By Hee-Jung Park
Released in the US by TokyoPop
Slugline: Why is it in a yaoi book the most fully fleshed out relationships are between men and women?
Martin & John is an anthology about the relationships between two men named Martin and John, set at different times and settings. The names alone seem to the linkage between the stories, with the characters behaving differently, so it you can't necessarily say that these are the same 'souls' finding each other. That was part of the theme of Deja-Vu, another manwha we recently reviewed, but the first story here (which is very short) is set in some future so it is not being told chronologically. Two other stories are in this volume, but the last story is not completed. While the first story can be seen as about the redemptive power of love the second seems to be more about it's destructive power, and the characters, while active participants in the story, are in some ways helpless in the face of their own emotions. I am still waiting for the yaoi aspects for the last story in the volume to come into play, with the relationship with the Martin character to John being actually split over two different characters named Martin, John's best friend that apparently is not aware he himself is gay and a small child that has been placed into John's care.
The first story is not really more than a scene between the title characters, but in the other stories it seems that the most honest examination of the characters feelings occur when one of them is speaking with a woman. I understand that yaoi are actually written with women as the intended audience, but I still sort of feel offended on the behalf of the male characters that they need a female in order to work out their feelings. Of course, there are exceptions, but these male/female conversations are the most interesting in the book. I don't see this as a deep romance title, and there are the typical overwrought teenage emotional displays, but these conversations, how they are artistically presented and how they also can emotionally draw back are among the best parts of this title.
Martin & John, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga