It’s the answer my body reached after being lied to so many times. There’s no way I can ignore it now.
The third volume of Kiss All The Boys brings its soap-opera plot to a climax — well, to a number of climaxes, both physical and emotional. The plot so far has been rife with unrequited love and tense relationships; it’s not so much a love triangle as a love hexagon, with two men falling for Tetsuo, while Tetsuo falls for Tama, who Tetsuo’s son Haruka is in love with, and meanwhile Kippei lusts after Haruka…
The tangled relationships get a little bit more tangled before being unknotted and more or less resolved, and there’s lots of sex and hurt feelings along the way. And while it’s well-executed — funny and erotic with clear and attractive art — there’s something a bit unsatisfying about the way the story works out. For one thing, Tetsuo angsts a great deal about the feelings he has for a 15-year-old boy — a boy the same age as his son, and in fact his son’s best friend and crush object — but not only does he reconcile himself to the idea remarkably quickly, but Michiro, one of the adult men who’s in love with him, decides that it’s okay that Tetsuo had sex with a 15-year-old boy and thereby broke his son’s heart because (this is a direct quote) “if you really meant it, there’s nothing I can say.” Um… okay then! Haruka takes longer to forgive his father, and unleashes quite a bit of rage along the way, but this aspect, too, is resolved far too quickly and easily. Everything ends up being tied up in a neat little bow, and never mind the difficulties raised along the way.
There’s a balance every story like this needs to strike between the happy ending that the story’s aimed at and the complications along the way that make the happy ending feel earned; all too often the balance doesn’t quite work out, with the complications seeming contrived or trivial, artificial barriers put in place so that there would be a plot rather than arising naturally out of the characters and situation. The problem with Kiss All The Boys is that the barriers are very real and very convincing — but they melt away so conveniently and with so little struggle that the end left me feeling cheated.
The backup story, “Summertime Accomplices”, works better: a summer romance between two students, one of whom has a dark secret. It’s drawn in a somewhat dated style and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was done in the early 90s (the Japanese tankoubon publication of this volume came out in 1998). But it’s a style that’s easy on the eye, and the story builds up the characters and situation very convincingly.
I wanted to like Kiss All The Boys 3 more than I did; possibly having jumped in at the third volume made it harder for me to appreciate it, but I suspect that the resolution would appear forced and overly fast even if I’d read the first two. It’s a shame, because there’s a lot here to like, but the structure of the story just didn’t work for me.