Laundry by Ogawa Chise

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Laundry by Ogawa Chise is a yaoi one-shot with the subtitle: “How Wonderful Dormitory Life Is!”

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WARNING: SOME NSFW LANGUAGE CONTAINED BELOW

The story of Laundry opens with our hero, Adachi, heading into the laundry room in what I can only assume is the men’s dormitory at some undisclosed (x) university.

Given the signage on the walls?  Japanese college boys are GROSS:

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But, a guy needs clean clothes, so in goes Adachi–only to be accosted a perky, blond, basketball-playing underclassman, Tsukamoto.

Adachi, being apparently completely out of clean clothes strips all the way down, much to the shock of Tsukamoto.  Tsukamoto makes a comment about Adachi’s underwear: “Where did you get those?  JUSCO?”

So, part of me wondered: is this queer coding?  Is JUSCO a high-end fashion store in Japan, popular among gay men?  I Googled it.  Here’s what Wikipedia says: “JUSCO (ジャスコ Jasuko?) is the acronym for Japan United Stores Company, a chain of ‘general merchandise stores’ (or hypermarket) and the largest of its type in Japan.”

So, my guess is that Tsukamoto’s comment is more of a tease.  Like saying, “Fancy! Dude, did you get those at WalMart or something?”

But, so, even though Adachi encourages Tsukamoto to take his clothes off, too, Tsukamoto demurs and only removes his shirt. (OH YOU AND YOUR FAUX INNOCENCE, TSUKAMOTO!)  They hang out, casually, waiting for their clothes to wash.

Adachi gets bored.

So bored, in fact, he considers going back to his room to get his copy of Weekly Shounen Jump:

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Don’t bother going back for it, Adachi. Bleach ended stupidly.

Finally, Adachi looks over at Tsukamoto and says, “DO something.”

Turns out?  Tsukamoto knows EXACTLY what to do!

Sex ensues.

Again, I’ve read hotter stuff.  But, one of the things I appreciated about Laundry is that  it broke the mold.  Typically, there’s this pattern you see that ends in self-lubricating anal sex.  This one includes actual making out than ends in only a hand job.

I mean, it’s weirdly refreshing!

I also had to laugh at Adachi thinking thoughts during sex like, “The sound of the bubbles forming in the machine sounds so naughty!”

RE-ally?

Okay.

I mean, to each their own.  The ending is very light-hearted.  After all that fooling around, it seems that Tsukamoto’s underwear is now dirty and sempai was right: he should have washed all his clothes!  Ha! (Cute, though, really.)

Then we discover that, far from this being an accidental hook-up, the meeting was premeditated by Tsukamoto!

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*gasp* It seems so!

Tsukamoto’s reply, “Sempai, you’re actually really popular.  You should be more careful.”

Um… creepy?

Yet, we’re clearly supposed to find it charming because when they meet up again in the one-shot’s afterward, we see this:

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The Wife-to-Be by Fujiwara Ei

According to the scroll across the top panel of the first page, this 2011 one-shot manga won the Lapis Lazuli Award in the Fifth Annual Yuri Hime Comics Awards.  Either I have terrible Google fu today or there’s just not a lot written on the inter webs about this particular award.

Regardless, this one-shot was depressing af.

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Advertised to me as slice-of-life, drama, shoujo ai, this is the story of a lesbian couple, Kou and Momo, who are breaking up because Momo is marrying… a man? I mean, that’s never stated, precisely, but the implication is that these two have been living together in that kind of innocent love that shoujo ai tends to promote and now Momo is “growing up” and moving out.

This is devastating.

Here’s Kou after Momo has slipped on her wedding ring, after having berated Kou for having gotten rid of the ring Momo gave her, and she’s boarded the train to take her to her… actual husband…

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This is… okay, yes, happens in real life.  I have at least one girlfriend who left me to marry a man.

So maybe The Wife-to-Be won its award because it depicted a particular kind of heartbreak that a fair number of real-life lesbians have experienced.   I think the thing I found hard to take is that it seems that Momo bought Kou the ring because they were living a “Boston marriage.”  As they’re packing up their apartment, Kou realizes she’s left her cell phone behind and goes back to hunt for it and stumbles across a marriage license that they’d started to fill out.  Momo had put herself down as the husband-to-be, and Kou as the wife-to-be.

ARGH THE STABBING PAIN OF IRONY.

Kou ripped the unfinished marriage license in half and has a sob.

Momo (that bitch!) sits outside the apartment, looking vaguely inconvenienced by this delay:

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hate her, hate her, wouldn’t want to date her…

There’s no discussion about how this whole thing happened, about how Momo suddenly became a completely different kind of fiancée, how Kou first got the news, if she was expecting it, participating in it, nothing.  I mean, I could see this as being especially tragic if we had the sense that maybe Momo was pressured into this break-up by an arranged marriage.  It could even be that Kou had gone into the relationship knowing that Momo was eventually going to have to leave her for a traditional marriage.

But, as it stands, the audience is just supposed to accept this situation.

It makes me hate Momo a lot.

Especially, when she’s wondering if Kou will remember her.

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Yeah, you jerk, it’s called moving on.

This whole thing made me wonder how Japanese audiences read this. I mean, is this tragic because it’s inevitable that women must marry men?  Is that read as ‘ah, such a shame, but this is the hard truth of the way things are’ or ‘god damn this happens and it’s SO UNFAIR’?

I have no idea.

Momo seems like a shit to me.

Maybe because I’m missing some cultural coding, I’m left feeling just sort of vaguely pissed off at the end.  Momo hurt Kou and got married “for real.” What the actual f*ck? I wanted at least a hint of the back story, a sense that this was clearly family pressure, or even, yeah, Momo met this guy and shit happens…. but as it is, I have no idea how to even feel about it.

I can’t really recommend this one, which is why I spoiled the heck out of it.  If you want to read it, however, you can find it here: http://mangasaurus.com/manga/3665/the-wife-to-be

Roundabout by Otsu Hiyori

My MidAmerica II/WorldCON panel on yaoi and yuri was kind of a bust.  Since I was the moderator, I have only myself to blame.  Part of the problem was that I didn’t come prepared with a list of titles and authors.

And neither did my other two panelists.

On top of that, I looked out in the audience and saw Tatsumi Takayuki and Kotani Mari, whom I recognized from a previous panel I was on with Tatsumi called “Living the Cyberpunk Future.”  I looked at them, and then I looked at my fellow panelists–all of us Westerners–and thought ‘oh boy.’

I mean, to be fair, I’m not sure the extent to which WorldCON knew what they had in Kotani and how perfect she would have been on this panel.  I did my best, but, quite honestly, I made a point to apologize to both of them that neither of them was included.  I also felt a lot like I was flailing because I was so hyper aware of my non-expert status. I tried to make noises about how we all were, at least, expert at how the West consumes this stuff.

But, I felt really stupid.

And, yet a friend in the audience suggested we do a repeat of this panel at Gaylaxicon, a GLBTQ science fiction convention I’ll be attending in November.

With that thought in mind, I said to myself, I’d better start making lists now and catching up on my yuri reading, in particular.

Thus, while hunting through Mangasaurus again, I found this title: Roundabout, which promised to be yuri slice of life.

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I have to admit, these first few page totally hooked me.  I actually laughed out loud at the whole “I love you so much!”/(Ah, crap, it’s time to dump her) exchange, even though I expected the romance to work out anyway.

Then, I was further intrigued when it revealed that Kawahara, our hero, wasn’t necessarily just not that into Oono, but was actually plotting revenge for a high school break-up.

Apparently, Kawahara and Oono were a couple at an all-girls school, years ago.  Kawahara was super-into Oono, even though they were very different, and they snuck away any chance they got to steal kisses on the roof of the high school.  All very cute and lovey-lovey.  Then, one day Oono disappears from school. Her family moved away.  It would be heartbreaking enough, especially since Oono gave Kawahara no warning, but also it seems Oono has left behind a TRAIL of broken hearts.

Rumor had it that Oono was stringing along FOUR other girls!

*gasp*

A double-stab to the heart by a dirty double-crosser!

So, now it’s Kawahara’s turn for revenge.  By chance, she met up with Oono at work.  Oono doesn’t even recognize her (that bitch!), but Kawahara is not deterred! She woes the heck out of Oono, and now that she has Oono wrapped around her finger she’s going to disappear in the middle of the night!

HA!

That’ll show her, right?

Well, of course not.  This is shoujo ai, a category I had not heard of until the panel, but which apparently distinguishes (in the West only, according to the Interwebs) romantic lesbian romances from more porny lesbian romances.

Since this is a one-shot and a quick read, I don’t want to entirely spoil the ending, but I will say that Oono comes up with a way to prove her love to Kawahara.  Though what I love about the end?  Oono is so smooth you actually do end up wondering, as does our hero, whether or not she still really WAS a player back in the day. I liked that a lot, because it really did give it more of a real life sensibility for me.

As the shoujo ai label promises, this is pan-to-the-left sex.  There is the hint of a night of make-up sex, but we only get on-screen kissing.  I don’t know if that goes in the plus or minus column for you, but I thought I’d be sure to put that out there.  No steamy girl-on-girl action, alas.

Still, in comparison to the accidental shoujo I read earlier tonight I have to say I liked the romance better.  I’ve always been partial to gay stories  stories that reach beyond the low-hanging fruit of first blush.  Falling in love is easy.  Staying in love is harder.  This story wasn’t exactly about that, but because the women had a history together there was more about what love means long-term, which, as a woman looking ahead to a 33 year anniversary with my wife, I appreciate.

Hana, Saita by Fujikura Mao

So, there I was on Mangasaurus.com looking for more random manga to read.  I decided to go down the slice of life category and saw this cover which was labeled slice of life, yaoi:

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I thought, eh, looks kind of ‘yaoi hands’ from the cover, but it’s one chapter, so what the hell.

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I click on the chapter and I get this:

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Hmm, the uke looks a bit more fem here…. but, okay…

Even though I’m introduced to Sari, a high school girl with a passion for nail painting, I think… okay, I have read light-yaoi where a woman was involved.  Technically it was shoujo, but the boys were into each other and she was their friend.  It was was called Tora to Ookami, and I reviewed it here: https://mangakast.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/tora-to-ookami-review/

But, so I’m reading along in Hana, Saita, and I keep waiting for the guy interest to come along.  Sari is worrying about her life, how all her girlfriend are getting serious about life after high school and all she wants to do it paint her nails.  She goes to the library and sees basketball star, Kuroiwa, studying.  They strike up a conversation and he compliments her nails.

I’m still thinking, “What a nice gay boy.”

Which I pretty much continue thinking, despite rumors that Kuroiwa is dating his female former basketball manager, pretty much up until this moment:

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Oh!  He’s bisexual!

Yeah, no, turns out Hana, Saita is a shoujo romance of the very straight variety.

Which is fine. I have no problem with straight people. Some of my friends are straight.

In all seriousness, the story was fine.  I mean, it was predictable.  The basketball manager was just a pushy older broad and Kuroiwa confesses his true love for Suri as they walk home together.

Shoujo flowers, the end!

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Yep, the cliche has become meta commentary

So, I dunno, if you like the straight romance thing it was fun, and actually complete, so I could recommend it.

 

Natsuzora ni Kimi to Mitu Yume by Iida Yukiko/Hirao Auri

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I was bored and looking for some manga to consume quickly and so I went to MangaPanda and hit the “surprise me” button.  I landed on this.  I decided to dive into Natsuzora ni,  Kimi to Mitu Yume since MangaPanda marked it as complete in one volume… which was kind of a lie.

SPOILERS

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The set-up seemed promising.  Our high school heroine, Yuuri, is approached by an insistent stranger who begs her to attend the funeral of a classmate, Hirose Takaya.  Yuuri has never heard of Hirose, but she’s told he was obsessively in love with her.

Yuuri spends the next several pages being highly inconvenienced by this (not making me like her very much, honestly.) She doesn’t want to go to the funeral and even tries to brush off Hirose’s insistent friend by saying she’ll only go, if he pays her to (which he agrees to do, much to her astonishment.)

She’s such a jerk that she won’t even go in or attend the actual services.  Finally, Hirose’s friend pressures her into meeting with Hirose’s mom, who gives her Hirose’s journal. Hirose’s journal is filled with his stalker notes. Yuuri is legit freaked out by this and decides to burn the journal.

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I’m with ya, sister, stalkers aren’t sexy

The very last panel shows a burning husk of the journal followed by a side panel that reads: “With this, it’s over. That’s what Yuuri thinks.  However…”

And that’s where it ends.

I did a little digging and MyAnimeList.net tells me that Natsuzora ni, Kimi to Mita Yume was published in 2010.  Another site told me that in Japan there’s another volume, which no one seems to have scanlated, so my assumption is that since it hasn’t been done by 2016, no one will.  So, I have no idea how this manga ends.*  But, what the hey, after the clusterf*ck that is Bleach, I’m kind of used to that.

Natsuzora ni, Kimi to Mita Yume‘s category is supernatural, so I can only assume that the stalker stalks poor Yuuri from Beyond.  Since it’s also categorized as shoujo, I’m also kind of assuming that Yuuri gets at least somewhat over her repulsion of Hirose by the end. Or maybe learns to love herself, through him, since she keeps wondering in this volume how anyone could love someone like her.

Or… maybe that’s just me, stupidly expecting a story to follow the theme and plot it started with.  Maybe the plot just stops, Yuuri hooks up with that girl she chats on the phone with in the third chapter, they have magic babies, and Hirose becomes a internationally famous boxer.

Seems just as likely.

Not that I’m bitter about Bleach‘s end. Nope. Not at all, why do you ask?


* If anyone knows of a scanlation that I missed I wouldn’t mind finding out how this story actually goes.  It was moderately interesting and I read fast.

Concierge no Koibito by Takagi Ryo

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Okay, so, I accidentally stumbled across this yaoi title while looking for an English language version of Rabuho no Ueno-san/Love Concierge.  Love Concierge sounded charming.  I stumbled across a reference to it on Otaku USA, with the description of the manga being, “based on a love hotel employee’s Twitter account.”

Alas, I never found that manga in English.  I’m not sure it’s ever been scanlated.

Instead, I found porn.  Like you do.

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A one-shot 2013 release, Concierge no Koibito by Takagi Ryo is kind of cute, honestly.

The story is, anyway.  I’m not overly fond of this particular kind of wispy art style, but it’s short and porny, and so my standards are not nearly as high as they might be for something more substantial.

The set-up is very romcom, honestly.  It’s like one of the mini-episodes/issues of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun/Girl’s Monthly Nozaki-kun, except gayer and with 200% more naked bits.

Our hero, Hinata has never been kissed.  This is some kind of travesty, apparently, because he’s in college and his BFF, Yuuma, is surrounded by admirers asking for sex advice. Hinata mistakenly thinks that the solution to this is to go on a goukon (a group date) in order to find a girl so that he can ask Yuuma for sex advice, too!

Well, you can probably imagine how this “advice” goes.

Hint: it involves lots of “hands on” demonstrations.

I’ve read hotter yaoi.  The sex is pretty vanilla as these things go, but Yuuma is actually a tender and considerate lover, something you don’t always get in a lot of yaoi.  I’ll admit that I tend to prefer things like Under Grand Hotel and Kinbaku (and a lot of the EVEN raunchier stuff by the same author, Zaria, like Pet Keiyaku) because I am a terrible person with kinky tastes.

But I thought I should just make a habit now of reviewing any manga I read, now that Bleach is over.

Bleach 686 – I… Whelp, I Guess That’s a Wrap

I’d been hearing rumors of spoilers all day yesterday and, thankfully, I was on the road to MidAmericaCON II/WorldCON so I had absolutely no opportunity to stew* about the voracity of them.

This morning, it seems my worst nightmare is true.

I guess you could go read it, but my partner wife have this policy with movies that seem to be getting too sad or awful. We find a good spot, and we just turn it off, and say, “Well, that was nice.  Butch and Sundance make it to Boliva.” It makes things so much nicer and we never have to be disappointed.

But, here’s where you can find it: http://mangastream.com/r/bleach/686/3613/1.  If you’re stumbling across these reviews later, after that link has expired, you can read all of Bleach at: http://www.mangapanda.com.

 

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Okay, that left a bad taste in my mouth

First, before you think I’m crushed because one of my Ichigo ships have been broken… well, the answer is ‘yes,’ but not any that you’re probably imagining.  As a queer fan, I was very, very much hoping for Ichigo to be ace.

However, the biggest problem with Ichigo in this future?

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Ichigo, no honey, YOU NEED BANGS. You look like a moron.  Put a hat on!

What is this travesty of hair?

Look, go ahead and marry off queer/queer-potential characters, Kubo-sensei, but F*CK YOU FOREVER FOR GIVING ICHIGO A DORKY HAIRCUT.

The rest of this bullish*t is really hard for me to talk about.  Like last chapter, I actually skimmed a lot of the words because they physically hurt me to read them.

If you want to yell about individual atrocities, I invite you go find another reviewer.  I want to talk in-depth about the particular knife in my heart.

I signed-on for shounen, a boys’ adventure.

Adventure stories are not, by their nature, romances.  I like romances just fine.  But, the thing that I absolutely despise about this ending is that the implication of “Happily Ever After,” here, in a boys’ adventure story. Yes, we saw it in Naruto.  Yes, we even saw it in Harry Potter.  But this is a very FALSE and destructive trope that needs to be BURNED WITH FIRE.

First of all, as someone who has achieved both marriage and children I want to tell you all the truth: Marriage and children are not the END of anything, they’re the beginning of EVERYTHING. Your boys’ adventure doesn’t stop because you’re 27.  Life continues on and you can STILL BE A NINJA after 30, kids.

This ends nothing, and worse, it perpetuates the stereotype that all the REAL fun is over when you’re married.

No wonder half of marriages end in divorce.

That’s an ugly, horrible message.

My career as a writer started after I’d settled down with the woman of my life and I literally achieved my life’s dream after 30.

Getting married is no way to put a bow on a story that has NOT BEEN ABOUT COMING OF AGE.  Okay, if Bleach had sold itself as “boy needs to find out what it means to grow up” I would have been slightly more okay with married with kids as an end.  This story was not about that in the least–or, I didn’t think it had been sold to me that way.

The second and far more personal issue with this ending is that this pairing off stuff almost always ends with some fan queered character being heavily sprayed with NO HOMO.  If Kubo-sensei had asked me for an ending I could have come up with one that left everyone un-paired and ended with some spectacular action that could have been wickedly satisfying and left queer and straight fans alike, room to continue to have whatever fantasies they wanted about their favorite characters.

Because this sh*t hurts straight people and queer folk alike.  It tells straight people that marriage is the end. It tells people who never wanted marry that, too bad, that’s the only possible happy ending there is in life.  It tells queer folk that there’s no room for them at the table–sure, you can have your side characters THE ONES WE DIDN’T KILL FOR NO F*CKING GOOD REASON, but don’t you dare put your filthy queer fantasies on a main character.

I’m super done with this sh*t.

And don’t even start with what they did to Aizen.  Apparently, Aizen Sousuke–who was in full possession of Kyoka Suigetsu–helped Ichigo defeat Yhwach** and then stood around waiting for them to take him back to Muken.

Without a fight.

Without deception.

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THAT’S SO OUT OF CHARACTER I’M STILL KIND OF EXPECTING THIS WHOLE THING TO TO BE A TROLL AND NEXT WEEK WE GET A NEW CHAPTER WITH AIZEN SAYING ‘HAHAHAHHA, WHEN WILL YOU NOT FALL FOR THAT??’

*a lie. I spent all day in the car complaining to my friend about how awful this ending could be if the spoilers were true.

**not actually the part I have a problem with.  I actually think it was well telegraphed in Aizen’s character that he might care for the survival of the Soul Society, if, for no other reason, than to preserve it in order to claim it for himself.