Kizuna Deluxe Edition 1 by Kazuma Kodaka: B-

Book description:
Beautiful Ranmaru and sweet, serene Kei fell in love at first sight when they were just boys, and now that they’re finally old enough, they’re moving in together! College should be all about new experiences and freedom… but what will the couple do when their home-sweet-home is invaded by the brash and spoiled Kai, Kei’s half-brother? Is their relationship strong enough to weather a sudden storm of sibling rivalry?

Even though I’ve never read the Kizuna manga before, I’ve still got a nostalgic feeling towards it. I vividly remember venturing into the adult section of the dealers’ room at my very first convention and coming away with a DVD of the OVA. It didn’t rock my socks or anything, but still, I never forgot about it. Now that the series is in print again, thanks to DMP, I figured I’d give it a look.

Kei Enjouji and Ranmaru Samejima first met in middle school, when they shared a chaste kiss. They then apparently go three years without speaking and reunite in high school where a real relationship develops between them. Upon the death of his mother, Kei learns that his father is the head of a yakuza group, and pretty quickly someone is out to kill him. Ranmaru, a promising kendo champion, pushes Kei out of the way of the car barreling towards him and gets hit himself. The doctors say he’ll never use his right arm and leg again.

Ranmaru is devastated, but once Kei takes it as a given that he’ll love Ranmaru no matter what, Ranmaru marshals the determination to work hard at his rehabilitation and eventually regains the ability to walk. The two live together happily, attending the same college, until Kai, Kei’s younger brother and the legitimate son of the yakuza boss, enters their lives. He’s a real pest who has set his sights on his kendo hero, Ranmaru.

That all might sound pretty decent, but the problem is the material in this volume does not present the story chronologically at all. I’m sure this is mostly to do with the fact that Kizuna evidently began as a doujin. The first chapter depicts a romantic encounter between Kei and Ranmaru as high schoolers, at which point Ranmaru is still tops in the kendo world. The college chapters with the irritating Kai come next (this is the story line I’m familiar with from the OVA), followed by another college-age chapter, then one in which Kai is in second grade, then the story of Kei and Ranmaru’s first meeting… You get the idea.

It’s not that the story is impossible to follow in this fashion—flashbacks are a pretty common narrative device, after all, particularly when the lead characters have been together for a long time—but these chapters feel disconnected from each other. The difference in art style only adds to the choppy reading experience. I found myself thinking, “Just settle down already! Pick the story you want to tell and the way that you want to draw, and just get on with it!”

Despite my complaints about the flow of the chapters, within each chapter Kodaka crafts some compelling stories. I liked the story of Ranmaru’s injury and rehabilitation the best, but there’s also an enjoyably smutty tale where he is given an aphrodisiac by a creepy professor and Kai’s the only one around to relieve his… tensions. My dislike of Kai must be evident by now, but I do like Kei and Ranmaru, especially the fact that the latter, the uke in the relationship, is prized for his strength. Kei can be crass at times, but the depth of his love for Ranmaru is abundantly obvious.

I definitely plan to keep reading Kizuna. It may be a vain hope, but now that the background has been established, I’d like to see the next volume pick up with the guys in college and go forward from there. Stay tuned to see whether my wish comes true!

Kizuna Deluxe Edition is released in English by Digital Manga Publishing. The series was previously licensed by the now-defunct CPM, but was never completed. DMP is releasing the series in five omnibus editions.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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