Author: Yamila Abraham
Distributor: Yaoi Press
American release date: 2006
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: Mature readers
Overall Personal Rating: B+
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When three cruel fire demons threaten a peaceful village, they appeal to the monk Hakuin to save them, although he must drag himself out of his self-imposed solitude to do so, where he has attempted to escape some unpleasant memories. The oldest of the three demons, Lord Ratsu, makes no bones of his interest in Hakuin. Fate intervenes in the form of a message from another village, which is being tormented by the winter demon. The same winter demon that Hakuin is all too painfully familiar with. The other monks see it as a sign that he should go back and deal with this demon, then bring him back to fight the fire demons. What else can Hakuin do but agree, for the sake of his village? Even if it isn't exactly his preference to do so.
Hakuin goes to the village and encounters Fuyu, the Winter Demon once more, making a bargain with him. In return for his help against the fire demons, Hakuin will of his own free will pledge himself to the winter demon. On the return journey, Fuyu decides he wishes to spend the night in a village along the way, anad Hakuin has no choice but to agree, even though he is impatient to get back. They share some pillow talk, but nothing more, the demon overjoyed to have Hakuin back with him. Their return to the village is less than they'd hoped for - the fire demons have killed all the monks but one, in their fury at finding Hakuin missing. When Fuyu first encounters the fire demons, he discovers to his dismay that Ratsu is bigger and stronger than he. Not only that, but he states his intention to make Fuyu his uke!
Fuyu returns to Hakuin, telling him that he needs a special weapon to defeat these fire demonds, and he needs Hakuin's help to get it. Hakuin goes alone to do Fuyu's bidding, knowing that the winter demon's presence will not be appreciated, but after he leaves, Ratsu imprisons the winter demon and ravishes him, giving him quite the taste of his own medicine. And suddenly, Fuyu realizes how his victims must feel, and the knowledge is anathema to him. After an unexpected release, he tries to explain his feelings to Hakuin, who seems indifferent to his revelations. A showdown with the fire demons is inevitable - none of them will be the same again, and Fuyu finds himself thinking of someone else, for a change, putting his welfare first.
Figaru is the epilogue to Winter Demon. Ichiro is a villager who has severe self-esteem issues, due to the harsh words of his fellow villagers. While chopping wood one day, he glances up to find that he is being observed - by a demon. The next day the demon returns, and Ichiro asks him what he wants. The demon, whose name is Figaru, thinks that Ichiro is handsome, and as an incubus he only wants to touch him. He brings him water for his thirst, and Ichiro is suspicious but he drinks it anyway. The demon begins to touch Ichiro, gently, but an interruption by Ichiro's mother brings that to a halt - for now. The mother suspects that her son is getting it on with some hag from the village (cause surely no normal woman would want him) and spies on him, discovering he and Figaru, and following them to the demon's hut. She runs to the village priest with her suspicions, even as Figaru makes love to Ichiro, but the priest, for his own reasons, thinks that maybe this is a good thing, and that Figaru might be a good demon, not a bad, the idea having been put into his head by what has happened with Hakuin and Fuyu. But he promises the woman that he will investigate. And to do so, he forces Ichiro to help him ensure the incubus!
I really liked the story of Hakuin and Fuyu, and I see great potential there. It was inevitable that these two end up together, at least sexually, but I see that they can become more than mere bed partners. It isn't stereotypical characterization, nor is it one-dimensional. Fuyu is shaken by his own traumatic experiences with the fire demons and made to look at himself in a harsh light. And while Hakuin cannot forget the circumstances that have brought them together, at least for now he is open to possibilities, which is more realistic than him simply turning around and proclaiming his love for the demon who possessed him against his will. That being said, I am not overly fond of the artwork. American mangas have a disadvantage over their Japanese brethren, in terms of longevity and practice of the mangaka's art, and the result is that they are way behind in terms of quality. Some of the men in this manga look just like women, and I find that disturbing. Sure, you can have pretty men, I'm all for it - but I don't want them to look like women. Or even act like it. I liked the way that, by the end, Hakuin is practically leading Fuyu around by the . . . um, nose. Yeah, nose. But the artwork plays second fiddle to the story anyway, so I concentrated on that, and enjoyed the tale from that perspective.
I thought Figaru was really sweet, and I loved the way that he made Ichiro feel special, when his own people made him feel unloveable and worthless. I hope we see them again in future volumes.
There is a bonus story called Pinfeathers, involving two men on a mission, one of whom is very gung ho about nature, the other a killer, and how they get along, considering their diametrically opposed values..
Overall Grade: B
I couldn't in good conscience give this an A because of the artwork, but I think the artist has changed in the next volume, so hopefully it is for the better. Definitely pick this one up, it's a good read and worth checking into.
"In the Radius": If you like Winter Demon, try Wild Rock.