Yakuza Fiancé Volume 7: Tiger Meat



It’s a little crazy that with Yakuza Fiancé volume 7, the series has been out for nearly six and a half years (in Japan). It’s the sort of gap in time that makes you question things, that makes you uncertain of where it all began. Because of that, I unceremoniously flipped through earlier volumes to get a read on how this work has changed- and changed it has. Though the original concept and direction still exist, but just about every other facet has become nearly unrecognizable. This seedy Yakuza story has gone so far in the direction of camp, that it’s ended up coming out as a honest-to-goodness drama. It’s quite the feat, and all the same, it’s still a deeply satisfying read. With the prospect of an anime on the horizon (and the fact that this is a Monthly Afternoon manga), it’s endlessly exciting to see how they bring out the most in that seasoned air of men in suits, violence in tow. Though, this is about the manga, not the anime so I’d do well to get back on track.

The question is really just where to begin. A lot of manga have a habit of neatly and cleanly separating their chapters and arcs in a way that is… helpful, to a serialized release. In a sense, you could say that Asuka Konishi is no mangaka to betray that norm, but I think that the way they handle that change over is really solid. There doesn’t have to be an explicit thread connecting every piece, alluding to the next step the story will take, but it’s there all the same. Where Kirishima met Yoshino’s mother at the end of the last volume, without warning we follow suit with Kirishima as he drags Yoshino along to see his aunt. It’s all these sorts of little bits and pieces that help create an overall flow, and really help sell the difference from where Konishi was originally, where a far more choppy and “point-to-point” story decorated the first volume and change, simply using the school setting to string together various ideas. In truth, I think that point-to-point nature still definitively exists within Yakuza Fiancé volume 7, but Konishi undeniably has a better hand on controlling it and using it to their benefit.

In contrast however, is Konishi’s visual appeal with the manga. Where earlier volumes were carried by the unique nature of her art style, later volumes find interest in appealing to the air and feel of Yakuza dramas. You’ll find much wider and fuller spaces in this volume that, while not hand drawn, have very well chosen and framed environment art. I’m always a fan of realism finding a way to creep into manga, but I also think that a lot of mangaka tend to use it to strictly cut corners, and ultimately don’t give it too much thought or interest. In Yakuza Fiancé volume 7 though, I really feel like Konishi has done a great job of marrying her well placed environments with the overall style and tone of their scenes, and I think a lot of that comes from smaller details like adjusted shadows or highlights that create a much cleaner composition. Similarly, taking real life images (and even just being inspired by them) means that Konishi is able to play with focal lengths as well, giving a lot of these sequences some really great personality and depth.

Really, I think that’s a very great way to explain Konishi’s use of environment art here- playful. Not always in the innocent sense, but there’s certainly a nature added by it that makes it very curious to look at. Maybe it’s Konishi’s unabashed usage of it, or maybe it’s how every angle is different, but the fact of the matter is that it’s both a very well done and a very fun inclusion, and that it’s a rare feat to see.

Similarly, character blocking and depth can really be lacking in some manga… but, well, I think it’s pretty obvious that with Konishi’s inclusion of real environments, the awareness of depth and layouts has increased a considerable degree. There’s quite a few pages of Kirishima and Yoshino in confined (and drawn) spaces, but still you can feel that same sense of scope and space in those sequences as you do in the more open ones. While it’s certainly not a case of Bless, where the first time mangaka grasps space immediately, Konishi has possibly displayed a more admirable trait though her exploration of this- the ability to continue to grow. Though it’s been nearly seven years, it’s evident that their ability as a mangaka continues to improve over time, leading you from the far more boxy and trim designs of this series origin, to the beefy yet still unique designs of Yakuza Fiancé volume 7.

Anyways, I’ve been rambling on a great deal about what’s changed instead of what’s new, and in this volume it’s sort of like the flood gates being opened. The story gets blown wide open as the scope moves to envelope everyone and anyone, while the current narrative hones in on two pieces- how Kirishima’s changed, and the dangers that lurk in the shadows of the Somei family. It’s a perfect example of plans within plans within plans, and Konishi has done such a great job of getting to this point. Piecing together all the smaller aspects that resulted in the narrative bomb going off in volumes 5 and 6 have led to this pivotal piece of Yakuza Fiancé volume 7- a second romantic rival appearing for Kirishima. Though, in all seriousness, it’s more about the ever expanding spider’s web that sees Yoshino stuck at its center, and Konishi does a great job with it. It’s very easy to lose sight of top from bottom with how unforgiving conversations and interactions go, but it’s all the more fun because of that.

The dialogue remains crisp and strong, and Konishi wastes not even a single panel on unnecessary flashbacks or reminders, and that really plays into the unflappable and ineffable nature of Kirishima as a character. That only gets furthered by the use of well placed flashbacks that appear in the front half of the volume, telling a piecemeal story of his past to Yoshino. It’s a lot of really great narrative work, even though Konishi doesn’t tend to lean on the visual medium for that sort of information. Maybe that sort of “separation” between visual storytelling and narrative is another piece that adds to the awareness of that distinct air in the manga. Thoughts and actions are almost neatly separated into unique pieces that almost act separately of one another, creating that lapse between high school student and Yakuza member.

Either way, since the 5th volume, and now into Yakuza Fiancé volume 7, Asuka Konishi has been doing a lot of interesting things. It’s been quite the transformative and ever developing read, and this latest volume is the perfect example of that. Once more raising the stakes, shuffling the playing field, and changing direction, Yakuza Fiancé has almost been enjoying itself this last while. And, well, if it’s having fun than I’m certainly not one to rain on that parade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.