In this collection of romantic shorts, an independent young transporter with a complicated past loses his heart when he lends his services to an enigmatic man who claims to be yakuza; a jaded high-schooler plays wingman for a shy boy he suspects of having a crush on his clueless best friend; and a hardworking mechanic starts to break down when he realizes his feelings for an undemonstrative colleague in the sales department have grown beyond friendship.
If you’ve read much yaoi or other romance fiction, you probably know where these stories are going. Yoneda’s skill lies in making you look forward to seeing how they get there anyway. Small surprises and honest moments along the way counter the occasional awkward narrative jump and familiar formulas. The artwork overall is clean and attractive, and the figures are generally well-proportioned. The characters, though a little prone to keeping their expressions guardedly neutral, struggle with relatable self-doubt, laugh at themselves, and are generally good people. Secondary characters of any substance are few and far between, and those that are included—the boisterous but well-meaning doofus best friend in “Emotion Spectrum” and a clear-headed female coworker at the car dealership in “Reply”—serve only to bring the various leads together. Nevertheless, the stories are short enough that the tight focus doesn’t feel too confining and the principals are developed enough to hold their own. For example, the title story’s cocky transporter and his older, wiser foil create an engaging dynamic; they offer enough untapped story potential that the reader hopes Yoneda will revisit their underworld intrigue and cat-and-mouse antics in greater depth in the future.
NightS is a volume of light romantic drama geared toward mature readers, with some strong language, including a handful of f-words; a few consensual adult sex scenes with strategically obstructed or undrawn genitals; teens claiming to be sexually active; underage smoking; and a lead who moves illegal drugs, guns, and individuals from one place to another for money. In the latter case, the transporter’s choice of employment is neither glorified nor played for gritty crime drama, but instead becomes an amusing point of contention with the cool, crafty object of his desire. As with much mainstream yaoi, homosexuality is more a romantic plot device here than anything else, with only a few characters identifying as gay or bi before Cupid’s arrows hit home.
Despite the title story’s flirtation with action and darker themes, NightS steers fairly consistently toward the fluffier end of the romantic realism spectrum, emphasizing the capacity for sweetness and communication to overcome anxious introspection and misunderstanding. Yaoi fans looking for some quiet warm fuzzies and snarky giggles will likely enjoy this one.
by Kou Yoneda
Publisher Age Rating: M