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Manga Review | Pain, Sweet Pain by Fuyu Touji

Warning:

This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Pain, Sweet Pain. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.

Trigger Warning: There may be references to BDSM, assault, and drugs as it appears in the manga.

Synopsis:

Yuma is a sub. He wasn’t always a sub, though. Back in high school, he actually tested as someone without a dynamic. No big deal. That’s better. Yuma has seen what chaos dynamics can do to people, and he was just fine not having one. His friend Mao, however, manifested as a dom as a child, which is exceedingly rare and indicates just how powerful his dom tendencies are. Despite their differences, the two grow close, so close that Mao feels an innate pull toward Yuma. No matter how desperately he wants to deny it, Mao wants to dominate Yuma, but he does his best to avoid it for the sake of their friendship.

Graduation comes along, and the two are talking about their futures. Mao, though, is distracted. His longing to dominate Yuma is coming to a head, especially since this is his last chance to be so close to Yuma. Unaware, Yuma continues talking and laughing, enjoying the final hours with Mao, when Mao suddenly grabs and bites him. That single moment caused Yuma to suddenly manifest as a sub. Of course, it would have happened regardless, but Mao’s bite triggered it to occur earlier than it would have.

Wracked with guilt, Mao distances himself from Yuma. On the other hand, Yuma spends the rest of his time chasing that bite. It’s impossible for him to stay with any dom partner for very long because they’re unable to give him that same satisfying bite Mao did when he awakened as a sub. In order to find that sweet pain, he goes through a matchmaking service with his doctor. To his surprise, he’s matched with the person who introduced him to the pleasure of pain, to begin with: Mao.

Review:

First, the art style. This is probably one of the most unique manga art styles I’ve seen in a while. Sometimes I love it, and sometimes I hate it. The faces and facial expressions are beautiful. Still, the overwhelming black used for shading is very heavy-handed, especially since the characters are shown to have fairer hair colors on the cover, while in the work, their hair is shaded to be black. It also isn’t that consistent, with the heads sometimes being way too large for the bodies. I love how unique it is in style; when it is pretty, it is beautiful. However, it occasionally suffers from the characters having the same exact face. It’s so unique in style that I think it’s hard to distinguish one character from the other, particularly the sub and the dom (Yuma and Mao). This doesn’t happen too often, and I am more bothered by the heavy shading and toning than the faces, but I feel it is worth noting.

Cover art of Pain, Sweet Pain by Fuyu Touji

The story, though, is charming with this one. I love the idea of a dom trying to fight against his instincts, even when his partner is a sub who actually wants him to follow his instincts. The dom wishing to protect and prevent harming the sub is a nice change to the stereotypical need the dom usually has to overwhelmingly dominate the sub. However, while I do like the story and think Mao’s background is pretty well built out, I don’t feel the same for Yuma’s side of things. As it is revealed later on, Yuma’s mother was actually a sub, but her health and life deteriorated when her dom ended up abandoning her. It’s a very short sequence and is thrown in at what feels like a random point to me with little result. The point was to build up Yuma’s acceptance of their partnership ending so he could avoid the same fate as his mother. However, it does very little to change Yuma’s want and need to be with Mao. I wish we could have seen more, but I think that will always be my complaint about these single-volume titles: I just want more, which is an excellent problem to have.

On the other side, though, we see a lot of Mao’s side and why he feels it is essential to distance himself from Yuma. While Yuma’s background feels a bit thrown together and a bit last minute, Mao’s feels very well put together. Seeing him as a child who manifested as a dom much earlier than his peers and having to control those tendencies without the relief of medicine was rather heart-rending. His possessive nature over a teddy bear and how battered the bear becomes over time because of him is a really nice way of showing how violent and toxic the dom habits can be, even in a child. It is also an interesting way to compare how Mao feels about Yuma. If Mao let loose his dom nature on Yuma, Yuma could end up like that teddy bear, which Mao is doing his best to avoid.

This fear of Mao’s also led to his future career as a dynamic researcher, which actually wasn’t all that well built out, unfortunately. The major turning point in Mao and Yuma’s relationship is when it is revealed that Mao is testing dangerous suppressants on himself in hopes of one day suppressing his destructive dom tendencies. Similar to Yuma’s background, this felt a bit random and like it was a bit of an afterthought with little consequence or resolution. Yes, Mao gets sick a bit, but otherwise, it isn’t clear whether or not the trial was a success if there were any long-term side effects or anything like that. There are some throwaway lines about it being approved soon, but not necessarily due to his trial. I wish his job and goals had been fleshed out a bit more, especially since other aspects of his character were explored so profoundly.

Results:

This one was fun. I wouldn’t say it was one that has broken into my favorites or anything like that, but I am really happy to have read it. If you haven’t read anything from the Dom/Sub universe, I wouldn’t recommend this as an entry to it. Instead, give Learning to Love at Your Feet a try. If you have already been introduced to the Dom/Sub universe, give this one a try. There aren’t many official releases in this universe yet, so this is just one more to add to the list. I hope we get more in the future because this is such a fun world to play in.

Have you read Pain, Sweet Pain? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!

Click here to read it for yourself!

Would you rather watch/listen than read? Check out the YouTube version of this review:

Published inBL RomanceManga ReviewsMatureReviews

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