Secrets of Kippei’s past are revealed in yet another heartwarming volume.
Boys’ love titles immersed in the crime genre occupy a unique niche. One such series, Kazuma Kodaka’s Border, holds a unique place even among other series of its kind. Rather than focusing on romance and sex (although those elements are certainly present), Border revolves around the close bonds between a chosen family of queer men. The men, most of whom grew up in the same orphanage, have formed a detective agency that takes on all sorts of cases. In Vol. 3, they get an assignment that hits particularly close to home. They have to find a wealthy businessman’s long lost son, who turns out to Kippei, a member of the agency. The series’ previous installments impressed us greatly, but does Vol. 3 continue the trend?
Whereas Border’s first two volumes focused on Yamato and Tamaki respectively, this one centers around Kippei. We get to learn about his tragic backstory and how he met the other protagonists via a number of extended flashbacks which flesh out his character significantly. His current temperament and skills make even more sense when viewed within the context of his upbringing.
With that said, he’s not the only character who benefits from the flashback sequences. We also get more insight regarding Yamato, who grew considerably through the process of taking in and caring for the traumatized Kippei. The dialogue throughout these sections is very well-written, not to mention heartwarming. If you like emotional stories about people finding meaning through their relationships with one another then you’re likely to enjoy this manga. On the downside, some of the events depicted in the flashbacks pushed my suspension of belief a bit. They never did so to a large enough degree to take me out of the story completely though.
Art-wise, Kodaka continues to deliver strong work. The line-work is nice and polished as always, and there are solid contrasts in the values of the shading. As in previous volumes, the variety of textures on display is pleasing to look at. The composition choices are also good. The panel layouts are varied enough to avoid tiresome levels of repetition but they’re also relatively simple and easy to follow. The characters’ facial expressions are well-done as well. They’re all very emotive and successfully convey the various intended moods, both in moments of comedy and heartfelt drama.
It’s worth noting that a fairly large portion–slightly less than a fourth–of this volume is comprised of side-stories. This doesn’t impact the quality of the main plot much; the pacing throughout it is spot-on. With that said, the side-stories are less consistent in their quality level. One of them is rather short and amusing, but the longest one drags on a bit without feeling meaningful enough to justify its page-count. Said story does at least have a redeeming factor in that it introduces palpable romantic tension between Yamato and Sogo. Their bond has always been friendly and enjoyable to read about, but this additional element adds an intensity and level of uncertainty that will hopefully be further explored in future volumes.
Overall, Border Vol. 3 is yet another great installment in the series. The visuals shine, from the clean line-work to the variety of textures to the characters’ facial expressions. The writing is also excellent, with strong moments of both comedy and drama. There are some occasional issues pertaining to events’ believability, as well as with the quality level of the side-stories. With that said, none of these problems are major or long-lasting enough to significantly hamper the manga’s quality. Border continues to be a standout.