Age rating: OT/older teen/16+
"Everyone likes things that are good-looking."
"That's just admiration. It's just someone looking at a celebrity or a piece of art. But, Kotori, you're really -- "
"...I'm just worried about you."
When I go to a cafe, sometimes I order an espresso and sometimes I order a mocha; sometimes I'm in the mood for something sharp and strong, and sometimes I'm in the mood for something rich and sweet. The same goes for BL: sometimes I want espresso (something a little bitter, like Seduce me After the Show, for instance), and sometimes I want mocha (something a bit more indulgent, like, say, Cafe Solitaire). In this metaphor, Menkui! is hot chocolate: not at all strong, terribly sweet, and more likely to send you to sleep with good dreams than to wake you up.
The title comes from the Japanese word menkui which literally means "face-eater" and metaphorically means "someone who's easily charmed by a pretty face". The menkui in question is young Kotori Karasawa, the younger brother of the beautiful Kujaku Karasawa, whose given name literally means "peacock". Perhaps from having grown up with a gorgeous older brother who catches everyone's eye, Kotori has developed a taste for beautiful people, and if that sounds a little skeevy, don't be put off: it's actually rather charming. It's not that he's a stalker or particularly superficial, and he doesn't have the kind of sense of entitlement that makes many real-life "connoisseurs of beauty" so creepy and unpleasant. He just... likes looking at pretty people. In particular, he likes looking at Kaname Akaiwa, the best-looking boy in his school -- though he has trouble recognising that Akaiwa also likes looking at him.
The main story of Menkui! is mostly plotless and very low-key; Kotori and Akaiwa's relationship develops quite quickly, and while they meet some bumps along the road, mostly stemming from Kotori's self-effacing nature, their problems are quickly resolved. It's in Tanaka's bold and fresh drawing style and the sheer cuteness of the characters that the appeal resides: Kotori is just so adorable in his shy, blushing admiration of Akaiwa, and Akaiwa's steady and sometimes rather fierce of Kotori is equally delightful. As I read it, I felt as if my eyes were turning heart-shaped.
There are three backup stories and a bonus chapter dealing with Kotori's brother Kujaku. The bonus chapter and one of the backup stories ("Skip" and "Life Above the Ceiling", both dealing with the same characters) introduce an element of incest which is more tedious than amusing; the light sweetness of the main Menkui! story didn't need to have this extra dollop of melodrama added to it, and "Skip" and "Life Above the Ceiling" are... well, actually they're kind of funny if you don't mind the point of the joke being that the main character is unrequitedly in love with his older brother and everybody knows about it. The third backup story, "The Red Poppy's Poem", is better, short as it is, and rounds off the collection nicely.
All in all, Menkui! is funny, and consistently entertaining, even counting the slightly odd backup stories. The main story is very mild and very tame -- Kotori and Akaiwa barely even kiss, much less anything further -- but it's also deeply sweet.