Manga Review: Yakuza Lover Volume One

Yakuza Lover Volume One tells the story of how a young woman becomes a lover to a member of the Japanese mafia.

Yakuza Lover Volume One
Written by: Nozomi Mino
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: June 1, 2021

The story focuses on a college student named Yuri. When she and her friend go to a party, she keeps getting hit on by guys who are obviously only looking for a one-night stand. This isn’t what Yuri wants… she’s only interested in a guy who is actually in love with her. Yuri shows her feisty side when she shoots down the advances of the host of the party.

When Yuri and her friend try to leave the party, they stumble into another room where there’s a party with drugs taking place. Yuri and her friend are taken by the people in this party to try to force them into being accomplices, but Yuri shows off her feistiness again when she grabs a stool and attacks one of the guys causing problems for her and her friend. A group from a yakuza overhear the racket and burst in. Toshiomi Oya, the underboss of the Oya Syndicate, is an attractive man, and he and his group save the day. Toshiomi gives Yuri his coat, which he says she can keep, as well a card she can show if other bad guys give her trouble.

Two weeks later, we see Yuri thinking about Toshiomi and how much of a gentleman he appeared to be. She decides she wants to thank him and return the coat, and she finds where he lives. Toshiomi begins trying to seduce Yuri, saying the strength that she showed when she was protecting her friend was attractive to him. Yuri becomes so flustered and confused, because while she finds him attractive, she’s also concerned about the fact that he is part of the yakuza and the dangers that come with that.

And thus begins a game of “cat and mouse.” Oya doesn’t reach out to contact Yuri, but she doesn’t exactly call the number on the card he gave her, either. When she gets to the point of trying to convince herself that she won’t see Toshiomi again, he finally reaches out to her and says he wants to see her. When she goes to see him, he suddenly kisses her and wants to sleep with her. While they don’t go that far, this is the beginning of the relationship that forms between these two characters.

And this is where I start having problems with this series. Yuri goes from being a feisty girl with spunk to a girl who falls so hard for a guy she hardly knows that she loses all of the edge that we saw at the beginning. She turns into a bit of a simpering wimp who easily falls for Toshiomi’s “charms.” I put that in quotes, because what I see here isn’t a Prince Charming situation. As the volume goes on, Toshiomi becomes more possessive of Yuri. He’s also buying her things, such as clothes and a trip… but he seems to be going overboard. Instead of coming across as sweet gestures, they come across as a way to “buy” her love and keep her. Maybe it’s just me, but Toshiomi comes across more as a toxic character than a romantic male lead. And in a lot of respects, Yuri comes across more like a protagonist from a shojo manga that features high school characters instead of a character in a story that’s being aimed at slightly older readers than the high school shojo. I understand that Yuri is only 20 years old, but there’s a lot of ways where she comes across as immature. The art style also looks more like what readers would associate with shojo manga that’s being aimed at the pre-teen and teen audience.

To me, it feels like the mangaka of Yakuza Lover is basically telling a story with a tone similar to the high school shojo that I mentioned in the previous paragraph but incorporates actual sex scenes in order to sell this story to an older audience. From what I saw here, I’m not really sold on Yakuza Lover. However, I would be willing to read a second volume to try to give the series a chance to potentially progress past what we see here.

But after reading Volume One, I’m not really sure who the intended audience is for Yakuza Lover. I can’t really recommend it to the pre-teen and teen audience that would appreciate this kind of story due to the visual content of the sex scenes included in this volume. However, I’m not really sure that this story or these characters are going to have much of an appeal to the older audience that the manga is rated for.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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