By Leroy Douresseaux
Jan 8, 2009 - 10:04
|White Brand cover image is courtesy of Anime Castle Books.|
Rated “M” for “Mature Audiences 18+”
White Brand, a collection of Boys’ Love (BL) stories by Youka Nitta ( The Prime Minister’s Secret Diplomacy), deals with love that develops out of people’s prejudices, fears, and personal preferences.
The title comes from a two-part tale, “White Brand I” and “White Brand II,” about a childhood friendship that dissolves after a family tragedy. Keshiki Asano’s life was marred by the death of his father when he was younger. Once upon a time, he found comfort in his cousin, Izuru Fukaya, but it has been a decade since Keshiki has spoken to Izuru. Now, the cousins discover that they’ve inadvertently enrolled in the same high school. The estranged cousins try to reconnect, but as hard as he tries, Keshiki can’t force himself to tolerate the dark-colored skin of his deeply tanned cousin Izuru!
The stories in White Brand are mostly character studies. Only two of the six stories depict nudity to the extent that they might be called yaoi manga, the explicit subset of BL. In fact, these stories aren’t exactly passionate or even exceedingly romantic. Although there is certainly romance and wooing, these are more intimate, profoundly personal, or deeply psychological stories. The young men in these stories have to bond on a deeper level before they can become lovers, and the stories focus more on that bonding than on the shagging.
The “White Brand” stories, with their actually shocking depiction of prejudice based upon skin color, are by far the best of this collection. Nitta tries to get inside the heads of Izuru and Keshiki, and she doesn’t mind delving into emotional pain and digging up the past. The other stories are also good. “Hasta La Vista, Baby,” is poorly conceived and developed, but the presence of a toddler makes it a better than expected read. “Teal End” is about an American expatriate and apprentice artist trying to prove that he belongs in a small Japanese town. Meanwhile, his master’s son lusts after him; it’s a good story that deserves to be its own graphic novel.
Nitta’s unique way of drawing the male figure is always of note. She draws men as long or tall, but in a full-figured way that allows each man’s masculine or, in some cases, feminine traits to seem genuine.
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