Among yaoi series, Kazuma Kodaka’s Border is quite a unique read. First of all, there’s its adherence to the crime genre. Secondly, it doesn’t focus on romance between two people; instead it depicts the familial bonds between a tight-knit group of four queer men. It’s also worth noting that all the main characters are out to one another, and their orientations are never played as a source of angst. This is a crime drama with heavy focus on the characters’ emotions and status as a chosen family, where being gay isn’t treated as a tragedy. When AiPT! reviewed the series’ first volume, we loved it. Does this second installment, published by Juné Manga, live up our high expectations?
While Vol. 1 focused on team leader Yamato, this one shifts its attention to Tamaki, whose past criminal involvement gives him a personal stake in the squad’s current case. Kodaka has a track record of excellent character work that this installment only adds to. She manages to give all the characters at least brief moments to shine, even if they’re not the ones this story arc centers around. She also paces the story well; the drama builds up at a satisfying rate and none of the events ever feel too rushed or too decompressed. All in all, Kodaka is fantastic at constructing an effective narrative arc.
This volume also impresses visually. There are tons of different sorts of details throughout, virtually all of which are pleasing to look at. The characters’ facial expressions are very emotive, both in moments of drama and comedy. Their clothing also looks great, thanks to the attention Kodaka pays to fabric textures. The shading throughout is also quite nice; light sources and their resultant shadows are both rendered consistently.
Kodaka’s action sequences are quite good as well. The flow of motion throughout them is great and they’re well-choreographed. The protagonists pull off plenty of moves that are just plain cool, so at times reading Border can provide the same fun feeling as watching a good action movie. It’s worth noting that Kodaka manages to convey the physical impacts of violence without relying too heavily on gore. The fighters’ blows still feel significant, but readers who can’t handle excessive amounts of blood and open wounds should still be able to enjoy this volume without much trouble.
This volume doesn’t have many cons, but the biggest one concerns Tamaki. While he gets some good character development and his past is well-explored, some of his current behaviors go disappointingly uncontested. Specifically, some of his actions border on (and clearly cross the line into) sexual harassment. This is primarily played up for laughs, and though the other characters admonish Tamaki, some readers may find that these situations aren’t handled adequately.
Overall, Border Vol. 2 is a highly enjoyable read with many of the same strengths as its predecessor. Kodaka’s pacing is excellent, and there’s a satisfying build-up of drama from beginning to end. The characters are very likable, from the deep care they show each other to their emotive facial expressions. The art is great in general, especially in the fight scenes. My only real qualms are with how some of Tamaki’s skeevy actions are downplayed, but other than that I enjoyed virtually everything about this volume.