In the Walnut 1-2 by Toko Kawai: B+

More mystery than romance, this BL series features some unremarkable “cases” but a pair of interesting leads who are already an established couple when the story begins! Shocking!

You can find my review for Manga Bookshelf here.

In the Walnut is published in English by Digital Manga Publishing. The series is still ongoing in Japan; the third volume was just released there on October 9th.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

Café Latte Rhapsody by Toko Kawai: A-

I reviewed this cute yet complicated love story for this month’s BL Bookrack column at Manga Bookshelf. I really, really enjoyed the romance between a somewhat relationship-scarred bookstore employee and his huge younger lover, and it made me realize I haven’t read anything by Toko Kawai that I didn’t like!

You can find that review here.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

CUT by Toko Kawai: A

“Life is kind of a pain,” thinks Chiaki Sakaguchi at the outset of this exceptional one-shot. Chiaki is bored with school; it seems so trivial compared to the painful secret guilt he carries over his father’s death. In an attempt to dull that pain, Chiaki seeks out new pain, getting involved in an abusive incestuous relationship with his stepfather and resorting to cutting himself as a way to relieve his anxiety. When he meets Eiji Yukimura, a young man with his own dark secret, he finally has found someone who might understand.

CUT is a moving story of two very broken people connecting and finding, through each other, the strength to move forward. There are some disturbing elements involving incest and masochism, but such scenes are not played for titillation, since it’s clear Chiaki is merely doing these things in an attempt to forget his unbearable pain. Later on, when Chiaki turns his stepfather away and tells him, “You made me forget something horrible by doing something worse,” it’s truly a moment of triumph.

The relationship between Chiaki and Eiji is both sweet and sad and made me teary a few times (I never knew a knee nudge could be so poignant!). By the end, neither is completely healed, but they’ve both come to a place where they’re able to live with their wounds and trust that, with time and love, they will fade.

You don’t have to be a boys’ love fan to appreciate CUT. Like the works of est em, I think what it has to offer could appeal to anyone.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

Our Everlasting 2 by Toko Kawai: B+

From the back cover:
Surfer dude Horyu and shy intellectual Shouin are very much in love. Their days together are filled with happiness, but when Shouin’s French tutor, a handsome and openly gay man named Nanami, makes his affection for Shouin known, doubts begin to surface between the couple.

Horyu begins to suspect the relationship between Shouin and Nanami, while Shouin begins to believe Nanami’s theory that Horyu is at heart a straight man and will turn to a woman when his experimentation period with Shouin is over.

The description above concerns only one or two of the stories collected in this volume. Left out is a chapter where Horyu has the opportunity to become a pro surfer, but it would mean sacrificing his relationship with Shouin and a chapter where Shouin’s cousin has dumped off her baby while going off on a trip.

The story with Nanami is okay, but nothing terribly exciting. Standard jealousy and insecurity angst.

I most liked the story about Horyu’s opportunity to turn pro, as it caused Shouin to consider whether he could continue to follow along contentedly at Horyu’s side, or if he needed to branch out and do something for himself. He realizes that being a couple does not necessarily mean that you share the same dreams, as convenient as that would be.

At the end, there’s a short little story where the boys take care of Shouin’s cousin’s baby. This chapter could’ve been totally stupid, but it ended up being cute. I guess this is a good thing, because it’s the last chapter we get of the boys before going to a couple of side-story chapters that are somewhat steamier than the main story.

Even though the volume occasionally employs tried and true angst tactics, and even though Shouin’s a bit weepy and frequently has to call Horyu for help (Horyu calls him The Princess in these situations), there’s enough originality in some of the stories and characters to make this a distinctive title amongst all the Boys’ Love that DMP is producing these days.