Kizuna… You almost managed to stay away from rape. Almost…
Kizuna volume 3 by Kazuma Kodaka
The last volume left of with Kei being knocked out by some thugs, one of whom is impersonating his half brother, Kai. The thugs decided to see how Kei knows Kai, just in case they can glean anything out of him, and take him back to their headquarters.
Meanwhile Ranmaru gets worried and calls Masa and Kai to let them know what’s happening. Masa tries to mobilize his men, but when Kai hears the news, he sneaks out from under his body guard and joins up with Ranmaru to save Kei.
They get there, but Kei’s identity as the heir of the Sagano family has already been discovered. As a result, he’s been beaten, shot and painfully strung up by his arms.
Kei is too hurt to be moved, so Kai attempts to call an ambulance, but is captured by the enemies. His bodyguard/assassin, Tashiro shows up, but can’t get a good shot without killing Kai in the process. This causes Ranmaru to take up the sword again in order to bring down the ringleader and his men. As Ranmaru is about to charge, despite Kai and Kei screaming at him to stop before he taints his hands with blood, the volume ends and we’re treated to a short story about two lookalike angels that visit Kei and Ranmaru.
The next volume continues as Masa and Tashiro manage to divert Ranmaru’s sword just in time for him to remain innocent. But unfortunately, the ringleader turns his gun on Masa and almost has him killed by Tashiro’s mentor, J.B., who has been waiting outside to make shoot his target. Kai manages to save Masa and the ringleader dies, but only because J.B. doesn’t want to kill children.
With that, it’s a mostly happy ending as Kei recovers in the hospital and successfully proposes to Ranmaru. The unhappy couple winds up being Masa and Kai, as Kai tries to apologize for his earlier reckless behavior, but winds up getting rejected by Masa instead.
The story then switches back to Tashiro and J.B., whose complex relationship has been hinted at throughout the last two volumes. It starts when J.B. meets Tashiro for the first time at a church he frequents. As the church is threatened by thugs who want the land, Tashiro wishes he could protect the church and its orphans with physical force and begs J.B. to teach him how to kill. It isn’t until one poor girl gets raped (yup.) that J.B. gives in to Tashiro’s requests. They wind up living together as J.B. teaches Tashiro the basics, but Tashiro becomes increasingly desperate. They sleep together, but J.B. leaves the next morning, which causes Tashiro to become the cold-blooded killer we see in the main story.
I would be upset about the rape of the poor girl (who is painted as a very, very tragic figure both before and after her attack,) but it’s hard to be. This isn’t a gratuitous rape where it’s played to titillate the reader (probably because it’s hetero rape) or done just because. Despite the fact that I *suppose* something else could have happened to make Tashiro desperate enough to become an assassin, I think it would have been just as violent. And Tashiro reacts very strongly in favor of the victim, which is better than some past rapes we’ve seen in Kizuna. So I suppose that could all be worse, aside from the fact that it turns Tashiro into a ruthless assassin.
I liked the writing in this volume a lot. I was really expecting non-con and other stupid shit to happen in the main story what with Kei being kidnapped, but it didn’t. Kei’s proposal was cute, and Tashiro’s back story was also appropriate considering the amount of screen time he and J.B. got. If they had just faded into the background, it would have been disappointing.
That being said, the Kodaka’s art is turning out to be a big disappointment for me. Whereas the last volume seemed to hit the right style notes, this volume is awkward, like Kodaka was transitioning between the art of volume 1 and the art of volume two. It doesn’t make any sense. Plus, whenever Kodaka tries to draw someone that’s not a smooth-faced pretty boy, she winds up putting too many shaded spots on their faces and it just makes her art look like it belongs to a style that is not her own.
It just struck me, but I think I’m getting really sick of this manga being about these young men being pulled into crazy yakuza-related shenanigans. If I didn’t have two more volumes of Kizuna to read for the yaoi challenge and if I was collecting each volume one by one, this is probably where I’d subconsciously decide to collect other manga before buying the next volume of Kizuna.