His Favorite, vols. 1-4

His Favorite 4With his bulging eyes, pinprick irises, and prominently scarred cheek, shorty oddball Yoshida is already the butt of jokes at his high school. Things only get worse when tall, handsome Sato, the most popular boy in school, starts hanging all over him and using fictitious prior plans with Yoshida as an excuse to turn down the endless parade of girls asking him out. Why has super-cool Sato suddenly attached himself to such a non-entity? Now poor, befuddled Yoshida has to fend off his “friend’s” presumptuous advances as well as angry mobs of incredulous girls (and the occasional boy) determined to get to the bottom of Sato’s obvious ruse and learn the identity of his secret love. If they only knew….

This ongoing yaoi romantic comedy began as a one-shot, which may account for the lack of character development and the rushed plot of the original stand-alone first chapter. Unfortunately, Tanaka doesn’t take full advantage of the shift to a longer format to slow things down or let her characters grow much as individuals and partners, although she does try here and there, most noticeably through Sato’s jarringly bizarre back story in volume 4 (the “boarding school” his parents send him to after middle school veers the story well beyond realistic ridiculousness and into far-fetched sci-fi melodrama that, thankfully, doesn’t take itself overly seriously).

In addition to the title story, Tanaka includes two unrelated short stories in the first and second volumes. The first is a quiet, edgy, emotional piece about the budding relationship between a popular new boy with a smile for everyone and his socially inept scowler of a classmate. The second is a more visually stylized and utterly silly two-part tale about a forthright disciplinary committee member and his assigned problem classmate (and I do mean silly – the plots here involve a rash of snapping turtle attacks in a local park and students who refuse to wear the prescribed school uniform). Given the main story’s lack of substance, these early interruptions are more distracting than filling.

For such a shallow series, however, His Favorite can still be pretty cute and funny, as long as you don’t expect anything else from it. Cheerful Yoshida is no broody loner and has his own little circle of fellow-outcast friends. He’s a nice boy with an inherently trusting nature and he lets mischievous yet devoted Sato get away with things that in a semi-serious story would be grounds for emotional drama. Here, though, laughs usually take precedence over depth and Yoshida’s exasperated complaints about his boyfriend’s easy lies and manipulation of others don’t achieve much more than a briefly unguarded expression from the guilty party before they kiss and make up. But the fact that confident, collected Sato can actually get flustered and be unsure of himself when faced with Yoshida’s earnestness helps temper the latter’s frustration with Sato’s mostly unrepentant selfishness. And because pushover Yoshida’s so open and sympathetic, the reader finds it hard not to take her cues from him and be in a forgiving mood, as well.

The clean-lined artwork also helps make up for some of the writing’s shortcomings. Tanaka’s attractive figures sport reasonably human proportions, which can be hard to come by in mainstream yaoi, and she doesn’t go overboard on the screentones. Awkward Yoshida and smooth Sato make a nice odd couple, with the former’s endearing goofiness and the latter’s cool good looks striking a pleasant balance. The inclusion of a number of other amusing, easily differentiated recurring characters fills out the setting and gives the author fodder for light-hearted tangents.

Tanaka avoids depicting graphic sexual content, though her characters clearly engage in some non-intercourse activities off-panel (you may not see those hands, but you know where they are). One shamelessly tactless side character has no filter and scandalizes Yoshida by talking about their respective relationships and gay sex in rather blunt terms, but otherwise the language doesn’t get much stronger than the occasional “dammit” and there’s no nudity to speak of.

Older teens and adults looking for depth, realism, or emotionally satisfying reading should look elsewhere. If you just want some giggles and don’t mind a lot of eye-rolling, His Favorite may fit the bill.

His Favorite, vols. 1-4
by Suzuki Tanaka
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421543512
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421543529
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781421543574
Vol. 4 ISBN: 9781421543581
SuBLime, 2012-2013
Publisher Age Rating: OT/Older Teen (16+)