Akimoto has just started his high school career at Miya High and is burning with enthusiasm. Not because he's in the springtime of his youth, or because he has his eyes set on some beautiful upperclassmen; rather, Akimoto is overjoyed to finally be able to meet his long time Judo idol Saitou! Akimoto has watched Saitou ever since his middle school days, but the real Saitou isn't matching up to the Saitou of Akimoto's dreams. Foul mouthed, with a bad attitude and superiority complex, Saitou has decided to use Akimoto's admiration against him and turn him into his slave.
But Saitou has a deep, dark secret that he is hiding from his kouhai. Will Akimoto still look up to Saitou when it is revealed? Join Akimoto, Saitou and the rest of the Miya Judo team in this charming tale of high school love between sempai and kouhai.
Isaku Natsume's Dash! contains two stories: the title story Dash! takes place around a high school judo club. Saitoh is the star member of the team, and the reason Akimoto applied to that particular school. However on closer inspection the master judoka isn't quite what Akimoto had expected - he seems to be lazy and spends no time in the dojo practicing. However, he takes Akimoto as his gopher and the boy spends a lot of time following him and obeying his orders. As Akimoto's feelings towards Saitoh take a turn from friendly to lusty, he also discovers Saitoh's dark secret the older boy has
Another half of the book is a story called "Cheeky!" and it's about basketball-playing Taka whose younger cousin Yoshirou suddenly appears on his doorstep claiming to have run away from home after getting in trouble with a boyfriend. The cousins haven't seen each other since they were kids, and Yoshirou seems certainly very different to the last time Taka saw him: promiscuous with both men and women and cheeky, yet behind the curtains deeply insecure and anxious. He comes on to Taka repeatedly, but although the introverted Taka brushes him off jealousy starts to raise it's head when Yoshirou starts flirting with his teammates.
Although I prefer to have just one story with a single set of characters in one book, the premise of two longer stories works for me too. The stories are just long enough so that you get to know the boys, there's time for a little bit of character development and the climax. These stories are not too complex and follow the standard BL formula of "boy meets boy, falls in love, doubts his feelings and gets past them" - but the characters themselves are much more than that. Especially Natsume's ukes deserve three cheers for their cheekiness and attitude: both Saitoh and Yoshirou have spunk and don't fall into either the timid blushing uke nor the angry aggressive uke stereotypes but are very much their own characters. Saitoh with his adorable grin is strong and independent. Yet he doesn't see anything wrong with submitting to the younger boy, and even better doesn't change into a blushing bride after the deed but retains his authority as the sempai, almost topping Akimoto from the bottom. Yoshirou is a little bit more traditional uke character, but he's very much instigator and the aggressive party in the relationship. Semes are a bit more forgettable: Akimoto is the large and slightly clumsy and blushes cutely when he dotes after Saitoh, and Taka is yet another big dark-haired somber seme.
I really like Natsume's art - it's very clean, drawn almost in shonen style and reminding me a lot of Yellow Tanabe's Kekkaishi (and Saitoh is a spitting image of Kekkaishi's Yoshimori). Personally I much prefer this kind of style to more flowery and shoujo-like style on the other end of the BL spectrum. Natsume's boys are athletic and personable - not quite men yet, but built well enough that they don't look like children either. As a 16+ title, kisses and passionate blushes are the hottest thing Dash! has to offer - although both couples do go all the way, there isn't any nudity and closest we get to it are wonderful flashes of pecs and abs. For me it's a bit of a tease as I don't normally go for anything under M, but the nice art and characters make it worthwhile.
Dash! is the usual high Juné production quality, with the exception of slightly thicker and heavier paper. Sound effects have been translated (although not always replaced) but honorifics haven't been kept except for senpai and kohai that have been kept untranslated without explanation to their meanings. Translation is flowing and natural.
Dash! is delightfully cute: light on the plot but saved by more interesting characters than your average BL manga. It doesn't include any non-con elements or graphic details, but is not sickly sweet or innocent either - thoroughly enjoyable fluff.
This manga is composed by two sweet stories, one with the main title and other called Cheeky. Incidentally, they are related by a common feeling; these boys are doing their best to look strong and cheerful on the outside, while they are actually waiting for someone to look closely and notice their inner suffering, someone who can truly understand them.
The first story is called Dash, one where the admiration becomes desire. Akimoto has entered the judo club in his new high school because he was totally enthralled by Saitou’s performance in a contest. He dreamed to see the amazing moves and daring attitude again and
wanted to become someone as good as his admired sempai. You could say Akimoto has a thing for Saitou, in fact, that’s what everyone says seeing how he has become Saitou’s errand boy. However, that “thing” is not a romantic feeling at all. Well, at least until Akimoto has to ponder about sempai graduating, along with several other details related to the genius judoka’s lazy attitude.
Dash manages to combine comedy, a bit of drama and sports into a totally sweet but serious story. We can see how just like evolves into love when Akimoto becomes aware of all the different sides, even the weak ones, of his admired sempai. He is trying really hard to win Saitou’s heart, without realizing why, and before he can truly think about it, Saitou is starting to get affected by his unrelenting attention. What made me love this story? that happy and shounen-like feeling that
smoothly changes towards serious and sexually tense at the best moments without becoming something really heavy and dramatic. Definitely a nice flow of actions thanks to the well planned words and visuals.
The characters are another special point of this story, they act like their age, and how refreshing is that! They are silly, they joke a lot and they are a mess sometimes. Akimoto is so full of purpose, always straightforward, a little slow, but always endearing. Saitou is the one who wins for me, he is cheeky, sarcastic, cheerful and full of himself. It was predictable but delightful to see him become as flustered as angry, a bottom with the upper hand!!!
Cheeky is a totally different story, that somehow feels really similar to the previous one. Ohyama has reunited with his cousin Yoshirou from whom he harbors really sweet memories as a child. As Yoshirou comes to spend some time at his house, Ohyama is rapidly realizing that the cute kid became a devil; he is not only a perverted man-eater but, also, the kind of person who disregards the whole thing as if it were a game. Ohyama is worried, annoyed and utterly confused at Yoshirou’s approachs. Turns out that he can’t leave the kid alone even when he wanted to, even less when he realizes that Yoshiou’s support in his loneliness was a promise that he made him as a child…
This love story is a bit complicated. I mean, they are cousins and one is a perverted brat that even takes money in exchange of sex! Yoshirou has been feeling lost and Ohyama has become his only salvation, whatever the implications might be. Although this was a mostly funny one, what I can remember the most is the melancholic feeling you get when you realize the true nature of Yoshirou, really well played in my opinion. In spite of that, I am satisfied with the ending, what was supposed to be an erotic scene it suddenly turned into an hilarious one. And it seems that Yoshirou is not only talk; he has a nice weapon of cuteness plus experience.
As I said above, the characters are pretty similar most of the times. Somehow Ohyama felt a bit flat here, maybe because Yoshirou is so amusing and interesting; besides the story is mostly a vision of him through Ohyama’s eyes. He is really not ashamed of anything. I have to give extra points to this one for the bottom being the attacker. That’s not something you see around often.
Isaku Natsume’s art is really likable, pretty fitting for the story; almost a shounen type of art. Big eyes and messy hair, along with really nice smiles. The boys become really cute when they blush and the awkwardness in them is endearing; it’s a really clean and sweet style. Besides that, there are not very explicit scenes here, it’s almost shounen-ai except for certain parts that almost cross the border, focusing more in the humorous nature of being young.
Dash! would make a nice transition from shounen to boys love. It is a refreshing story, with a really distinct style in the genre, a light read with just a bit of drama and lots of hilarious moments. I’d say this is definitely a must read if you are looking for something that is different and makes you feel happy while reading it.