This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Wails of the Bound. 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 prejudice, sex work, relationship between boss and subordinate, self-deprecation, self-hatred, slut shaming, gossiping, excessive and improper use of medication, childhood trauma, drugging, sexual assault, rape, victim-blaming, child neglect, and sextortion, as it appears in the manga.
Keisuke Takaba is an alpha, and he's recently been hired at a company. As the new guy, Takaba is still feeling out the office hierarchy, but all of his assumptions go out the window when he finds out his chief is an omega. Takaba has an aversion to omegas due to his childhood, having to see and hear his omega father being used and abused by various customers. Add in the unfortunate fact that Takaba doesn't even know who sired him, and this has created an intense hatred and phobia of omegas. But Chief Miyabi Karasuma isn't concerned with being well-liked, especially by alphas.
Miyabi Karasuma, chief of his department, didn't get where he is by being a well-mannered omega. Having been hidden away and confined by his father for most of his young life, the moment he became an adult, he was determined to build a life for himself where he used every advantage his omega body afforded him. He has sex with clients, many of his client's subordinates, and even the higher-ups in his own company, securing contracts and money that keep him at the top of his company's sales reports. His sales tactics are an open secret around the office, and most people despise him for his unconventional methods, none more so than Takaba.
But as Takaba spends more and more time with (and beneath) Karasuma, Takaba is beginning to realize that Karasuma isn't just any omega. Karasuma is strong. But even the strong need a place to rest, and Takaba wants nothing more than to be Karasuma's place. Can Takaba break through Karasuma's disgust for alphas?
The art in this is mostly beautiful. This is a well-beloved title in omegaverse, so I anticipate much ire for my opinions here, but I want to be honest, so I'm just going to go for it. While it is beautiful, most of the time, it is very inconsistent. The eyes are extremely wide and often look far too big in proportion to the faces they are on. The faces themselves are also often lopsided or just oddly shaped. I also find it really hard to read the sexy moments. With so much movement and so many penises needing censoring, it becomes hard to discern what exactly is happening. Granted, having to spend some time looking at sex scenes isn't going to upset a degenerate like me, but it's still worth noting for those who like very clean scenes, and these aren't it.
I love a good power bottom like Karasuma, especially when he uses his sexuality to regain his power for himself (I'm biased here since my own omega character in Dominate Me is similar). I especially enjoy that he uses his body not because he works at a brothel or is an independent sex worker but because he is an office worker trying to climb the corporate ladder. Omegas in most omegaverse work that I've read, if they use their bodies, are relegated to working in brothels, sex shops, being freelance sex workers of some kind, or are forced into sex work to pay back a debt of some kind, so to see Karasuma in the role of chief at a company is a really nice change of pace. Sex work can take many different forms, all of them valid, and seeing Karasuma work his magic is just one of many depictions but a very refreshing one.
While I do like the setup of Karasuma being a white-collar omega using his assets to climb the corporate ladder while his alpha subordinate falls gradually in love with him, it does feel way too fast. There's a lot of content to unpack with Takaba's traumatic backstory and Karasuma's traumatic backstory, then put on top of that, establishing Karasuma's character, how his coworkers actively try to sabotage him, show their coworker Utou's attraction to Karasuma, and then the evolution of Karasuma and Takaba's romance on top of it all. It's just a ton of information packed into too small of a package. I love so many elements of this story, but I wish we had more time to explore them. It all strangles the romance aspect of it, and by the end, I don't feel like Takaba and Karasuma make much sense as a couple. Their romance just doesn't feel real to me. I just wish everything had been spread out a bit more with slower, more gradual reveals and more romantic contact between Takaba and Karasuma to help strengthen their romance.
One thing I wish had been just removed altogether was the introduction to Karasuma's ex and his subsequent pestering and bullying of Takaba. I understand we needed to meet Karasuma's former first love to see why Karasuma hasn't been marked, why he hates alphas, and why he might be avoidant of long-term relationships (though I think his lifestyle and seeing sex as a means to an end was reason enough, but here we are), but the whole sequence following the introduction felt so needless to me. It could have been replaced with more moments of Takaba proving he's trustworthy to Karasuma and showing Takaba that Karasuma has a softer side bolstering his strength, but instead, we see Takaba being bullied and forcing Karasuma to give himself over to the ex to save a contract. It just didn't seem to add anything to the main romance, and much of what it exposed was pretty well established with flashbacks.
I feel like I was very, very hard on this, but I ultimately do love this. I love a good, painful omegaverse story. I fully plan on buying the physical release recently announced as of writing this. I just think this had so much potential to be more than it is, but there's only so much that can be done in this small chunk of time. The sequel to this title is much better, in my opinion, and I'm already looking forward to sharing my thoughts on that. So, I highly recommend you give this a shot, especially if you love omegaverse content. Just know that it is truly a whirlwind.
Have you read Wails of the Bound? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!