The Bottom Line
Sullen teenager Nakahara has got a lot of problems, but the friendship of upbeat Kojima isn’t one of them. With a disturbing family life pushing Nakahara to run away, will his affection for Kojima keep him around... even if Kojima doesn’t feel the same way?
Little Butterfly is an enjoyable series about the developing love between two teenage boys. Takanaga has woven a story firmly within the conventions of the yaoi genre that hardcore fans will love, though other readers may find the melodrama a little grating. Either way, DMP’s new omnibus edition is a good way to experience the series on the cheap.
- A generally high level of craft in the art, with some fantastic moments
- Well drawn and well-told sex scenes!
- A very strong first-third of this story will hook readers
- An inexpensive three-in-one package for cost-conscious fans
- Story falls apart in the middle due to unnecessary plot twists
- Characters do not exist outside of the story being told
- Melodrama undermines real character interactions
- Packaging of omnibus edition is perfunctory
- The translation is occasionally stiff, and could have used a stronger edit
- Original Title: Little Butterfly (Japan)
- Author & Artist: Hinako Takanaga
- ISBN: 978-1569701591
- Cover Price: $29.95 US
- Age Rating:
M – Mature, Age 18+
for sweet, but explicit sex scenes
More about content ratings.
- Manga Genres:
- Yaoi (Boys Love) Manga
- Gay / Lesbian
- Teen / High School Romance
- US Publication Date: March 2010 (omnibus edition), May 2006 (first edition)
Japan Publication Date: January 2004
- Book Description: 560 pages, black and white illustrations
- More Manga by Hinako Takanaga:
- Love Round!
Guide Review - Little Butterfly
Kojima is popular with all of the other kids in class, which makes his decision to befriend the brooding Nakahara baffling. When they both end up partnered on a school field trip, Nakahara attempts to run away from home but is foiled by Kojima's attempts at friendship, in the process exposing the dark family secrets that are driving Nakahara away. The series becomes a push and pull between Nakahara, who wants to leave but has fallen in love with Kojima, and Kojima, who wants to protect his friend but is unsure how far he wants to go to do so...
The author notes reveal that Little Butterfly was originally produced as a one-volume manga with a two-volume sequel, and it shows. The first "book" is charming, the relationship between the leads develops slowly and Takanaga’s above-average art is a perfect fit for a story about two adorable boys in love. By the end of the first book (chapter 5 of the omnibus) the relationship between the leads has reached a happy plateau, the boys promising to go through life together.
The second book introducing another family problem to overcome feels artificial, as if Takanaga wasn’t convinced that the core drama was enough. It's also where the book descends entirely into melodrama; Nakahara's family seems unwilling to institutionalize his exceedingly crazy mother for seemingly no other reason than to freak out Nakahara and Kojima every other chapter. It's hollow and false.
But the good stuff is good. The sexual interactions between Nakahara and Kojima will delight genre fans. Takanaga’s art gives both characters incredible physicality, and when they embrace, kiss, rub against each other? "Squee!" Little Butterfly is extremely measured in that regard, inserting an almost-sex scene every few chapters, teasing readers through the story. When the characters finally do make love near the end of the book, the series goes from PG13 to Rated R instantly but feels surprisingly natural. The sex actually saves the narrative in a lot of ways; it's the one of the only honest moments in the last half of the story.
The only real downside to this omnibus edition is that it's a straight-ahead reprint of the original three volumes: Takanaga’s omake (bonus features) are still included at the end of the original "books" rather than the end of the omnibus or re-sequenced chronologically, and it disrupts the flow of the story badly. It's a missed opportunity to do something special.
Little Butterfly is a charming series with just enough characterization to let readers empathize with the characters, but it isn’t particularly deep or realistic—if Kojima had just said “I like you but I'm not ready for sex yet,” at any time the story would have evaporated. It’s a fun romance that hardcore yaoi fans will enjoy, but will likely be hit-or-miss amongst general shojo audiences.