愛だろ (Ai Daro)
Josei – Drama, mature, romance, smut
1 Volume (complete)
Shu and Shun are twins, and neither one’s love life is running smoothly. Shu runs into her former boyfriend, and her brother, Shun, isn’t too pleased. In the second collection of stories, Hikari is a street performer who is told by a man her songs lack love.
Warning: this review is of a series that is recommended for ages 18+ and is not safe for work!
If the main story of Real Love is supposed to show what love is really like, then stick to waifus and husbandos.
Real Love is divided into the three chapters of “Real Love” and two involving a street performer (the “Baby” chapters). Ironically, it’s the second story that has more of the “luv-luv” feel.
In a nutshell, the first story is about a girl who runs into her cheating ex-boyfriend and ends up sleeping with him again several times. The boyfriend was a star but now wants to resume his relationship with Shu. Her brother is quite angry at his sister’s behavior. He is also dealing his sort-of-but-not-really girlfriend. Quite frankly, they’re all nuts. Their behavior, however, is pretty typical of Harlequin-like novels, so if you don’t mind those types of characters and situations, then I’m sure you’ll like Real Love. Shu is the lead who can’t control her body, Naomichi basically decides to reclaim Shu’s body, Shun is moody, and the other girl, Miki, just wants to be with Shun. They all would fit in a soap opera or TV drama. Miki is probably the least irritating, but she’s also the least important of the four main characters.
I didn’t care for the characters, and the “romance” wasn’t strong either. Even Naomichi’s final confession left me shaking my head. Really, this whole story is one facepalm after another. I really wasn’t rooting for either of the couples.
“Real Love” also doesn’t help itself by trying to hide the major twist in one of the worst possible ways. Conservative readers aren’t likely to pick up such an explicit manga, but Shun’s reactions will cause a lot of readers to draw one of two conclusions. If you’re talking about in terms of twists, then Oda succeeds in faking out her readers. However, the hints may make many people feel uncomfortable while reading. It’s one thing to be a smut manga, but it’s another thing for a manga to have an inappropriate relationship. Shun’s actual secret is not offensive, but it still doesn’t excuse how he repeatedly calls his sister a slut.
As for the second story, this is much more straightforward and involves less messed up relationships. Hikari insists she’s fine by herself, but she ends up involved with a man who always comes to listen to her sing on the street. His nickname for her, “kitty”, plays a big role in the theme. (When I read this story, I keep thinking of the songs “Tokimeki no Doukasen” from Fushigi Yuugi and the Vocaloid song “Cat Food” from Doriko.) Anyways, the first chapter of the “Baby” story is a stand-alone one-shot with the second chapter serving as more as an epilogue. “Baby” is also much less explicit than the main story. In exchange, it does have better characters and a not-too-crazy relationship. It feels more like a stereotypical shoujo with a previously-hurt heroine finding herself wanting to cling to someone new. After I finished “Baby”, I wasn’t left with a bitter taste in my mouth like “Real Love”. It’s good, but it’s not worth tracking down the manga just for it.
Oda’s art looks very similar to Yazawa Ai’s. Very, very similar. In fact, one of Google’s first suggestions when you type in Oda’s name (in English or Japanese) is to add Yazawa’s. When I first saw Oda’s artwork, I assumed she had been Yazawa’s assistant. I mean, the two styles have more than just a little in common, and neither could be classified as typical shoujo. So when I saw the long eyelashes, the white circular pupils, even the popularity of newsboy hats, I assumed Oda had been taught by Yazawa. However, I can’t find any evidence of this. Yazawa’s signature really came to be in the mid 90s (she debuted in the mid/late 80s), and Oda debuted in the early 2000s, so it is possible Oda was just a fan of Yazawa’s work and was heavily influenced by her style. Or maybe they were taught by the same person, I don’t know.
Regardless, Oda’s artwork isn’t quite as strong as Yazawa’s, but it may be because I’m so familiar with Yazawa. I wonder if I’d feel the same if I had read Real Love or Oda’s other works before Paradise Kiss. I do like the white pupils surrounded by the darker irises. This allows Oda to show a lot of different expressions with the eyes while having a sense of realism. When the characters are shocked, their eyes go all white, but when they’re angry, they’re all dark. I felt the screentones lacked variety; I got sick of looking at the dots and occasionally the long lines/stripes. The sensual scenes are on the explicit side. This is due in part to the heroines’ emotional states making those instances more like just sex rather than making love But it visually helps fill the void while we all hope Yazawa gets healthy enough to finish NANA.
No honorifics are used. As this is a short series, I’m not going to delve too deeply into it. I do feel like it’s a bit punched up and drops little things (like the woman’s name being “Hitomi” in the opening scene), but it works considering there’s not a lot of Japanese culture in this series. The whole manga almost seems like it could have easily been an American show or movie, so it works. The characters do keep how they refer to each other. Some references are replaced. Overall, it’s fine. It’s too short for me to really care.
While the English josei market is small, it’s really hard to recommend Real Love. I preferred the second story to the titular one, but neither one were that great. It’s a decent manga to borrow if you’re the type to prefer something short and sensual, but I feel like most readers would be better off investing in a longer josei or mature shoujo with less irritating characters. Titles like Paradise Kiss and Spell of Desire are a manageable five volumes (or two omnibuses in Paradise Kiss‘s case).
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