My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My first words to this is: Don’t read this unless you’re prepared not only for mature content, but brutal and painful experiences for both female and male protagonists. This is the first manga about mafia where for once there isn’t a flowery cover or some pretence of morality. This is bloody, gory, heartless. It is everything a mafia story is supposed to be about, and half the time I felt really uncomfortable reading it. But it’s realistic, and of all of Shinjo Mayu‘s work I think it’s the most tragic. Kaikan Phrase, Vol. 1 and Love Celeb 1were kittens compared to this ferocious tiger. If you want something sweet and sexy, read Love Celeb. If you want something a little more hardcore, a little sexier, a little more dramatic, read Kaikan Phrase. But if you want something painful, almost bloody awful (in the experiences that the characters good through, and by awful I mean dramatic and cruel) then read this.
I thought I should discuss this section first since it’s the most important thing. Haou Airen is another perfect manga by Mayu Shinjo. Yes it is painful and uncomfortable a lot of the time. It’s also ruthless and uncensored. Hakuron is the leading Mafia boss in Hong Kong, Kurumi is an innocent girl who just happened to save Hakuron’s life when she bumps into him. They fall in love with each other, and to begin, they are going along great with each other. Hakuron is the perfect guy to Kurumi, gently, kind, just like she expected, but he’s protecting her. She knows nothing about his life and how he is a mafia. And because of that when Hakuron’s fiance comes into play, things change quickly, people get hurt, killed and murdered and everyone else knows what’s happening, including Hakuron. Only Kurumi is still naive, and thus the conflict starts. How do these two deal, it’s only a matter of time before Hakuron breaks her, even if he loves her, and that’s what he doesn’t want.
Kurumi is a really sweet, endearing yet naive girl. She’s easily tricked, easily fooled. She’s too kind-hearted which is why she’s tricked in the beginning and therefore creates the conflicts that lasts a few volumes. I guess her good points are that she is kind-hearted, naive, completely pure as well as honest to her feelings and herself. Her negative points in my opinion are well, she is a little weak to be in that position, to be in love with Hakuron. Yet, at the same time, a good compliment. I really hate that she believed Hakuron’s fiance over Hakuron. It was so naive. But then again, without it, I guess there’d be no plot would there?
Hakuron is the smexiest most dangerous male protag I’ve encountered yet in Mayu Shinjo’s mangas. I liked Gin from Love Celeb because he was the kind of character that was conscious of his smexiness and who was also boyishly childish (and a little wolfish). Sakuya in Kaikan Phrase was hot in the musician kind of way. He puts Aine above everything else which makes him smexy. But Hakuron, Hakuron is dangerous. He’s the leader of an extremely powerful mafia group and he’s known to be colder than ice. Yet he’s in love with Kurumi. To only Kurumi, he’s kind and gently, and he doesn’t want to spoil her, until events take place and really, I don’t want to go into details.
But both characters are well formed, delectably defined and unique. They have power, fear, sadness, happiness, wants, needs, desires. Shinjo’s characters always feel realistic to me. I never feel that I’m reading about some airhead who can’t decide between her old love and her new love, and I never feel like I’m being pressured to accept their reasoning. I understand and feel attached. That’s why I love Shinjo’s characters. They don’t feel fake, except how sometimes they are a bit stupid. But in the grand scheme of things, as a whole, those little moments make up the big moments.
In Hong Kong, China this time, rather than a Japanese location, something which I thought was interesting even though they are still speaking Japanese, lol
Writing And Artwork
I think Shinjo’s works have always been flawless. I’ve never really had any objections with them since the only times I ever feel annoyed/angry/uncomfortable is when something brutal happens. Like Rape or something. Rape is pretty big in a couple of her mangas, which is why I say DON”T READ THIS UNLESS YOU”RE PREPARED. Anyway, so writing pretty much 5/5 stars.
As for Artwork. Since this is a book site, I don’t really think artwork matters much, shouldn’t this be about reading? And the experience of reading? Well if you want to know Shinjo’s artwork has always been the easy to handle type, goodlooking and pretty. Though the guys always look like the ideal guy, tall broad shouldered with smexy long hair that almost dangles in his eyes. The females always look small, slender and cute. Generally their chests are a reasonable size too. But meh, for me if the story is good, I can deal with the artwork. If the artwork is irritating than the story really good from the get go. But Haou Airen is just fantastic as always (the artwork I mean).
I give this four stars. Just like the other Shinjo mangas, because it is good, but it’s also dramatic. I love her romances, and this one, I like as well. The end I can’t tell you, it will ruin it, but you have to be prepared. Don’t read this lightly, it’s not a happy manga, even if there are happy moments. This is the mafia we’re talking about. Shinjo is so far the only mangaka (that I’ve read) that could be so brutally honest about such an aspect of life. This is no simple romance. I think you can almost think about it as a story about two people finding the strength to be stronger.
Also rather than this focussing on the female protag, I’d rather like to think of this as Hakuron’s story rather than Kurumi’s.