From the back cover:
A quiet and shy member of the school’s art club, Toru is quite a contrast to his best friend Ryoji, who is a handsome, loud and brash jock. Toru has harbored a crush on Ryoji for the longest time but hasn’t confessed his feelings for fear of rejection. But from out of the blue, Ryoji suddenly admits that he gets “aroused” whenever he looks at Toru. Curious about this feeling, Ryoji proposes that he and Toru sleep together. Though appalled at the thought of having just casual sex, Toru’s attraction towards Ryoji makes the proposition enticing nevertheless.
Desire, published by DMP in 2004, was one of the first boys’ love manga I ever read. I liked it very much, but I’ve been a little hesitant to reread it for fear it wouldn’t live up to my initial impression. Happily, I needn’t have worried. Even after a reread with more worldly manga eyes, I still think it’s one of the best around, even though there are certain elements I’m not thrilled with.
It’s the story of Toru Maiki, who’s harbored feelings for his friend Ryoji for a long time. When Ryoji suggests they sleep together as an experiment, Toru goes along with it with the idea that it’ll help him get over Ryoji to see how “wrong” it is. Things don’t go as planned, however, and it becomes a regular thing between them. Toru can’t say no to Ryoji, but his heart is breaking at having a physical relationship with the one he loves without his feelings being reciprocated.
There are many things I like about the story. I like that Toru and Ryoji were friends for a long time even before the story starts. I like the strong characterization—instead of merely supplying eye candy of two pretty boys smooching, the writing helps one to see Toru and Ryoji as well-developed individuals. I like that Toru and Ryoji’s friend plays a big role in the series. The expressive art fits the emotional material well. And I like how Toru suffers and really thinks things through. It’s a very painful situation he’s in, but his eventual acceptance of his feelings for Ryoji is all the better for being hard-won.
I don’t like how pushy Ryoji is, though. Several scenes border on non-consensual when Toru is protesting and Ryoji is insistent. That’s definitely part of Ryoji’s character, as is the very frank and open way in which he discusses his fixation on Toru, but it’s still bothersome. I’m not sure he would’ve stopped even if Toru hadn’t eventually relented.
All in all, Desire is far more thoughtful than the usual boys’ love fare. One grows to care about the characters and empathize with Toru’s plight. Those who are tired of silly or over-the-top boys’ love stories ought to give it a try.