Two titles by Ishino Aya

Ever since I bought and read both her Tsubaki no Biyori and Tsubaki no Dayori, I was immediately charmed by Ishino Aya’s style (both in terms of art and story-telling). Naturally I had to try out her other titles, even if they were BL.

Both Koi nado touni Joujushiteta (恋などとうに成就してた) and her latest release Amanojaku no Koi (あまのじゃくの恋) were published by Gentosha Comics, and explicitly print inside to not reproduce the content anywhere so I’m going to do my best to respect their wishes. So all I took are photos of the front covers with Akira and Shiki trolling. Plus, I don’t want to spoil too much so please bear with my review. /cough

Koi nado touni Joujushiteta (2009) is probably my next favourite title by Ishino Aya, after the two Tsubaki titles. Like many of her other releases, it’s a series of short stories put together. Though for this one, the first few stories take place with a same set of characters. In addition, there are hardly any sex scenes. There are suggestions of bed scenes, and signs of affection – but what you’re really looking out for otherwise are the characterisation and story-telling.

The first chapter revolves around an unexpected friendship of two university students. However, one of them has a crush on the other. He remains silent about it throughout. The reason being that he has had a past bad experience, he doesn’t see similar feelings being returned, and his crush seems to be involved with someone else already.

Despite this unsuccessful romance, the next two stories show us each of them having their own successful (?) relationships. Some may wonder if the first chapter was really necessary, but I think it was a nice change to feature friendship over romance. In addition, I came to enjoy the student + teacher pairing a lot too, especially when you see how the teacher may come off as more childish than he appears to be. The other one is a step-brothers pairing, which I’m sure will please those people with such…preferences as it was an adorable read.

The next story revolving around a pair of childhood friends is my favourite read (childhood friends is such an overused pairing, but I find it hard to not like). It’s a rather typical flow, in that it shows the transition of one boy’s feelings towards the romantic side. He attempts to run away from confrontation as his friend doesn’t seem to have any idea. However, what I really liked was how the awkwardness was resolved between the two. Whether or not they truly understand the other person’s feelings is left to speculation. But I enjoyed it better than seeing their relationship rushed to a happily-ever-after ending which would have truly made this too typical a story.

The last story takes place between a senior and a junior working in the construction field. Some people may think of another mangaka when they think of construction work, but this one is nothing similar. The dynamics between this couple is really enjoyable: the senior is bespectacled serious, good at looking after people and worries for his junior. The junior is bright, loud, impulsive and goes with his heart rather than his head. The breaking point comes when the senior tells off the junior and tells him that he should be more serious about his future. However, the junior confesses that he doesn’t feel passionate about anything, isn’t talented at anything, and just followed him into construction sounds like me. It was nice to read about a couple that isn’t overly-obsessed with their relationship, but also on real life issues.

Overall, Koi nado touni Joujushiteta covers relationships you often see: between fellow schoolmates, step-brothers, teacher/student, childhood friends and junior/senior. It’s a good mix of stories and a good starting point to Ishino Aya’s BL works. I definitely recommend it and do look forward to other people’s thoughts on it.

Amanojaku no Koi (2011) covers stories on four couples in total. Similarly, there are hardly any sex scenes except for two, and in fact, one of them is actually a dream pfft.

My favourite read is the title story. As suggested by the title (天邪鬼; amanojaku), we have a character who seems to always do the opposite of what he’s told to – to be honest. It may sound frustrating, but trust me, it’s a lot of fun. The other guy is a simple-minded へたれ; hetare character, who is easily fooled and takes jokes too seriously. The two don’t sound like an ideal couple but it was such a cute read to see how they come to terms with their relationship. Another character who must be mentioned is the guy seen with headphones. He’s a colleague of the amanojaku and puts up with his drunken rants all the time, often telling him to be more honest instead of teasing the other guy. An extremely enjoyable read!

The next story depicts a couple always trying to go on retreat trips, but always failing due to one of them constantly being tied up with work. Once again, rather real life issues are brought into play: juggling work and private life and trying to understand and give way. I was touched at the final page of this story as it showed an extremely sweet gesture.

The third story’s couple struggles with a long-distance relationship (well, it’s within Japan itself but you get what I mean). Again a real life issue which fits right in within the slice of life genre. Be warned that cheating takes place here – the act of cheating isn’t shown, but it’s the trigger that’s brought in to path the way to the breaking point between the couple.

Personally, I never really liked reading about cheating, as the typical story usually has the idiot dominant character warning the other one to not cheat, even though he himself commits the act geez. However, Ishino Aya brings in the issue of an intangible trust between a couple, which is what the cheating partner in her story had trouble believing in. In addition, how the story was brought to a closing end was once again, heart-warming.

The last story features a university student and a working man. Rather typical issues like jealously and being honest with your feelings come in, however, similar to the teacher/student story above, it was nice to see the unexpected childish moments. I really think Ishino Aya has come to have a knack at nailing the endings, ‘cos I loved the ending for this story too. It’s probably my personal taste, since they all fit right down my alley.

In general, I think the stories in Amanojaku no Koi show a lot of giving-and-taking. It was nice to see that being emphasised in the balancing of relationships, rather than domination-and-subordination. I prefer Koi nado touni Joujushiteta as a collection of stories, but the title story in Amanojaku no Koi is definitely one of my favourites ever, the couple is very entertaining. Overall, it’s still a good read if Ishino Aya’s works are your cup of tea and again, I look forward to other people’s reactions.

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