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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/02/2008 Archived Entry: "Yaoi review: Sugar Milk"

Sugar Milk
Story and art: Jaryu Dokuro
Publisher: Juné, imprint of Digital Manga, Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-1569707449

Review by Cat

I have to confess that I recently had been ill with the flu and a chest infection, so I wasn't in the best of moods when I started reading Sugar Milk. Since it's not a review copy, I had nothing to lose. If it's crap, it's crap. If it's good, it's good.

Yeah, well, by the time I finished the book, I was so relaxed that I didn't even bother thinking of kicking my younger brother's head in for purchasing four PS3 games on my credit card without permission.

Before I start, I've decided against summarising each story because Reyes already did it in her review of Sugar Milk. (No, I wasn't being lazy. This review is going to be so long that you'll thank me for leaving the job to Reyes. Plus her review is cool enough to deserve another read.)

Sugar Milk contains seven stories (and a postscript from Doruko) including:

What's Your Name?
Fifteen
The Lingering Scent of a Rainbow
Milk
Sugar
Waiting for Winter
New Year's Eve

It's impossible to choose a favourite because I like each for different reasons. Quite shocking for a fussy reader like me. There are a couple of stories that I'd describe cookie cutters. The kind that you just know what will come next. However in this case, when it does it's not a disappointment, which was a massive surprise. Considering the fact I'm a huge fan of unpredictability and "something different".

I had thought about describing my reaction to each story, but I think it'd spoil the story. Mainly because each story isn't that long nor complicated enough to make it easy for me to be vague with the details. So I'll focus on how I generally feel about the collection altogether.

All stories have this feeling ... well, as strange as it might sound, it's as if mangaka Dokuro has this 'luceat lux vestra' (let thy light shine) attitude towards her characters and it shows. You also really can tell she's terribly fond of her characters and anxious to make it clear to us to see why she likes them so much. She didn't need to do so because all characters are very likeable and rather nice. It's not to the point of making them disciples of Pollyanna, just enough to make them likeable with gentle personality flaws. That's what make each story so enjoyable to read, I think.

Art-wise, Doruko is obviously part of a new manga art movement - characters tend to be rather tall, angular looking, lanky and have 'Eurasian' eyes (not like those anime eyes so big that they seem to gawp). It's also strong but sparse black ink drawing, European-like pacing, metropolitan atmosphere, and many more. Other mangaka that use this kind of style, feel, character type and storytelling are Tsuta Suzuki, Kyuugu, Kusama Sakae, Kunieda Saika, and a couple more.

Hm, did I just go on a bit? I suppose it's because I'm so excited to see this kind of manga. It might not be a classic in the making (and it isn't), but it's certainly refreshing. I wish there are more like this.

I have to point out two things. Yay! to Dokuro for liking Ska (which she lists among 'likes' in her bio) and yay! to whoever designed the dust cover of this book. I really like it.

In fact I drooled with envy that it's not credited to me (even though I'm currently not working as a graphic designer). I deeply dislike DMP/June's signature pink band, but the cover art, typefaces and the rest make themselves felt so strongly that the whole thing overshadows the pink band. Just enough to fool you that it no longer exists (oh, how I wish!). So, 100+ points to the book designer for this awesome achievement, even though it may not be intentional.

Although there's a clear black "M For Mature Audience 18+" label on back of the book, it's actually shounen-ai. There's a kiss in every one shot. Although there is a sex scene in one, it's really not 'offensive' nor pornographic. In fact it's a lot tamer than most 16+ shounen and shoujo manga titles available in English. I suspect it's to do with the legal issues over this genre at where the publisher is based. I'm not sure, to be honest. Still, it's a shame.

The reason why I say that is because it limits Sugar Milk to a specific mature audience who might expect more than what it can deliver. It's really the kind that younger audience would enjoy. Especially for those - regardless of their age, actually - who enjoy stories with down-to-earth and dry humour; characters' sweet-natured interaction, philosophical perspective of love, life and whatever goes on in life. Of course, there are some characters' contemporary quirky fashion taste as well as the diversity of story lines in this collection. And the bonus is, it makes a relaxing read. (Evidently, judging by my reaction (or rather, lack of) to the discovery of how my brother abused my poor plastic card.)

However, I'm not that keen on typesetting in each story. It's too big for my taste. It's not so bad that it'd irritate me enough to throw a mini tantrum in my head. I suppose it's because the stories that sucked me inside these characters' worlds. The kind that goes, "Urgh, I don't like that... oh, look, shiny!" Shiny being the stories. The handling of this book is... hm, perhaps a little too stiff for my taste, but not so stiff that it interfered with the reading. It feels solid, which is good, I suppose.

That biggest complaint I have for Sugar Milk is although it has seven stories, it's damn skimpy! It'd be nice to have longer one shots or at least, fill it with more one shots. Then again, it's Dokuro's debut.... damn, I still can't believe it's her debut. It's pretty good for a newcomer. She's definitely the one to watch. Especially if she decides to introduce the mature aspect to her future stories.

And 10+ points to that guy for giving his dog such a misleading name. (laugh)

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