The Comic Queen

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Monday, February 28, 2005

Kerry Reads Manga!
Only the Ring Finger Knows Vol. 1

By Satoru Kannagi and Hotaru Odagiri
Digital Manga Publishing, $12.95

It’s no secret that I’m new to manga. In fact every manga title I’ve read has been reviewed here. I’m not yet familiar with the different genres of manga. I know they exist, I just don’t know what they are. Until I picked up Only the Ring Finger Knows, I was unfamiliar with the Yaoi or “Boy’s Love” genre. The back cover of the book explains that this genre is rising in popularity here in North America, especially among females. Although it doesn’t mention this, I imagine it is also popular among young gay males.

Only the Ring Finger Knows is the story of high school students Wataru Fujii and Yuichi Kazuki. At Wataru and Kazuki’s school, it is popular to wear matching rings with your girlfriend or boyfriend. The boys soon find that their rings match, when the rings accidentally get switched in the washroom. Soon Wataru and Kazuki are in a constant battle of love and hate as they sort out the stories of their rings and their feelings for each other.

The story contained in volume one is quite a roller-coaster. Wataru and Kazuki spend most of the book trying to find out how they really feel for each other by alternating between fighting and complimenting each other. Their dialog is really the star of the book as they engage in lots of funny repartee and frustrating misunderstandings. The quick progression between the two emotions keeps the reader right in the middle of the story. I found myself pulling for the boys early on and when one of them would do something to mess up the momentary peace between them I’d quickly read on hoping they would soon make up.

The character of Wataru is especially well written. The story is told from his point of view, so the reader quickly becomes attached to him. Even though he is very hot-headed, I didn’t want anything bad to happen to him or for him to be hurt. The best part about him though is his childlike reaction to Kazuki and the way it is portrayed. After he speaks to someone, Wataru often questions what he has just said. This question is written in smaller print just outside the frame, so the reader always knows what he is thinking. Also, when he has done something particularly immature, Wataru is portrayed as an angry child in the next frame over. This really brings the reader right into the thick of the arguments and is a well-portrayed character trait.

The only thing I disliked about the book was the artist’s rendering of Kazuki. He wasn’t drawn with much consistency. In some frames he looked like an alien and in others he looked like David Bowie. Sometimes it was hard to tell the two boys apart even though one is blond and the other has dark hair.

I’m certainly glad to find out about this Yaoi genre of manga. Only the Ring Finger Knows is a refreshingly unique story to this American comic reader. Besides the occasional gay character in comics like Runaways or a few comics with a gay main character such as Jane’s World, I’m largely unfamiliar with gay-themed American comics. It’s nice to see that Digital Manga Publishing is bringing this and other similar stories to the States.

Speaking as a self-proclaimed Comic Queen, I whole-heartedly recommend Only the Ring Finger Knows to both fans of romance-themed comics and “Queens” of all sorts.

Bottom Line: B+

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