If You Do Not Obey Me by Fei Xiaoyue

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It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any manhua. Alas, despite it’s tantalizing name, If You Do Not Obey Me… is not, perhaps, the most auspicious return.

 

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Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong place, in the wrong time.

Particularly, when I read a manhua like this, I feel like if I had been born just a little later, like in the 1970s or 80s,  somewhere in Japan or Korea, I would have already made my first million dollars by now, having authored the smuttiest of smut manga in the history of manga.

Because, honestly?

The set-up for this one, I feel like I’ve already written a zillion times in my fevered teenaged head.

Basically, you’ve got this guy, Jang Jieon, who is a powerful businessman/son of a mafioso (that last part is just a guess, given where things trailed off at chapter 15).

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Jieon is a guy who is very, very used to getting what he wants. He doesn’t like to lose and he’s got the ways and means to make sure he never, ever does.  What Jieon wants, it turns out, is Lee Geon, whom he meets by chance at a snooker contest. Jieon, you see, never loses, but Geon beat him by one point.

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So now it’s all, “I must possess you.”

Geon has zero interest in being some rich man’s play thing, so there’s a lot (and I mean a LOT) of drama before Geon is forced to capitulate. Geon even flees the country to get away from Jieon’s influence, but it doesn’t work.

Make no mistake. Geon is not into any of this. There’s a lot of the typical talk about how his body is responding despite his protests, but his protests are pretty clear and he is very obviously being held against his will.

When I was thirteen, I would have found this scenario super hot. If I had lived in a country where teenagers could write/draw and submit stories like this to magazines, I could have churned out a million, zillion JUST LIKE THIS.  Especially the part where half of it doesn’t make sense (there are a lot of back and forth between “present” and past events) and some of them are just excuses to attempt to show a softer side to Jieon (look! he cares for Geon when he’s sick!) or throw in some random (and I’m not making this up) gun battles and long lost nephews.

Did I enjoy this? Probably more than I should have.

Would I recommend it? I’m not sure I would even recommend it to my thirteen year old self, but obviously I got a little nostalgic/guilty pleasure out of reading it.

It’s not finished, so, if you have the same guilty pleasure, you might want to wait for more of it to be scanlated, especially since Mangakalot’s version cut off in the middle of a shoot out.

I don’t know what I was thinking being born in the US and trying to write science fiction…. I’m telling you, I could write stuff like this in my sleep (and there’s probably be a lot more graphic sex.)

*sigh*

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Host Club Round-Up

In my search for a good host club story, I ended up reading a bunch of really short (one chapter) yaoi. I don’t think any of them is worth an entire review, so I will just list them all here, along with my impressions of them, for your entertainment.

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Tsuzuki wa Mata Yoru ni / Let’s Continue at Night by Chiba Ryouko. The idea is really promising in this one. Two high school pals end up in very different walks of life. Futagami Takaharu has become a renown detective; Akusawa Fumi took over his father’s business… as the owner of a Host Club. They’ve been lovers on and off, and their relationship is fraught.

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Sounds like a great start, right?

But, that’s really all there is. They met up, think about each other a lot, and have sex and the one-shot ends with them basically still just vaguely unhappy f*ck buddies.

 

Host no Furachi na Love Game by Kozaki Yone.   The description of this makes it sounds like our hapless hero, Haruka, won some kind of high school contest to meet (? intern under?) the #1 Host in Japan. The scanlation, however, doesn’t mention to contest that I noticed, only that Haruka very much admired the previous #1 but ends up getting recruited to work for Ryou, a bitchy, demanding host.  To be fair, the translation of this one (or the writing?) was fairly confusing.  The only part I found at all amusing was where Haruka decides he wants to kiss Ryou anyway, and Ryou totally falls asleep in the middle of it.

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Shish ni Hire by Shougo Ikegami. This was another one that seemed to delight in the ‘odd couple’ trope. We have nerdy high school teacher with poor boundaries, Yanagi Haruchika, who took in a desperate abused student (now former,) Shishida Kiyomasa. They’re not cohabitating and seem fairly lovely-dove. Problem? Sensei has a soft spot for lost causes, particularly if they are young and male. Looks like Yanagi-sensei might be bringing home another young one into the love nest….

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This one stops because the translators gave up on it, I think…. or more is still coming, sloooowly.  I’m not sure.

Those were all I read recently. I will keep up the hunt for a good one of these. Wish me luck!

Akakute Amai by Megu Iroha

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I don’t know how a person could resist the enticing tag line: Host x Dentist!?

I certainly couldn’t. That’s how I ended up picking up Akakute Amai and then I stayed for… the story?

Yeah, it’s kind of cute.

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Our main character is a host who goes by the stage name “Night.” Night is a decent host, but he cuts costs by shacking up with clients. This is all working out well, until the day he comes “home” and is informed that his sugar mama has “seen sensei’s face” and now she’s hopelessly in love. Night needs to move out, right now.

He ends up on the couch at the place belonging to two of his co-workers, who happen to be a couple.

It’s annoying living with these two horny homos, so Night becomes obsessed with figuring out who the hottie doctor is. Turns out, it’s Noda-sensei, sugar mama’s DENTIST.

Well, Night hasn’t had his teeth checked in years, so he decides to make an appointment to see this face that was apparently so alluring, he lost out to it. But, sensei won’t give it up. Every time Night tries to sneak a peek, Noda has a surgical mask on. Even after hours!

Turns out, Night’s teeth are actually in need of some work, so one day after having to take off his piercing for an x-ray, Night realizes he forgot to put it back on afterwards. He goes into the men’s room and, by chance, Noda is there, brushing his teeth (naturally.)

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Whoa! Noda is quite the looker, it turns out.

And he blushes FIERCELY at the sight of Night. Could the good doctor be hot for the host??

Well, turns out, no, not exactly. Noda actually has a special condition that makes him blush a lot and he wears the mask everywhere because he got teased about it so much as a kid he became convinced there’s something wrong with his face.

Of course, convincing people that they’re beautiful is Night’s literal job. So, he sets himself the task of pulling the dentist out of his shell… or, mask, in this case.

It works really well.

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There are several very cute scenarios that lead up to this big moment, including one where the dentist, still not comfortable showing his face, looses his mask to a strong wind. He reaches for another and discovers he’s out. By chance, Night is there and they end up riding the train together, with sensei hiding under Night’s coat.

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I’m sorry, you’re too cute, sensei.

I also really loved the way this was drawn, which is.. a big bonus. A lot of it is very sketchy, but then there will be panels like the kissing scene above that really pop.

One of the things about this manga that I liked in particular was the slice-of-life bits that felt true to life. Like Night (whose real name is Fukushima–yes, like the nuclear disaster,)  and his living situation. The couple he mooches off are both also hosts, and there’s some talk about how hard it is to have a relationship when so much of what you do–flirting, listening, comforting–is your JOB, a job you kind of fake, even if you’re good at it and enjoy parts of it. There’s also some discussion about the late hours and how much hosts are sometimes required to drink and the whole culture of keeping clients sweet by going on ‘afters,’ “dates” outside of business hours (some of which are sexual and some of which are ‘why we go shopping so you can buy me something?’)

I recently listened to an English-speaking Japanese host talk about his work on GPot, a podcast from an ex-pat living in Japan: “Working at a Host Club.” And a lot of what gets depicted here, seemed accurate to his experiences.

I was trying to explain to a friend why I feel like host/hostess work is sex work and I was thinking a lot about the fact that you can totally do host/essing without agreeing to a sexual ‘after,’ but the lifestyle is still exploitative. Even if the host is the one doing the exploiting–which you also get hints of in this manga.

But most of it is just a cute story of a blushing dentist.

I especially love one moment, because I basically wrote a similar one in one of my fan fics. Our super-shy, introverted dentist is on an extremely crowded subway, and, sensing his distress, our extroverted host protects him…

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I’m sorry, but as an extrovert who cares for an introvert, I know TRUE LOVE when I see it.

Totally recommend it. It’s complete at 7 chapters/1 volume, so not a huge commitment.  Go for it. The Mangakalot sexy bits are censored, but it’s still plenty hot.

Aiyoku Heaven by Fujikawa Ruri

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For reasons, I’m in the mood for trashy host club stories. Casting around, I found this strange mash-up of sports/host club manga: Aiyoku Heaven.

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Hayase Mahiro used to be the top motorcycle racer in Japan until the accident. He made a miraculous and complete recovery, but it seems that Lady Luck is determined to leave him in the lurch. In a desperate move, Hayase calls in all of his favors for a a gamble that doesn’t pay off. Now, he’s looking at a mountain of debt with no way to pay it off…

Until a handsome stranger shows up and offers Hayase a job at an exclusive host/hostess club.

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This club specializes in celebrities. You have a zillion dollars and want to spend the evening entertained by Chris Helmsworth? Well, this is the club that can make it happen. Hayase has been requested by a woman who, having seen him on TV, thought he looked like her late husband. So, he spends an evening pouring her drinks and gazing at the city lights and thinks: a big paycheck for this?  SEEMS LIKE A DREAM JOB.

Except, of course, host clubs are ripe for exploitation and frankly, the owner, the guy who recruited Hayase…?

Let’s just say he takes it upon himself to teach Hayase the ropes, and by ropes, he means, ROPES. (Well, actually, that’s another client who does that, but the point is there is a lot of instruction involving humiliation and kinky voyeurism.)

Also, many, many SMOLDERING looks are exchanged:

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Alas, while this one is labeled “smut,” so there’s plenty of action, I’m not sure it’s scratched my itch. I may be checking out what else is out there for a girl in need of some ‘host’ action.

Even so, I can recommend this one as it is complete in 5 chapters/1 volume. The art leans towards the ‘yaoi hands’ end of the spectrum, it’s short enough that I was able to deal. The rope bondage scene is pretty worth it.

Pluto (Volumes 1 – 3) by Urasawa Naoki

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The last of the library haul was this science fiction classic, Pluto, which is based on Osamu Tezuka‘s Astro Boy  (which I have never read or seen, which probably makes me a fake fan).

However, I will say that these three volumes made me wonder what I’ve been missing.

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To be fair, I am a huge fan of science fiction and, in particular, I’m drawn to the kinds of story that Pluto is, which is ones about artificial intelligence and how it reflects on our own humanity. I imprinted early on Blade Runner, and I feel like if you’re a fan of that, you’d be a fan of this manga (of course, I don’t know how it ends yet, so I can’t say that with 100% certainty. Maybe Ursawa-sensei totally flubs the landing…? Somehow I doubt it, though.)

The story mostly follows Europol detective Gesicht, who is himself a robot, as he tries to solve a series of murders, most of them robot, though at least one human. The first one is a seeming accident that takes out a beloved Swiss ‘bot named Mont Blanc, but then more and more of the world’s most powerful robots are targeted.

This one is dense. There’s a lot to digest in every page, in every panel.

I love that Gesicht has a wife, wants to go on vacation, and is haunted by disturbing dreams–which may be revealing a glitch in his system? I love that Gesicht exists in a world where there a also robots that do not look human at all, but who are no less ‘human.’

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This is a maid robot who lost her husband. Gesicht asked her if she wanted to have her memories wiped so she could skip the pain of grief: she decides no.

There are a lot of fascinating moments like the one above throughout this, but also particularly, around how humans and robots get along. In a lot of ways, these kinds of stories are almost always about dehumanizing and discrimination, and I never fail to sympathize with the underclass, which in this case, is the robots.

I’m hooked. I’m going to have to see if the library has more of these, or if I’m going to have to finish it off on-line. But, one way or the other, I want to read the whole story.

I highly recommend this to you if you’re at all a fan of science fiction.

Chou yo Hana yo / Butterflies (Vol. 1), Flowers by Yoshihara Yuki

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Every once and a while, I think to myself: You should try a straight romance, maybe you’ll like it.

So, I took  Chou yo Hana yo / Butterflies, Flowers out of the library.

I clearly don’t understand straight people.

 

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To be fair to all y’all straight folks out there, it’s possible that what I don’t find hot is this particular scenario.

Here’s what the back cover copy says:

“Choko Kuze is the sensible daughter of a venerable family who went bankrupt. She joins a real estate company as an entry-level office worker, but her eccentric boss is harder on her than anyone else in the company! After hearing him inadvertently call her “milady,” she realizes he was the young servant boy she knew as a child. At work he’s a tyrant, but after hours he insists on treating her like a lady of the nobility. Is romance even possible for a couple locked in such a crazy role reversal?”

No, would be my answer. But, we’ll get to that in a second.

Choko’s boss is more than ‘eccentric,’ he’s an a$$hole–a sexually harassing asshole. Her first interview question?

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I’ll tell you, if you tell me, buddy.

Rather than storm out or toss water in his face, like the heroine of  Happy Marriage?! , Choko stammers out the truth: yeah, actually, she is. Creepy boss guy (the love interest, naturally,) is all, “All righty then.”

And she gets the job.

I don’t know what is happening in Japan in 2006 (when this was written), but you’d think a job sweeping streets would be better than agreeing to work with this guy. (Heck, I know, maybe you should go work for the Midnight Occult Civil Servants!)

But, this is a trope, I guess? Hotty tyrant boss?

I suppose the appeal is being the person who sees through to the tyrant’s softer side? I mean, I think this could work, if it was done as character development.  Instead there’s this weird built-in mcguffin, wherein hotty tyrant, Chief Duomoto, was once Cha-chan, a loyal household servant to Choko’s family.

So, instead of getting to see Duomoto’s softer side slowly emerge with Choko’s coaxing, he just flips a switch every time they’re in private. He calls her m’lady, but he seems as controlling as ever, showing up to drive her to work, micromanage her life, etc., etc.

Honestly? In my opinion, there’s nothing that’s redeeming about him.

I briefly thought I might like Duomoto, when we’re introduced to the flirty secretary Suou.

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Are they lovers? I think it’s all a big tease, but Suou knows where everything is kept in Duomoto’s apartment (including the sex toys,) kisses him when they’re reunited, and vibes very much like an ex-.

Yet, Suou is… well, Suou self-describes as a cross-dresser. Yet, the pronoun that Suou is first introduced with is she, and she uses the women’s bathroom. We very, very rarely see Suou in men’s clothing.

Thing is, I would like Duomoto better if Suou was an ex. Not because it would mean he was gay (because if Suou is a trans woman, he’s not,) but because Suou totally stands up to him and gives as good as she gets. And, it would make it seem like Duomoto actually wants an equal partner.

Except, when Duomoto is having a fever dream (from overwork, naturally,) he shows just what an a$$hole he remains:

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Haha, dreaming of raping the trans woman/crossdressing guy.  Le sigh. I’m sorry, but I’m never gonna fall for you now, no matter how many ‘m’ladies’ and bows you drop.

So, I gave up on this one after two volumes.

I mean, it does have it’s funny points? There’s a running gag about how Choko’s dad is terrible at making soba, which would be fine, except that he’s running a soba shop since they lost their family fortune. Choko’s younger brother apparently talks like he’s in the Edo period and loves to go on about he’s the heir apparent, even though there’s nothing to inherit. Some of that is quite funny, so I mean, it isn’t all awful.

I’m probably supposed to find the hot and cold personality shifts of Duomoto funny. Humor is a hard sell for me, for one, and, for another, I like romances? So, I tend to like the actual relationship stuff to be a bit more realistic?  It’s probably coming in the later volumes, so if you want to read it and report back to me, that’d be great.

I’m just not going to read any more of it myself.  🙂

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Again!! (Volumea 1-3) by Mitsurou Kubo

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Libraries are dangerous places.

My family and I went in thinking we’d just pick up a couple of books…. we left with four grocery bags full.

This time, the thing that caught my eye was on the ‘new releases’ shelf in the teen room. An odd little manga called Again!!

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Apparently, in Japan, there are different types of cheering squads. You have your regular cheerleaders with the pom-poms, and then you have ōendan.  Our hero, delinquent-appearing, Imamura Kinichirou’s only fond memory of all three years of high school is of watching the ōenden at opening ceremonies. It was just this one girl, but something about the experience really moved him.

Otherwise? High school was a waste of space for Imamura. He made no friends, joined no clubs, and pretty much spent all three years alone, miserable, and bored.

Now here it is, graduation day and it’s all going to finally be over.

Except, when he goes to try to peek in to the ōendan club room one last time, Aki, a girl from his class thinks he’s up to mischief.

But can you blame her? This is what he looks like:

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When Aki sees him, she’s pretty sure he’s going to kill her. So, she freaks out, runs away, and falls down the stairs.  Imamaru runs after her, tripping and falling down on top of her. They both pass out… die???… and end up three years in the past, on the first day of opening ceremonies of high school.

This is Imamaru’s chance to do it all again.

This time he’s determined to do it right. Or at the very least, save the ōenden team.

I ripped through these first three volumes and deeply regretted not picking up the other three that the library also had. I may have to go back to the library tomorrow.

It’s difficult to say what appealed to me about this story. I do love any kind of manga that teaches me about some esoteric custom of Japanese life, and this one is full of all sorts of odd bits, not the least, of course, is the whole cheering squad culture, which I’d seen in the background of manga like Haikyu!!

But, I also really like Imamura for some reason. He’s grouchy, maladjusted, and prone to shout out awkward things at the wrong time. Not your typical shounen sports hero. Yet… there’s something undeniably shounen about the way that he cares about the cheering squad and school spirit.44.jpg

I guess I always love the stories where someone is enticed into giving a f*ck, you know?

Again!! is definitely about giving not just a singular f*ck, but giving ALL your f*cks.

So, yeah, I recommend it. There is, if you prefer, a live-action television drama.