Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Manga Review: Two Of Hearts

Two Of Hearts
Author: Kano Miyamoto
Deux Press
208 pages

Haruya, a magazine article writer, is constantly frustrating his editors with his lack of inspiration. However, upon meeting a shy boy undressing on the beach, their lives become linked. An unusual relationship follows that will ultimately be beneficial for the both of them. (Source: Goodreads)

I seem to have unconsciously hit a streak with my BL reading as this is the second yaoi story I've read in a row in which one of the main couple is a writer. Except that this is a struggling loner writer named Haruya who has given up his dream of writing a novel and has resigned himself to writing for a magazine, seemingly destined to never become anything greater. 

His "slow and complacent lifestyle" gets changed completely by the arrival of newcomer Maki washing his clothes in the water at the beach. It soon becomes clear that Maki has been through some terrible things and needs a gentle touch, like Haruya's, to change for the better. Naturally, these two guys become unlikely housemates and friends that threatens to become something more.

It's a slow-moving romance that takes as many steps forward as it does back, but it ends up in a satisfying, endearing relationship. Despite some snags in the second half and a bit of bad play by Haruya's editor, Two Of Hearts remains a wholly decent and entertaining boys' love drama that has me intrigued in Kano Miyamoto's other stories in English.

Overall, the main story of Two Of Hearts is a typical one for romance. A reclusive loner involved in his work is drawn out by someone younger, more energetic, and with his own set of problems. Ergo, the strength of this manga draws primarily from its characters, Haruya and Maki. Of the two, Maki is the most dynamic and interesting character. He is filled with neuroses and psychological damage from a terrible childhood and a broken home, and has left him hopelessly lost and feeling like he can't do anything, like finish school or bother to take care of himself.

Haruya, on the other hand, is filled with a hopeless of a different sort. He has given up on his main goal of writing a novel, and his recent writing does not have the same heart that his earlier writing has. His story is depressingly familiar to readers who have also suffered writer's block over the years. I wonder if Miyamoto has drawn inspiration from her own past as a writer to give Haruya that feel of realism. As a writer, I can really feel for Haruya and his issues.

When Haruya selflessly steps in to help Maki, although initially to stave off boredom and writer's block, it starts a relationship of dependency and self-improvement for them both. With Haruya's touch, Maki is able to learn to deserve to be loved and to love other people, including himself. With Maki's love, Haruya finds his muse in the form of his young housemate and is able to pick up his writing. They are able to compliment each other through their own strengths and weaknesses and what comes out is a very unique, electrifying relationship.

The one thing in the Haruya/Maki relationship I have a quibble with is how seemingly easy Haruya was able to cure Maki's OCD tendencies, something that had been born from drama. Also, the series itself casts OCD as something entirely undesirable and not anything a 'normal' person would want. There are many people who live with OCD who would disagree vehemently with Miyamoto's narrative of psychological neurosis as inherently wrong. Maybe, if Maki had kept some of his touch quirks to the point that they didn't hinder his relationship with Haruya, it would not have seen like a erasure of an aspect of the boy's character.

The other part I have problems with is what Haruya's editor, Yagisawa, did to Maki in a fit of rage and jealousy - but, um, spoilers. All I'll say is that I regret deeply how quickly the story passes over it, considering it is a big deal and in the real world would end with Yagisawa in jail at least. It is sadly typical in boys' love manga, however, to treat these kinds of issues with a blase hand.

Despite these issues, I really did enjoy Two Of Hearts. It had an intriguing main couple, a boat load of drama and romance, and some very nice art. I found Miyamoto's art style to be warm and inviting, and had a great use of shading and texturing. I would definitely recommend this to any yaoi fan who like their relationships complicated yet sweet. 

The best part is that you can also read Two Of Hearts on the Kindle, thanks to a re-release of the title by Viz's yaoi imprint, SuBLime, and it is slightly less than the price for a physical paperback copy. Please consider giving it a try!

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