I had completely forgot the plot of this novel (well, not the main plot, but the whole Nagakura deal). Sometimes having a shitty memory really pays off.
Compared to the first book in the series, S: A Love Bite is emotionally charged. All of the characters are so complicated and they do things we don't understand at first. I am not going to try and find excuses, but I am going to say that I understand where everyone comes from and what motivates them. Ultimately everyone does what they think is best and not everyone might agree with their actions.
While Nagakura, the detective Shiiba is tasked with helping, is caught up in his own problems, Shiiba and Munechika's relationship faces its own issues. I cannot stress enough how much I like the way Shiiba and Munechika interact with each other, their relationship is credible, it feels real, and I love the mutual respect they have for each other as well as the genuine feeling of affection. At the same time the reader must not forget that Munechika is a ruthless man, he probably did things that are better left off the page, so his actions didn't feel out of place to me.
To be more precise, I am referring to Munechika sexually assaulting Shiiba. Unlike most pieces of fiction where I encountered sexual assault, here Munechika had a very clear goal. He needed Shiiba to understand what he was getting into, to understand that Munechika will never ever let him go if he chooses to stay. If he would have simply said it to him or if he would have merely tried to scare him, Shiiba would have seen through it and kept being a prisoner of his own doubts, he would have kept beating himself up over the same things. Again, I am not excusing Munechika's actions, but given the context, I can't deny it was probably the only way to free Shiiba of his own restraints.
Nagakura was another complicated character and I felt sad for him. He was very much caught in between two hard places. I find his story to be quite tragic. I also felt sorry for Mao, Nagakura's S, he was first a misguided kid, then a pained kid.
I must say again that I loved the attention Saki Aida put into the characters and how she gave them depth, made every one of them so complex. I also love omniscient narration and she does it flawlessly. This kind of narration is so rare nowadays (I just came across someone asking if omniscient point of view is still used in fiction), especially this well written and that's probably another reason why I love this series so much. I am also very glad I decided to re-read this now when I can look at it from a whole new perspective.
No matter how much I love the series, I also can't ignore the little flaws. It seems like the author struggled a bit with the passing of time. While I am glad she settled on one age for Shiiba, 28 years old, the passing of time since his sister's murder was having trouble settling. At one time it was seven years since then, the next time it was two years since Shiiba met Asakawa, seven years after her murder, then it was outright nine years since then. But again, I am going to overlook it. And since I'm here, I also found it weird that not once, but twice the word melancholy was used instead of melancholic.
As in the first novel, I liked Chiharu Nara's illustrations here too. I don't think they are essential to the novel, but it's a very nice addition and I appreciate the work that went behind it. I also like the cover art on all of the books.
Bottom line, I am still very biased about this series and I seem to find even more aspects of it to like with every re-read.