Liquor & Cigarette (L&C) is a one-shot manga that drew me in from the very first page but didn’t necessarily live up to the level of its art when it came to the story. Created by Ranmaru Zariya, L&C is their first work in the shonen-ai or boys love genre. It’s a short and sweet story that definitely has a lot of great points to it, but left me wanting at the end.
For anyone interested, here’s a very brief synopsis:
Teo recently inherited his father’s liquor store after he retired. Camillo is his best friend from childhood who lives across the street and runs a Tobacconists. During the warmest days, Teo can smell the scent of cigarettes and shampoo wafting over. With Camillo completely open about his bisexuality, flirting with the many women who come to his store just to see him, Teo begins to question why Camillo’s scent is becoming so appealing.
What drew me to this oneshot initially was the art. The story begins with a pop of vibrant color with its two-page intro. The medium looks like watercolor, but at first glance, it had me wondering if it was oil for a moment. The colors are so vibrant and warm that they make the introduction to the setting one almost steeped in a blanket of nostalgia or relaxation. This pairs well with a setting that appears to be somewhere in Europe, maybe Italy, France, or Spain. The warmth of the colors then becoming the warmth of the climates found in those areas, translating into a setting foreign to traditional Japanese mangas.
This manga has more going for it artistically than the short intro however. Zariya also captured my attention with her overall art style especially his character designs. With strong lines, she adds just enough detail to create individualized designs for both Teo and Camillo. Her use of values and highlights add to her details to further enhance her characters and her backgrounds, making the characters appear more realistic while adding a layer of value to really make certain scenes pop.
However, when it comes to the story, I’m left wishing there was more. It wasn’t that L&C was confined to a oneshot that brought on this feeling, many creators have succeeded at fitting a whole story into a limited space. It would have definitely benefited from a few more chapters, but it mostly felt like she was trying to do too much and simply forgot about her restraints. Or perhaps she is planning to do more in the future, but as it stands now, the story doesn’t feel finished. For one, the side story of a wine tasting competition that seems so important to Teo and the success of his business doesn’t get an ending and the story doesn’t even make it to the competition at all. All we get is Teo struggling over his lack of alcohol tolerance and a few chats with his main rival. There’s really no satisfaction out of that storyline and it probably could have been left out. It felt like the main purpose of it was to provide a challenge for Teo with a chance to gain confidence and success for his business, but with no resolution, it feels out of place.
In terms of the romance, I also felt as though it was left unfinished. While you could construe it as an open ending in a few ways, I did feel like it teased a solid wrap-up but then backed right off. So then if the romance is lacking and the story feels unfinished, what then was the point of this oneshot? It might come down to the process Teo goes through in coming to terms with his own opinions surrounding gender and sexual orientation. Most of the story surrounds his relationship with Camillo from childhood to present.l and how his opinion of his friend has changed over time. Camillo is fairly open with his sexuality, not scared to admit that he his bisexual, leaving Teo an open invitation whenever he feels comfortable. Teo is fairly open about his opinions on sexuality, sticking to the belief that he is straight even as his attraction for Camillo grows. This, I think, is where the main plot of the story resides. The romance may not have a solid resolution and some storylines may not wrap-up quite enough, but we do see quite a lot of development with Teo in the course of his personal struggles.
I really wanted Liquor & Cigarette to be good from the first moment I saw the full-color opening, but it seemed to fall short of any expectations I might of had. It has its good points: the art, the opening, the unique setting, and its discussion of sexuality. But it lacks any real ending, leaving us open to ponder where the events might go from there. Will Teo fail horribly in the wine contest? Will he and Camillo finally become an item? Who knows. Maybe we’ll get another addition to the story in the future, but I’m not going to hold out for it. I will say that even though these were pretty big issues I have, I did generally like this manga for what it was.