Hide and Seek, Volume 3

Hide and Seek, Volume 3Creator: Yaya Sakuragi
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421579689
Released: March 2015
Original release: 2014

Yaya Sakuragi has had quite a few of her boys’ love manga translated and released in English: Tea for Two; Hey, Sensei?; Stay Close to Me; Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love; and, most recently, Hide and Seek. Hey, Sensei? was actually my introduction to boys’ love, and I tend to enjoy Sakuragi’s work, so I’ve made a point to read and collect it all. As for Hide and Seek, the third and final volume was originally published in Japan in 2014. The English-language edition was released in 2015 by Sublime Manga, the boys’ love imprint associated with Viz Media. Hide and Seek is technically a spinoff of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, but it stands completely on its own. However, readers familiar with Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love will likely appreciate the references made to the earlier series. Tea for Two is even more distantly related to Hide and Seek, the connection between the two being made indirectly through Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love. It’s not at all necessary to have read Tea for Two or Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love to enjoy Hide and Seek, but I do like how all three series are linked together.

It has been years since Shuji has been in a serious relationship. Although he’s still on good terms with his ex-wife, his marriage was a failure and he hasn’t done much more than casually play around since the divorce. But now, somewhat unexpectedly, Shuji finds himself in what may very well become something more long-term, and with another man no less. The relationship between Shuji and the young doctor Saji has had a few bumps along the way, and both of the men still occasionally feel insecure, but for the most part they’ve been able to move past the major drama. That doesn’t mean everything has been completely worked out, though. As grown adults, Shuji and Saji each have their own family responsibilities and careers to take into consideration. Shuji has his daughter Chii to look after and the business at his candy store isn’t as good as it once was while Saji is having a difficult time convincing his grandfather to allow him to take over the family’s local clinic. So, there are still a few matters that Shuji and Saji will need to address before their relationship can go much further.

Hide and Seek, Volume 3, page 68Although Hide and Seek tends to be more serious, mature, and realistic, especially when compared to its immediate predecessor Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, at the same time there is still plenty of humor and lightheartedness to the series. For example, the major dilemma in the first chapter of Hide and Seek, Volume 3 revolves around Shuji “manning up” in order to cuddle, with delightful results. Shuji’s love of costume and roleplay comes up again, too, which has been something of a running joke in both Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love and Hide and Seek. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the relationship between Shuji and Saji develop as the series has progressed; they’re adorable and surprisingly sweet together, even considering (or perhaps even because of) their drastically different personalities. It’s obvious that they each care tremendously for other person. What makes their relationship work, and one of the things that I particularly love about Hide and Seek, is their willingness to push through their initial fear and embarrassment over expressing themselves and actually communicate with each other.

Seeing as I had enjoyed Sakuragi’s earlier works, I was fairly confident that I would like Hide and Seek, too. What I didn’t anticipate was just how much the series would end up appealing to me; I think it may now even be my favorite Sakuragi manga. I find this to be a little surprising because, although Saji is a type of character that I’m usually fond of, in general Shuji wasn’t. But over the course of Hide and Seek I came to really like and care about him. He has evolved from simply being supporting comic relief in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love into a fully fledged, well-developed character in his own right. Much of Hide and Seek, Volume 3 is devoted to his family circumstances, which are revealed to be a little different than readers (and Saji, for that matter) were initially led to believe. Chii’s mother and her current boyfriend play a greater role, but the series implies and is open-ended enough that there is room for Saji, Shuji, and Chii to form a trio as well. Perhaps it’s optimism and wishful thinking on my part, but it makes me extremely happy that by the end of Hide and Seek, Chii may very well have gained two caring families.

Hide and Seek, Volume 2

Hide and Seek, Volume 2Creator: Yaya Sakuragi
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421558585
Released: March 2014
Original release: 2013

Hide and Seek is a three-volume boys’ love manga series by Yaya Sakuragi. The manga is a direct spinoff of another of Sakuragi’s boys’ love series, Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, which is itself tangentially related to her series Tea for Two. All three series can be read and enjoyed separately from one another, but there are some shared characters and references. Both Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love and Hide and Seek were licensed and released in English by Sublime Manga, the boys’ love imprint associated with Viz Media. (Tea for Two was published by Tokyopop’s Blu Manga imprint back in the day.) Hide and Seek, Volume 2 was originally released in Japan in 2013 while the English-language edition was released in 2014. I began following Sakuragi’s work in translation after encountering her boys’ love one-shot Hey, Sensei?. I’ve continued to enjoy and read her manga, but I find Hide and Seek to be particularly good.

It was supposed to be a simple fling, an uncomplicated relationship to enjoyably pass the time with no expectations that it would develop into something more serious. Except that Shuji, who generally isn’t interested in other men, is falling more and more for the young neighborhood doctor Saji. Though he’s slow to admit that he’s in love, Shuji can’t deny the jealously he experiences when he sees another man kiss Saji. Those feelings intensify when he discovers that the man, Yuki, used to date Saji and due to various unfortunate circumstances is currently staying at the doctors’ home. Saji picks up on some of that jealousy, but he has already resigned himself to a fleeting relationship with Shuji. He would certainly be interested in a more devoted partnership, but he’s been burned so many times in the past that he’s trying no to get his hopes up. And with neither man being completely honest with the other about his feelings, any sort of relationship will be difficult to maintain.

Hide and Seek, Volume 2, page 107While Hide and Seek definitely has its humorous moments, overall it tends to be a much more serious, and to some extent much more realistic, manga than its immediate predecessor Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love ever was. Likewise, Shuji, the main connecting character between the two series, is significantly more developed and complex in Hide and Seek. Although at heart he hasn’t really changed much from who he was in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, in part due to the tone of Hide and Seek his character has now become convincingly believable instead of being intentionally comedic and shallow. Shuji amused me greatly in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, but I really like Hide and Seek‘s more nuanced version of him. He is much more considerate and much less self-centered than his outward demeanor would initially lead one to assume (as well a more responsible and mature), and he’s honestly concerned for the well-being of those he cares most about, including Saji.

Overall, the characterization in Hide and Seek is excellent, particularly that of Shuji, but Saji is also a realistically complicated individual. I’ve enjoyed watching their relationship evolve and develop over the course of Hide and Seek and look forward to seeing how things turn out for them in the final volume. Shuji and Saji’s relationship isn’t in danger because they’re incompatible. In fact, the two men are surprisingly well-suited for each other. It’s actually because they care so much for each other and are trying not to force their feelings on, take advantage of, or hurt the other person that their relationship has the potential to dissolve. Although they do misinterpret the meaning and motivations behind some of each others’ words and actions, and make some inaccurate assumptions as a result, Shuji and Saji do communicate with each other, something that is absolutely critical for any relationship to succeed. Granted, they still need to learn to open up to each other a little more if they’re going to make things work in the long-term.

Hide and Seek, Volume 1

Hide and Seek, Volume 1Creator: Yaya Sakuragi
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421555720
Released: July 2013
Original release: 2012

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, Volume 1, page 135Hide 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.

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.