When Futekiya announced back in September of 2021 that this Boys Love classic manga would be coming to their subscription service to say I was excited was an understatement! First published in Japan in 1992 to 2008 and then being given an official English release by Digital Manga Publishing from late 2010 to 2012 the series has been out of print for English fans for nearly over a decade now and second-hand copies of the release though not overly expensive to purchase do not come cheap with some volumes becoming near impossible to find. This has made this classic of the genre hard in the past to recommend to those new to the fandom to read legally.
But what makes this series so popular amongst older fans of the genre?
And with a series as old as this one does it still hold up today for modern fans of the genre today?
On the surface Kizuna has a very simple premise, what would you do to protect the person you love most in the world? For Ranmaru Samejima protecting the person he loved in his time of need meant losing everything he had worked for in his life up until that point in time, but he threw away his future as a star athlete in a split second to save the man he loved. For the man who captured his heart Kei Enjouji, it means to always stay by Ran’s side so that he never has the feel the pain of loneliness again. But like anything worth having in life keeping the one you love is not an easy journey.
The story of Kizuna has the twist and turns of a well-written soap opera that will keep you reading, from meeting Kei’s half brother and love rival for the heart of Ranmaru to watching Ranmaru recover through the accident that changes his life forever though it tackles some hard themes the tone is always kept light and at times this can work against the series. Tender moments almost felt ruined at times with slapstick comedy of Rei acting like an oversexed hound dog.
The series is also very much a product of its time and has many of the tropes within the boys love genre that many within the fandom will admit they are not a fan of. One of the most prevalent tropes within the genre in the nineties and also today is that sexual assault and harassment is ok if you love someone. Though not as rapey as many other titles of the time, it may still come across as a red flag to some readers. Some will read into this trope as a romanticisation of rape culture and though many of the scenes in this title between the two leads can border on this it never crosses that line in my opinion and this becomes even more obvious when another trope within the genre pops up that you do not see as often in modern titles happens in the first volume.
The predatory older gay man is a dangerous trope that pops up every now and again in yaoi and boys love titles and is even the whole theme of the story in some titles such as the anime OVA series My Sexual Harassment another tilted that is a classic to many an older yaoi fan and at the very least it is only one part of the story within Kizuna it is something worth mentioning to someone new to the genre going into this title. I am actually planning on making a series of posts later this year directing various tropes within the yaoi and boys love genre.
One last warning I have for the series is that there is also a side story that involves an age-gap romance between a teenager and an adult and once again this could be a red flag for some readers.
I personally find the character designs within this series quite beautiful, but again this title is a product of its time and if you are not a fan of the pretty boy art style of the 90’s the art may not appeal to you, but on the bright side the series does avoid the dreaded yaoi hands.
I personally love the story of Kizuna as it is an amazing exploration into what one will do not only for the ones but also is quite funny at some parts and I can say it is most definitely a must-read for any fan of the genre.