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REVIEW: Law Students in Love: Manga Review: Ichigenme…The First Case...

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Ichigenme…The First Case is Civil Law, by Fumi Yoshinaga. Published by 801 Media. Retail: $15.99. 1/2 volumes released. Rated 18+ (Mature content, graphic sex between males showing at most some blurred [Japanese self-censored] naughty bits, NOT FOR KIDS). A-.


Dear Readers,

A law education in Japan is slightly different than one in the US. Students compete to enter specialized schools straight out of high school. There they receive a general education, as well as enough of a specialized education to enable them to get jobs as one of many several types of legal careers such as a professional arbitrator or a legal consultant. If they wish to become lawyers instead, they must pass the bar, then be accepted into a training program after which they will finally become actual lawyers. Only 1000 a year make it. There are relatively few genuine lawyers in Japan, and lots of lawyer-substitutes. < insert joke here >

So most of the law school students don’t have much hope at gaining such an elevated position. Combining that with the relief all Japanese college students feel at finally not having to live for exams, and law college turns into a place where they can finally relax, enjoy themselves, and learn about life. Except for those few who still work like crazy to move onto the next step.

Tamiya is one of those few. Very serious about law, he enters into a zemi (a seminar) on criminal case law. But when he gets there, he finds it’s a dumping ground for the sons and daughters of the rich and influential. They don’t prepare for class, and don’t even care about it because they know they’ll pass. And the worst of these is a flirt named Toudou, who introduces himself at a party with a kiss that Tamiya can’t forget.

Even as Tamiya struggles to get the most out of his education, he slowly finds himself being pulled into an awareness that there are other things out there of equal importance. He finds himself defending these students at various times and becoming friends with them and actually enjoying it. And for the first time he’s feeling physical and emotional attraction, and it’s for men. He resists this, but when his naà¯ve hopes in one relationship are crushed Toudou is there to pick up the pieces, and he slowly begins to understand that there’s much more to this frivolous man than he thought, and he begins to care for him.

I consider Yoshinaga-sensei to be one of the masters of the manga art form. Her style is unusual but her characters are deftly drawn using both words and pictures. Her art is spare, but communicates so much (as always, start at the far right, and read panels read right to left, top to bottom):

Ichisamp4Ichisamp3Ichisamp2Ichisamp1

 

She doesn’t just spend time on the main characters, as is common in romance, but has arcs about secondary characters that flesh out the story as a whole, and make it a real thing. What happens in these two volumes could very likely have happened in a real Japanese law school ten years ago (when the story was written).

The romance in this story is such a sweet thing. All her romances are about personal growth. The best romances always are. It may seem like Tamiya is doing all the growing but in the second half of the volume, like Tamiya, one begins to realize that there’s an interesting story behind Toudou’s faà§ade as well.

The romance could be considered complete in the first volume. Those readers who prefer less graphic sex may want to stop at just that one. Volume two, coming out sometime this month, contains a few sexually graphic shorts that take place seven years later. It’s the standard romance epilogue, plus heat, and minus babies. To be honest, I feel that the second volume detracts from the story which seemed just right to me in the first volume, and so don’t recommend buying it unless you really have to have more about the two. Because of that, I drop the series a half point.

In case you haven’t noticed, this is a male/male romance manga. It is of the category yaoi (pronounced yah-oh-ih), which in Japan is a completely different genre than gay romance (I may get into that some day, I may not). But basically yaoi is written by women for women, and as such generally has little to do with actual gay men and/or reality. But as always, there are books which skirt the lines people attempt to define them with, and this is one. There is a realism and a poignancy and a humor to this story that I think everyone can relate to, and as such I encourage all mature readers to pick this one up. It is not sold at brick and mortar stores, but some online shops carry it. The cover at the top of this review links to one of them.

Andà£Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‹â€ à£Ã‚ —à£Ã‚ Ã‚ ªÃƒ £Ã‚ Ã…’-à¥Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã‹â€ à§"Ã… ¸ (Yoshinaga-sensei), if by some chance you’re reading this, à£Ã‚ Ã‚ ©Ãƒ £Ã‚ Ã¢â‚¬ à£Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒ £Ã‚ Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒ £Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã… à£Ã‚ Ã…’à£Ã‚ Ã‚ ¨Ãƒ £Ã‚ Ã¢â‚¬ à£Ã‚ "à£Ã‚ —à£Ã‚ Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ãƒ £Ã‚ Ã‚ ¾Ãƒ £Ã‚ Ã¢â€ž ¢. (Thank you.) A for volume 1, A- for the series.

Sincerely,

à£Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚ ¸Ãƒ £Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚ §Ãƒ £Ã†’ ¼Ãƒ £Ã†’ ³

(JÄ n)

reads any genre as long as the books aren't depressing. Her preferred reads these days are in manga format and come from all manga genres, but she especially likes romance, doubly so when there are beautiful men involved. With each other. Her favorites among currently-running English-translated manga series include NANA, Ze, Ouran High School Host Club, Junjou Romantica, Blood Alone, Vampire Knight, Skip Beat, Silver Diamond and anything by the holy triumvirate of BL: Ayano Yamane, Kazuma Kodaka and Youka Nitta, including any scribbles they might do on the backs of napkins.

18 Comments

  1. Emily
    May 08, 2007 @ 16:28:32

    I will be sure to look that one up. I would add that yaoi is also different from western-styled gay-for-girls genres (slash and MM). Something a few publishers could be more aware of…

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  2. Jan
    May 08, 2007 @ 17:08:48

    Yes, the aesthetic is very different from Western versions of the same. You can almost always tell the difference just by glancing at a page. That doesn’t mean there isn’t good and bad on both sides of the Pacific (and Atlantic! :)). They’re just not the same thing.

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  3. Jayne
    May 09, 2007 @ 05:40:12

    Jan, I get the feeling that it takes a while for these manga to make it to the US as you often state that the ones you’re reviewing are several years old. Is this generally the case? Or are your favorites just older ones?

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  4. Keishon
    May 09, 2007 @ 08:07:42

    Jan, I love reading your manga reviews and thanks for the heads up on this one, which sounds like something I’ll have to order. I went to my local comic bookstore and didn’t really see anything. Oh, I did see the Harlequin Pink and Violet sitting on the shelf. Came back to see if you’d read and reviewed any of the ones I saw there, but no. The tiltles were Debbie Macomber, Charlotte Lamb, Margaret Way(?). Suppose to be classic love stories. If I had to take a risk it would be the Macomber title I’d try.

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  5. Jan
    May 09, 2007 @ 08:13:55

    It depends. Manga hasn’t been published over here for all that long, and there are years worth of series for the US publishers to potentially take. Sometimes they pick older series, sometimes newer.

    Once they do license one, they have to translate, edit the translation, apply it to the cleaned Japanese copy, send it off, proof it, send it back, then get the copies and distribute them. So even the newest takes a few months to get to us in English. Typically the lag between licensing and actually seeing the book is about 9 months.

    In the case of this series, yaoi wasn’t published over here before 2005, so there’s a huge list of series to potentially choose from. Yaoi publishers tend to pick series and mangaka already popular among the online crowds, because they know they’ll be good sellers. This author has been a favorite of yaoi fans for years, and her English books have shown themselves to be bestsellers for English yaoi publishers, so they’ve snapped up everything she has to offer no matter what the age.

    Another thing to consider about age is that a chapter of a shoujo or yaoi manga series generally comes out once every month or two, sometimes longer. A volume is usually 5-6 chapters. That means it can take on averge a year to make one volume. And there are often 10 volumes in a series. And I like reviewing complete stories. These stories are years in the making. There’s a manga series going in Japan that was started in the 70s and is at 150-some volumes and 1400 chapters.

    It’s a different process than publishing a novel, and anyone wanting something complete in English is going to be getting a story that was started at least a couple of years before.

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  6. Jan
    May 09, 2007 @ 08:39:37

    [quote comment="28001"]Jan, I love reading your manga reviews and thanks for the heads up on this one, which sounds like something I’ll have to order. I went to my local comic bookstore and didn’t really see anything. Oh, I did see the Harlequin Pink and Violet sitting on the shelf. Came back to see if you’d read and reviewed any of the ones I saw there, but no. The tiltles were Debbie Macomber, Charlotte Lamb, Margaret Way(?). Suppose to be classic love stories. If I had to take a risk it would be the Macomber title I’d try.[/quote]

    Thanks Keishon!

    I have a Lamb title sitting here but haven’t read it yet. The Macomber might be one of the older ones. Check the original copyright date on the thing. If it’s before the 90s, I’d skip it.

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  7. Jules Jones
    May 09, 2007 @ 11:01:22

    Thanks for this review, Jan. Amazon waved this one at me in one of its “You’ve been buying Eroica and Shout Out Loud, so you might like this” auto-emails, and I’ve been wondering whether to get it. It’s now on my wish list for later. :-)

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  8. Jan
    May 09, 2007 @ 11:07:03

    [quote comment="28013"]Amazon waved this one at me in one of its “You’ve been buying Eroica and Shout Out Loud, so you might like this” auto-emails[/quote]

    Those are two of my favorite series, so chances are you’ll like this one too. :) It’s similar to Shout Out Loud in that it spends time on developing characters and story outside of the main romance and that lends it a depth lots of yaoi doesn’t have.

    The only caution I have is that some people don’t like her artwork. I didn’t when I first saw it. But I guess it’s an acquired taste because I really love it now.

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  9. Jules Jones
    May 09, 2007 @ 12:56:02

    Sounds right up my street. I’ve been a fan of Eroica since I encountered it years ago as a fan translation being distributed through the slash fanzine circuit, but I only really started on some of the others when they were released in official translations. Snagged a handful at the Tower closing sale pretty much at random, and got a mix ranging from stuff like SOL that really hit my buttons, to PWP that was rather too close to shota for my taste.

    Of course, one of the beauties of writing pro original slash is that when my editor asks if I’d be interested in writing yaoi-style material as well, yaoi manga becomes research material and a tax-deductible business expense. :-)

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  10. Emily
    May 09, 2007 @ 15:46:05

    Last time I was in my (small town midwest USA) Borders they had expanded the manga to *8* shelves which is about the same as for fantasy and over half the space given to romance. I was surprised to see they are selling so much of it here.

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  11. Jan
    May 09, 2007 @ 16:10:31

    It’s popular everywhere. :) There are lots of conventions throughout the midwest. The coasts however rule with the really big ones.

    The buyer for Borders was known to love manga, and that’s why they had a great selection. He left there recently though so I don’t know if all that will change. I’d heard rumors that they were going to shrink it down a bit.

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  12. Jan
    May 09, 2007 @ 19:13:15

    [quote comment="28018"]Snagged a handful at the Tower closing sale pretty much at random, and got a mix ranging from stuff like SOL that really hit my buttons, to PWP that was rather too close to shota for my taste.[/quote]

    I’ve been thinking about this. It you want titles with something older than schoolboys, and god knows that’s what I’m always searching for (men dammit, I want men!), and with some story, you might want to consider these titles. Some are more smutty than others: Kizuna, Embracing Love, Antique Bakery (not really yaoi but very slashable, with one of the lead characters being gay; by Funi Yoshinaga also (with some hot Japanese doujinshi available too). Also Last Portrait, Your Honest Deceit, The Judged, Yellow.

    The first two are long ongoing series that take a volume or so to find their footing but very worthwhile (and rather smutty). LP, YHD, TJ are all short, single volume stories but better than the average oneshot. Yellow is 4 volumes, complete, about a couple sexy bad boys who do not quite legal work for a living. I’d add Challengers as well, 4 volumes, complete, if you want comedy. It’s very light on sex but the two heroes and all their troubles including some hilarious secondary characters always make me laugh. Bondz and Loveholic are two by a favorite mangaka of mind, Toko Kawai. Bondz is especially good. Her book In the Walmut is coming out soon, and you’ll like that.

    And last, because I’m never sure how people will take this, I recommend the Finder series, 3 vols, incomplete. It’s got rape, non-con, bondage, S&M you name it in the first volume. But in the second a great story starts that’s going into its fifth volume in Japan.

    OK, Done now. (I want a job that lets me deduct manga! Too bad I review stuff for free. :) )

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  13. Jules Jones
    May 09, 2007 @ 22:57:20

    Thanks for those suggestions. I’m British, so I think of age of consent as 16 and the older schoolboy stuff doesn’t freak me as such; but even apart from shota squick factor, I prefer men to boys. It’s useful to have some suggestions.

    And feel free to ping me if you want review copies of any of my stuff.

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  14. Jan
    May 09, 2007 @ 23:30:39

    [quote comment="28039"]Thanks for those suggestions. I’m British, so I think of age of consent as 16 and the older schoolboy stuff doesn’t freak me as such; but even apart from shota squick factor, I prefer men to boys. It’s useful to have some suggestions.

    And feel free to ping me if you want review copies of any of my stuff.[/quote]

    That’s the age of consent where I live too. If 16-17 is OK as long as the story is good, I’d suggest a few more more titles that just have good stories: Desire, Rin!, Seven, and Love Mode. The last is tied with Finder for my favorite series. It’s very romantic and emotional, and always makes me laugh cry through the whole thing every time I read it.

    I read some of your excerpts. *gulp* You’d like the Finder series. What the heck did you read as research for Lord and Master? Because I’d like to read it too. I’d love to read any yaoi you’ve written, and the sf looks good as well (though not the one with torture).

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  15. Jan
    May 09, 2007 @ 23:31:47

    Email=janatdearauthor@gmail.com

    ReplyReply

  16. Oliver
    Sep 28, 2007 @ 20:02:26

    I haven’t got this book yet, though I was considering it. I was just put off by the art on the cover which is really not that attractive. I have some other books by this publisher and they’re fun romps (*rumps, I should say).

    If anybody would like to try reading more romantic yaoi with less smut, try any title from June Manga (junemanga.com) or a few from DramaQueen (onedramaqueen.com). I’d recommend Only the Ring Finger Knows from June and Allure from DQ.

    If, however, you would like more smutty titles, try any title from Be Beautiful (bebeautifulmanga.com) or Kitty Media (www.kittymedia.com).

    Yaoi truly is a very romantic genre of manga and none of the truly hardcore (shota, tentacle rape, muscle men, beasts, insects) get published in North America anyways. There is one book with gay tentacle rape, however, it is called The Crimson Spell by Ayano Yamane from Kitty Media.

    I hope this information helped! I hope I’m allowed back in this forum!

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  17. Jan
    Oct 05, 2007 @ 15:39:37

    Yoshinaga’s art isn’t the prettiest, but it’s usually very expressive. She communicates a lot through the characters’ faces, and their words as well.

    Aw, the tentacle sex in The Crimson Spell doesn’t even come close to hentai. It’s not graphic at all, and is played for humor. People shouldn’t get the impression that it’s a book for sickos. I plan on reviewing The Crimson Spell at some point, if I ever get the time away from work. I think it’s one of the best BL manga of the year.

    I’d also recommend Your Honest Deceit from DQ. It’s one of the sweeter titles out. I’ve not been all that impressed with most of June’s latest flood of titles, though I liked Spell a lot, and The Paradise on the Hill.

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  18. Oliver
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 13:37:04

    Yeah, The Crimson Spell actually holds its own as a great yaoi fantasy even though yaoi fantasy stories are quite rare because it would simply conflict with the romance by being too distracting.

    You’re right, the tentacle sex in Crimson Spell is quite tame. I don’t think the yaoi genre has much of it because it’s mostly used in erotic manga featuring females. I think the yaoi genre’s main focus is romance whereas the yuri genre’s focus is complete smut and to turn on the male reader as much as possible.

    Here’s a link that features “gay” yaoi mangas for sale from Japan. I think their main focus is to turn on the gay male reader so they should be super smutty (you know, tailored to the male brain) –>

    http://jpqueen.com/onlineshop/searchresult.asp?KEYWORD=gay+yaoi+manga

    I have Your Honest Deceit too and I’m looking forward to the 2nd vol. and yes, Junes titles aren’t all great but they’re romantic and in abundance for those types who prefer softcore stuff. Thanks for replying!

    Sincerely, Oliver

    ReplyReply

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