VIZ Media‘s imprint Shojo Beat may have shojo in the name, but it also publishes some amazing –and sometimes steamy– josei titles. Yakuza Lover is by far the steamiest from the imprint in quite some time and it’s a welcome change of pace. Created, written, and beautifully illustrated by Nozomi Mino. Volume 1 is localized and published by Shojo Beat with translation by Andria Cheng and touch-up art and lettering by Michelle Pang.
Embracing the yakuza boss romance that you can infer from the title, Yakuza Lover Volume 1 follows a feisty college girl as she falls in love with an underboss and gets swept into a steamy and extremely dangerous love affair. The girl in question is Yuri, and she’s anything but your typical mousy romance lead. After she is attacked at a party (and fights back with a chair—yes, a chair), she’s saved by Toshiomi Oya, the underboss of a yakuza syndicate.
Of course, this leads to a budding romance but despite her obvious attraction to him, she convinces herself that she’s not in the market for a bad boy type. After the attack at the party, Yuri goes to see Oya to thank him for saving her, and as much as she hates to admit it, she can’t deny there’s an attraction. However, when tragedy strikes, Yuri attempts to turn her back on Oya and his dangerous lifestyle for good. But it isn’t that easy. Yuri starts to think about Oya nonstop, waiting for his text and imagining steamy nights.
Now, I have to be really clear, Yakuza Lover embraces its Mature rating. While it isn’t hentai, of course, we do get multiple scenes of physical intimacy between Yuri and Oya that showcase their passion, and well, Oya’s attentiveness. While adult romances do exist, finding a good josei manga that is licensed and easily bought is a bit of a task compared to the many teen romances out there. And while Mino’s artwork in the moments of intimacy is beautiful and compelling, it’s the way they illustrate Oya as both intimidating and beautiful that makes Yakuza Lover stand out.
That said, beauty isn’t the only reason I’m in love with both Oya and Yuri; it’s also how they’re written. Yuri isn’t scared to speak her mind or defend herself, using violence a couple of times herself (violence fit for a cute lead, sure, but still aggression nonetheless). Additionally, Oya’s attraction to Yuri comes from her beauty, but it’s made overtly clear that it’s also because of her strength. It’s because Yuri stands up for herself and pushes back that he sees her as an equal.
Often with yakuza boss romances, you end with a wilting flower for a female lead or male lead who falls in love with them. Sure, Yuri is scared of Oya’s world, but she learns to embrace it. And if anything, her fear isn’t because of Oya’s deeds, but rather comes out of the real chance her lover will be assassinated.
Finally, as a josei with sex scenes, it also handles consent well with Oya continually leaving the door open for Yuri to leave and end things. Which, while romance manga have been embracing enthusiastic consent more often, there still are often many grey areas in romances embracing the yakuza trope.
Overall, Yakuza Lover Volume 1 is a must-buy for adult manga readers who are looking for a romance to sink their teeth into that doesn’t focus on yearning for 50 chapters. Plus, Mino’s art makes it gorgeous as well, from the cover to each and every panel.
Yakuza Lover Volume 1 is available wherever books are sold June 1, 2021.
Yakuza Lover Volume 1
Overall, Yakuza Lover Volume 1 is a must buy for adult manga readers who are looking for a romance to sink their teeth into that doesn’t focus on yearning for 50 chapters. Plus, Mino’s art makes it gorgeous as well, from the cover to each and every panel.
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.