Only Serious About You volumes 1 & 2 by Asou Kai

Reviewed by Cait
Published in print by Juné

Short Answer: Decent

From the website: “Busy chef Nao has to balance his ultra-hectic restaurant schedule with the demands of being a single parent for his sweet daughter, Chizu. So when flirtatious customer Yoshi offers to lend a helping hand in an emergency, it’s awfully hard to turn him down! But will Yoshi’s simple favor turn into an offer that Nao couldn’t possibly refuse?”

I really like these characters. I’ve just found that in stories I prefer characters I can like as people, over characters I am expected to love to hate. Oosawa and Yoshioka are good people. They are flawed, perhaps, but still genuinely likable. Their backstories are filled out, and their growth over the course of the story is natural and positive. Naoki Oosawa slowly opens himself up to others after having closed himself off after the failure of his marriage and being left to care for his daughter alone. A failure, in no small part, due to his not managing his career and family well enough. He begins the story over-compensating for this failure by trying to take everything on himself and being overwhelmed. Ultimately he is forced to concede to Yoshioka’s persistence to offer aid in the form of a place to stay. Of course, as a gay man, Yoshioka (or, “Yoshi” as Naoki’s adorable, and well behaved, daughter comes to refer to him) has ulterior motives, but as the story progresses, those motives prove more innocent than first expected. Yoshi is simply lonely. Not just in his big home all by himself, but emotionally because of his subconscious insistence on keeping people at arms length. In coming together as human beings they find an emotional connection friends might search for over years and never discover. I came away from this reading experience happy that they could find one another and heal their emotional wounds.

The story, however, is flawed. There is really only so far one can go with BL tropes and an expectation of the suspension of disbelief. As fans of the genre, we are expected to simply accept Naoki and Yoshi’s developing relationship as romantic, but the first 3/4 of the book only shows that romantic affection coming from Yoshi. There is plenty of platonic affection coming from Naoki, but only after a mid-volume 2 averted “crisis” does he relent to a romantic relationship, which then develops immediately into a physical one. Naoki, unlike most of his counterparts in other BL stories in which a straight man succumbs to the charms of a gay suitor, does not agonize over his feelings. In fact, he doesn’t have any time at all to develop them clearly. The plot takes place over the course of a week. We are expected to believe that casual acquantances put into a one time, several day long situation of living together develop their feelings so strongly in such a short time, one of them changing his identified sexuality and the other giving up on casual relationships entirely, that they decide to make a go as a couple permanently. Naoki in particular becomes far too easily and quickly comfortable with a gay lifestyle that he barely bats an eye at the inherent strangeness of such a change.

I do love how naturally homosexuality is depicted in the story, though. Naoki and the people around him don’t have any particular disdain for Yoshioka or his long string of boyfriends. Their general issue is with the way Yoshioka is unable to retain stable monogamous relationships with them, interspersed with comedic fretting over Naoki’s “safety” living with a notorious flirt. Likewise, when Naoki innocently asks Yoshioka if there is something in his past that “made” him gay, I didn’t immediately become uncomfortable. Ignoring what is clearly a cultural difference in the general understanding of the origins of homosexuality in people, Naoki doesn’t necessarily ask because he thinks people become gay out of childhood trauma. He asks because there is clearly something in Yoshioka’s past that made him the guarded and outwardly frivolous person he is as an adult and he wonders if that same thing had an effect on his presented sexuality. This may not read directly from the text, but its undertones are nonetheless there.

The art is clean and the character designs are to my tastes: not too bulky and not too waifish. Probably the only complaint I have with her art is the color covers, which depict Naoki a little younger than he appears anywhere else in the comic. This is an artist who has drawn manga before, and knows how to draw it well. She is not well published in English as of yet, but I’m hoping to see more of what she has to offer in the future.

As for whether I would recommend this two volume series to anyone, I probably would. It is a nice, light read best suited as a palate cleanser between more serious fare.


About cmbranford

Twitter: @cmbranford
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