It’s boys’ love review time again and today I’m discussing Shiuko Kano’s Escape, published by Juné Manga. The comic is based off the visual novel of the same name and it follows Yamato Majima as he pursues relationships with a number of different men. There’s a unique mixing of the two mediums’ tropes here, but is the manga good?
As I was looking through recent boys’ love releases this one caught my attention with its premise. Speaking as a longtime fan of DRAMAtical Murder and other dating sims, I appreciate the concept here. Seeing different love interests through Yamato’s eyes, not to mention learning about different sides of him in the process, sounds like a solid template for character study. It also sets up the manga’s episodic structure. This isn’t an ongoing narrative for the most part; rather, Kano jumps frequently from character to character and romance to romance. This ensures that, even if you dislike a certain love interest or story, you’ll likely find yourself reading one more to your liking before too long.
With that said, there are also a number of downsides to this approach. Without ongoing plot threads or deep character development, each chapter is tasked with delivering a satisfying one-and-done read. Unfortunately this often isn’t the case in execution. Characters’ conflicts can be awkwardly paced, receiving little build-up prior to their resolutions. Several chapters seem to blend together because, while there are many different love interests, they largely lack individual quirks or characterization. Instead of brief but fun romps with unique flair we mostly get familiar stories repeated with names and occupations swapped out. The outcomes are also similar enough throughout that it doesn’t feel like much is at stake.
Nonetheless, this volume’s visuals are solid. Characters have very expressive faces and body language and the hair throughout looks great. The shading is also good and patterns, action lines, and textures are utilized effectively. The page compositions are also well-balanced and pleasantly varied and there’s some great use of variations in perspective. Blank space is also used in creative ways from time to time, blending in with vegetation and other elements of the scenery. Kano’s style isn’t especially distinct by any means but the basics of effective visual storytelling are all here and it’s clear that a lot of passion was put into this project. My main con with the art is just that some pages can feel a bit too busy with how much is going on concurrently.
The writing isn’t all bad either. Though many plot lines feel underdeveloped there are seldom any clarity issues. Some of the love interests are quite likable and there’s a sense that, with more time to breathe, these stories could be expanded upon to be more memorable and affecting. The dialogue is well-written and the volume’s best scenes are quite enjoyable.
All in all, Escape is a collection of stories with good art, an interesting premise, and mixed execution. The dialogue, shading, page compositions, and use of perspective all impress, and the characters that stand out have solid potential. Unfortunately a lot of the chapters blend together, conflicts aren’t always paced effectively, and there’s an overall sense that a longer page count could have remedied many of the manga’s cons. It also should be mentioned that some scenes get rather explicit in their depictions of underage characters’ relationships, so be warned going in.
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