Yaoi, or boy love, as a genre can fall into the trap of too many tropes and not enough originality. This is not the case with Isaku Natsume’s manga series, Candy Color Paradox. In fact, her work is a breath of fresh air, combining an adorable romance with a compelling storyline that stands on its own. In volume one we meet Satoshi Onoe and Motoharu Kaburagi, two of rag mag Shinkan News’ top journalists. Onoe’s reporting skills are rivaled only by Kabu’s dexterity with a camera and nose for a scoop. However, the two have very different approaches—while Onoe prides himself in his integrity and ethics, Kabu is willing to do whatever it takes, morality aside.

Needless to say, the two prefer to steer clear of one another until their editor decides to pair them as a stakeout team. As the unlikely duo explore the underside of politics and fame, Onoe begins to learn a thing or two about undercover work, and his new partner. From dislike to grudging respect to perhaps something a little more, Onoe begins to explore his bisexuality thanks to his undeniable attraction to the elusive Kabu. That is not to say it’s smooth sailing for these goofball lovebirds, on the contrary, the storyline is filled with bickering, misunderstandings and conflict as they figure one another out.

Volume two shows how their relationship evolves and deepens over time, despite the daily tiffs and misunderstandings. Here the realistic conflict probes further into the personal sphere as we learn more about Kabu’s childhood and family, especially a vindictive sister who attempts to shake up his love life. Throughout, the couple struggles to figure out how to function as a pair both intimately and professionally—no small task, especially when a hot lead on the investigative beat threatens to tear them apart.

True to the BL genre, the series features plenty of familiar tropes such as the attraction of polar opposites, an abundance of misunderstandings (the bickering can admittedly border on overkill at times), a slow burn, and of course the uke and seme characterizations. And while I understand that passive/dominant pairings are a common trend for this type of literature, I still have problems with the dubious consent in these sexual encounters. True, none of the bedroom scenes are too graphic, but Kabu clearly is the aggressor to the point that he appears to hurt and/or force Onoe into sexual acts he is not comfortable with. At the end of such scenes, however, both do seem to be content and very much in love, which does help to ease some of my discomfort.

When it comes to the illustrations, both books excel visually. The images are refreshing with crisp lines, stark shading and clever paneling. Particularly effective is Natsume’s use of the double-page spread and montage to cover action quickly and keep the book moving at a good pace. Hours-long stakeouts would definitely get boring if not for a fast way to cover the passage of time until the action picks up. The characters also are appealing, with a unique design that often elongates the torso and plays with proportion. In addition, I had no trouble telling the characters apart thanks to their distinct and expressive facial features. I enjoyed Natsume’s decision to omit the magazine editor’s eyes in most scenes as well as her ability to convey emotion through the change in eye shape for other characters.

The text itself also stands out in a number of different ways. For starters, it is a great way for the author to communicate with the reader, and the book often features little asides in which Natsume offers more information or her opinion on the situation. The inclusion of inner dialogue also provides the story with more depth by allowing readers to peek into the characters’ subconscious. By doing so, we often know more than the characters themselves, which heightens the drama when misunderstandings pop up. Thankfully, Natsume does a great job of differentiating between the many narrative approaches through the use of different fonts and the presence or absence of text bubbles.

The book is not only visual, but auditory as well. In fact, some of the more intimate scenes rely solely on image and sound to tell the story. The many “thwps,” “nnhs,” “boffs” and “mmns” offer an array of fun sounds to imagine, and it is no wonder the series was made into an audio recording. Check out the back matter in volume two for a closer look at the recording sessions.

Overall, I appreciated that the storyline was not secondary to the romance. Speaking of the romance, I also thought the characters were adorable together, minus a few uncomfortable sexual encounters. As the perfect mix of fun, humor, romance, and conflict, I am curious to see where the series will go. Interestingly, Candy Color Paradox was only intended to be a two-part series, but Natsume has received the go ahead to create more installments. And I am glad, indeed. Due to its sexual content, this series is best for an adult audience.

Candy Color Paradox
By Isaku Natsume
Art by Isaku Natsume
vol 1 ISBN: 9781974704934
vol 2 ISBN: 9781974704958
Sublime, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Adult

  • Johanna

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Johanna Nelson is a full-time graduate student pursuing her MLIS at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Through her studies, she discovered a love for the graphic novel format thanks to the likes of Raina Telgemeier and Art Spiegelman. While the two may seem like opposite ends of the spectrum, both masterfully combine narrative and picture to create a compelling, rich story greater than the parts alone. As an aspiring school librarian, who will soon be on the path to teacher greatness through dual certification in education and library media specialization, Johanna also loves to explore the seemingly endless possibilities graphic novels hold when it comes to teaching and building literacy skills, helping English language learners, reaching out to reluctant readers and matching each and every kiddo with just the right book thanks to the wide range of subject matter available in this format. Prior to leading the “glamorous” life of a toiling student, Johanna served as features editor for a cheese and dairy trade newspaper that helped to cultivate her writing skills as well as her love for deliciously unique artisan cheeses – triple cream anyone? She also has held several library positions including page and library specialist in the children’s department of a public library. In her free time, she enjoys embracing her inner nerd through watching Jeopardy!, doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles, bird watching, hiking, sketching, and of course, reading whatever she can get her hands on.

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