February 13, 2010

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Il Gatto Sul G Volume 1

Written by Tooko Miyagi
Illustrated by Tooko Miyagi
June Manga

[Note: I read this book online instead of in print form. I don't think that changes anything about my review, but I mention it here in case anyone cares about such things.]

I think it's kinda funny that I haven't read a lot of yaoi manga, but the last two in a row both have a music theme. I wonder if that's a recurring theme or just a coincidence?

A "picture perfect" nice guy finds a young man bleeding at his doorstep that turns out to be a violin prodigy that isn't very happy with his potential fame. So unhappy that he will go to drastic measures to end his career before it starts. Yet as Atsushi, the nice guy, learns, there is far more to the problem than endless handling and practices. Riya, the violin player, is so upset by his forced devotion that he's developed a split personality--with no memory of what happens to his other self when in the other persona!

As if that's not enough, the folks in charge of making sure Riya is okay only care so long as he can play for them and live up to his potential. Atsushi can't abide this, but what can he do from afar, other than offer his place as a refuge, like he does for stray cats? Plus, an upperclassman seems to live only to torment Riya, but is it because he has a secret crush he can't properly express?

There's a lot of setup going on in this first volume, as my summary suggests. This is partly because of the plot--Atsushi needs a reason to care about Riya and so Miyagi must give it to the reader. However, it also relates to the pacing of the story, which was a little bit slow for my taste. I'd have rather seen things move more quickly, but I am wondering if the slow pace of the creator (according to the afterward) meant that there was a need to do a lot of recapping work when presented in serial form.

Once things get moving, however, it's quite an interesting story. I'm mildly uncomfortable with the idea of forced affection from Kousaka, but it fits in with his characterization. Whether or not he truly cares for Riya is still up in the air, but it would make sense that if he does, he could show it in no other way than how we see it here.

Similarly, I am curious as to what Atsushi gains from all this. It's one thing to be a nice guy, but given that he has no attachment to the school or Riya himself, there's an air of stalker to him that I just wasn't able to shake. Is he right that he's the only one who cares about Riya's well-being? Given the hints about Riya's continued ability to play violin, we might soon find out.

The biggest piece of the puzzle, however, is Riya himself. Dual personalities in comics are tricky. Done well, you can get a story about learning who you are, despite being fractured. Done poorly it's played as a simple plot device. Right now, I'm not sure what Miyagi is planning for Riya, which is both good and bad. He's very indecisive right now, as we see him primarily in the passive personality. That makes him weaker as a focal character in my opinion, but only temporarily. I have a feeling that will change in the later volumes.

A lot of the story in this volume revolves around Riya trying to find his bearings and Miyagi does a good job with the dialog to express this. While Riya doesn't understand how he fits in, the rest of the cast seem to have the answers and treat him accordingly. They see the act of not playing the violin as the biggest sin and don't see the fact that Riya is a fragile young man who might do more than cut his fingers next time. The classic callousness of those who don't understand mental issues comes through very strongly, even though we only see it in passing.

In terms of the artwork, Miyaia's line work is pretty much what I'd refer to as a manga house style, if there was such a thing. Characters have angular chins, unkempt short hair, and very thin limbs. They tend to pose a lot and in general act stiffly. Eyes give the primary visual clues to the reader, though there are less of them here than in, say, Fumi Yoshinaga. Even when Riya was supposed to be in mortal danger, he's still more wooden than a person should be.

I prefer a bit more flow in my characters, so I wasn't wowed by Miyagi's artwork. However, there's nothing wrong with it. It gets the job done and doesn't interfere with my ability to follow the story. Since I am a story-first reader, this is not a problem for me. If you are a person for whom art is more important, than you may have a few issues.

Il Gatto Sul G is a bit of a slow starter, but I like where the story is going and I am curious to see how it progresses. I'm always interested when there is a character who must find themselves and Riya is about as lost as it comes. There really isn't a lot of male relationship in this one, though, so if you want a story that's very steamy, I think you're probably best served elsewhere. However, if you like the plot and want to read a story that just so happens to have gay sexual undertones, this should be a good read, if a little on the slow side here and there.

There are print version of Il Gatto Sul G out there if you prefer, but if you want to read it now, you can find the electronic copy here at eManga. You may need to take a few minutes to see how the reader works best for you, but I was quite pleased with the speed of page loading and the quality of the images. If you're comfortable reading online, you should have no problem.

[A complimentary electronic copy was given to me by eManga to review.]