Messy love triangles and quadrangles are the lifeblood of romance manga – and well, romance as a genre of storytelling overall. But, it’s rare to see them get worked out and spawn a healthy relationship in just one volume. Katakoi Lamp is a one-shot yaoi (BL) title published in English by TokyoPop and written by mangaka Kyohei Azumi. The one-shot is translated into English by Christine Dashiell, with touch-up art and lettering by Vibrant Publishing Studio and a cover and logo design by Sol DeLeo.
In Katakoi Lamp, Kazuto Muronoi runs a cute little coffee shop in his father’s stead. It’s a spot for people to hang-out and do their school work. Among his coffee shop’s regulars is a college student named Jun. One day, Kazuto realizes that Jun is stealing glances and realizes his own affection for Jun. It’s love at first sight for Kazuto – or first realization. Intrigued and crushing, Kazuto turns to his best friend for advice and gets the push he needs to talk to Jun, get his contact information, and start a relationship. But things don’t go exactly as planned. Instead of crushing on Kazuto, Jun was actually stealing glances of the other employee, and well, Kazuto just so happened to be standing behind her.
When Katakoi Lamp first began, I was worried that it would play into the harmful stereotypes of gay characters seducing and pushing straight characters past their comfort zones. A common one used in BL as well – especially those not written by queer mangaka – my biggest fear was that the first twist in the story would result in Kazuto embodying this. But thankfully, that doesn’t happen. Instead, Kazuto takes on the task of helping Jun romance his crush and hopefully help him land his first girlfriend. And none of it is done half-heartedly, Kazuto truly wants Jun to be happy, and when he starts to realize he wants Jun to be happy with him, he tells the truth.
On the other side, Jun’s experience with Kazuto turns from friendship to romantic emotion when the two spend time together. They get to know each other. They go on a mock date. And all of it seems right in its place and paced exquisitely. The slow pace of their relationship and the way they navigate each other is constantly conscious of boundaries they each have. Additionally, there is one other romantic reveal that I won’t explain here because of spoilers, but it also balances the line of romance and friendship in a way that focuses on healthy boundaries and communication.
But that’s not all, unlike other one-shots that don’t feature sexual intimacy in its story throughout, Katakoi Lamp features a bonus story that shows Kazuto and Jun getting hot and heavy. This bonus chapter doesn’t just feel like filler or tacked on. In fact, it adds more to Kazuto and Jun’s relationship and showcases the progress of comfort and love the two have grown into in their relationship.
When all is said and done, Katakoi Lamp is a phenomenal one-shot that feels complete. But its success is because it focuses on healthy relationship building, enforcing boundaries, and how friendships can survive crushes. Romance as a genre has many issues with problematic tropes, and even with a messy love quadrangle, this one-shot avoids them all. It’s all about love, communication, and learning how to be open with yourself and those around you. And that’s a BL we can all get behind.
Katakoi Lamp is available now wherever books are sold.
When all is said and done, Katakoi Lamp is a phenomenal one-shot that feels complete. But its success is because it focuses on healthy relationship building, enforcing boundaries, and how friendships can survive crushes. Romance as a genre has a lot of issues with problematic tropes, and even with a messy love quadrangle, this one-shot avoids them all. It’s all about love, communication, and learning how to be open with yourself and those around you. And that’s a BL we can all get behind.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.