By Leroy Douresseaux
May 12, 2009 - 13:38
|Awaken Forest cover image|
Drama/Romance; Rated “M” for “Mature Audiences 18+”
Sometimes, in his desperation, a young man might use deception to ensnare the heart of the love of his life, but the extent of that deception can offer troubling insights into the personality of the pursuer and perhaps, even speak to the gullibility of the pursued. The yaoi manga Awaken Forest, from creator Yuna Aoi, offers three tales of courtship with an unsettling edge of secrets and lies.
In the title novella, “Awaken Forest,” Yoshimori, a young editor for S Publishing, visits the secluded, pastoral estate of the wheel-chair bound author, Orito Suga, and his older brother, Masato. Suga won a prestigious literary award for his novel, “The Seal of Memory,” and is currently working on a new novel, Awaken Forest, that is overdue to his publisher. His boss has sent Yoshimori to get the finished book, and is ordered not to return without the manuscript.
Yoshimori soon discovers that the Suga brothers have a strange relationship, and despite his attempts not to pry, he is slowly learning the full story behind these strangely inseparable brothers – the selfish, demanding Orito and the gentle Masato who cares for his brother virtually 24 hours a day. Although he is dealing with stress and a looming deadline to deliver the manuscript, Yoshimori does notice that he is being watched by Masato’s sparkling eyes, so what will he do?
Also, in “Loose Bonds,” Aki Suhara finds himself becoming more and more dependent on his old school chum, Ren Hazuki, which isn’t entirely an accident. In “Be with Me ‘til Morning,” spoiled heir, Robert, abuses his father’s ward/assistant, Yuuri, but neither young man truly understands the longings and desires of the other.
In Awaken Forest, Yuna Aoi (who also works under the pen name, Tamotsu Takamure) and her assistant(s) present truly excellent art for this collection of yaoi short stories – some of it as gorgeous as the young men portrayed in these tales. In fact, the art here has more than a passing resemblance to the current drawing style of American superhero comic book artist, Joe Madureira. However, for all the prettiness of the art, these stories are pretty screwed up. Sexual assault and fraud abound, but the creator treats this as if these were nothing but mere matters of the heart. All’s fair in love and war, eh?
Perhaps, what yaoi readers most want are stories that engage the imagination and the romantic heart, and these stories certainly do that. There is not one wasted panel in these stories, an accomplishment of making pretty art very efficient and very effective as graphic storytelling. These words and pictures are full of stormy moments and shocking revelations, but Awaken Forest is a damn good read – tawdry and scandalous the way good romantic fiction should be.