From the back cover:
A stylish, tempestuous dance of anguish and passion. Seduce Me After the Show contains seven short stories which take place within the artistic worlds of dance, painting, and music. Overall themes focus on the dichotomy of hope and despair as well as the relationship between pleasure and longing. In the title story, devastated by the death of his world famous dancer mother, Theo Gallardo abandons his own dancing career to become an actor and co-stars in a film with popular Hollywood idol Darren Fergus. What should have been a joking kiss shared between them takes a sudden turn when Darren asks, “So what now?” Theo answers, “That depends on the script.” As lustful passions boil over, will Theo be able to regain the fire that he once possessed and return to the dancing world?
The back of this book is doing a lot of my (self-appointed) job for me! Though, to be honest, I probably never would’ve written about the “dichotomy of hope and despair” anyway.
Right up until I read the last story, I thought my favorite tale would end up being the two-parter starring Theo and Darren (details above). It’s wonderfully told, with an ending I adore even as I wish there were more to read about these two. The final story has a similar feel and tells the story of a man returning to Kyoto after a long absence. He’s come back to attend a festival and, while there, asks about an old friend of his. Gradually, the details of their parting are revealed and, I swear, the final page makes me sniffly.
I really like the art—the use of screentone and backgrounds is minimal, resulting in a largely black and white style. Some of the character designs are quite original, too. Theo looks more like Severus Snape than he does a typical manga character. One of the couples includes a guy in his fifties, and when’s the last time you saw that happen in this genre? Lastly, I appreciate that est em takes the “artistically suggestive” route with the pair of love scenes; depicting things in exacting detail would detract from the emotional element.
Usually, I don’t notice things like paper or print quality, but the production values from Deux (the yaoi imprint of Aurora Publishing, a fairly new player on the American manga scene) are good enough to attract my notice. The translated dialogue seems natural and though I had trouble a couple of times working out exactly what Theo meant, I think that’s just a facet of his character. There was one fairly glaring grammatical error, though. “You’re work has really matured.” Nails on a chalkboard, that one.
My only real complaint is the surfeit of ambiguity. There are times when it isn’t easy to determine which character spoke a line, whether two characters actually slept together, or how one really feels about the other. I’m sure all of this is intentional, but to quote Davy Keith from Anne of Green Gables (‘cos where better to do that than in a yaoi review?), “I want to know!”
Seduce Me After the Show is a character-driven collection featuring grown-up men dealing with their feelings for each other. There’s no blushing or glomping here, and though the stories may be short, they’re also original, thoughtful, and memorable. If you buy one yaoi title this year, buy this one. There’s another book by est em due in December, though, so maybe make it two.
A slightly different version of this review was also published at Manga Recon.