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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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01/17/2008 Archived Entry: "Yaoi review: Love Share"

Love Share
Art and story by Aoi Kujyou
Published by the Juné Imprint of Digital Manga, Inc.

Review by Cat

I was slightly amused when I read this back blurb of Aoi Kujyou's Love Share:

"Level-headed Kazushi never wanted his life taken over by the likes of gorgeous Izumi! But then again, who could possibly resist such a charming flirt? After endless days and nights of passion, their future together seems certain...or does it? When Izumi receives a strange phone call, it's up to Kazushi to both find his vanished lover and solve a lingering mystery. Can these two men share a love that lasts, or will it tear them both apart?"

Hm, Love Share isn't as straightforward as the back blurb claims. It's either that or I'm the stupidest reader on earth.

Basically, "Love Share" contains a collection of stories, featuring two long-time friends Kazushi Matsuyama and Izumi Ogiwara, that tracks their slightly stormy friendship-turned-relationship.

The Courage to Believe
Kazushi witnesses his childhood friend Izumi's callous handling of a break up, which has him condemning Izumi for not be able to take relationships seriously. Izumi counter-attacks by pointing out that Kazushi's relationships never lasted longer than three months. Kazushi refuses to believe they are alike in that aspect.
Later at his apartment with Izumi, Kazushi's ex-boyfriend makes a surprise visit that ends badly, but it unexpectedly changes Kazushi and Izumi's friendship to something more.

While it seems a typical story of friends with hidden feelings for each other, I found this chapter somewhat confusing because, mainly, Izumi and Kazushi's exes are practically twins. It took me a while to realise that these guys aren't the same guy. Also, at times the storytelling seems jerky or awkward, which makes the reading somewhat tough. It does take some getting used to. The best bit? Izumi comes off likeable (probably more than he deserves) because of those flashes of his mischievous nature.

The Courage to Believe 2
When Kazushi visits Izumi's apartment, he's shocked to find Izumi in a compromising position with another man.

When taking the ending of "The Courage to Believe" into account, this one is plain bizarre. It took me a while to comprehend Izumi's unexpected reaction. Now that I think I understand his reaction, I wish Kujyou could clarify the reason why Izumi was in the compromising position in the first place. I think it's the weakest of the lot.

Proof of Love
Izumi knows he's an oddity at a government office but chooses to rebel against conforming. On a whim he decides that the first person to talk to him will get to hear what he truly wants to say.

This is another confusing chapter. Again Kujyou is being vague with details. I suppose it's largely to show that Izumi is a striking individual who refuses to conform and to affirm his feelings for Kazushi. But apart from Kuyjou's vague storytelling, there's another problem: the somewhat awkward translation. There are some parts you can tell that something isn't quite right.

In fairness, the translator probably didn't have much fun translating this seemingly random chapter as it doesn't explain the reason why Izumi was at the government office when other stories clearly show that he works from home. All in all I don't think much of this one. I don't think anyone would miss it if it was left out of this book.

Spring: The Whirlwind
One stormy night Kazushi receives a silent phone call. He speculates about who it could be. Although they earlier have had a big fight, he checks on Izumi's room to see if it was Izumi who made the call.

It's one of better stories. Yay. Again it revolves around Izumi's distrust and insecurity, but Izumi has a way to resolve these issues. It's a good coffee-break read.

Summer: A Cold
Yashiro discovers why Izumi hasn't been working lately.

Although it lasts only three pages, it's rather sweet. Once again Kujyou is vague with details - he doesn't explain who Yashiro is or his relationship with Izumi. It wasn't until I re-read "Love Share" that I realised he's the guy from "The Courage to Believe 2".

In the Middle With You
Izumi is annoyed that Kazushi doesn't find sharing a bed together comfortable, so he takes off to his place in a fit of temper. That's the last time Kazushi sees him. During Izumi's absence, Kazushi asks around for his whereabouts while remembering their school days. Then one night Izumi finally returns. It's immediately clear that he's a changed man, along with a heavily stitched wound Kazushi hasn't seen before.

This chapter (and the following chapter) is the darkest story of the lot. It aims to reveal a glimpse of Izumi's dark secret and possibly reason why he has problems committing himself in relationships. I am not sure what to make of "In the Middle With You". The core of this story seems to come out of nowhere. There isn't any hint in earlier stories that this could happen.

In the Middle With You (part 2)
After Izumi's disappearance, Kazushi hears a news item on TV about a famous artist's death. He immediately recognises a young boy in the artist's paintings as Izumi. What's going on? Why hasn't he heard about this artist? What's the connection?

Our lovely Kujyou is at it again: randomness and vagueness gallop through this chapter. This chapter reveals Izumi's dark secret and the origins of who he is. It's up to Kazushi to save him from himself and to prove his commitment to Izumi. I have mixed feelings toward this chapter, good and bad.

It's good because it has, for a change, depth. It's bad because it doesn't offer details that help to make sense of the story. Such as: who is this guardian? Is he even a guardian? How did Izumi meet him? How long were they together? What happened the night he died? It produces more questions than answers, and I find that annoying. But even so, I enjoyed reading this.

Give Me
Yashiro tries to pacify unhappy Izumi, but fails. However there's someone who knows Izumi well enough to know exactly what he wants.

Another short filler. It's sweet and funny, even though it shows Izumi in somewhat bad light.

Love Share
Middle school student Kazushi is nervous - it's exam time at his school, but a free-spirited boy steals his student schedule book. The boy tells him if he wants it back, he must meet him at 9AM. Will Kazushi keep his unexpected appointment with this seemingly wild boy?

It's a sweet tale of how they first met and probably the only story that actually works well in all aspects - art, dialogue, plot, strong personality traits, emotions and motivations. Unfortunately it's somewhat let down by a couple of translation issues.

For example when I read the student schedule book that Izumi stole is apparently the reason why Kazushi couldn't go to school and why he couldn't ask his financially strapped parents to buy a replacement. It didn't make sense. He could borrow his classmate's copy, for instance, but even so, why should this prevent him going to school? It's obviously crucial to the plot, so I had to investigate.

By getting my mitts on the original copy, I was able to discover the 'student schedule book' is actually a season rail card. Suddenly it all makes sense. This discovery made me wonder about the overall translation of the other stories in this book. In spite of this, I enjoyed this story the most.

Junk Lovers
Izumi is annoyed to find Yashiro with Kazushi in their new home.

Another filler to re-affirm Kazushi and Izumi's feelings for each other. It's sweet, but in spite of their re-affirmation, the question mark that lurks in other stories remains. This leaves an implication that there's more to come. Gah!

So, what is the verdict?

Frankly, "Love Share" as a whole doesn't quite make sense. Mostly because I couldn't tell whether it's a flashback in the present day or it's a present-day story. "Proof of Love", for instance, is a tale of Izumi's determination to defy his conventional colleagues by dressing and behaving exactly the way he likes. Kazushi's appearance and Izumi's reaction makes it hard to tell whether this story takes place before the opening chapter or after.

Furthermore their backgrounds seem sketchy. For instance, in one story it implies that Izumi is an orphan who didn't go to school, but in other stories it's implied he attended Kazushi's school, but in the rest it's implied that he didn't go to school and that he spent his childhood years with his guardian in the countryside.

On the other hand we know almost nothing about Kazushi's background except his parents made the effort to pay for his school fees and that he has had short-lived gay relationships since his high school days. So, basically, we have Izumi's detailed but confusing background and Kazushi's next-to-zero background. I think this shows which of the pair Kujyou likes best. Poor Kazushi!

As for what they do for a living? Let's not go there because I don't know. My best guess -- Izumi is an artist or writer who works from home and has an (possibly) editor named Yasshiro. What about Kazushi? I'm not quite sure. He's either a college student or works for a government office. Perhaps it's both.

All this shouldn't matter, but it does make a significance contribution to the chaos made by the confusing timeline itself and Kujyou's vagueness. Nothing seems to be straightforward. It's as if all these feature different people who share same names with the featured couple.

I suspect these stories were originally published as magazine one shots. It could explain these inconsistencies, Izumi and Kazushi's seemingly ever-changing motivations, lack of explanation for Yashiro's presence and role, and the overall story's chaotic timeline.

Furthermore "In the Middle With You" produces more questions than answers, which I find irritating. I was hoping later stories in the book would have answers to these questions, but no. In spite of Izumi and Kazushi's re-affirmed commitment in the final chapter, there's an implication that there's more to come. I hope so because I still want to know what's going on with the mysterious artist that played a big part in Izumi's childhood years.

Would I recommend Love Share?

Yes and no. Overall it's sketchy, largely shallow, and hard to follow, but each story as a standalone, it makes an interesting read. Comparing with Kujyou's other works I think "Love Share" is one of his weakest works to date. If you're a huge fan, it might be worth getting if you have the money to spare. If you're not, it's best to borrow it from your local library or a friend.

In spite of it all, how did June/DMP do with "Love Share"? Typesetting is quite good. The book cover is, unusually for June/DMP, decent and the title font is readable. Which is great, considering that nightmare I read earlier, Melted Love. The English translation as a whole seems awkward and problematic at times. I caught a couple of misspellings, but nothing biggie.

A note: there's a page header that says 'From page 28', which I took to mean it continues from an earlier story, but pages aren't numerically listed. So, I counted pages to find the page and found it was the 'From page 28' page itself. (Head to desk. Bang. Hard. And repeat.) So, when you see this mysterious header, ignore it and read on!

Replies: 4 comments

Believe it or not, this series was even more difficult to follow when I originally read most of it in individual 15-page chunks via a LiveJournal scanlation community. Or maybe it's just a bit easier to put the pieces together when you're reading it for the second time.

Now that I've had the opportunity to read the whole thing straight through, I think the famous artist must be the "friend" Izumi airily informed Kazushi he'd accompanied on a sketching trip to the beach when he skipped a week of classes back in high school. Whether the artist was actually his guardian (a possibility which hadn't occurred to me until I read this review) or just picked teenage Izumi up on the street by asking if he wanted to be in his etchings (which was more or less what I had previously assumed) remains unclear.

As for why Kazushi acts as if he's never seen Izumi before in the story involving the lost student rail pass (thanks for clearing that up--it really doesn't make sense in the DMP translation) even though flashbacks in other stories show them going to high school together, I think Kazushi, at least, was still in his final year of junior high during the rail pass story (didn't he mention something about taking entrance exams?). So I suppose he and Izumi became schoolmates when they both wound up going to the same high school (God knows how, since in the rail pass story Izumi seemed not to be attending school at all).

Of course, I'm still clueless about how Izumi acquired that new(?) stitched-up wound on his shoulder after vanishing for days as a result of the phone call presumably informing him of the artist's death...

Posted by Margaret @ 01/26/2008 12:04 PM PST

Thanks for chiming in. I truly enjoy reading your comments.

I completely missed Izumi's 'mysterious week-long beach trip' bit. Well, I noted it, but made no connection between that and the artist. When you put it that way, it makes sense.

I assumed he might be a guardian because Izumi attended the funeral and stayed at the artist's place (where Izumi eventually found him), but it's largely my guess. Kujyou apparently has no plans to write any more stories, so we're left with these unanswered questions. Argh.

In DMP version, Kazushi was going for an entrance exam, and in the original and scanlation versions, he was going for an exam (nothing specific). But, I think you're right - Kazushi was in junior high when he met Izumi who was probably playing truant from his own junior school. It's plausible this way, at least. Hm, this is a little like putting our puzzle pieces together to make a clearer picture, doesn't it? So, thanks for giving me yours. =]

Posted by Catya @ 01/27/2008 08:55 AM PST

P.S.

"Of course, I'm still clueless about how Izumi acquired that new(?) stitched-up wound on his shoulder after vanishing for days as a result of the phone call presumably informing him of the artist's death..."

I had the impression that he acquired it during a fight that ends with that certain person's death. But you're right, the phone call was made after his death, so this scenario is not possible.

Another inconsistency? Urk.

Posted by Catya @ 01/27/2008 08:59 AM PST

i am gonna show this to my friend, dude

Posted by Nataliaao @ 03/24/2008 10:52 AM PST

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