TOKYOPOP’s romance imprint Love X Love has been putting out amazing same-sex romances and my favorites have ranged from more mature yaoi to teen shonen-ai. With Dekoboko Sugar Days, from mangaka Atsuko Yusen, we get an adorable yaoi title that focuses on friendship as much as romance. In this one-shot, Yuujirou Matsukaze has been close friends with Rui Hanamine since the two of them were children. Back then, Yuujirou was the one who stood up for and took care of his adorable, soft-hearted friend. But as it turns out, Yuujirou’s childhood dreams end up growing a little too big to handle—or, rather, too tall. At over six feet in height, the cheerful and happy-go-lucky Rui towers over his would-be protector and, in typical manga romance fashion, still has no idea Yuujirou has had a crush on him since they were kids.
Dekoboko Sugar Days’ premise is a lot like other yaoi titles, with our two male leads secretly having crushes on each other from childhood onward and dealing with the issues that come from hiding it from each other. That said, this manga title does differentiate itself enough from the rest of the titles with similar premises, mainly in how Yuujirou and Rui see each other from the start. While the two go through the usual “is this love?” moments, the two are immediately connected. In fact, as children, Yuujirou fell in love with Rui at first sight, only to realize the cute girl he saved from a gutter was a boy.
While some yaoi manga investigate the heavy ways society stigmatizes same-sex relationships, often by showcasing moments of trauma, Dekoboko Sugar Days doesn’t do that. In fact, these two best friends are tethered together by love and by simply trying to find the words to describe their connection, their jealousy, and their loneliness when the other isn’t around. While we do see hints of the stigma in how Rui’s sister tells him that he can’t have a prince, ultimately, their friends are nothing but supportive. The openness with which the two high schoolers describe their relationship to their friends is wholesome and heartwarming. When the two finally tell their respective friends that they have crushes, they can’t hide the reality that they have a crush on each other. And from this point, they’re pushed to one another and to happiness, even as the two awkwardly misinterpret each other.
Additionally, over Dekoboko Sugar Days’ six chapters, there is a beautiful awkwardness between Rui and Yuujirou, and its executed in a wholesome way. The one-shot is easily broken down into three solid acts. The awkward dances of “does he like me?” and “do I like him?,” the beginning of the relationship. and the final intimate moment which holds an endless amount of emotional weight because of the build-up to the moment Rui and Yuujirou have sex for the first time.
This moment isn’t something that just happens, and even in the chapter focused on intimacy, the act itself isn’t the focus. Instead, it’s the emotional connection, how the two are trying to have a perfect relationship but not communicating, and ultimately their choice to just move forward and trust each other. But with all this emotion, my only issues come in the manga’s final chapter, specifically in the dialogue featured during Rui and Yuujirou’s first time. For this one scene, the dialogue switches back and forth between explicit to emotional and doesn’t blend the two well like some other TOKYOPOP titles in the same genre have.
Finally, the art in Dekoboko Sugar Days is a standout. While the book is overall gorgeous, its how Yusen illustrates each of the main characters’ emotional moments that are really stunning. This is heightened because Rui and Yuujirou are polar opposites. Where Rui showcases emotions like utter joy and sadness, Yuujirou only shows anger or confusion. As the two grow over the course of the story we get to see their range of emotion change and the art does with them. Yusen’s art is vital to the story and does an amazing job of building empathy between reader and character.
Overall, Dekoboko Sugar Days is a romance that is executed in the most wholesome of ways. It’s a slow awkward romance with emotional pay off that focuses on what happens when the leads of a yaoi romance can bloom with the support of friends instead of fear like many other titles in this genre. I can’t recommend this title enough.
Dekoboko Sugar Days is available from booksellers now.
Dekoboko Sugar Days
Dekoboko Sugar Days is a romance that is executed in the most wholesome of ways. It’s a slow awkward romance with emotional pay off that focuses on what happens when the leads of a yaoi romance can bloom with the support of friends instead of fear like many other titles in this genre. I can’t recommend this title enough.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.