthearted goofiness. The interactions between characters, especially when Ao is involved somehow, are highly amusing. The best reactions are reserved for Ryomei; normally he comes across as vaguely disgruntled and seeing him shocked and startled is very entertaining. The cast in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love is huge, easily the largest I’ve seen Sakuragi work with. Ao and Ryomei may be the main characters but their friends, neighbors, and extended families all have a important roles in the manga; there is a real sense of community. I’m interested in seeking how Sakuragi will handle and balance the development of all of the characters over the course of the four-volume series. At this point, I wouldn’t say Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love is my favorite work by Sakuragi, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume and look forward to reading more.