* Prices may differ from that shown
Having overcome the trials and tribulations encountered in volume 1, everything at first seems like it will all be going Kei and Ranmaru's way. But the gods have a way of laughing ingraciously at people who settle anywhere near a peaceful outlook. With Ran's ability to walk restored and him gaining back much of his strength and range of movement, trouble comes knocking in the form of family. Before his accident Ran was not only extremely gifted at kendo, but the heir apparent to the family's prestigious kendo dojo. Ran's grandfather expects him to return and resume training, to gain back as much as his former glory as possible, and take up his rightful place as a sensei at the dojo. This of course is no simple matter. It not only would entail grueling retraining of muscles that only recently began to approach normal use for an average person, but his grandfather's demands would mean possibly moving back to the dojo and leaving the flat he shares with Kei. Seeing as his traditionalist grandfather has no clue that Ran and Kei are gay, never mind about the room mate thing being a cover-up for their status as live-in lovers, this is an especially delicate situation.
And Ran is not alone in his family troubles- one evening while out, Kei spots half brother Kai conducting a drug trade. The family's yakuza group is a traditional one and as such, follows the honour code which forbids trade in illegal drugs. So what is Kai doing? Is he striking out on his own? Is he trying to expand the Group's business without permission, and sullying the reputation of the Group while doing so? Kei doesn't know, but is determined to find out. He may not be close to his half brother and has foresworn the family business but he has no desire to see Kai get in over his head and so sets events in motion that no one could have possibly foreseen. With the two families pulling in opposite directions, can Kei not only make Kai see sense before it's too late but see his bond with Ranmaru remain unbroken?
Once again Kodaka presents a story that is very plot driven and rich in exquisite detail. her characters remain as humanly flawed as ever, filled with the tiny character quirks that add to the complexities of their psyche and make them seem all the more realistic. Even the more minor characters are fully fleshed out with vivid personalities, making the ensemble cast surprisingly easy to follow. Her visuals are as rich as ever, imparting a sense of emotional empathy that really adds punch to the unfolding drama. From the most seemingly insignificant moments to the big pivotal watersheds, every single scene is used to layer the feelings of the reader so that the tension is ratcheted up almost imperceptibly which makes the experience that much more cathartic in nature when the big moments arrive.
This is rated an 18+ and while is due to scenes of violence and illegal drug trafficking, the main reason is the graphic depictions of Ran and Kei's physical expressions of their love. Kodaka is not shy about showing us just what these two get up to, enough so that the sobriquet "porn with an actual plot" is often used in the US in regards to this body of work. But I disagree. The scenes are not there to titillate, but rather come about naturally within the story. These are two young lovers trying to build a life together, and like all other lovers, that sometimes leads to sex. The difference here is that just as with real life, we don't get a big fade to black moment as soon as the kissing starts. They are both men, so if you can't handle a bit of guy on guy action, you might want to skip ahead several panels or simply avoid this altogether.
This currently available as a paperback from Digital Manga Publishing under their June imprint, and I'd like to thank them for providing me with a review copy.