Make the most of this title, fujoshi and fudanshi, while you can – because if, like me, you still prefer your BL manga to come in good old-fashioned paper book form, this is the last title (apart from hentai and Tezuka’s Unico) to be published by Digital Manga Inc. until next August. There will be no new titles from June or 801 – except on the newly revamped eManga site (about which, more here later) – for six long months.
And what a sweet manga Ninth Life Love is. This is the first title by Lalako Kojima I’ve read and her light, pleasing style in the drawings (a little reminiscent of the wonderful Rihito Takarai) and the touching way she develops her main story make it stand out from other recent Juné releases. It’s basically a duet, a love song for two played out between a boy and his cat. Young Yukiharu adores his cat Dorasuke and is heartbroken when his beloved pet is knocked down and killed. Six years later, a fair-haired young man appears and throws himself affectionately at Yukiharu, announcing himself to be Dorasuke. Yukiharu’s cat has been granted a new lease of life – as a human. (Did I mention that he has cat ears and a tail?) Yukiharu’s first reaction is one of stunned disbelief. It’s only when the persistent Dorasuke tells him of an embarrassing incident that occurred when Yukiharu was five that the reality of this astonishing situation begins to sink in. But as their feelings for each other grow stronger, Dorasuke reveals the catch to his miraculous rebirth as a human: if they have sex, he will turn to foam and disappear. And when Dorasuke notices that sometimes his hands are looking dangerously transparent, he fears that he’s already beginning to fade away. Poor confused Dorasuke begins to wonder, “What if God was just using me as a way to pass the time?” Will Dorasuke disappear and Yukiharu’s heart be broken again?
Two other tales complete the volume: Secret Rika, a lightweight tale in which one of the partners in a new relationship struggles with doubts about his enigmatic boyfriend, and Light and Fluffy, a tale in a vein that’s been really popular in BL recently, in which a gay protagonist is smitten with a widowed/divorced florist with a small child. But even though Lalako Kojima confesses in her Afterword, ‘I think widowers are hot, so I was glad to get to draw one’ there’s no doubt that the stand-out and best-developed story in the collection is Ninth Life Love. Of course, cats that turn into hot boys also appear in Muku Ogura’s charming BL fantasy Sentimental Garden Lover (only available as an ebook from DMG) but the story treatments are very different. It’s a (guilty) pleasure at this grey, cheerless time of year to bask in Lalako Kojima’s warm yet poignant tale of love and cats – and the moments where Dorasuke forgets he’s a human and indulges in cat-like behaviour are utterly adorable. Yes, it’s fluffy (in all senses of the word) but the growing relationship between the boys is sensitively portrayed in both words and pictures. And you just have to love a manga that quotes – aptly – from Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Stop Press – This review is of the printed book but this manga is now also available in various electronic formats on eManga.com