Our Not-So Lonely Planet Travel Guide Volume 4 Review

Asahi and Mitsuki have embarked on a round-the-world trip together. Their plan? To get married when the trip is over. They’re on their way to South America – but no sooner have they arrived in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) than Asahi receives a text message from his younger brother Sorato, wanting to meet up. It turns out that he and a friend are in Rio too! Asahi is far from overjoyed; he hasn’t told his family that he and Mitsuki are an item and now they’re all off to Ipanema Beach for sun, sea and sand together and he’ll have to pretend that Mitsuki is ‘just a friend’ he’s travelling with. However, it turns out that Sorato’s ‘friend’ is actually his gorgeous bubbly blonde girlfriend: Alicia Sakamoto – which only makes Asahi more confused and ill-tempered (“I’ve always had a difficult time dealing with girls younger than me, especially the flashy ones…”) But as the four spend time together, Asahi becomes more distant and distracted – until over dinner, under the influence of one glass of the local liquor too many, he blurts out that he’s lost his ring. Next day all four set out to search the beach for the missing ring… and the time has come for Asahi to tell his brother the real reason he was so upset it was missing. “Mitsuki is the one who gave it to me. We’re… dating.”

Asahi has taken the plunge and come out to his brother, but things are even more awkward because Sorato doesn’t know how to react or how he feels about this sudden revelation. As all four continue to travel together, going inland to see the spectacular Iguacu Falls (between Brazil and Argentina) it’s time for some brotherly sharing of thoughts and feelings. Luckily, Alicia’s upbeat outlook on life brings some welcome insights into the situation – and when the two couples go their separate ways (Asahi and Mitsuki heading to Buenos Aires) Sorato is feeling more accepting about Asahi’s revelation.

After Argentina, Bolivia presents new problems. Asahi begins to feel very unwell – and Mitsuki realizes that he’s suffering from altitude sickness. Mitsuki doesn’t know what to do; it’s not so long, after all, since Asahi underwent major surgery back in Japan…

One of the aspects of world travel today that this manga brings home to the reader is that the smartphone has made communication so much easier (as long as there’s a signal). Asahi’s mother can check up on her son from Japan even when he’s in deepest Bolivia! But, in spite of the many light-hearted moments presented by Mone Sorai, this volume also delivers some challenging and serious situations and as the young men encounter certain aspects of other cultures, it makes them think about their own futures. The visit that they pay to La Recoleta Cemetery in Argentina (last resting place of Eva Peron) leads to the usually light-hearted Mitsuki musing aloud, “I wonder how graves are decided…for couples like us.” And when Asahi falls ill with altitude sickness, Mitsuki’s vivid imagination leads him to some very dark places indeed as he worries about what to do for the best.

This manga travelogue continues to make for a very entertaining and sometimes moving read. As readers, we’ve come to know the two protagonists well over four volumes and their worries so far from home when things go wrong are still very relatable! Their enthusiasm for new sights and experiences is also very inspiring and Mone Sorai weaves the concerns they encounter about their own relationship into the ongoing narrative with skill and subtlety. As in previous volumes, she brings to life the food, people and sights of the countries the two are discovering through her detailed and distinctive art; no mean feat when the drawings are all (except the cover) in black and white! She also has a gift for conveying emotions through exaggerated  expressions and some of the faces that Mitsuki pulls in extreme situations are very amusing (or, again, relatable); he has no head for heights, so photographing the Devil’s Throat falls in Argentina is immensely stressful.

The translation for Tokyopop’s LoveLove release is by Katie Kimura and it reads well, as before, with special kudos for also presenting the descriptions of the food and drink that the travellers try out. We’ve caught up with Japan for the time being although new chapters can be read in Japanese online at MAGCOMI.

Last but not least, given that this is a Boys’ Love series, the LGBT elements presented are all to do with making a single-sex relationship work and are explored in a realistic and convincing way. More Sonai is to be congratulated for presenting the problems that her likable and sympathetic couple encounter as they get to know each other better away from their home environment as well as the pleasures of travelling together and seeing the world.

9 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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