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* * * * *   October 26, 2010
Reviewer: Kimi-Chan

King of Debt is actually the first story in this collection of one shots.As the publisher says, "Souta's friend, Taketora, is chronically bad at managing his finances. Ever since the two met in college, Taketora has never ceased to borrow money from Souta. Money that he never gives back, of course. And it's not like Souta is rich or anything either, he can barely get by with the money he makes at his student job. But whenever Taketora makes that face, Souta is unable to resist... Worse yet, now Taketora is saying that rather than returning the money, he'll repay Souta...with his body?!!" It is a rather lightweight piece about two guys who have known each other for awhile, neither one willing to let go, but neither one willing to make the first advance either. That is, until fate plays a hand in the form of Souta losing his job and needing to go ask for his money back in earnest. The outrage he feels when he discovers the truth about Taketora's "gambling" is understandable, but feels rather too shortlived in resolution. Still, all is well that ends well, and it looks like Souta is not going to have to worry about his rent money! The second story is about a boy and his teddy bear. Minori is all alone in the world save for his older brother and his teddy bear. When his brother packs a suitcase and tells Minori that he has to go, but will return soon, Minori assumes the business trip won't take long. A year later, he is still waiting, sat at their apartment with Mr Bear, holding down the home fort. One day, he wakes up, and finds Mr Bear has apparently become a human. Say what? No way! He might still be in high school, but he isn't that stupid right? But Mr Bear knows lots of intimate, secret details no one should know. What's going on? And when is brother coming back? It's a somewhat comically strange tale of a rather ingenuous youth letting himself be pulled about by the person he trusts most, and getting taken advantage of by yet another. Though Minori knows the guy can't possibly be his bear, he nonetheless willingly goes along with the charade, obviously desperately lonely. When push comes to shove, he lets his lonely heart do the talking, so we get yet another uke (bottom) coming straight out and asking for it _._ The unravelling of the brother's disappearance as well as who the identity of the bear really is, is rather half baked but still worth a chuckle. It does give rise to some interesting questions about dear older brother, but hey, that leaves fodder for another story. Hopefully someday sensei will fill us in on that one. Call My Name introduces us to Yanase, an overworked office worker. Having stayed until the wee hours again working overtime as a company drone, he is waiting for a bus to take him home when he encounters a former school mate, Natsume. Natusme is now working as a host. Natsume is probably the last person Yanase actually ever wanted to see, thanks to the humiliation following a graduation day confession. Yanase had not necessarily expected Natsume to accept his feelings, but neither had he expected such cruelty. Having been told to never speak to him again, he can't help but wonder if Natsume has somehow managed to forget the incident from six years previous. Sharing a cab ride home, he discovers this is quite likely not the case, as Natsume uses this opportunity to do a hit and run bit of groping with some sardonic quips to go with it. Angry and confused, this repeats itself several more times, before Yanase realises he can't avoid Natsume and his harassment if he waits for the bus. Deciding to take the train, it isn't long before he discovers that he is being pursued. Just what exactly is Natsume after? Is Yanase doomed to being humiliated by his former school mate forever just because he happens to be gay? Is it that much fun to bully him? Or is something else afoot? It is definitely a tale of twisted love, as our seme (top) realises 6 years on that he was perhaps too quick to dismiss Yanase out of hand. It is very much a case of a calculating seme putting moves on a willing but misunderstanding uke, as he tries to sort his own head out. Coming out of the closet is definitely something this guy finds hard to do, and his reactions at these intentional encounters he sets up are temper tantrums thrown at himself that poor Yanase bears the brunt of. I did not like Natsume at all, despite his eventually accepting himself and Yanase's still unwavering affection. He is arrogant, pushy, and aggressive, and definitely inconsiderate in his actions. I agree with Yanase's initial thought that he is a person he was well shut of, and actually feel rather sorry that is heart still belonged to this jerk, and now they seem to be together. I admit I rather pity Yanase for the sort of future such a selfish guy will share with him. With a title like VS, one would not be remiss to assume that the story follows a pair of antagonists. One would not be that far wrong, though as it turns out, sometimes you bully the one you discover you actually like. Natsuki is the number one host at his club. Into his fairly tranquil work world comes one young upstart from Yokohama, Ryuuji. Ryuuji refuses to give his age, and despite his looks, people suspect he may be under age. That is bad enough, but he attaches himself to Natsuki, declaring he will take the number one spot within just one month, despite never having been a host before. He soon establishes quite the track record, seeming to have a born affinity for life as a host. The end of the month comes, and he has indeed taken the number 1 spot. But what's this? Anger instead of delight? Just what is wrong with this guy? Natsuki finds out quite well what the matter is, and issues a challenge in return. Will these two continue on in their rivalry, with the sparks flying? This story actually feels unfinished, despite being somewhat continued in the extra manga included at the end of the volume. In that, it becomes evident that all the characters from the various stories all live in the same neighbourhood, and visit Natsuki's bar that he has opened. The tidbits we find out actually raise more questions than answer them. What was Ryuuji doing in America? Are the the pair an actual couple now or are they still circling each other? Taketora is now broke? What do they mean he has to rely on his lover? Yanase is now living with Natsume, and cooking home-made meals, but he mentions ups and downs due t personality issues..so is it happy, or not? What's the deal? Well, so far we don't get to find out, though over all the stories are a nice bit of prettily illustrated fluff to while away some time. You can view a (safe) slideshow preview of this title provided by the publisher over at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMTj-6ezhnc

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