Ever since reading and enjoying Yaya Sakuragi’s Hey, Sensei?, I’ve made a point to follow her work as it’s translated into English. Sakuragi’s boys’ love manga tends to make very heavy use of the genre’s tropes, but generally with a slight twist or unexpected approach that make them just a little bit different. I enjoy that aspect of Sakuragi’s manga, her somewhat quirky sense of humor, and the lanky designs of many of her characters. I also appreciate that she includes important female characters in her stories. Taking all of that into consideration, I was pretty happy when Sublime Manga, the boys’ love imprint associated with Viz Media, licensed one of Sakuragi’s more recent series Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love. The manga is tangentially related to another of Sakuragi’s series–Tea for Two released by Tokyopop’s Blu Manga imprint back in the day–and Sublime has also licensed Hide and Seek, which is a spinoff of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love. The fourth and final volume of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love was originally published in Japan in 2011 while the English-language edition was released in 2013.
After strong urging from his brother, mother, and grandmother, Ao has finally made up his mind to bury his own feelings about the matter and live with his mother and twin. He does have some regrets though, especially considering that the move will mean he won’t be able to see his beloved Ryomei very often anymore. But although Ao has made a decision, he is still torn and uncertain. To make the situation even more complicated, Ryomei has started to return Ao’s feelings and has even begun to express them physically. But thanks to some miscommunication on both of their parts, Ao believes that Ryomei is acting out of pity rather than genuine affection. Mostly because he finds it embarrassing, Ryomei has never been particularly forthcoming about his developing feelings for Ao, whereas Ao has never felt the need to hide his love for the older man and doesn’t hesitate to be very vocal about it. Now that Ryomei is showing his interest only after Ao has announced his decision to move, the younger man can’t help but feel confused.
Throughout Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love it has always been obvious that Ryomei cares very deeply for Ao. He looks out for him and his well-being and even goes out of his way to do things to make him happy–granted, more often than not Ryomei does so in secret. However, I was never entirely convinced that those feelings were of a romantic nature; even Ryomei seems to have to work to convince himself that they are. Ultimately he is able to show and declare his love, but it feels less like natural growth and more like a convenient plot development. It is kind of cute to see a grown man so completely flustered and embarrassed, though. And then there’s Ao, who I’m pretty sure is incapable of embarrassment and is completely lacking awareness of socially acceptable behavior and conversation, which can be pretty entertaining. He’s very much a horny teenager, so in the fourth volume of Bond of Dreams Bond, Bond of Love it’s nice to see him start to really become aware of the emotional aspects of his and Ryomei’s relationship in addition to his fixation on the physical ones.
After a fair amount of teasing on Sakuragi’s part, Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love reaches its climax with the fourth volume. Dreams–wet dreams, daydreams, and even the occasional nightmare–have been a part of the series from the beginning, but now those dreams (the better ones) are becoming a reality for Ao. This more or less means that he and Ryomei finally have sex. Actually, there’s quite a bit of sex in Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 4. The series has been building up to it and the scenes, like the rest of the manga, have a somewhat ridiculous sense of humor to them. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love is not at all a serious series. What it lacks in believability and realism it makes up for with its slightly absurd characters, their clashing personalities, and their amusing interactions and relationships. I admit it: the manga managed to make me laugh on a regular basis. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love can be a bit uneven at times, and the series isn’t my favorite manga by Sakuragi, but for the most part I ended up enjoying its silliness. And I do still look forward to reading Hide and Seek.