피와 불의 노래 / Song of Blood and Fire by Iri

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Since there’s SO MUCH manga out there, one of the things I do when I’m just randomly looking for something new to read is that I got to the Baka-Updates tags list and have someone randomly pick a letter of the alphabet for me. I got “u” this time and under that letter, I found the intriguing “uke stronger than seme.”

Among the manga listed with this tag was 피와 불의 노래 / A Song of Blood and Fire.

I found this smutty little manhwa kind of adorable.

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The set-up goes like this: an apprentice summoner, Circa, is about to get kicked out of his magic school because he’s never successfully conjured… well, anything.

In a desperate move, Circa steals his dad’s cursed grimoire and low-and-behold a hotty demon appears, Bisnuth, Lord of Fire.

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The demon is super-unimpressed.  But, Circa says, “Look, just let me show you to the headmaster so I don’t get bounced.” Apparently, Bisnuth hasn’t been summoned in a long time and so he’s sort of curious what humans have been up to in his absence, so he agrees.

Circa is pretty smitten, right away.  I mean, LOOK at the guy.  So, being kind of a smooth operator, Circa just asks:

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NOTE: This whole manhwa reads left to right, instead of right to left.

We later find out that Circa is pretty much dating all the ladies at school. It’s what he does instead of studying.

In fact, Bisnuth is kind of annoyed to discover that after all this talk of “you’re the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen,” Circa is just telling all the ladies how pretty they are.  So, after he presents himself to the headmaster, Binuth summon’s a Dr. Strange portal back to the spirit dimension and tells Circa not to summon him ever again.

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Circa is really desperate to get him back because he blurted out a love confession just as Bisnuth is ‘porting away, and so, despite Bisnuth’s threat, he instantly pulls out dad’s book and tries again. Only the grimoire really is sort of curse and demands a bigger sacrifice–more blood.

Circa nearly kills himself to summon Bisnuth again.

Cue: hurt comfort that leads to smutty sex.

The sex is everything you might hope for from “uke stronger than seme.”  Despite his massive physical strength, Bisnuth is weak to a man’s commanding touch.  Whoo! Bring it!

The story is complete, so I won’t spoil everything that happens after the sex, in case you’re interested enough to follow through to the end.

There are several cute 4-chome omake at the end which confused the heck out of me, until I remember to read them left to right. Despite that, I really enjoyed the art of this one and found the story fairly amusing.

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Yoru wa Tomodachi / Friends at Night by Ido Gidou

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I’m a very sick puppy, my friends, so I enjoyed Yoru wa Tomodachi for all the wrong reasons.

The set-up is simple. By chance, masochist, Tobita, meets a boy his own age, Masume, who is willing to entertain Tobita’s BDSM kinks.  The drama of the manga comes from the fact that Masume isn’t, initially, entirely… into it.  He’s shown as this super-popular, well-adjusted sort, but it’s clear that he likes the intimate, personal power trip of being someone’s dom.

And, eventually, of course, they’re going to fall in love, because that’s how these stories are expected to go.

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And, they do.

I’m going to say, for the romance, I wasn’t terribly sold on it, at first.  At first, it seemed as though Tobita ‘loved’ Masume simply because he was so grateful to have found someone his age who was into his kink. When we get the flashback of how our two heroes met, we learn that Tobita had previously been kinda-sorta renting himself out to salarymen who were into BDSM with younger men. (I should note, both Tobita and Masume are adults. They’re at the same university together.)  But, Tobita is very insistent that, even when Masume happens to be more flush, they always share the bill or at least take turns paying for things.

Except sex toys. Apparently, Tobita is okay with Masume being the one to buy all the sexy toys and bondage gear.

But, at any rate, in the meet-cute flashback, we discover that Masume randomly inserted himself into an argument between Tobita and a former lover.  And, then later met-up with the former lover to get the whole scoop.  Masume seems to have done it, partly out of altruism, but mostly because he’s noisy af and likes knowing everyone’s business.

And, that’s the part that started working for me.

Like, the other thing about Tobita is that he’s “weird.” Even Masume characterizes him as kind of an alien.  He’s nerdy.  He’s socially anxious and very, very classically introverted.

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And, in total contrast, Masume is a social butterfly.  Everyone likes him; everyone wants to date him, or at least hangout with him.

Thus one of my favorite dynamics is born.

I really have a weakness for introvert/extrovert romances. I’m an extrovert myself. My wife is a complete introvert. And, Ido-sensei gets us.  The moment I was willing to say, “yeah, okay, you can interrupt perfectly good smut for romance if it’s going to be like this,” was when Tobita and Masume end up, for reasons, out on an actual date at an aquarium.  Tobita is enchanted by the sharks and Masume does this thing that should be very familiar to anyone in charge of the care and feeding of an introvert, which is that he’s done. He’s seen all the things he wants to, but he recognizes that Tobita is different. He needs his one thing and he needs to have his own time with it.

So, Masume says, “Hey, take your time. I’ll just be over there when you’re ready.”

This is an actual expression of love towards an introvert when you’re an extreme extrovert.  Stepping away from the introvert and giving them their space?  That’s every introvert I’ve ever known’s “love language.”

It’s no surprise that after that, Tobita also suddenly “gets” extroversion. He says to Masumo, “You fake your smiles a lot.”

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Look, I’m not saying that us extroverts are faking it. Mostly, we aren’t.  But when an introvert worms their way into your heart and not only notices those times when you’re not even aware that you’re kind of just going along to get along, and then turns to you and says, “You don’t have to do that with me. I’m happy just to be with you…”

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That’s kind of a nice moment.

At least, it’s one I could relate to.  Extroverts are often popular because they’re perceived as a lot of fun to be with–because we often are. But, just because social stuff comes easily to extroverts, it doesn’t mean we don’t recognize how much hard work it is. And, having that one person who says, “You know, you don’t have to work that hard. I like you no matter what” can feel like a real gift.

That being said, the BDSM practices in this yaoi are questionable.  If dubious consent is a turn-on, there’s several scenes that work well for that.  If you’re at all “WAIT, YOU KNOW HE CAN’T SAY HIS SAFEWORD LIKE THAT,” then, yeah–no amount of pleasant extrovert/introvert romance will save this one for you. Especially since Masume is an inexperienced dom as well, he semi-intentionally, but under the aegis of ‘but I’m trying to figure this out’ learning, blurs the lines between pain that’s fun/sexy and full-on physical violence.

So it comes recommended to you with those caveats.

Read at your own risk.

Gokushufudo: The Way of the House Husband by Oono Kousuke

Interior page from Gokushufudou: The Way of the House HusbandThe only way Gokushufudo: The Way of the House Husband  could get any better was if our eponymous house husband were gay–but, I mean: yakuza! house husband!  battles with roombas! kawaii bento!!

And tattoos….

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The summary reads like this:

The Immortal Tatsu is an ex-yakuza who’s given up violence for making an honest man of himself – but is it still possible for a devoted stay-at-home husband to get into a few scrapes?

An amazing premise for a fairly amazing manga.

 

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The comedy in Gokushufudo: The Way of the House Husband sometimes is a near-miss for me.  Don’t get me wrong. I find it hilarious nine out of ten times. But, sometimes, I feel like the mangaka stops short for a gag, rather than going fully into how absurd and humorous a situation Tatsu has made for himself.

Like, the very first chapter sets up the whole schtick is fairly hilarious as a study in contrasts, right? Here’s this terrifying-looking guy working his a$$ off to make breakfast for a wife who runs off without even remembering her bento.  That’s funny all by itself, but then we cut to a scene where some cops have stopped Tatsu on his way to deliver his wife’s lunch. He freaks them out for reaching for something–a coupon, it turns out–and the curtain falls.

I actually wanted MORE. I wanted to see him make his getaway AND his wife’s office reaction to him bursting in with her bento.

That being said, when what I’m complaining about is wanting MORE, that’s  good sign that the whole manga (of which, at the time of this review there were only six chapters scanlated,) is pretty dang awesome.

The taking on of the roomba is really fairly amazing.

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The best part? He’s talking TO the roomba, which he does all day long… until it finally defeats him before the Women’s Association arrives.

I highly recommend this one.  I’m going to have to figure out how to keep track of it so that I can keep following.

Border by Kodaka Kazuma

Right now, in my Amazon cart are the next three volumes of Border.  I am seriously considering purchasing the official English-langague publication of this, it’s that good.

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What do I like about Border so much?

The things that this hits for me, include, but are not limited to:

  • Decent to good art.
  • A storyline where queerness matters and is not just window-dressing.
  • An ensemble cast of characters, which includes hot straight guys and well-characterized women.
  • ACTION. Well-drawn action and adventure, for real. Like, holy sh*t, this could be one of my favorite shounen fighting manga except it’s SUPER-QUEER which makes it seventeen thousand times BETTER!!!!
  • Good storytelling. Like, I actually enjoyed the adventure part of this action-adventure and would have read it without the promise of hot gay sex, BUT I ACTUALLY GOT TO HAVE EVERYTHING FOR ONCE HOLY CRAP.

The only complaint that a person could have (which I don’t in this case, but I’ll explain later) is that for something marketed as yaoi, there isn’t a huge amount of sexy times.  Don’t get me wrong. It’s there.  Border starts with a sex scene, but you have to wade through a lot of plot before you get to the next bit of naked.

For me, that lack is made up by the fact 1) the plot is good enough to stand on its own, but also 2) that the main character, Yamato, is man hungry in a way that feels very true to the real gay men I have known in my life.  Like, sometimes he’s just like, “I haven’t been laid in a while. See you guys later! I’m going cruising!” Yet, Yamato is deeply admirable. Like, he’s actually a hero I’d want to BE, which is not something I’ve come across all that often in a yaoi. His gayness permeates him–he’s totally the “squad mom” while also being super f*cking bada$$ and very masculine (if pretty).

Yamato is something queer characters hardly ever get to be: out af and legitimate heroes  in a story I would read, even if the characters weren’t gay.

So, this is the official set-up:

Yamato runs a detective agency that will use any means to get the job done, no matter how unconventional. His three misfit employees are more than his teammates, they’re his family too.

Wow, that doesn’t sound all that exciting, does it? But, you know, in some ways, yeah, that’s basically it.

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It kind of doesn’t surprised me that Kodaka-sensei has written voluminous amounts of doujinshi.  Kodaka-sensei’s work reads like someone who is as frustrated as any other manga fan, like myself, who reads a lot of great action adventure stuff and thinks, “THIS WOULD BE SO MUCH BETTER IF EVERYONE WAS GAY! IMMA GO WRITE FAN FIC AND MAKE IT SO.”

Only, Kodaka-sensei lives in Japan, where a person can actually make a living with thoughts like that.

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So, here’s our ensemble cast.  In the foreground is Yamato Suou. As I mentioned, he’s the team leader. He’s a former U.S. special forces officer turned detective. He mustered out of the army after feeling responsibility for his commanding officer’s death. The dog tags that Yamato wears actually belong to Will, as they became lovers despite the fact that Will was married (separated) and had been telling himself he was a 100% straight. (Turns out, Will was much more bi than he knew!)  But, what I LOVED about this tragic backstory is that Yamato was gay from the start. He must have signed up for this unit when he was barely eighteen, but he already knew he was gay, gay, SUPER-gay and no “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was going to change that. His guilt came from thinking that Will still loved his wife and that their relationship constituted cheating (oh, did I mention Yamato was raised Catholic?) and, because, Will ended up saving his life, that maybe Will died doing more for his lover than he would for another teammate.

There’s a moment in the manga where this is all worked out, however. We find out that Will’s wife was already VERY done with Will and that she KNEW the two of them were lovers and thought that was _great_, because, unlike a lot of other women in yaoi, she’s not a horrible person and wanted Will (and Yamato) to be happy.

Did I mention that our squad mom, who is totally the ‘bottom’ in his sexual relationships, and who has a soft spot for smols, is an an INSANELY competent leader and was in the Special Forces??

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I am f*cking in love with this man.

The next member of the team also breaks a ton of stereotypes.

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Tamaki Shinonome is a pretty hairstylist. Other than his unrequited crush on Yamato, he’s super-duper STRAIGHT.

Tamaki gets the entirety of the second volume to explain this aberration and why Yamato steadfastly refuses to sleep with him.  Turns out, in a surprise to no one in the Real World ™,  growing up on the streets and being abandoned by your family can leave emotional scars. Tamaki is taken in to the same Catholic orphanage a Yamato, but he’s already seen some sh*t and he can never quite adjust to ‘normal’ life.  He’s got a kind of attachment disorder that makes him super needy and to imagine any kind of ‘no’ as a complete rejection.

To be fair, Yamato isn’t in a whole lot of better shape. He joined the Special Forces because, if he died, which he fully expected to, the pay-out to the designated beneficiary–in his case the Catholic orphanage–would be a ton of money.

In Tamaki’s case, this caused him to run away from the orphanage, join a gang, and end up in an even worse situation with a man who abused him horrifically because Tamaki would literally do anything for praise and affection.

We find all this out because the detective agency is hired when Tamaki’s abuser resurfaces, and so the team has to rally together to help Tamaki face his old ghosts and put some of his past behind him.  Part of Tamaki’s constant attempts to get Yamato into bed are entirely wrapped up in the fact that Yamato takes his job as squad mom/older orphanage brother seriously and has remained steadfast in his unconditional love for Tamaki.  He rescued him the first time, and when Tamaki gets in trouble again, is there for him again.

There’s a scene where Yamato gets fed up with all of Tamaki’s teasing and says, “Really, is it lust? Do you even know what guys do together?” And Tamaki looks genuinely…

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… scandalized.

Though, this seems to backfire, because then Tamaki is like, “Fine. You won’t let me do you until I’ve done other men. I’m going to go be the gayest guy around!”

We’ll see how that works out if I end up buying the rest of the volumes of this.

Then we have Sougo Kitaouji, another hopelessly straight guy (or…. is he?? Extra chapters/omake suggests more flexibility than Yamato realizes.)  He’s the only one of the team, so far as I can tell from where the story stopped being scanlated, who is NOT from the orphanage. Sougo and Yamato seem to have met at a karate dojo–and high school? For sure the one, the other isn’t as clear.

Sougo is, physically, “the tank,” if you know your gamer jargon. He’s also the most level-headed, stoic one of the group.

In the omake where the entire crew decides to follow Yamato to his favorite gay bar, that all the men there dream about:

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Also, if Yamato has a crush on any of the guys on his team, it’s Sougo.

He’s kind of my type, so I get it.

But, the scanlation stops on what it obviously his backstory chapter, so he will remain a mystery unless I shell out hard earned cash to find out what happens next.

The final member of the team is Kippei Yaotome.  Kippei is the resident “guy in the chair”/computer genius/hacker.  His backstory is the subject of the third volume and is the only “mission” that Yamato’s team goes on that even vaguely seems like the sort of thing a private eye/detective would actually be hired to do.  Kippei ends up being the ‘lost’ son of a dying millionaire, who never knew his true family because his mom was the millionaire’s secret lover.

Kippei is the team member that most draws out Yamato’s mom side, though he mothers everyone.  But, Kippei is young and cute and fairly innocent.

One of the things I like about all the guys in Border is that they are physically affectionate with one-another. Occasionally, everyone all sleeps in the same bed together, platonically, because it’s an orphanage comfort thing. Kodaka-sensei never forgets that these men were all damaged by their past and that they have these rituals that have helped them cope.

There’s also a whole lot of emphasis on a theme that I adore, which is ‘made’ families.  I adore storylines that underscore the idea that the blood of the covenant is thicker than than water of the womb, ie, that families are not made in the womb, but by people coming together and MAKING it work, putting _in_ the work to make a family.

I’ve probably talked too much about this one, but I really loved it.

Now I just have to go break open my piggy bank and see how much is in there…

Anata no Jinsei Hikiukemasu! / I’ll Take Over Your Life! by Kamo Nabako

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It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed anything. Gomen! Gomen!  And, I feel worse since I have to come to you with a less than stellar (if kinda cute?) BL.

Initially, the story of Anata no Jinsei Hikiukemasu / I’ll Take Over Your Life!  appealed to me because I’m always fascinated by any manga that gives a glimpse into the daily life of a mangaka. However, I’m NEVER fond of the underage look, so I almost put it down… but then it turned out to be far more sweet than smutty and, thus, I pushed ever onward. (It’s only one volume, so…. it wasn’t even a very strenuous push.)

The basic set-up here is that we have Saijou, an ambitious salaryman who has been working in the sales department of a successful manga magazine.  Saijou, however, is not the best with people and runs afoul of his bosses and ends up being “demoted” to the job of editor.

Okay, taking a moment here to process this.  In American book publishing, this is not how things work–at least not the way I understand them to work. In fact, to my understanding, this could happen the OTHER direction.  Editor is considered a skilled position.  Yes, salespeople would get a much bigger salary than an editor, but, NORMALLY, editor is a job title you have to have earned via experience/an MFA/something like that in order to land. There are graduate students starving in grotty New York City apartments right now reading ‘slush’ at publishing houses as unpaid (or low paid) interns with the hopes of eventually working their way up to the editorial staff. You don’t just get dropped into the job because you f*cked up somewhere else.

However, in the U.S., you could totally get fired from editing and end up in marketing or publicity.

I could see that scenario. The publicity department, for instance, had so many staff changes that I had one book that must have had a half-dozen publicists because people kept quiting. (Also, maybe I was a low-level mildest author that no one wanted to have to deal with, but you get my point.)

Regardless–I am fascinated by this flip.  Does this happen in Japan? Do people with zero interest in the manga industry end up in charge of storylines/mangaka?  Do people who are complete screw-ups in other departments get demoted to the job of editor?

If so, THEN THIS EXPLAINS SO MUCH.

Anyway, back to my quick summary: So, this former salesman Saijou gets assigned a problematic mangaka, Inorizono-sensei, who is very popular, but who is living in a garbage-filled studio and has a lot of trouble making deadline, despite his “super-assistant” (who, weirdly, looks a lot like him, physically.)

Romance sparks when Saijou sweeps in to basically run Inorizono’s life for him, so he can focus on his creative work.

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Yes, I’ll admit it. This is when the romance started working for me. An editor who would come to my house and clean it for me? Bring me snacks and meals so that all I had to do was sit and write/draw?

I AM ALREADY IN LOVE A LITTLE WITH THIS IMAGINARY EDITOR.

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I would have loved this manga a lot more, however, if it were a little less cutesy?

Kamo-sensei uses that device that I have seen elsewhere, where, when characters are under stress, they turn into small animals.  It’s a metaphor, of course, but it’s one of those tropes that’s a bit jarring to this Western reader, no matter how often I see it used or how much I understand the point of it. I suspect, if I were a different person, this device would serve to make Inorizono and his assistant more sympathetic.  As it is, the aesthetic is wasted on me.

I don’t mind it? But, I find myself sort of mentally rolling my eyes every time it happens. It’s like, “Oh, look, sensei an his assistant are tiny, sobbing bunny-like animals again… whatever.”

Plus, too, for me–who was already feeling a bit squicked by the massive height/age difference between the two love interests–the infantilizing of this particular character just served to turn me off even more.

So, I was reading for the plot?

Yes, that’s right, I was reading it for “the articles,” and that can’t be good for BL/yaoi.

Because, then, rather than skimming the story for the smutty bits, I start analyzing WAY TOO MUCH, and I start being annoyed by the meta trope of “What I’m feeling is just like what they write in those shoujo manga; it must be LOVE!”

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I fear for a generation of manga readers who judge Real Life ™ Love by what they have read in manga… particularly, if they’re deciding to go gay on a quickening pulse, shortness of breath, and flushed face.

First, GO TO THE DOCTOR to make sure it’s not asthma, and then you know, try considering whether or not you are also entertaining fantasies about seeing this person naked and kissing them or cuddles or you can’t get them out of your mind and every day when something happens your first thought is, “oh, I need to tell so-and-so about that,” because OMG, any of that is a much better indicator of sexual attraction/love than shortness of breath!

I mean, hyperventilating is a real medical issue, friends. Do not base who you date by your ability to BREATHE.

/rant

Okay, enough of that. If you like cute and aren’t turned off by the underage look, then this one might be worth a spin. It’s certainly short and self-contained enough to quickly buzz through in one sitting.

And, you know, I do like a lover who will take care of me. That’s a lovely fantasy.

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Zombiepowder. by Kubo Tite

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Thanks to this guy (Zombiepowder.s “C.T. Smith”), I dreamed last night that I was Kubo-sensei’s other character, Aizen from Bleach.

The dream, btw, was AWESOME.  I closed a Garganta with a snap of my fingers… plus, in my dreams, I was the affable Aizen from his early captaincy, so the theme of the dream was “power in disguise,” which is a fantastic feeling. It was one of those dreams where you feel sort of sad because, suddenly, you wake up and you’re back to being a regular, non-superpowered person. (Such a bummer.)

The dream was probably the best thing I got out of this four volume series, however.

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Grimmjow?  No, Gamma Akutabi.

The only reason to read Zombiepowder. is if you’re a hardcore Bleach fan and you want to say you did… and/or you’re the sort of person who that likes to make memes like this one:

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Which is, quite honestly, a fine use of your time.  You saved me the trouble, after all.

The schtick of Zombiepowder. is that there are thirteen rings of the undead and our hero–who is actually NOT Gamma Akutabi, but a kid named Elwood– gets caught up in the race to collect them all “Avenger: Infinity War” style, complete with bad guys who want the rings for nefarious and megalomaniacal reasons.

Kubo-sensei himself writes in his author note at the beginning, “Hello, Kubo here. This is my first graphic novel. Mainly, it’s all battles. It’s completely OK to just read through it without thinking about anything.”

And, he’s not wrong, because if you think about it too much you spend a lot of time thinking “WOW, that was VIOLENT AF, and now you’re making a joke???!!  WTF, Kubo!” As you know, gentle reader, I have trouble with humor to begin with, so I spent a lot of this manga going, “Is that funny? I guess….  Maybe I’m missing a hilarious Japanese language pun or something.”

But, there’s a lot of tonal shift between horror and humor.  A LOT.  I mean in the first chapter Elwood’s very likable, ill sister is killed in front of his eyes for no reason other than to, I presume, motivate him to want to make Zombie Powder in ORDER TO RESURRECT HER FROM THE DEAD BECAUSE THAT ALWAYS WORKS OUT LIKE YOU HOPE, HOLY SH*T, WHAT A BAD IDEA. (It’s probably good this got cancelled because is it a happy ending if you resurrect your sister who has been dead and buried for months?)

So, yeah, you kind of have to suspend your disbelief and enjoy watching Kubo learning how to perfect his fighting art style:

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Very cool. I mean, I will forever and always be a fan of this guy’s art, what can I say?

There’s a lot to mine for those hoping for psychological clues about what Kubo likes in stories and in general.  I have to say, I’m continually surprised by his racial diversity. Some of the people of color are clearly exaggerated for “humor” (see my problem with humor here? There’s nothing especially funny about that to me, and maybe it’s not racist but some kind of Eastern trope, I dunno, that’s not actually my point), because then there’s this random stoic brave doctor who is likable and complete and heroic.

I think it’s kind of rare to see PoCs who seem both authentic (not just a tone slapped over an otherwise innocuous character) and genuine.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe I just liked this guy. He was like someone’s kick-a$$ grandpa (with a medical degree).

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Then, there’s Kubo’s relationship to queer sexuality, which is another sort of “??” because he also loves to play alternate sexuality (or in the case of Giselle in Bleach, trans folks,) for laughs. Yet… there’s representation? I mean, in 1999 how often did you see this AT ALL?

 

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I’m also pretty convinced that Kubo-sensei’s editor had to remind him to include women at all, because the female character doesn’t make an appearance until volume 2, and then she’s kind of drawn like Kiego with giant melons strapped to his chest.

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Are ANYONE’S boobs this firm?

So, as usual, I don’t now how to feel about the problematic parts of Kubo’s work.  I mean, when our heroine shows up, she’s a fighter who takes hits like the men in the story, fight/flirts with the main adult, and has a complicated backstory. Yet her boobs look like strap-on beach balls.

I don’t even know.

So, should you read it? I’m going to say NO. There’s a reason this was cancelled. I have given you the highlights–oh, except to mention that there are three unrelated short stories at the end of volumes 2, 3, and 4. The first is “Ultra Unholy Hearted Machine,” which I loved, which was about a mercenary and his robot sidekick uncovering a government plot to try to make super soldiers that goes wrong on a whole bunch of twisty levels. That ones is in volume 2.

The second (in volume 3) I liked a lot less, though it does show that Kubo does know how to end things, called “Rune Master Urara.”  This involved tattoos (clearly another favorite motif of Kubo’s) and fairy creatures that pop out to fight for the ‘rune master.’

The last one is “Bad Shield United,” which is another sort of government organization that gets twisty because it has the hunted doing the hunting.  Admittedly, I was pretty done by the time I got to this one, so I skimmed it.

In my opinion, the short stories are probably generally more worth it than Zombiepowder.  But, if you’re going so far as to hunt down the shorts, you might as well admit that you’re a Kubo fan and read the whole thing.  Then, you can say you did.

With any luck, you can have cool dreams about this guy:

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Dosei Mansion / Saturn Apartments by Iwaoka Hisae

I came across the complete run of Dosei Mansion / Saturn Apartments at my library, so I checked all seven volumes out at once.  You can read up to the end of volume 3 on-line, so far (last update was six months ago, so scanlators may still be working on this one.)

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I liked this one a lot.

I’ve been struggling with how to describe this manga to friends of mine in order to make it sound cool enough for them to want to read it, and I think I fail partly because: “You guys, you guys!  It’s about window washers in SPAAAAAAAAACE!” sounds much cooler in my head than it does out loud.

But, but… window washers in SPAAAAAACE!

Am I convincing you yet?  No?  Okay, okay, so the story follows a young orphan named Mitsu, who is following in his father’s footsteps. Dad was an affable window washer who, one day, had an accident and likely plummeted to the surface of Earth. See, despite ‘Saturn’ being in the cover, this story actually takes place in a human-built ring in the stratosphere of Earth (35 kilometers/ 21.8 miles above earth.) We built this spinning apartment complex in order to escape the environmental collapse. Life in the apartment ring has become stratified.

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The people in the upper levels are all super rich, and those down below are poor working class.

Several people from below (and a few above) dream of a returning to Earth and starting afresh… including our little hero, Mitsu.

SPOILERS

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For a slice-of-life manga, Dosei Mansion/Saturn Apartments, actually has a lot of plot.

Remember when I had the revelation while reading Yotsuba&!/Yotsuba to! that maybe slice-of-life manga are some kind of weird propaganda?  When I got to the final line of the manga, I really, really felt that I might be on to something. There’s a revolution fomenting up above that never comes to pass, our hero gets to Earth and discovers that the people on the bottom were once on the top, and his only thought is, “Wow, the ring is so pretty because the windows are so clean!”

I mean, he even goes to jail for a few years?  It’s… I mean, the end seems to imply that maybe you should just be happy where you are, enjoy hard work, and don’t rock the boat because, ultimately, you can’t change the world all that much (there does seem to be a bit more freedom of movement by the end, to be fair.)

It kind of reminded me of the dreaded ending of Bleach, in that there’s this major push against the status quo, but by the end, everything just falls back into its place and we’re all supposed to be okay with that.

People will no doubt tell me that I’m looking at this with too Western an eye.  That’s likely true. I can’t entirely help that.  However, I do think it’s worth noting, regardless.

Especially since, in the case of Dosei Apartments/Saturn Apartments, I really enjoyed the story…. all the way through. Even though the ending was a quiet sort of change, I really loved the constant pride that Mitsu had in his window washing work and how his love for his job actually made other people like him and accept him.  He both followed his dad AND surpassed him in all sorts of quiet, yet meaningful ways.

Quiet yet meaningful.

That’s a fine revolution, IMHO.

So, with the caveat of the ending doesn’t seem like much, I say this manga is well worth the read. I can see why this series won the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival Grand Prize for Manga (according to Baka-Updates.)