Set in New York in the late 1980s, Partners follows the lives of six close friends who also happen to be leathermen. The manga depicts their relationships -- both sexual and emotional -- with unabashed honesty. While the story practically explodes off the page with a continuous, unremitting and glorious parade of smut, it isn't "meaningless sex" -- these are committed couples in full-time relationships, where pleasure and pain are natural expressions of affection for one another. (You guessed it; that's where the manga's name comes from. They're "partners.")
The six friends that star in this manga are split up into three pairs. The main pair consists of Marlon and Doug, around whose relationship the manga revolves. Marlon, a high-flying executive, plays sub and devoted masochist to the beautifully dominant Doug. Doug is, interestingly enough, a janitor at the very company Marlon directs; during the average workday, they barely even make eye-contact. The contrast between their private and public lives is as stark as it is lovely. The other couples also feature in major roles, and what we end up with is an intimate and moving glimpse at an otherwise unconventional lifestyle.