King of a Miniature Garden: Chapters 1 & 2, by Chi-tan

This review was originally written for REDEYE magazine.

Published by Umisen-Yamasen, Chapter 1 is 24 pages, Chapter 2 is 18 pages, A5 stapled floppies with colour-printed paper covers, no price given.

A young man named Hiragi lives trapped in a mansion on an island.  He had been in a car crash that left him with injuries affecting his memory, and his parents sent him to the mansion to recuperate.  He can only interact with the six other people that reside on the island, but he’s not lonely.  His caretaker, another young man by the name of Takuro, has become the centre of his life.  However, his tranquil existence is turned upside-down one day when everyone but Takuro leaves the island in order to prepare for…THAT.

If you hadn’t guessed from the description already, this is a comic with its roots firmly in the Japanese BL/yaoi genre.  BL stands for ‘boy’s love’: romance stories between two teenage boys or men.  Yaoi takes this a little further, and in the west we tend to associate the term ‘yaoi’ with explicit content.  However the boundaries between terms aren’t particularly strong: you can get some comics labelled as BL that go a little further than you would expect, and some labelled as ‘yaoi’ that end with a simple kiss and holding of hands.  This particular comic does venture into some adult territory, but does not actually include any explicit content.

Over the course of these two chapters of King of a Miniature Garden, we are introduced to the setup for the rest of the series.  Chapter one tells us about the straightforward world that our two main characters inhabit, and chapter two introduces a third character who may well put a spanner in the works for them.  As an introduction these comics are enjoyable enough, but I would recommend (if possible) getting hold of chapter 3 as well, as that is where I think the story proper will really start (though, having checked on Umisen-Yamasen’s website, I have no idea whether a third chapter was even finished).

The art over both of these chapters wears its Japanese BL influences on its sleeve, but that suits the story, and the artist’s own style does show through her influences.  Characters’ faces have had the most attention paid to them, so they are quite detailed and emotive.  Character bodies, though not always perfectly in proportion, also show some attention to detail.  Backgrounds on the other hand can sometimes be very sketchy, or the artist will resort to large areas of screentone, which doesn’t really suit the more detailed character work.

The lettering for King of a Miniature Garden is a little odd.  The comic is interesting in that it is bilingual: text is written in both Japanese and English.  However a clunky-looking serif font is used for the English text throughout, and the writing style also does not flow incredibly well, for example on page six of chapter one “When tomorrow comes, there’re only I and him”.  Things like this could have been fixed with some proofreading.

Readers who are already boy’s love fans, or who are interested in the genre and also enjoy small press comics, will probably want to pick this one up as its one of the only examples of BL that I’ve seen come out of the UK small press (you can also practice your Japanese!).  However, the clunky text and sometimes-rushed looking art will probably mean that those who have no particular interest in BL won’t find much else for them here.

Review copies of these comics were provided.


One Response to “King of a Miniature Garden: Chapters 1 & 2, by Chi-tan”

  1. I love this manga, probably one of my all time favourites, despite it being so sad.

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