Yaya Sakuragi has had quite a few of her boys’ love manga translated and released in English: Tea for Two; Hey, Sensei?; Stay Close to Me; Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love; and, most recently, Hide and Seek. Hey, Sensei? was actually my introduction to boys’ love, and I tend to enjoy Sakuragi’s work, so I’ve made a point to read and collect it all. As for Hide and Seek, the third and final volume was originally published in Japan in 2014. The English-language edition was released in 2015 by Sublime Manga, the boys’ love imprint associated with Viz Media. Hide and Seek is technically a spinoff of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, but it stands completely on its own. However, readers familiar with Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love will likely appreciate the references made to the earlier series. Tea for Two is even more distantly related to Hide and Seek, the connection between the two being made indirectly through Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love. It’s not at all necessary to have read Tea for Two or Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love to enjoy Hide and Seek, but I do like how all three series are linked together.
It has been years since Shuji has been in a serious relationship. Although he’s still on good terms with his ex-wife, his marriage was a failure and he hasn’t done much more than casually play around since the divorce. But now, somewhat unexpectedly, Shuji finds himself in what may very well become something more long-term, and with another man no less. The relationship between Shuji and the young doctor Saji has had a few bumps along the way, and both of the men still occasionally feel insecure, but for the most part they’ve been able to move past the major drama. That doesn’t mean everything has been completely worked out, though. As grown adults, Shuji and Saji each have their own family responsibilities and careers to take into consideration. Shuji has his daughter Chii to look after and the business at his candy store isn’t as good as it once was while Saji is having a difficult time convincing his grandfather to allow him to take over the family’s local clinic. So, there are still a few matters that Shuji and Saji will need to address before their relationship can go much further.
Although Hide and Seek tends to be more serious, mature, and realistic, especially when compared to its immediate predecessor Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, at the same time there is still plenty of humor and lightheartedness to the series. For example, the major dilemma in the first chapter of Hide and Seek, Volume 3 revolves around Shuji “manning up” in order to cuddle, with delightful results. Shuji’s love of costume and roleplay comes up again, too, which has been something of a running joke in both Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love and Hide and Seek. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the relationship between Shuji and Saji develop as the series has progressed; they’re adorable and surprisingly sweet together, even considering (or perhaps even because of) their drastically different personalities. It’s obvious that they each care tremendously for other person. What makes their relationship work, and one of the things that I particularly love about Hide and Seek, is their willingness to push through their initial fear and embarrassment over expressing themselves and actually communicate with each other.
Seeing as I had enjoyed Sakuragi’s earlier works, I was fairly confident that I would like Hide and Seek, too. What I didn’t anticipate was just how much the series would end up appealing to me; I think it may now even be my favorite Sakuragi manga. I find this to be a little surprising because, although Saji is a type of character that I’m usually fond of, in general Shuji wasn’t. But over the course of Hide and Seek I came to really like and care about him. He has evolved from simply being supporting comic relief in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love into a fully fledged, well-developed character in his own right. Much of Hide and Seek, Volume 3 is devoted to his family circumstances, which are revealed to be a little different than readers (and Saji, for that matter) were initially led to believe. Chii’s mother and her current boyfriend play a greater role, but the series implies and is open-ended enough that there is room for Saji, Shuji, and Chii to form a trio as well. Perhaps it’s optimism and wishful thinking on my part, but it makes me extremely happy that by the end of Hide and Seek, Chii may very well have gained two caring families.