I’ve somehow made an amazing new friend. He seems so… mature. And so composed. Could he really use a friend like me?
By Yuno Ogami
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Age Rating: M/Mature/18+
Price: $12.95 or FREE at www.emanga.com
Half-Japanese businessman Micah Ryu Remmington is notorious for being cold-hearted and ruthless in the pursuit of profit, but while he’s in Japan on business he indulges his softer side with a visit to his childhood neighbourhood. Rain drives him into a bar called L’Etoile Solitaire, where he meets college student Yuuki and is immediately attracted (and Yuuki feels the same). Trouble is, Yuuki is the heir to a struggling hotel that Micah plans to take over — and Micah is already engaged to a famous heiress. The path to true love never did run smooth…
BL manga has a tendency to get formulaic: there’s a template for stories like this. And that’s not a bad thing. Just as superhero comics are built around the “chase, two fight scenes and a weird villain” and shounen manga is built around the boy who wants to Be The Best, BL manga (like all romance) is built around two people who fall in love but can’t get together straight away. The more of this kind of thing you read, the more sensitive you become to the variations possible within that fairly narrow range, and to any subversion of the expectations a story creates just by being in the genre. L’Etoile Solitaire is a very straightforward rendition of the template: there is no subversion to be found here, just a sincere and heartfelt love story with a tall and dashing seme and a short and vulnerable uke.
And I was beginning to think that I was losing interest in that kind of thing. It’s easy to get jaded if you review manga regularly, especially if (like me) you focus on a particular genre. (And while every genre has its share of badness and mediocrity, the nature of BL means its badness is often not just bad, but outright offensive.) But there’s something very charming about L’Etoile Solitaire. It is so straightforward and so effective at tugging the heartstrings; it may be a twice-told tale, but it’s not a soulless retread, as so many are. It’s got heart.
I might not have bothered with L’Etoile Solitaire if it hadn’t been available as a free e-book on DMP’s site, www.emanga.com, and that would have been a shame: there’s a lot to be said for telling a simple story in a simple way. L’Etoile Solitaire isn’t groundbreaking, but it doesn’t need to be: it’s a perfect example of what BL manga is normally like, and a reminder of why I like the genre so much.