Manga Giveaway: Juné Manga Giveaway Winner

FlutterAnd the winner of the Juné Manga Giveaway is…Muteee!

As the winner, Muteee will be receiving a copy of Flutter by Momoko Tenzen as published by Juné, one of Digital Manga’s boys’ love and yaoi imprints. Because it was June and the wordplay amused me, I decided to hold a Juné giveaway, asking those who were participating to tell me a little about their favorite Juné manga (if they had one). After ten years of publishing and over four hundred volumes of manga and novels, there are quite a few Juné titles to choose from. Because I enjoy making lists, I’ve gathered everyone’s responses (and added a few additional favorites of my own) below. Check out the giveaway comments if you want all the details, though!

Some favorite Juné manga:
Café Latte Rhapsody by Toko Kawai
Caramel by Puku Okuyama
Cut by Toko Kawai
Deadlock written by Saki Aida, illustrated by Yuu Takashina
Dear Myself by Eiki Eiki
Don’t Say Anymore, Darling by Fumi Yoshinaga
Hero Heel by Makoto Tateno
Gorgeous Carat Galaxy by You Higuri
I Give to You by Maki Ebishi
In the Walnut by Toko Kawai
Invisible Boy by Hotaru Odagiri
Kiss Blue by Keiko Kinoshita
Little Butterfly by Hinako Takanaga
Loveholic by Toko Kawai
Ludwig II by You Higuri
Maiden Rose by Fusanosuke Inariya
Men of Tattoos by Yuiji Aniya
The Moon and the Sandals by Fumi Yoshinaga
Mr. Mini Mart by Junko
Necratoholic by Maguro Wasabi
No Touching at All by Kou Yoneda
Only Serious about You by Kai Asou
Only the Ring Finger Knows written by Satoru Kannagi and illustrated by Hotaru Odagiri
Our Everlasting by Toko Kawai
Rin! written by Satoru Kannagi and illustrated by Yukine Honami
Same Cell Organism by Sumomo Yumeka
Seven Days written by Venio Tachibana and illustrated by Rihito Takarai
Solfege by Fumi Yoshinaga
Thirsty for Love written by Satosumi Takaguchi and illustrated by Yukine Honami
Time Lag written by Shinobu Gotoh, illustrated by Hotaru Odagiri
The Tyrant Falls in Love by Hinako Takanaga
Yellow by Makoto Tateno

Thank you to everyone who shared their favorites with me. There are a few manga on the above list that I actually haven’t yet read that I’ll need to track down now. Hope to see you all again for the next giveaway!

Stay Close to Me

Creator: Yaya Sakuragi
U.S. publisher: Digital Manga
ISBN: 9781569701423
Released: October 2010
Original run: 2005

Stay Close to Me is the third of Yaya Sakuragi’s works to be licensed in English. I happen to be a fan of Sakuragi (Her Hey, Sensei? was the first yaoi manga that I ever read) and so I was very excited for the release of Stay Close to Me and hope to see even more of her titles available in English. Stay Close to Me, originally published in Japan in 2005, was translated and published by Digital Manga under its Juné imprint in 2010. (Hey, Sensei? was also released through Juné while Sakuragi’s series Tea for Two was published as part of Tokyopop’s Blu Manga line.) I preordered Stay Close to Me as soon as I was able, even before I knew what it was about, simply because it had Sakuragi’s name on it. Unfortunately, there was a distribution mix up and so I actually ended up getting my copy over a month late. I was very happy to see it finally arrive and was very happy to finally have the opportunity to read more of Sakuragi’s work.

Stay Close to Me contains two stories. The first is the four act title story “Stay Close to Me” and the second is the shorter, two part “Play to Win.” “Stay Close to Me” follows Yuzu who is absurdly tall for his age and towers over his classmates, something he is terribly self-conscious of since this includes Icchan, his heart’s desire and “prince.” Icchan has looked out for Yuzu ever since the two were in elementary school together. Although he would wish it otherwise, Yuzu is resigned to being decidedly un-princess like due to his size and so concentrates on becoming the best homemaker he can for Icchan. Unfortunately, his single-minded devotion to his prince means Yuzu can be a bit oblivious and easily flustered when it comes to other people seeking his affection. In “Play to Win,” Ohga unexpectedly runs into Takatsuki, a brilliant former classmate of his. It turns out that Takatsuki has a bit of a gambling problem and Ohga agrees to let him crash at his place for the rainy season. But despite the problems Takatsuki causes for him, Ohga comes to realize he doesn’t want him to leave.

I have always been fond of Sakuragi’s lanky character designs and in the case of Yuzu, her style is a perfect fit. Not only is he obviously tall, but Sakuragi is able to capture his self-consciousness and physical awkwardness in his facial expressions and posture. “Stay Close to Me” is a little different art-wise than much of Sakuragi’s other work. In the author’s note, she mentions that she kept thinking to herself “shoujo manga” while working on it, throwing in more sparkles and flowers than she normally uses but to great effect. Stay Close to Me is definitely played as comedy and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. This is particularly true of the title story, but “Play to Win” also has its goofy moments. The humor is also evident in Sakuragi’s art with overly dramatic poses and panels accompanied by groan-inducing, ridiculous (but in a good way) dialogue.

One of the things I appreciate most about Sakuragi’s work is how she plays around with yaoi tropes and stereotypes. “Stay Close to Me” has an obvious reversal with an uke being untypically taller than his seme. But at the same time, Yuzu is still sensitive and prone to blushing. However, the princess can still take care of himself and, when the situation calls for it, his prince. The approach in “Play to Win” is more subtly different with the portrayal of its characters’ personalities and attitudes. Even though the story is short, Ohga and Takatsuki show a surprising amount of depth and come across as real people with both good and bad traits. At one point, Yuzu is described as being both hilarious and adorable, which I think is a pretty good description of the manga as well. Hilarious might be a little strong, but there is no denying that Stay Close to Me is funny, cute, and sweet. It is certainly the most comedic of Sakuragi’s work currently available in English. Stay Close to Me is not perfect, but I liked the story, loved the art, and adored the characters.

Hey, Sensei?

Creator: Yaya Sakuragi
U.S. publisher: Digital Manga
ISBN: 9781569700471
Released: April 2009
Original run: 2007

It is almost entirely the fault of Yaya Sakuragi’s Hey, Sensei? that I am now gladly suffering from an addiction to yaoi. Before Hey, Sensei?, I had never read yaoi. I had a basic understanding of the genre, but for whatever reason I had never tried it. (It actually really surprises me how long it took me to get around to reading any.) So, when I came across a review on Graphic Novel Reporter praising Hey, Sensei?, especially for not falling into some of the traps of the genre, I figured “Hey, why not? I gotta start somewhere.” I tracked down a copy with a little bit of difficulty and when it finally arrived I only allowed myself one chapter a day to make it last. Since then I’ve read plenty more yaoi and continue to do so but Hey, Sensei? remains one of my favorites—not just because it was my first yaoi manga, but because it is really quite good.

Hey, Sensei? actually contains two stories: the main story “Hey, Sensei?” which is four acts and an epilogue, and “Unbreakable Bones,” which is a one-shot. In “Hey, Sensei?”, high school math teacher Isa is taken aback when his ex-girlfriend’s younger brother, now one of his students, makes a pass at him during a review lesson. Isa can hardly take the situation seriously—what could Homura possibly see in a guy ten years older than him? The age difference will cause some difficulties, and they communicate terribly, but the two men have fallen hard for each other. In “Unbreakable Bones” two childhood friends are unexpectedly reunited after fourteen years. After growing apart, Yuji became a juvenile delinquent although he’s turned his life around and is now working in a ramen shop, while Manabu has become the small town’s local policeman. Yuji hates the idealized memories Manabu has of him, only to realize that he’s the one stuck in the past.

I really enjoy Sakuragi’s art style. Her men are distinctive and handsome and are unmistakably male. Her figures are elongated and angular, particularly noticeable in the hands and fingers and in the long, lanky legs when standing. These slightly odd proportions may bother some people, but I quite like the effect and love her character designs. Sakuragi also does a fantastic job with facial expressions, especially with the eyes; the characters don’t always come out and say what they’re feeling but it’s pretty apparent just by looking at them. She is also skilled in showing the same character at different ages and make the changes look natural while still being identifiable. One issue that I did have with the art was that the genitals were blurred out or erased. However, I’m not sure if this is the case in the original Japanese version or if the art has been censored for the United States which does happen. Either way, I found it distracting and feel that it calls more attention to itself that way.

While the stories in Hey, Sensei? may not be particularly original, Sakuragi makes up for it with the depth of her characters and their feelings for one another. Homura is immature, hot-tempered and brash but ultimately very sincere while Isa is inexperienced, sensitive and reserved but very capable of being stern when necessary; Yuji and Manabu’s relationship is also very sweet. The translation has an occasional awkward moment but overall is very good. In addition to Hey, Sensei? becoming a favorite, I have also become a huge fan of Yaya Sakuragi—I’ve also read and loved her Tea for Two series—and will pick up anything that she has worked on. However, Hey, Sensei? will always hold a special place for me. It’s one manga, yaoi or not, that I come back to again and again.