~by Uki Ogasawara
Uki Ogasawara's Black Sun: Enslaved King was originally published in Japan in 2007. Digital Manga released the English translation in 2008 through their division 801 Media which specializes in explicit yaoi titles. Black Sun is no exception--the sex is uncensored and frequent. Other than having seen Black Sun in 801's catalog, I am unfamiliar with Ogasawara and her work. Currently, she only has one other title available in English
(that I know of), Virtuoso di Amore which is also yaoi and is published by DramaQueen. I was very happy to see Black Sun appear in my review list from Digital Manga so that I could give Ogasawara a try.
In exchange for the lives of those under his command at Gerun Fortress, Monastic Knight and Prince Leonard de Limbourg offers up his own during the surrender. Although unheard of, the enemy general Jamal Jan accepts. But instead of killing Leonard, Jamal rapes him in front of his men and takes him back to the Empire as his personal bed accessory and slave. Isaac, Jamal's adjutant and former lover, is deeply concerned by the developing situation; the Sultan is a man who does many things out of sheer amusement, but he cannot allow such a blatant display of insubordination from one of his most successful commanders to go unpunished.
Black Sun is not about love, despite what some of the characters may try to tell themselves. Instead, it is very much a story about lust and power--both emotional and physical (and there's nothing wrong with that). Jamal and Leonard's relationship is troubling, as well as it should be. Jamal's intentions and true feelings toward Leonard are difficult to discern, especially towards the beginning--he could just be spoils of war or he could be something more--but the fact is that Leonard is a prisoner and forced into a situation with very few options and none of them good. Even considering the war and despite Jamal being for the most part a good person, he is the only one who can be blamed. His character is brash and lusty and he doesn't hide it but even he has to deal with the consequences of his actions. Although, because of his military importance and the Sultan's favoritism, he still manages to get away with more than he should. The camaraderie the begins to develop between Leonard and Jamal seems to come too easily, basically amounting to Stockholm syndrome, but fortunately Leonard is at least confused by this. Personally though, I prefer the pairing of Jamal and Isaac.
Ogasawara's artwork in Black Sun is definitely its highlight; I can easily forgive some of the problems in plot and characterization for the sake of her very attractive art. Beautiful details are given to uniforms and other clothing as well as to such things as weaponry. Ogasawara's male physiques are fantastic--it's really nice to see some men with actual muscles in yaoi--and she shows this off to great advantage by finding more or less legitimate excuses to have Jamal seen shirtless for a large part of the book. Occasionally, Ogasawara's fight sequences can be difficult to follow, but overall the art is simply marvelous.
Mostly, Black Sun is eye-candy although it does have potential to be more. While the basic plot is solid, some interesting elements are introduced but don't really go anywhere, like characters' back stories and hints of deeper political machinations. Unfortunately, since some relationships are not thoroughly explained, the plot feels a bit disjointed and characters' actions can be confusing. There may or may not eventually be a sequel to Black Sun (I've seen conflicting reports) which could help address some of these issues. Although Black Sun certainly sets itself up for a second volume, I almost hope there isn't one. Not because I didn't enjoy the book, because I did. I simply like the story as it is--Ogasawara avoids a trite, happy ending and events happen as they should. But saying that, I still wouldn't mind seeing some more of Ogasawara's work available in English.