With Be Beautiful's demise in April 2009, fans were left aghast at the number of licensed titles that disappeared. Viewfinder was perhaps one of the most often spoken about, due to scandals regarding non-payment to the original publisher and mangaka, as well as the mourning of a loss to the English language reading fan base of a hugely popular title. Speculation was rife every time a new license announcement was due..was Viewfinder being re-licensed? If so, who would get it? Mangaka Ayano Yamane is famous for being protective of her creations and how they are handled by publishers, and Libre also knew it had a hot property on its hands. Whoever snagged the Love Prize was going to pay heavily for the privilege, and have to work diligently to please not just the fans, but its creator. As it turned out, the winner was Digital Manga Publishing. This announcement was met with great excitement amongst the Boy's Love reading community. Some were just happy to be able to buy a copy, while others were hoping that as it was to be published under the June imprint, that it would not be a censored edition. Usually titles with extreme violence and extremely explicit sexual imagery find themselves on DMP's 801 Media imprint, which has a smaller distribution base. Previously, many titles that skirted this boundary were censored to fan's dismay. Other faux pas of previous June offerings included localisations, in which honorifics were changed, greatly affecting the overall feel of the piece unintentionally. With fans flooding DMP's forums to discuss this hot button issue, recent releases began to change. Honorifics remained. Images were uncensored unless they came that way originally. And series like Maiden Rose and Viewfinder found themselves firmly slotted into the June line up so that the wider distribution would reach the most fans. When Maiden Rose vol 1 hit the street, anticipation rose high. It was uncensored and beautifully rendered, with an excellent translation. So, would this hold true for Viewfinder? June promised an all new translation, with a close working relationship with Ayano Yamane. The proof would be in the pudding when it was all finished, and today was that day. Today is the day I received my review copy, opened it, and saw what this collaboration would bring. I admit to being a long time fan of this series in particular, so I was trembling with excitement as I opened it up. On the one hand, I was greeting an old friend. On the other, I was wary of it being not quite what I hoped for. What I actually felt, however, as I read, was joy. Pure, unadulterated, joy. Yep, this version is so good, I'm going to need two hard copies, not just the one. One for my shelf to look pristine, the other to read to pieces and keep in my bedside table. The first thing that caught my eye was the full colour illustration at the front. It is beautifully coloured, and is the original image from the 2007 Japanese edition. It is so gorgeous, I wish I could show it to you here, but er..it is definitely not for children's eyes, so I couldn't even if DooYoo allowed picture uploads. Looking at the table of contents, I see this is indeed a faithful English language version of Libre's 2007 edition, with the inclusion of the wonderful unrelated side stories Love lesson, Plants in Love, and Risky Society as well as the Viewfinder side short, In the Heat of the Night. Yamane sensei's original letter to the reader for the Libre 2007 edition is also included, which was very nice. Reading on, the stories themselves are beautifully presented. The images are sharp and clear, and completely uncensored or otherwise edited. This was immediately evident upon reaching the the very first sex scene between Takaba and Asami. NOTHING is left to the imagination, from body parts, to any of Asami's interesting use of film and other items destined for insertion. The prose itself flows well, with the translation an improvement over Be Beautiful's, and actually flowing better than those of previous pre-licensing era scanlation teams. Yamane sensei speaks fluent English, as evidenced by her Twitters, and word was given that she saw oversaw EVERY step of this coming to be, so I feel confident that the word choices given here reflect her true intent. The result is an edition that any fan of of the series or of Yamane sensei will be proud to own, and one that will blow newcomers away into a sea of anticipation as we await future volumes (volume two is due out Nov 9, so not too long a wait). So, for the newcomers to the series, I'll give a brief synopsis before I sign off on this. Akihito Takaba is an 18 year former truant who is making his way as a freelance photographer. Using tips from the police officer who helped set him straight as a kid, he tries to make his name by snapping pictures of politicians as they hobnob. One such tip leads him to Club Sion, where he catches a dirty deal on film. That story is killed, but not before costing Club Sion's owner a a packet of money, both to shut it up as well as his cut on the deal. For Ryouichi Asami on the surface is a businessman who own several trendy clubs frequented by the rich and powerful, but in reality, he is a powerful figure in the Japanese underworld. Taken by Takaba's cheekily daring response to his "warning", Asami finds he can't help but mess with the boy more. Takaba finds himself literally on the receiving end, as Asami stakes his claim. What Asami wants, he gets, and no amount of protest will stop him. But a man this powerful is bound to have rivals, as Takaba finds out when he inadvertently gets mixed up in more of Asami's business. With a branch of the Chinese Mafia out there wanting to protect their business, and their leader bearing a bullet wound scar from Asami, he soon finds out that what is seen as Asami's will be taken. Just what sort of mess has Takaba gotten himself into, and can he get away? Does he even want to? The best weapon is his camera, right? Making Asami his target in his viewfinder, exposing him and his associates to the world... It is 176 pages of hot sex and an attention grabbingly detailed plot filled with intrigue, suspense, and action, with a few caveats for the unwary: it features S & M, drug use (an aphrodisiac as well as an opium pipe), and non-consensual sex. OK, you have been warned! I would like to thank Digital Manga for the review copy.
Life-sized Saint Seiya!!!
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