Reversible (Juné) is a collection of short boys’-love stories by new-ish creators. It sounded ideal for a picky boys’-love reader like me, a chance to speed-date different manga-ka without having to commit to 200 pages of work that didn’t click. Unfortunately, a lot of the work feels like an audition, demonstrating a boys’-love skill set rather than exhibiting a specific voice or point of view.
That isn’t to say that the work contained here is ever particularly bad. The stories are polished for the most part. They’re also kind of generic.
Things start well with Saki Takari’s “Tell Me You Like Me,” a cheerfully smutty tale of salarymen at an awkward, early stage in their relationship. Takari’s pages have a lot of energy and a nice sense of composition, plus a sprinkling of character-driven humor.
Next up is an unremarkable story about an unrequited schoolboy crush, Goroh’s “Perfect Age.” Haruki Fujimoto’s “Boyfriend” covers the same territory later with equally unremarkable results. This trend of bland treatment of identical subjects recurs with Saito’s “Catch” and Kometa Yonekura’s “Caged Bird,” both of which feature curious bottoms and the aggressive tops who go a little faster than they’d like. (Just a little, though, and these stories are about as close as the volume comes to the “no… no… yes” stuff that leaves me cold.)
There are some fun bits in the mix. One is Neiri Koizumi’s “Sakuragawa University Cheer Squad,” which has the benefit of a quirky, ill-tempered protagonist. His crush on his nephew’s teacher is repeatedly undone by circumstances. Even more odd is the lead of Tomoko Takakura’s “Office Mermaid,” a tropical-fish-loving, germ-fearing salaryman who falls for the ethereal new guy in the server farm. “I’ll bet he doesn’t sweat at all,” swoons the fussbudget. Neither of these stories hews too closely to genre tropes, and both seem to indicate a level of personality and idiosyncrasy on the creators’ part. I’d read more by either of them.
Of the rest, I liked Shiori Ikezawa’s “It Falls at Night” about a pair of high-school boys trying to salvage some romantic time at the end of a too-busy summer vacation. There’s some awkwardness to the narrative, but the characters have nice chemistry and I liked the twist on the abandoned-school dare.
Misora Hatori’s “Dear Boys” is the most like a try-out first chapter of a longer series and, coincidentally, the one I’d be least likely to read in longer form. It seems to be about one of those weirdly coercive student councils that hopefully only exist in manga, an awkward mash-up of Ouran High School Host Club and Gakuen Prince with a little of Setona Mizushiro’s visual flourish. And it may not say anything about the empirical quality of the material, but there are few subjects less interesting to me than romantic relationships between humans and angels, no matter the gender mix, so Midori Nishiogi’s “Happiness, Fun, Kindness” lost me at the gate.
Is “I don’t regret buying this book” a positive review? I guess it must be in some sense, and I did like about a third of the work here and didn’t find the remainder offensive. There’s just a lot of competent porridge collected here, and it needed more spice.