One of the most adorable and heart-warming Boy’s Love titles out there.
Published by: Juné (a subsidiary of Digital Manga Publishing)
Author: Tōko Kawai
Single volume (One-shot)
Genres/themes: Yaoi, romance, slice of life
Synopsis: Serizawa Hajime has always settled for the bad boys who use and abuse him. This nice guy who works at the bookstore one day is surprised by a giant, silent Keito who seems glaringly unapproachable, but upon further conversation is surprisingly shy and gentle. Will this relationship finally let Serizawa be himself, or will misunderstandings prevent these two from find love?
Café Latté Rhapsody is by far and away one of the cutest, sweetest, most heart-warming Yaoi manga I have ever read! It cleverly plays to the formula and diverges from it in the best of ways. This contrast allows the reader to feel comfortable within the familiar setting, but is also to find a realism that is usually lacking from genre. The first thing that seems to vary from what we normally find in BL is the lack of bi-shounen boys – those devastatingly handsome, cool and never overly-muscular men. Adorable in their own ways, the two central characters are depicted as awkward, both in a physical sense and in personality. Keito’s awkward and daunting height, combined with a stare that is merely a portrayal of his shyness and fear, makes for a young man who turns off women and men alike upon first meeting them. Seri-san describes himself late in the story as “…not cool, or cute. I’m downright ugly.” His small stature and freckles work against the traditional Japanese sense of beauty, but they still make him attractive, despite his lack of self-confidence.
Another refreshing departure from the formula is the lack “Oh my god! I like a dude! Am I gay??” There is no frantic “questioning of one’s sexual orientation” aspect to the plot. There is never a question as to Serizawa’s sexuality, being up-front from the get-go. We even get a short run-down of how he always falls for the “bad-boy”, and have one of his exes show up to cause problems for our adorable couple. The inner turmoil we are witness to, instead, is one of self-acceptance and self-worth.
The audience discovers that it isn’t the insecurities of Keita that need to be worked out, but those of Seri-san. Upon initial reading, one might think that the self-consciousness to be defeated is that is that of Keito, seeing as how he is introduced as an introverted, shy young man. Serizawa comes across as rather confident, and it isn’t until the relationship is well established that the reader is exposed to how insecure he is in actuality. He struggles trying to resolve his cheery, accepting outward disposition with the internal self-loathing and possessive heart. Having been rejected by his first love for being too clingy, Seri-san has been fighting against his naturally possessive nature. He tries to hide his jealousy by being flippant about how popular Keito becomes with his female coworkers, which only leads to Keito starting to question how much he is actually loved. Seri-san doubts his ability to keep his lover happy and interested; he is scared that his needy and jealous personality that he hides will come out and scare away this man who is unlike any man he has dated before. He is scared of his own happiness.
There is also a refreshing absence of the “unattainable” archetype – that beautiful, perfect man that everybody wants. Everyone is surprising, well… normal. I think that is what makes this story so likeable. We get to see a nice guy end up with a nice guy, granted, after going through a few misunderstandings, but what relationship starts without them? Add into the mixture a physically daunting, but unprecedentedly cute “half” (how the Japanese refer to Japanese of mixed lineage), and a few kittens saved from the rain, and it has “Aw!” written all over it.
It is this kind of internal struggle that tugs at the heartstrings of the reader and certainly hooked me on this story. It is one of the few titles that I have reread over and over again. I first read it online, and when I found it on one of the tables at Anime North, I had to have. I now recommend it to all of my friends who like BL, and I now recommend it to you too! For those who enjoy the genre, it is a must.