Yaoi titles come in all forms and genres, from office comedies to sci-fi romances. Given how loose the criteria for yaoi is, it’s no surprise that it sometimes shifts into horror territory as well. Case in point: Ranmaru Zariya’s Coyote. The manga stars a werewolf named Coyote and a human named Marleen who find themselves sexually entangled despite human/werewolf tensions heightening all around them. Add in the fact that neither man has been fully honest with the other about his true identity and you have a recipe for disaster. But how do these conflicts actually unravel? Coyote’s debut volume, published by SuBLime Manga, is out this week and it collects the series’ first four chapters. Is it good?
This manga’s premise is definitely intriguing. There’s a Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story type of warring factions plot going on, but the specific context has been changed up significantly enough that it’s not immediately apparent that that’s what Zariya is doing. Part of what helps Coyote stand out on this level is, of course, its supernatural subject matter. It’s always nice to see a story utilize horror tropes and creatures in ways that aren’t necessarily meant to simply frighten the audience. Another aspect of the story that helps keep its drama feeling fresh is the fact that the characters don’t gain a mutual knowledge of each other’s origins (Marleen’s family are at the head of anti-vampire violence in their town) until the end of the volume. Because of this, their hesitations stem from more sources than just familial or species disapproval. It’s particularly enlightening to watch Coyote struggle with his attractions more because of their homosexual nature than because of backlash against werewolf/human couples.
The art in this volume is also good. Zariya delivers her best work when depicting charcters’ facial expressions. The intense emotion in Coyote’s eyes is especially impressive, as Zariya conveys subtle changes in moisture and brow posture signaling various combinations of shock, reluctance, sadness, and love. There is a lot of great texture throughout as well, which helps the manga’s world feel more alive. The shading is also well-done and helps drive home Coyote’s dreary and otherworldly atmosphere.
Unfortunately, Coyote also has some significant faults. Though its premise is intriguing, the execution of said premise is lacking. We don’t get to know either protagonist very well, and we learn virtually nothing about the supporting cast besides the fact that they’re involved in human/vampire conflicts. As a result, it’s difficult to become invested in the story or its characters’ emotional lives. This is especially disappointing for a romance title, since you would ideally want to actually care about how the protagonists’ relationship plays out. The lack of specific lore established in this volume is also a bit disappointing. As is, there aren’t any details about this manga’s world that make it particularly unique compared to other werewolf stories.
Overall, Coyote Vol. 1 is a solid if somewhat generic debut. Its best attributes are fantastic: the premise is fun and the artwork is great, with a variety of different textures. Unfortunately, the characters are relatively flat and the series’ lore has yet to be fleshed out very much. Nonetheless, this volume piqued my interest enough that I’ll likely check out the next installment.