You’d be hard-pressed to find a better yaoi manga than Kazume Kodaka’s Border. The series infuses its detective agency setting with character-driven drama, leading to moments both heartfelt and action-packed. Kodaka has also made sure to give each of the main characters time in the spotlight across the four volumes thus far. Vol. 5, published by Juné Manga, finishes the prior installment’s story about Sugo and Yamato’s high school days and early friendship. There are also a number of shorter chapters at the end which take place back in the present. Most of these stories are more sexually charged and lighthearted. How does this volume compare to its predecessors? Is it good?
By and large, this volume’s main story is successful. It serves primarily to continue fleshing out Yamato’s bond with Sugo, and it does so poignantly. This series has always impressed me largely because of the importance it puts on platonic friendships, which is a bit unusual to see in boys’ love series. Yamato and Sugo’s friendship is touching to read about, and they fit together very naturally despite their differences. The pacing is also quite good throughout, as emotional moments have ample time to breathe without making the characters’ relationship progression feel rushed.
There’s definitely an element of tragedy to the early days of the pair’s friendship, as they find themselves supporting one another after the death of someone close to Sugo. Given that said person is a woman this could easily verge on fridging territory, but I think Kodaka successfully avoids making it feel exploitative. It helps that the character in question has enough page-time to actually get development and become multidimensional before her passing. It’s also worth noting that Yamato’s storyline also includes the death of a loved one (in his case, his ex-boyfriend Will), so him and Sugo both having grappled with depth adds a parallel element to their character arcs. All in all the subject matter is handled tactfully.
Art-wise, this volume is strong as usual. As good as the writing is, the poignancy of the drama also owes a lot to how well the characters’ facial expressions are rendered. Yamato and Sugo’s expressions of frustration, grief, and joy always hit just the right emotional notes. The textures throughout are pleasant to look at as always, and the flow of events is clear throughout. My only complaint with the visuals is just that the faces look a bit off-model here and there. It’s not a frequent or major concern by any means, though.
The side stories in this volume are also enjoyable. The shorter ones add some nice levity, as all the main characters joke around back in the present day. There’s also a longer story from Yamato’s past back when he was still in the military with Will. This is probably the most touching part of the volume, not to mention the most erotic. All in all, the back-up stories add nice contrasts to the main story.
Border Vol. 5 is series’ last installment thus far, and it’s been a while since it came out. If this is the series’ conclusion then that’s definitely sad, but at least it ends on a high note. The main story about Yamato and Sugo’s friendship is poignant, and the back-up stories add comedy and eroticism as well. Overall, this volume is a great read.