"The Imperial Army’s Love Academy" was very disappointing. In keeping with Mizukami’s general style, this is a very smutty piece of hard shota, set within an historical context. All of this is well and good if that’s what you’re looking for, and Mizukami is a champion at it. Where Love Academy breaks down, however, is its attempt to have a plot. What we have here is a threadbare framework of what attempts to be story, character, and relationships, attempting to support a porno, by an artist who is very good at the porno thing.
The arc of the “romance” at work here is definitely cringeworthy, and this is by yaoi standards. Unhealthy relationships are nothing new, unexpected, or even necessarily objectionable in our genre, but this one really takes the cake. We watch an adult, Onizuka, not only prey relentlessly on a child in a sexual sense, but also break him down on a personal, petty level. The child, Yamato, becomes more and more isolated until rather abruptly coming to “love” Onizuka. Handled more competently this could make for an interesting psychological story, but it’s all played totally genuine and without nuance, so the resulting relationship seems tacked on, absurd, and boring. In addition, it’s a bit offensive the way Yamato’s pain seems to dry up suddenly along with the last of his personal boundaries and the self respect he has doggedly clung to throughout the story. Again, I realize this is nothing at all unusual, but in the case of Love Academy, this trope is especially poorly handled.
Love Academy essentially opens with our hero Yamato, an underdeveloped teenager, being raped by his adult superior officer in a pitch black room. This is the first of several highly explicit and well rendered sex scenes, which are hot despite censorship. This is where Mizukami Sensei really shines; In the depiction of young boys being brutalized. Their style is very unique and quite lovely, one can tell Mizukami’s work immediately. The characters have interesting features, though there is one mustache that needs to be killed with fire, and if you look at some crowd scenes everyone’s identical. This is not the only time Mizukami has used a vaguely period military setting. The world building in this book is generally unsuccessful, though the uniforms are very nicely rendered, as are the human forms in general, and the toning is great. Visually this is a very good work.
Overall I can’t recommend The Imperial Army’s Love Academy. Yaoi fans have high levels of patience for ridiculous relationships and terrible plots, but in the case of this book the “story” is actually bad enough to negate the good things about it.
Review By: Dot Ringo
My first thought when I opened this file was “Wonderful! A vintage title!”. Based on the art style I would have dated A Gentleman's Agreement Between a Rabbit and a Wolf about ten years older than it actually is, and that's a very good thing! The art is my number-one favorite thing about this overall very high quality manga, it reminded me (only visually!) of the work of my favorite mangaka, Mika Sadahiro.
The composition is dynamic and well thought out, so each page moves beautifully. Also, the characters are all very different looking and individually recognizable, which I think we all know can not be said nearly often enough when it comes to yaoi. The characters are expressive, too. Their emotions and motivations read not only on their faces but in body language too.
Oh, and speaking of bodies, attention to physical detail is very present and anatomy is carefully and realistically rendered, right on down to the unusually, er, plausible endowment. The spicy scenes are very much so, and not in short supply. I was a very happy camper throughout.
A Gentleman's Agreement is a series of one-shots, of which several follow the same couple. These characters are adorable. Between the Rabbit's aggression and the Wolf's responsiveness, these two's interactions never cool off, and despite the fact that this is a workplace story, it contains unusual elements such as furry fetishism and even a supernatural story!
The perspective switches between the men and the relationship feels very fleshed out, though I must say there is no conflict o speak of. Sometimes that's okay. The other shots include a School Life story that deals with trauma, a very original and hot Yakuza story, and a lovely workplace story involving megane fetishism, science, and drugs! It's just really fabulous stuff.
Overall this manga is original, entertaining, hot, and excellently executed. I will revisit it many times and it would be a treat for any yaoi fan. I was very refreshed by this work and I hope lots of other readers discover and enjoy it too!
Review By: Dot Ringo
I'm delighted to have found this manga. With Kiss Your Hair, Duo Brand has presented a generous portion of very engaging and well-paced one shots with a refreshing variety.
The art is fairly classic yaoi, but I was stricken by the attention to anatomical details and the world building, which was quite sumptuous. The diverse collection of settings and characters each seem very carefully considered and well developed, so the stories feel immersive despite their short length.
The spicy scenes are the most expressive of all, though not exactly explicit in the traditional sense. The prurient among us will find plenty to love in this volume, while the more modest will be plenty able to enjoy the stories without being forced out of their comfort zone. This balance is quite a feat, and Kiss Your Hair accomplishes it admirably.
Kiss Your Hair provides glimpses into an impressive variety of genres. Here we see historical, yakuza, sports, fantasy, school life, and more; not to mention the skillful combination of genres I would have thought to be unlikely bedfellows. From a personal standpoint, many of my favorite tropes are represented to a very satisfying end, such as forbidden love, addiction, blossoming youth, infectious magic, and an artist X model relationship to make Nin proud.
In genres of another sort a reader can expect butler, beard, and hair moe, bondage, voyeurism/exhibitionism, and an examination of childhood sexual awakening, among plenty of others. To indulge the cliché, Kiss Your Hair seems to have a little something for everyone. There is even a prose story at the end which I enjoyed just fine, considering that I usually can't stand those. The story which caps off the collection is easily the weakest part (probably because in a prose piece it is much more difficult to ignore the embarrassingly unrealistic sexual mechanics found in yaoi), but it's hardly enough to detract from the overall quality.
Kiss Your Hair stood out to me among all the yaoi I've read as a meditation on the various motivations behind sexual involvement. From love to lust to money to obligation and so on, these characters all have their own reasons and they're all interesting. It is a welcome respite from the cookie cutter story found in so many of the BL books available. I was genuinely impressed with this piece. I will read it many times and I would recommend it to anyone. My only complaint is that I cannot buy it in print and put it on my shelf; hopefully I will be able to someday, it certainly deserves it!
Review By: Dot Ringo