Minako's Notes: This is the most unusual BL story I've ever read, and a fantastic debut work from quirky artist Naruto Maki. What makes it so unusual? For one thing, while the art and story are both endearing and addicting, they're also extremely quirky and comic at the same time. Naruto-sensei's characters spend half of their time in wild SD form, but it seems perfectly natural while you're reading. She also has several short "side" stories which feature her characters as the uniformed fighting force "Seikimatsu*Darling 5", who battle to save earth from invading intergalactic armies. Very strange, but hysterical.
Naruto-sensei's work is also unusual because it's ridiculously clean and so sweet that you could make brownies from it. There's little focus on physical relationships, with just a kiss here and there. The few times sex occurs, it's completely off-screen; the only time you'd even see someone shirtless is when they're swimming. The work focuses entirely on the emotional relationships between the characters, whether they be lovers or friends or relatives. It's a happy, magical world where no one really cares that the characters are gay, and every character in the series has ties to one or more of the other characters. The tone of the series is overwhelmingly comic, barely becoming serious long enough to have touching declarations of love. This series is best described as fudge: sugary sweet and sickening in large batches, but also so addicting that you can't stop.
The charm of this BL series isn't in the tumultuous plot or hard-core sex, it's the characters who you grow to love like your own. Ogata and Takasugi are the main pair of the series, with all relationships coming back to them. Despite the fact that they live together, they don't consumate their relationship until volume 6, since Ogata is deathly afraid of sex with another man. He tends to screams bloody murder if he wakes up to find Takasugi nearby. Shikibu and Tsutsumi are the established couple of the group, and also the model of a stable relationship. Although they fell for each other when Tsutsumi taught Shikibu in high school, they didn't even begin dating until years later when Shikibu became a teacher himself. Kouhei and Takeru are my personal favorite for their wonderful quirks. In a twist on normal BL series, the older Kouhei wants to hold off on their physical relationship until Takeru gets older. While Takeru expresses very vocal opposition to this, he is also hysterically shy and paranoid, punching Kouhei away if there's even the slightest hint that someone saw them kiss. Later on, Naruto-sensei introduces Sakamoto and Katsura, a highly combative "couple" who really round out the cast.
The first four volumes of this series were published in BExBOY Magazine for Biblos Comics. For reasons unknown to me, Naruto-sensei and her series left Biblos, and Seikimatsu*Darling was republished and finished in Bonita Comics's "Kirara 16" line. Although her art definitely improved into some fantastic stuff over the years, her first volume artwork is still very solid. Perhaps the most difficult thing about her artwork is the fact that she was evil enough to give THREE of her main six characters dark hair, with TWO of them being twins. Sometimes, it can be awfully hard to tell Kouhei, Ogata, and Shikibu apart. Since the story is completely focused on emotional relationships, the story and dialogue are very important. But at the same time, the language used isn't terribly difficult, never going beyond basic conversation level, and full furigana is used after volume 1. With a good dictionary and/or basic grasp of Japanese, this should be an easy read. As one of my favorite manga in my collection, I highly recommend this series.
Warnings and Suggestions: Homosexuality warnings, obviously. Takeru is also underaged, dating a man seven years his senior. Plus, most importantly, warnings for the diabetic. There's enough sugary sweetness here to down most anyone.
ISBN 4-253-16518-4 (Volume 1)
ISBN 4-253-16519-2 (Volume 2)
ISBN 4-253-16520-6 (Volume 3)
ISBN 4-253-16521-4 (Volume 4)
ISBN 4-253-16522-2 (Volume 5)
ISBN 4-253-16523-0 (Volume 6)
ISBN 4-253-16524-9 (Volume 7)