Yamashita’s Black-Winged Love is a collection of stories that are more about life than they just are about the usual yaoi relationships. The first three tales focus on how the relationship between two men will affect those men’s family members. “Drive a Nail Through Love,” in particular, is a unique story for a yaoi anthology because it is told from the perspective of an older sister, rather than from one of the participants in the relationship. Mikiko has been raising her brother Motohisa since their parents died. She finds out that he has feelings for a boy, Ashida, who visits them often, but she doesn’t know what to do when she finds out how Ashida treats Motohisa at school. Mikiko’s pain and outrage on her brother’s behalf is understandable, but Yamashita doesn’t give readers any easy answers in this tale, leaving the ending open to interpretation.
The third story, “A Villain’s Teeth” also has a unique set-up. A teen girl, the daughter of a mob boss, goes to visit her father’s loyal subordinate Yukikawa to tell him that her father is dying, because she knows that Yukikawa has been in love with her father for years. It’s a brief tale that doesn’t try to present any moral. Yamashita simply shows us two people trying to balance pain and loss against anger and love. Minori, the main character of the second story “My Chocolate” has a similar balancing act to do. He is the oldest of six siblings and still lives at home to try to help out, which puts a crimp in the relationship with his coworker and lover Sakashita. What is great about this tale is watching Minori’s family work out their troubles. He needs to learn to stand up for himself and they need to understand that he’s a person too. The family members’ somewhat clumsy dance around each other’s feelings is sweet and believable. It’s a touching story with a perfect ending.
Then Yamashita moves into more traditional yaoi fare with two stories about obsessions. In “Black-Winged Love” Futakami discovers his masochistic side when he falls for his straight coworker. Yamashita uses the idea of fetishes in a unique way. They ultimately prove to be liberating for Futakami, even if things don’t go quite the way he expected. Nakazu, Futakami’s object of affection/obsession, isn’t your run of the mill homophobe. His concerns are more about being objectified, which makes readers think and wonder about his true feelings for Futakami. “Jump Across That Fire” tells the story of Kanome who falls for his classmate Rokuzo and decides that the best way to court him is by trying to sleep with him. Unfortunately this story doesn’t work as well as many of the others, mainly because Kanome and Rokuzo are too close in style to be easily told apart. Readers will be confused about who is speaking, throwing them out of their enjoyment of the story.
The collection ends on a lighter note with the last two stories and the bonus material. “Fool 4 U” is about Yui, whose feelings for his childhood friend get in the way of his current relationship. It’s a cute story, mainly because Yui is so torn up over his affections for a guy who is so very idiotic. But there is a rape scene in there, possibly just because Yamashita is too serious a storyteller to let her tales be completely light-hearted. She makes a good attempt, though, in “Photogenic,” a cracky little plot-what-plot (i.e. written just for the sex scene) about a man who gets more than he bargained for when he hires an escort. Yamashita wraps things up with a mix of bonus material, mostly some cute extra stories and a few deleted scenes.
Yamashita’s art is rough and almost unfriendly in tone, which sounds bad, but which is actually quite a good fit for her grittier, unconventional stories. Her characters rarely smile; indeed, the corners of their mouths seem pulled down by the weight of their problems, as do their sloping shoulders. She can do chibis, but rarely does, mostly saving them for the bonus material. Netcomics has done a clear, crisp job of printing, though their translation is still a little awkward in places. Some of the longer paragraphs of dialogue, especially when characters are angsting, are florid, but hard to find meaning in. On the whole, though, this is a great collection for readers who want more realism and/or grit in their yaoi. Yamashita makes readers think, which is, in the end, not a bad thing at all.
Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith on July 13, 2012