Isle of Forbidden Love
Aki is a jittemochi, a commoner who acts as a policeman, in Edo-era Japan. A series of bizarre murders leads him to Kuga, a man who very closely resembles the person who saved Aki’s life twelve years earlier. Kuga insists that he is not that man and all of Aki’s attempts to find out more about Kuga and his life are deflected smoothly with a kiss or a change of subject. As Aki digs deeper into the murder investigations, though, he begins to realize that Kuga may know more about the murder weapon—a device that can burn a hole through clothes and flesh leaving behind only a lead ball—than he is letting on. Who is Kuga and what secret is he hiding?
Creator group Duo Brand deftly bring together elements of detective work and romance and spice them with hints of time travel in this unique and touching yaoi manga. Though nothing is as fully-fleshed out as it might be if they were writing a longer series, they have still crafted an interesting story which should capture the attention of readers, even long-time yaoi fans. Much of the appeal lies with Aki and Kuga. Aki is a puppy-dog-like young man, all eagerness and earnestness. He desires only to live up to the gift of life given to him when he was rescued from kidnappers as a child. Kuga, meanwhile, truly seems to care for Aki. He is torn between what he knows and what he wants, caught by his desire for Aki and his responsibilities. Both of them are likeable, not always a requirement in yaoi main characters and a nice touch which helps build the romance of the story. The plot elements come full circle by the end of the tale, wrapping things up neatly and leaving readers satisfied.
Duo Brand are known for their extremely pretty boys, but here they seem to be trying to keep things more realistic, despite Aki’s endearingly dorky ponytails. Their efforts are helped by the historical setting. The creators’ penchant for flowing clothes fits nicely with their story’s costuming requirements. As the setting changes in the middle of the tale, though, Duo Brand’s art also switches, keeping things believable and helping readers follow the action. The one love scene is not overly graphic, though it is obvious what is happening, and the relationship between the characters is beautifully portrayed. At the end of the book are three short authors’ notes where Duo Brand discuss their love of swords and how sword metaphors can be used in yaoi manga. The notes are extremely funny, if a little hard to read because of the small font size. Overall, yaoi readers looking for a sweet tale of history, mystery, and love should be very happy with this work.
Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith on May 1, 2010