Queer manga and boys love titles specifically have seen a boom in localization over the last several years— gone are the days where Loveless had next to no competition. It’s not even only the likes of SuBLime and Juné pushing the genre either; major publishers have been including BL among their general releases. Such is the case with Yen Press’s localization of Shou Harusono’s Sasaki and Miyano. The series’ fourth installment was recently released, which should be a pretty good point at which to judge the series. It’s had ample opportunity to introduce its premise and characters, so, how is Sasaki and Miyano shaping up?
So what’s it about?
Here’s a plot summary courtesy of Yen Press:
What is Sasaki to Miyano? The question rings through Miyano’s mind as he struggles to come to a decision. After all, Miyano likes girls and not guys…right? Meanwhile, surprise reunions with old crushes and Miyano’s first drag beauty pageant push Sasaki’s self-restraint to the limit…
Visuals and gags
Layout-wise, Sasaki and Miyano almost seems like two different comics in one. Large portions are composed almost solely of four panel pages that look and function like gag manga. Time passes slowly in the narrative as each page contributes to the overarching plot while also centering a brief joke of its own. As with most gag manga, some moments are funnier than others and the characters’ actions are a bit constrained by the format. With that said this repetitive nature is well-suited to the characters’ casual, everyday conversations at school. It’s not the most dynamic of reads, but the writing is generally strong enough to hold up. The dialogue’s rhythm is smooth and the four panel setup still provides enough room to check in with all the characters in a given scene.
Nonetheless, the manga really gets going when it abandons the four panel format. When Harusono starts to dramatically vary the numbers, shapes, and sizes of panels the comedy is able to branch out a bit in terms of timing and tone. It is also accompanied by more showcasing of the art’s strengths. The screen tone use throughout is quite good though minimal; the patterns and shading help emphasize specific moments rather than being washed all over every page as in some more flamboyant series. The characters’ hair and facial expressions are also particularly well-rendered, contributing to the manga’s senses of personality and humor. All in all the aesthetics are fairly simple but befitting of the high school setting.
A slow, slow burn of a romance
Though the series is now four volumes deep, the main couple’s romance hasn’t progressed very far. That is to say, they’re not exactly a couple at all. Fortunately, the execution of the flow of their relationship is strong enough that this slow burn isn’t frustrating. The plot moves forward steadily as we follow Sasaki and Miyano’s school lives with very little in the way of time jumps. Anticipation is built for an upcoming school festival in which Miyano has agreed to dress up in drag for an event, and his and Sasaki’s feelings on the matter are central to the volume. It’s worth noting that the subject of crossdressing isn’t broached in a way that feels fetishistic, but rather sensitive and respectful.
Miyano and Sasaki’s awkward teenage feelings for one another are well-conveyed, and this is a book about teens in love where said teens actually sound like teens. Miyano’s internal monologues are among the volume’s highlights as he notes his life’s similarities to the BL manga he loves reading. Said meta jokes are used sparingly but effectively, avoiding the sort of overdone fourth wall shattering that hinders some other comics.
Overall, Sasaki and Miyano Vol. 4 is an enjoyable installment in a very slow burn romance. The characters’ emotions take center stage as the plot follows their everyday concerns at school and their anxieties about the upcoming festival. The art is polished and functional, not standing out much stylistically but still elevating the humor and helping differentiate between all the characters’ personalities. If a slice-of-live boys love with charmingly awkward and innocent protagonists sounds appealing to you, then this series is worth a read.
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