Title: Kaikan Phrase (Sensual Phrase / 快感 フレーズ )
Author: Mayu Shinjo (Story & Art)
Genres: Drama, Romance, Music, Shoujo
Published: 1997 – 2000
Volumes: 18 [Completed]
Japanese Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: Viz Media
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes (Amazon)
[Caution: This manga is rated M and will include mention of both explicit topics and some spoilers for later events in the series. Please read at your own discretion]
Synopsis: As a budding poet and lyricist, Aine is on her way to an audition one fateful afternoon. Absentmindedly stepping into the street, she barely avoids getting struck by an oncoming vehicle. Not only is the cute teenager lucky to be alive, but her brush with death turns out to be a date with destiny. The driver of the car just happens to be Sakuya, the charismatic and fabulously handsome lead singer for a band called Lucifer. In short order, Sakuya and his crew compose a song using Aine’s lyrics. The tune proves popular with the band’s fans and Sakuya decides he wants a relationship, both professional and personal, with Aine. There’s only one small requirement: The lyrics Aine writes must be erotically charged. And guess what? Sakuya fully intends to introduce the young and inexperienced girl into the world of sensual delights. Does Sakuya actually care for Aine, or is she just another sexual conquest for him? Will Aine fulfill her dreams and become a professional lyricist, or has she simply sold her soul to Lucifer?
Full disclosure: I own the first 10 volumes of this series but have not read it all the way to its finale. (Not through the manga anyways; I think I wiki’d it awhile back, honestly, just so I would know how it ended.) I bought these volumes when manga was still a relatively “new” concept in the west and therefore finding an M rated title which was easily accessible to little ol’ me was fun and exciting. [insert shiny-eyed expression here]
As an adult, reading the above synopsis makes the title feel very predictable. However I can recall being younger and falling for the idea of the young, handsome male lead overpowering and dominating a younger, more passive female protagonist. Plus the smut. Lots and lots of smut. (Albeit censored because, well, Japan.)
I should also give a disclaimer that I haven’t read this series since I was first reading and collecting it. Therefore my review of this title is based on those older impressions. Please bear with me. ^^;;
Kaikan Phrase revolves around the dynamic of Aine being young and inexperienced and Sakuya being the slightly older, more mature and experienced half of their duo. Both are still in high school but Aine knows little of the world around her and leads a very ordinary life, whereas Sakuya is already performing in a band, making lots of money and seeing the world outside Japan. Sakuya is also sexually experienced while Aine is definitely still a virgin.
This dynamic sets the stage for
Sakura Sakuya (damn muscle memory) to sweep Aine off her feet with all of his worldly knowledge, money and life experience. Of course she’s going to be dazzled and amazed by this guy who’s roughly her age but already has a musical career, who has toured around the world and has legions of screaming female fans. And he’s interested in her? Sign Aine up!
As I’ve aged I’ve gotten increasingly skeptical of romantic love stories where the couple fall in love almost at first sight, without any prior time spent together or working to build a relationship, and Kaikan Phrase definitely falls within that category. Saukya and Aine don’t even start to spend time together until he almost hits her with his car and then steals her lyrics without permission to use in one of his band’s songs. Those are definitely dramatic ways to bring two people together but are they productive to building a good relationship?
To the best of my recollections, my main reason for stopping the series was because I found Sakuya and Aine’s personalities becoming annoying, plus I felt that story events were becoming cyclical and predictable. After Sakuya and Aine eventually become a couple and become sexually intimate together, I found Kaikan Phrase falling into a pattern similar to this: Aine is overwhelmed by Sakuya’s fame and power, and starts to doubt why he’s with her. She also doubts her ability to write sexy lyrics for his band Lucifer. Sakuya notices and becomes increasingly dominant and reassuring, often showing Aine through sex that he really cares for her and wants to be with her. Aine relaxes and the couple resumes a stable relationship. Rinse and repeat.
Now to be entirely fair, Wikipedia showed me that I stopped reading shortly before some very dramatic events took place (including Aine undergoing a graphic sexual assault) which changed the series’ progression entirely. For all I know Kaikan Phrase got a lot better after volume 10. However for me, 10 volumes was enough to determine it wasn’t a series I was going to be able to finish.
Do I Recommend This Title?: My initial reaction is to say not really, but I try to find the positives even in series that I’m not enthusiastic about. I guess if you want to see a couple overcome both traumatic pasts and dramatic current events to be together no matter what, then you might enjoy this title. Sakuya and Aine both do have redeeming qualities, and perhaps if I re-read this series I might have different opinions about the characters and plot. I just didn’t enjoy it enough the first time around to try that. ;P
Final Score: 6.5/10