In the intricately mannered world of an Osaka brothel in Meiji-era Japan, Misao, a beautiful male servant, can only dream of a time when he can earn enough money to pay his debt to the brothel and escape his servitude. Into his small, stifling world comes Masaomi Towa, the handsome and wealthy heir to a corporation and a newcomer to the rules of the pleasure district. Masaomi’s sincerity and kindness penetrate through Misao’s practiced cynicism, and Misao finds his heart captured by love for the first time. But Masaomi has come calling to meet with Ukigumo, the brothel’s beautiful head courtesan. Will Misao’s deepest desire come true, or will the cruel reality of the brothel destroy his dream of love? Venio Tachibana’s beautifully-rendered portrait of Meiji Japan evokes an era gone by. Includes illustrations by Tooko Miyagi.
Love Water is a one volume historical novel, set in the Japanese Meiji period about a servant who has lived in the pleasure quarters since he was born; he can’t get out as long as he doesn’t pay off his disappeared mother’s debt. Misao’s desire for freedom is buried under his strong demeanor, until a very important client comes to the brothel for the first time and captivates him with his strange kindness. Misao can’t take his attention away from this man, and Masaomi seems to be taking a strange interest in him too. But Misao knows that Masaomi is there only for Ukigumo…
There’s a certain undeniable charm in romances set in brothels. The forbidden love that will grant salvation to the caged bird is such an appealing concept that we can see it in countless stories. Boy’s Love is not an exception to this dark version of a fairy tale, whether in modern or historical settings. The development is predictable most of the times, which is the reason I avoid these stories if I can. I felt tempted to skip this one until I found out that it was written by Tachibana Venio, an author that left me with a very good impression with her BL manga Seven Days. I thought she had an interesting way of creating delicate and light stories that manage to pull your heart-strings, mostly because of its beauty. I’m glad to see that wasn’t just an impression caused by Takarai Rihitos‘s wonderful art; Love Water is another beautiful display of pure feelings. Despite being set in a brothel, this novel manages to exhude the peculiar atmosphere that I loved from her previous work, a soft feeling, like a wind that slowly caresses your hair.
Love Water is not an amazingly clever or surprising story but it is certainly a beautiful piece of writing. Yaoi novels usually don’t have much to offer aside from the explicit scenes. I mean, even when one might think that a novel format would bring some deeper/more mature stories, everything revolves around the man-to-man action time, yaoi novels are a fine form of porn. And we tend to love them even knowing their plots are stupid. Fortunately, there are some exceptions to this norm, and there is also a middle point with some nice details, which is where this novel belongs. Through a smooth narration, emotional but subtle, Love Water manages to draw you in and transport you into the pleasure quarters. It probably has a lot to do with the great translation; most of the times I can’t get into the story and the absurd or shallow plots can even make me laugh.
The characters were fairly interesting, even secondary ones and that’s quite a surprise. Misao was pleasant to hear most of the times, we see the story through his eyes and we can follow his feelings easily. He can be considered quite a delicate flower, with his feminine features and dancing skills. He mesmerizes men as skillfully as any courtesan, but he would never sell his body to pay his debt. He is proud and actually pretty strong. Masaomi was somehow flat, well, more like he needed a some deepening, because being very aware of Misao’s deep feelings makes Masaomi’s motives mysterious and his actions kind of sudden.
Being a yaoi novel, there has to be some action in it, but in this case is not an excessive amount of scenes. However, the few ones that are offered to us are intense in a very subtle way with their beauty and tension. They are never very explicit, but they are unrealistically perfect. Very fit for the magic of the atmosphere. And they were all consensual, yay!
The illustrations are another nice detail, Miyagi Tooko has a very original style, a bit rough on the edges but certainly detailed and nice to the eye. Surprisingly, I prefer her black/white illustrations more than the colored ones. I really think they should have used the other colored illustration as a cover, because Misao is dressed as a woman for a very short time…and that cover is quite confusing.
In the end this turned out to be a very pleasant read and I’m eager to see more of Tachibana Venio soon. I think her works are a nice transition from non-explicit BL and to the sexually explicit type. Besides, her stories leave you feeling happy and moved. Love Water is a truly endearing romance, recommended for all boy’s love readers that are looking for light novels worth reading.
My Rating: 4/5
Special Thanks to Digital Manga for providing the digital copy of the book.