This was initially supposed to be a series of reviews, but I only managed to complete a review for V01.
S is about Shiiba Masaki, a detective in the Counter-Organized-Crime Division of Shinjuku’s Metropolitan Police, and his relationship with his organized-crime informant, known to those privileged enough to know simply as “S.” A detective’s S (a handle which is short for spy) would probably be considered a necessary evil in his line of work; an unsavory character who would most likely never be associated with if it weren’t for his duties, but that’s only on the surface. The story moves forward as Aida-sensei slices at our hearts with the double-edged sword that is the relationship between a detective and his S.
When employing the age-old premise of “cops and robbers,” it’s easy to apply it un-tweaked: copy and paste one of the many stereotypical profiles to the character of your choice. Because crime dramas have been done to death and back again, it’s really hard not to trip over the clichés hoping to pass as a new spin on an old record. Well, I am pleased to report that Aida-sensei is quite the DJ when it comes to remixing the old standards. Shiiba, the main character, is neither a tsundere, a hetare, nor a born-to-surrender uke; he’s a cautious man with an impulsive streak and closed heart. Although he appears to be detached from his personal life and his work, he’s actually so far into them that he can’t see a way out of either.
[/threecol_two_last]As a detective, Shiiba is committed to ridding the city of the guns that continue to threaten its welfare. His commitment is an unstable mix of dedication and desperation, with desperation often carrying more weight. Still wallowing in his own victim-hood, he is spurred on by it to accomplish his goal by nearly any means necessary. As a man, he is conflicted about how he relates to others and is often at war with himself over whether or not the stances he has chosen are the stances he should take. While this turmoil is sometimes tempered by his determination to act within the scope of his position and under his own principles which he has sworn to uphold, his desire to come from under the shadow of his aching heart sometimes compels him to make decisions that are to his detriment, both personally and professionally.
The relationships between Shiiba and the other characters and the advancement of those relationships are what propel the story forward. The depth of Shiiba’s connection with his sister’s husband is a little hard to pin down. It isn’t for lack of detail; I just get the feeling that there is much to be revealed about it in the coming volumes. But regardless of that, their interactions do not betray what we know of it. Since Shiiba’s relationship with his S is what the story is about, I don’t want to risk giving anything away, so I’ll just say this: As the story progresses, Shiiba’s understanding or rather, the increasing profundity of his understanding of what an S is to a detective is often the lead-in to some of the spicier moments in the story. It is his actions (and reactions) which are provoked by his willingness to accept or ignore the truth of his situation that makes watching the development of their relationship such a pleasure.
I was convinced from the start. I had an easy time getting to know the characters and as a result, when their various motives were being uncovered, I found it just as easy to reconcile them with their individual natures. While some of them had a rough go of it, I never thought them to be pitiful. And with this only being the 1stof 4 volumes, I am glad that I will get to learn even more about these great characters.
The story progresses very well; I never found myself waiting to get to the good part. The characters, the environments in which they exist, and the circumstances under which they operate, are revealed very naturally. Specifically the breakdown of the Counter-Organized-Crime Division; this could so easily have come off as blocks of unnecessary and uninteresting text or something that would have been better left for the appendices. As a means of avoiding this kind of result when trying to present complex ideas like the delegation of responsibility within a sector or a hierarchical structure, a writer will often rely on some sort of diagram or one of the various forms of afterthoughts that are at their disposal. Doing so isn’t necessarily a bad thing and in some situations it is the preferred thing. However, it is great when this type of information can be integrated into the flow of the story without making readers feel like they have to switch gears when encountering it. Successfully accomplishing this is the mark of an author who fully understands the tone and pace they have set as well as the dynamics of their story as a whole. Fortunately for her readers, Aida-sensei was able to use a very balanced mix of narration and dialogue to keep us clued-in to the hows and whys of things without boring us into an information coma.
I believe this is my first encounter with Nara Chiharu-sensei, so I’ll hold off on any blanket statements until I’ve finished volume 4. For the time being, I will say this: There are 12 illustrations; 1 color, 11 b&w; page 97 is my favorite. I think they’re all well done, but the lips aren’t always good. Sometimes, if it’s not a smile or a blank expression, some artists just can’t get it right. On the other hand, there are times that a drawing style can start out as not to your liking but grow on you the more you are exposed to it. So, we’ll see.
Dots & Crosses
It could be a mistake on the part of Aida-sensei or it could be a translation error, but either way, there exists a continuity issue regarding Shiiba’s age. I double/triple/quadruple checked and it was not a matter of a flashback or a flash forward; it’s all in the present and I’m sure it isn’t a typo. I suppose I’ll have to wait until I get to volume 2 to see what’s what.
In manga you can cut to the next scene because even if the dialogue doesn’t indicate it and there is no panel that illustrates it, showing a character nursing a bruised cheek is a signal to any reader that his face just met someone’s fist. This also works for the sex scenes for which you turn the page on the first “ah” and in the very next panel you are greeted with chirping birds or the morning school bell. It’s not always what I want to see, but it’s a reasonably acceptable practice. However, this is not so easily accomplished in a novel. When there are no panels to reference and a scene involving movement is being described, the mini-movie that the reader is carefully building in their mind becomes distorted when the author cuts out a step. I thought to myself, “how does that work?” There’s one description that produces an image of a physically awkward set up and another one that just seems physically impossible. There’s always the possibility that I’m wrong, but I’m pretty good at this, so I doubt it. While these alleged errors don’t disrupt the flow, they could be tiny speed bumps to the readers who, like me, translate every line of text into a frame for the mini-movie they’re filming in their heads. If it continues to bother me, I’ll draw out the scenes and post them.
At 4 ¼ x 6 ¾ x ½, the book is the perfect pocket size. There are 7 bi-fold sections that are stacked, glued, and bound in a nice glossy cover that includes the very sexy picture you see above. I only found one typo throughout the entire book, but I found some grammar issues that made me cringe. The only other things that I can really pick with are the alignment, kerning and justification of some of the text. The summary on the back is nicely justified, but the positioning of the block of text favors the right. Because of this, the text nearly hits the edge and leaves an awkward white space on the left. Within the book are a terrible number of weird kerning and justifications. These things do not detract from the story, but since our minds are trained to recognize punctuation as the beginning or end of a thought (complete or otherwise) and to see spacing as a way to separate words and paragraphs and thoughts and moments in a story, abnormal applications do have the potential to trip up the momentum of a passage.
Overall, it was a great reading experience. I really enjoyed the story; it was sexy, funny and suspenseful and I am really anxious to move on to volume 2. It felt really good to hold this book in my hand as I slouched at my desk, curled up in my bed or rested for a moment on my foot bench.
V01 [5.0]; V02 A Love Bite [5.0]; V03 Split [4.5]; V04 Afterglow [4.5]