Damn, this volume makes me remember why I love this story! Though the writing style continues melodramatic, clichéd, verbose, and riddled with awkwardness, grammatical ambiguity, and typos, it is much better than volume 1. In fact, many stretches of dialogue read pretty well, the clichés are fewer and less laughable, and not infrequently Rieko Yoshihara gives us an elegant, original metaphor. But who cares? Forward with the story.
Plotwise, we witness Riki and Iason's first meeting and the development of Riki's fateful career as Katze's courier. Riki's self-respect (sorely battered by Iason) and his relationship with Guy are the emotional cornerstones of this volume. Riki wants: 1) to keep his self-respect, 2) to escape from the slums, and 3) to stay with Guy, but he has convinced himself he can only achieve two of these things. Which will he choose? Riki's torn, Guy feels spurned, and Katze reaches out to Riki from motives that are emphatically mixed. And Iason? As Yoshihara informs us none too subtly, he has sealed his own fate without knowing it.
Volume 2 gives our first in-depth depictions of all our four principals: Riki, Iason, Katze, and Guy. Each is spot on: multifaceted and internally consistent without being simplistic. (We see little of Raoul but much of Riki's courier partner, Alec.) This volume belongs to Riki: we sink deep into his thought processes and history. Our access to the other men's perspectives is highly restricted. Indeed, we do not enter Iason's thoughts until the very enda well-calculated limitation that pushes us hard into Riki's perception of Iason as the inscrutable, implacable, unmovable intruder entrenched in his psyche. Yoshihara's omniscient narrator skillfully shifts point-of-view character, punctuating deep involvement in Riki's thoughts with brief bursts of insight into those around him. Her restraint in depicting Iason's, Katze's, and Guy's points of view will pay dividends as the story gradually peels away the layers of these characters. Foreshadowing is rife andin contrast to the writing styleoften subtle and, for those who know what's coming, deeply affecting.
As for the sex, Riki and Iason's first encounter is much like the anime and the earlier edition of the novel. It's lurid and succeeds in presenting Iason as really very scary. Riki and Guy get a couple of bed scenes, nothing graphic but highly effective in illustrating both their "definition of normal" sex life and the emotional tremors shaking the foundations of their relationship, not all of which are Iason's fault.
New to this edition is a substantial digression into Riki's childhood in Guardian, including Guy but (significantly) focusing on Riki's early traumas with other friends. Yoshihara expands her description of Guardian itself and gives more insight into relations between the sexes there. She also expands her description of the Black Market, particularly dynamics among couriers. Her sociological commentary remains long-winded and needlessly pedantic in the manner of George Eliot, but happily we get less of this than in volume 1. Riki's chats with Katze are somewhat lengthened to good effect with an emphasis on their kinship as two mongrels who have "crawled out of the slums" into Midas society. Katze emerges as a strong role model to Riki. (Poor Riki.) I believe Yoshihara's grim description of the lives of the illicit pets Riki transports has been slightly toned down, a move that seems to undercut the horror of the society she's condemning. Iason seems wittier in this edition, and he wears his wit well.
Nifty tidbits: Iason's casual dismissal of Katze. (Poor Katze.) Riki's mostly unconscious and subtle but unmistakable dismissal of Guy. (Poor Guy.) Excellent establishment of young Riki as a class A go-getter (he arrives for all appointments ten minutes early!). The contrast between this Riki and the apathetic addict we met (post-Iason) in volume 1 is raw.
Katsumi Michihara's illustrations in volume 2 are much like those in volume 1, butI'd saya little better, a bit more focused on the central characters. They remain simple, attractive, non-graphic, and less impressive than any number of fan illustrations. Riki is drawn with gray eyes in flagrant violation of the black-eyed description emphasized in the text. (The text, on the other hand, says Katze has gray eyes, which was news to me.)