Yaoi Review: Rin! by Satoru Kannagi and Yukine Honami

Rin! Volume 1 (Yaoi)

Art and Character Design: No one does adorable, boyish character art quite like Yukine Honami. She could draw a quick pencil sketch of your worst enemy and I swear you’d want to hug him. Thus, her work is completely appropriate for this story and a pleasure to view. There’s rarely much in the way of backgrounds in her art, but the character art is expressive, engaging and yes, huggable. You never have any trouble telling who’s who, and even when she just draws the barest minimum of a chibi outline, it feels completely appropriate for what that panel needs.

Characters: For the most part, they’re all a big pack of sweethearts. Everyone feels fairly three-dimensional and are consistent in their motivations. By the end of the book there’s nobody you don’t like or wouldn’t want to spend more time with — including the “rival” character, Kouichi. In fact, so sweet and caring is older brother Yamato with younger brother Katsura, the pair are downright slashable — for those who are into that sort of thing. 😉

Plot: There are no big surprises in this coming-of-age archery romance, but no false turns, either. Uke Katsura must learn to overcome his anxiety and stand on his own two feet and seme Sou has to learn to overcome his controlling nature and accept his feelings for the younger boy. And while this book is all about their budding romance and the emotions it generates, Kannagi-sensei fleshes out enough of the archery competition subplot so that it also feels like a fully relevant part of the story. Sure, you know how this book is going to end, but it’s a very sweet story complemented by very sweet art, so the journey is quite pleasant.

Romance: It won me over. I actually wanted Katsura to wind up with the laid back, caring and completely emotionally available rival, Kouichi — but then we all know that’s not going to happen when there’s a brooding seme waiting in the wings. As it is, the character development of our two heroes complement each other nicely and believably, and by the end, they felt like a good match. Oh, and yes, it’s all very, very sweet.

Sex: Let’s see… one completely obscured hand-job, four kisses and countless hugs. This is a 16+ book, so don’t expect it to get hot and heavy. But considering the cuteness (and very youthful appearance) of Honami-sensei’s uke, keeping it mostly to hugs was probably just as well.

Overall: If you feel you’ve seen it all before, then this book certainly won’t change that view. But if sweet high-school romance with likable characters and beautiful character art are enough to float your boat, then you won’t be disappointed. And at a nice, thick 228 pages, you’re getting a good value for your $12.95.

Rated by the publisher “For Young Adults 16+.”

Read the full review below the fold:

Plot summary from the publisher’s website:

Katsura, a second year in his high school’s archery club, has a hard time controlling his nerves. His “secret weapon” is his brother’s best friend and childhood buddy, Sou! One hug from Sou and Katsura’s nerves are soothed to a peaceful calm. But he can’t keep Sou around him forever. As he wonders how he’ll survive without Sou’s hugs, his friend Kouichi suddenly asks if he can be the one to save him, and kisses him! What now?!

So — one of Honami-sensei’s doe-eyed, adorable ukes needs a constant stream of hugs to control his panic attacks. Unfortunately for him, the only person whose hugs actually work is kind of a dick. “What now?” indeed.

I realize I’m not the first to say this, but it baffles me that loyalty, emotional availability and unambiguous affection aren’t considered tremendously sexy qualities in this world. Everyone wants an Aragorn or a Legolas, who are going to go tromping off fighting orcs, expecting you to just sit and wait for them, while nobody gives a second thought to brave and steadfast Samwise, who’s right there by your side, just waiting to tell you how great you are and fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with you against the worst the Dark Lord of Mordor has to offer. If I were ruler of the world, everyone would be lining up to tear faithful Sam’s clothes off, but alas, no one thinks to consult me on such matters.

Thus, it is a minor triumph of this book that the romance between sweet but fragile Katsura and handsome but bitchy Sou eventually won me over when the rival, Kouichi, seemed such the better choice. The secret? The heroes grow throughout the book to become better people and in 228 pages, they have time to do it believably. These two character weren’t right for each other when the book begins, but by the end they are — and the journey getting there feels natural, if fairly familiar.

This book is essentially a coming of age story where the main character, Katsura, learns to become a man in the arenas of sports and love. This being yaoi, the boy-who-would-be-man is awfully innocent and sweet — let’s face it, a hug addiction is not likely to be a 16-year-old boy’s primary character flaw in a mainstream Hollywood film — but most of the other story beats in this tale you’ve seen before.

Yet the characters are engaging and likable, so you still care. And, of course, this is in no small part due to Honami-sensei’s adorable character art — which will probably be the primary reason most readers will buy this book, anyway. They won’t be disappointed.

All the things you like from Honami-sensei’s previous work are here in full force — the very young, very cute uke; the believably older-looking, masculine, yet also cute senpai; the expressive and effective chibi characters. Clarity is a real strength for Honami-sensei — you always know what these characters are feeling and often, due to how evocatively they are drawn, you feel it with them. Being more of a story guy, I’m usually more interested in the writer of a graphic novel than its artist — but I would buy a book just because Yukine Honami drew it. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

In short, this is a very sweet, engaging, cuddly graphic novel — as familiar as your favorite down comforter — and at 228 pages, it can do just as effective a job keeping you nice and warm during a long winter’s night.




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11 comments

  1. Hey Jen 🙂

    I have yet to check out OtRFK — although being a classic, it's definitely on my list. (It does seem like required reading for those who want to talk coherently about yaoi and its impact on the West.) Alas, so much yaoi, so little time… 😉

    And for other readers: Jen has her own review of Rin! over at her site YaoiSuki, where her knowledge of Japanese also helps us to understand that title a little better. You can find it here:
    http://yaoisuki.net/content/view/279/

  2. Yeah, the title is a little confusing for non-Japanese readers, especially since we're used to Rin being a name (like the little girl in Inu Yasha). I got to the end and was like, "wait, so who's Rin? ._." Even writing the review, I kept wanting to call Katsura "Rin." Very silly.

    The notes from the mangaka mention it being her favorite kanji, but shame on Juné– they don't publish the kanji anywhere in the book! (The actual cover only contains the name in English.)

    So I had to go spend some quality time on Amazon.co.jp to find the kanji, and then look it up ^^;; (My knowledge of kanji is *horrible*.)

  3. The notes from the mangaka mention it being her favorite kanji, but shame on Juné– they don’t publish the kanji anywhere in the book!

    Yes, I read that note, too — and with such a big call-out, I was surprised that the publisher didn't bother to translate the kanji for us. (I kept looking in the back for a little Translation Notes section with an explanation — no dice.) Perhaps Juné just assumed the author had done a good enough job translating it herself in the note and they didn't feel it was relevant. Either way, since the author made such a big deal about it, a little hand-holding would have been nice.

    I must admit, though — I was surprised to read you liked this one. Considering the set-up and how it plays out, I was concerned that it might not be innovative enough for you. Glad to see you enjoyed it. 🙂

  4. Hi Alex, Nanya again ^0^/
    She could draw a quick pencil sketch of your worst enemy and I swear you’d want to hug him.

    I so resonate this comment!! Actually I'm playing a game demo with Honami as character designer. It's actually a HORROR BL game (imagine Honami drawing HORROR) (*O*) but then like you said, I only want to end up hugging the "enemy" ^_^;; Well, her more mature male characters (the middle ages) are not as sweet as her cute high school characters but I still want to hug them nonetheless (laughs).

    Back to Rin >_> I like it as well!! Actually I like Kouichi THE BEST because he's TOO lovable. He seems so relaxed, so mature, and so nice I also envy Katsura for moment. However, I actually cheer for Sou x Katsura more (because I want to keep Kouichi to mysefl *v*) because the two can end up in a more balanced relationship. I feel it's with Kouichi, Katsura would be more dependent on Kouichi because of the difference in the level of maturity.

    Actually, after you read Only the Finger Knows, you may find parallels between OTFK and Rin (although you must read the novel version because the manga version only covers the first novel). Rin=Wataru, Sou=Kazuki, Kouichi=Asaka ^_^;; That's why I don't like OtFK (though everyone in the Western world seems to be talking about it). Having said that though, I do like Kannagi sensei and I think she's a good author because she's written another series about Yakuza. That series departs from her usual characterization and I have been writing to English publishers to ask them to translate that series as well. The plot there is VERY NICE (especially the first book…). However, I think that's not chosen because the art's by Kane Hikaru (who's not famous outside Japan ;__;). OtFK or Rin gets easily published because of Odagiri & Honami … ahhh… what a waste.

    Sorry for all the ramblings and I am looking forward to more of your reviews!

  5. Hey Nanya 🙂

    Actually I’m playing a game demo with Honami as character designer. It’s actually a HORROR BL game (imagine Honami drawing HORROR)

    Now, that's interesting. I'm curious, what's it called? Are you reviewing it on your site?

    However, I actually cheer for Sou x Katsura more (because I want to keep Kouichi to mysefl *v*)

    lol

    because the two can end up in a more balanced relationship. I feel it’s with Kouichi, Katsura would be more dependent on Kouichi because of the difference in the level of maturity.

    I hadn't thought of it that way, but I think this is very insightful. Yeah, Katsura and Sou do seem more closely matched in terms of maturity. While I'd like Katsura to wind up with a guy who I know is going to treat him well, it definitely does feel like these guys are growing together — and that, ultimately, they aren't too far off in terms of power. (When Katsura confronts Sou later in the book with his feelings, it definitely felt like he could hold his own against the older boy.)

    Sorry for all the ramblings and I am looking forward to more of your reviews!

    Well, thanks for the props. It's always nice to hear that someone is enjoying them! 🙂

  6. Hi Alex,

    Now, that’s interesting. I’m curious, what’s it called? Are you reviewing it on your site?

    It's called Tamayura and it's a Japanese cultural adventure game. This is the official homepage: http://www.palmiers.jp

    They have got some of the CGs up there, which I think are quite beautiful. It's the first game (?) with Honami's art. At first, I'm a bit surprised because Honami=cute & school for me but this story is set in a very isolated village that seal it off completely with the outer world. Also, whoever from the outside world marries the village members will perish young. The main character's parents also died young in a car accident leaving him alone. He is suddenly dragged back to the village during a mysterious festival.

    I am interested in this game because it's my first time seeing Honami drawing so much smut (probably)…she's usually quite "clean" with her smut. There's also SNAKE play *v* …my favorite and almost all the members are reversible. So you have uke looking characters actually on top of mature seme looking characters!

    I tried to buy from the publisher of the game because then I can get the special artbook and manga specially drawn by Honami sensei but the publisher will not ship outside of Japan ;__;. I'll probably review the game after I finish it!

  7. They have got some of the CGs up there, which I think are quite beautiful.

    Gosh that art does look awfully adorable.

    I’ll probably review the game after I finish it!

    Please let me know when you do. I can't read Japanese, so I doubt this'll be a game I'll ever be able to play, but I'll be interested to hear what you think. 🙂

  8. Rin! is one of my fav mangas of soft yaoi. I really was hooked by the story (a ver very japanese story with all concepts about honor and the "bow way", I really enjoyed). I think the regular yaoi reader may not like this book because is very different than the regular yaoi (the classical classification system would consider this shonen-ai, not yaoi) but if the reader wants to read a quality story in a classical shonen-ai manga, won´t be disappointed.

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