Ranmaru Zariya never fails to deliver the goods when it comes to sexiness! Liquor & Cigarettes is a light-hearted and sensual BL manga about two long-time friends experimenting with the possibility of becoming lovers, with electric results.
Theo’s family owns the liquor store that’s situated across the street from the cigarette shop owned by Camilo’s family, and the two of them have been close friends since childhood. Camilo is openly bisexual and Theo has long suspected that his friend might have romantic feelings for him and, despite believing himself to be straight, he has secretly harboured a similar attraction to him. One night, Camilo finally broaches the topic of his feelings and asks Theo to consider going out with him. Theo is still confused about his own feelings and is hesitant to jump into a relationship with another man, so Camilo proposes that they give dating a trial-run before Theo gives him an answer. If he decides that he doesn’t want to be with Camilo after trying it out, then Camilo swears to give up on him forever. Theo agrees and slowly begins to explore his sexual yearnings for Camilo and what it would mean for them to be together. The trial goes shockingly well, but is Theo ready to accept his feelings and make their relationship official?
Theo and Camilo feel like people who have known each other for a long time and I was quickly drawn in by the good-natured way they tease each other and by how much they clearly trust one another. Their relationship runs into a few snags during their trial-run at dating, but the two are usually able to talk things out and Camilo is always willing to give Theo the space he needs to think things through. It’s honestly refreshing. I really liked both Theo’s excitable personality and Camilo’s laid-back swagger and I thought that they were adorable together. They also make for quite the hot couple! There are a large number of erotic scenes in this manga, as Theo and Camilo explore what a physical relationship between them would entail, and these scenes can get quite steamy!
Liquor & Cigarettes doesn’t completely ignore the harsher realities of what being in a gay relationship would mean for our protagonists, however. When Camilo and Theo go on a shopping trip to a larger town, they hold hands as they walk around and Theo is immediately aware that people are staring at them and becomes uncomfortable. Turns out, Camilo purposefully took his hand so that Theo would have to face this public scrutiny and have the opportunity to seriously consider everything that would go along with entering into a homosexual relationship. Theo has a hard time coming to terms with his feelings, as he has some outdated notions about gender and thinks that being with Camilo would put him in the “woman’s role” in the relationship, something that causes him a lot of internal struggle. Thankfully, Camilo is patient and understanding as Theo works through his issues and reservations. It’s a really sweet love story, with just the right amount of spice.
One aspect of the story that’s a bit unfortunate however, is the role that drinking plays in the narrative. Theo’s second biggest secret, after his confusing feelings for Camilo, is that he’s a real lightweight when it comes to alcohol. Seeing as he currently runs his family’s Liquor store, this is a major sore point for him and he’s desperate to keep people in their town from finding out (even though it seems like a lot of people already know). Theo is so desperate to hide the fact that he can’t hold his liquor that he allows himself to be pressured into entering a liquor tasting contest by the proprietor of a competing store. To try and increase him alcohol tolerance, so as not to embarrass himself during the contest, Theo and Camilo spend many an evening in the weeks leading up to the contest practicing drinking, which inevitably result in Theo getting wasted. Theo’s angst about the contest and his shameful secret are pretty entertaining and make for a perfectly fun subplot, accept for one thing: Theo and Camilo make an agreement that if Theo winds up getting drunk during these drinking sessions then Camilo gets to claim a reward for helping him get to bed, which means most of Theo and Camilo’s early sexual encounters occur after he’s been drinking. This is framed as something of a crutch that Theo needs in order to be honest about his feelings during the earlier parts of the book, but it’s a somewhat uncomfortable plot devise nonetheless. Thankfully, Theo is never portrayed in such a way that I felt that he was definitely too drunk to be able to consent, and he is able to tell Camilo when he isn’t comfortable with something and Camilo immediately stops when he does. So, while I could have done without it, this didn’t wind up hampering my enjoyment of the book too much.
Liquor and Cigarettes is a fun and saucy romp that delivers a satisfying and touching romance with a large dose of sexiness. I had a good time reading this one and I’d recommend it to any BL manga fans who are looking for a something both romantic and on the explicit side.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10
What did you think of this manga? Let me know in the comments.
For more information on this manga, visit SuBLime Manga’s website.
If you’re hungry for more Ranmaru Zariya manga, check out my review of another of her BL series:
You can also check out some of my other BL manga reviews:
- Given Vol 1 Review
- Don’t Call Me Dirty Review
- Our Dining Table Review
- Yarichin Bitch Club Vol 1 Review
- The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese Review
- Melting Lover Review
- The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms Review
- Love in Limbo Series Review
- Fourth Generation Head: Tatsuyuki Oyamato Review