A beautifully illustrated tea house romance.
Maki Ebishi’s I Give To You, published by DMP, is a single-volume boys’ love manga about the relationship between Ren, a former yakuza member, and Ryouichi, a young man on the run from debt collectors. The two meet when Ryouichi, who’s been abandoned by his ex-lover, stumbles upon Ren’s tea house in the middle of a storm. Ren takes Ryouichi in, and they form a feisty relationship in the weeks that follow. This being boys’ love, though, there’s something more affectionate beneath the surface. I’ve voiced my qualms with much of boys’ love/yaoi in the past, but the genre does have some gems. Is I Give To You one such gem?
When this volume showed up in my recommendations on Comixology, the cover art caught my eye and I checked out the preview pages. It was Ebishi’s artwork on those pages that made me decide to give this manga a chance. Their visualization of a rainstorm feels oppressive just to look at; it’s no wonder that Ryouichi is so eager to get out of the rain and into any building that will accept him. His refuge, Ren’s tea house, also has a memorable, though much calmer, atmosphere. The line-work of the house and its contents is intricate and successfully conveys a variety of textures.
Any romance story’s quality is largely dependent on its characters. Fortunately, Ryouichi and Ren make for a likable couple. Their personalities clash in interesting ways and though their relationship is tense it never enters abusive territory like so many bad yaoi romances do. Ritsu, Ren’s loyal friend and helper, adds an extra dynamic to the tea house’s drama that helps keep things interesting. The volume’s more minor characters are less likable, as they have flat personalities and don’t feel like much more than means to the end of furthering certain plot points.
The pacing throughout most of the volume is solid, except for the ending which feels a tad rushed. Nothing is sped through to the point of inducing whiplash, but Ren opens up in a major way that would have felt more believable with more more build-up. Thankfully, the volume has plenty of charming small details that help make up for faults like that one. Ren’s cat, for instance, is an adorable source of visual comedy throughout. There are sections of the narration that impress with their poetic quality as well.
Overall, I Give To You is a quaint volume with lovely illustrations and a variety of charming small details. Ebishi’s artwork is attention-grabbing from the first page onward, and the main couple is likable. The ending feels a bit rushed and the supporting cast is flat, but neither of those issues is major enough to detract from the story’s quality too harshly. I Give To You is an enjoyable read, flaws and all.