Ao no Exorcist (chapters 90-93) by Katou Kazue

After a fairly long hiatus, new chapters of Ao no Exorcist / Blue Exorcist are now out. In the way of Katou-sensei, there is a bunch of fun fluff and a serious continuation of the plot.

SPOILERS

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First, the fluff. Ryuji ‘Bon’ Suguro and company return home for a New Year’s wedding.

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Mom’s first reaction??  My baby has stopped dying his hair!  (She’s so happy).

We find out that grey-haired Miwa has a girlfriend back home (sort of, it’s more she has a crush on him, and has done since forever,) who is pink-hair traitor Shima‘s youngest sister. Shima has, in point of fact, a gigantic family. So many that I can’t entirely keep track of everyone–not that it entirely matters.

There is mochi shaping and Yukio is his usual grim, too-serious self, which puts Rin to mind of their last big fight, which was over Yukio’s desire to know why they were born. Meanwhile, while everyone is eating and drinking, Bon sneaks off to check-in with Lewin Light.

Immediately after getting off the phone with Bon, Light jumps up and heads out to do some mischief.

Yukio confronts Bon about what he’s doing, and Bon puts him off. Sitting outside in the cold is pink-haired Shima who is thinking back to having been ‘marked with slyph bell.’ He’s upset because he ‘can’t go back like that’ (presumably to the Illuminati? I can’t actually remember who marked him or why).  Shima asks the demon in his staff, Yamantaka, if he can help.

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That’d be a big, ol’ nope.

Yamantaka, having been released, is spoiling for a fight. Being his usual, lazy self, Shima is not up for it.  Miwa comes out of the toilet and is surprised to see Yamantaka in release since he hadn’t been aware that Shima could control his staff’s demon yet.  They have a heart-to-heart about which one of them is luckier.  The doofus brother of Shima, Kinzo, breaks up this love fest to announce that the bachelor party is going to be a drunken staff battle.  Yamantaka is happy about this, pink-hair is not.

On New Year’s eve everyone heads, like you do, to the shrine to hear the bells toll.  Doofus Brother Kinzo is apparently in charge of the party and can’t seem to remember anyone’s name. I only bring this up because I kind of adore Kinzo’s nickname for plant-girl Shiemi, “Shiroomie” (which, of course, sounds like ‘shroom), and Rin, “Satan-boy,” which is nicely straight-forward IMHO.

The two separated ones, Rin and Shiemi, end up also having a heart-to-heart.  Rin starts out just reflecting on the year and ends up on what’s been plaguing him: WTF is up with Yukio:

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Nothing comes of this confession because they’re found by Kinzo, and then we flash to New Year’s Day and the big wedding, which takes up most of the next chapter.

The next chapter starts with Bon helping his dad get ready to officiate the wedding. There is some nice father-son bonding in which Bon’s dad tells him how proud he is that Bon has apprenticed himself to a big shot like Light.  Bon’s a little leery about accepting that praise and starts to ask his dad about Rin and Yukio’s foster dad, Father Shiro Fujimoto.

ONCE AGAIN, someone interrupts this conversation just as it’s getting interesting.  Gozo (another one of Shima’s onii-chan) takes over for Bon and they discuss some ongoing investigation into summoning a demon that has possessed someone else, which has been a bust. Dad suggests that they could exorcise the demon Karura from someone named Todo (which the wiki reminds me is the guy who had run off with the left eye of the Impure King) and then re-summon it, but that’s a no-go because if a demon and their host become too closely bonded, the demon could be injured.

Then it’s off to the marriage, where Bon and Yukio are seated next to each other. Yukio asks directly if Bon is sniffing for info on Father Fujimoto. Yukio knows about the visit to his home and the death of the monk that happened there.

At this point we switch to somewhere in Romania, where Light is getting up to his funny business. He approaches this ridiculous-looking guy…

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…with the equally ridiculous name of Drac Dragulesc. Light, then, proceeds to wish him a Happy New Year, and punch him in the face. Light calls up his little ‘and so on’ demon fairy and accuses Dragulesc of being associated with the Illuminati. Dragulesc tells Light he’s insane (likely) and that there’s no way he could be in the Illuminati because he took the contract of Morinath.  Light, being Light, is all, ‘yeah, how is that even possible? That’s the mystery I need to solve.’  Light then explains that he’s already made up his mind and what he needs is proof, so he’s going to torture Dragulesc until he gets the confession he wants. Turns out, Light is also known in the Order as ‘The Torturer.’

Not what I would call a surprise reveal there.

And if we needed reminding, we flash back to Yukio who gives Bon a hard look and says, “You wouldn’t get involved in something like THAT, would you?”  Of course, this pains Bon deeply, but he’s sworn to secrecy so he says he can’t say anything about an on-going investigation. Yukio backs off fast, almost creepily so, and then they’re saved from further awkwardness by the arrival of everyone else and the start of the wedding.

During the reception, Bon gets a call from Light asking him to hurry up and translate some documents. Overhearing this, Yukio puts a gun to Bon’s head and demands answers to how he and Rin were born.

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Bon says, “Are you really going to shoot me?” and that causes whatever is possessing Yukio to fade away and he’s all like, “Oops, ha. ha. my bad. Forget this happened, k?” Bon is having none of this and grabs him by the shoulder demanding to know what’s happened, why he’s acting like this. Yukio goes all cold again and tells him to let him go, as an order, from his superior.  Bon is such a good guy, he follows orders, and lets him go.

In the hallway, Shima confronts Yukio by saying, “Watch yourself. I told you to get ADVICE, not threaten.”

Yukio gets all existential about this and is like: how does advice help when we’re all such different people? Then he gets a call from Sword-Boob lady Shura to “turn on the TV.” Apparently, demons don’t take New Year’s holidays and they’re popping up all over various cities, and more and more people are able to see them. Everyone rushes off… well, everyone with a ‘key’–which is Yukio and Shima. (The hilarious stuff is that when Shima leaves, he says, ‘hey, us spies have keys too! Bye!’ and Bon is all, ‘and we have to let him go…’)  On the train back, Bon is working on the translation that Light sent him and decides to tell Rin that they need to talk.

Boob-Lady is fighting a cyclops-demon and gets her butt handed to her because she doesn’t have her magical sword any more, not really. Light shows up and infuses her sword with ice-powers and they are able to defeat the monster. But, it’s broken some seal or other that has let loose even more demon-y things.

Light then has this fun interaction with Yukio:

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Not cool, dude.

Yukio is surprised Bon has tattled on him so quickly, to which Light is like, “Well, he wanted permission to tell you about our investigation, but, of course, I told him no.”  Light asks, ‘So what is it you want to know so badly?’ Yukio won’t say, so he counters with, “If you won’t say, neither will I.”  They trade some insults after that and Yukio storms off. Light watches him go, saying, “Ryuji [Bon] is a good boy. But you can only help someone who wants help” and it’s clear Yukio doesn’t want help.

This does seem to be pretty true. Honestly, if Yukio had answered Light, he might have told him something. Although, Light is slippery af, so who knows what he might have actually done?

Then we find out–are reminded?–that it was Light that put the bell spell on Shima (who was watching from behind a tree) and Shima begs him to remove it.  He says he will,  but only for a price.

Suddenly, this bada$$ arrives:

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And arrests Light.  He resists them long enough to lean in and whisper a password to Yukio (I Love Sushi 1047Aaa). Bon shows up in time to see his master hauled off, and gets the “hey, so, I might not be around for awhile, but finish the report, k?”

Later, Yukio finds a flash drive and realizes that Light slipped it to him.  The chapter ends with Yukio opening up some files.

The next chapter starts with a flashback to Yukio asking Father Fujimoto why Sir Pheles lets them live, Fujimoto says he can’t tell him right now but he will, when the time comes. Yukio is thinking the time is now when he opens up the Section 13 files.  Yukio is called out to rejoin the fight and thinks about what he’s learned. He tells us he hasn’t learned much about his mother or Satan, but what he has figure out is that the Knights of the True Cross are as bad as the Illuminati.

Yukio is so upset he starts to fight recklessly and is sent home. Only, he doesn’t want to go home.  He ends up at Plant Girl Shiemi’s shop. Standing there, he has a memory of confronting his foster dad about why Boob-Sword Lady is overseeing them. Yukio has heard that she’s forging Rin into a weapon.  On that night he ended up running away to the garden shop, and now he’s found himself at the same door craving Plant Girl’s company again.  He’s headed to the door when he spies Shiemi coming in at the same time.  She offers tea and company.

They chat a bit and, when Shiemi asks him what’s wrong, he confesses that he feels all alone:

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Which is his usual bullish*t, actually, and Shiemi tries to tell him he’s not, that he has her… and Rin. Saying that last bit sets Yukio off and he lashes out at her.

Having pushed her freaks him out (as it should) and he decides that all his inner turmoil is just hurting everyone around him, so he might as well end it all.

And he shoots himself in the head.

His glasses fly off and we hear a demonic voice calling him weak, while his eyes light up with blue fire. Yukio identifies the demonic voice as Satan.  Shima shows up and says, “You’re finally getting the right look in your eye.”

Which… makes me uncomfortable, because I’m thinking, maybe Rin failed as a weapon, and you’re take 2, Yukio.

Then we get a random break in the action to where Mephisto is on TV as Johann Faust (which is of course a reference to the legend of Faust who famously sells his soul to Mephistopheles) and is coming out to the world as a Knight of the True Cross and explaining the Order’s mission.

Bon, meanwhile, has decoded the file Light sent him.  As he’s figuring out how to get the document to the Vatican, he runs into Rin. He tells him he wasn’t sure he should, but he’s going to tell him something critical about Yukio.  That’s when Shiemi bursts in, in tears, saying that something has happened to Yukio.

I have a very bad feeling we’re getting to the end of something BIG.  I’m concerned that Satan has found his vessel and it’s not going to be Rin, after all, but Yukio, and Rin’s desire to “kill” Satan may involve murdering his own brother.

I do not see how this is going to go well.

But, I have a lot of trust in Katou-sensei’s storytelling ability, and this manga has been so shounen up to this point that I don’t *think* it’s going to end as a complete tragedy.  (Hopefully, I’m right about that.)

Anyone else reading this? Care to comment?

1-en no Otoko / One Yen Man by Monden Akiko

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One Yen Man  (not to be confused with One Punch Man) is a collection of yaoi one-shots by  Monden Akiko. So many of my guilty-pleasure buttons got hit with this one, it isn’t even funny.

SPOILERS

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Guilty pleasure #1: Sex workers.

I will pretty much read any story featuring sex-for-hire.  Give me a sympathetic gigolo and I’m golden.

The first story doesn’t exactly center around a gigolo, per se, but ‘getting paid for it’ is part of the whole meet-cute, if you will.  So, what happens is that we have a detective, Sanjou Keisuke.  He’s a classic tough guy sort, who will do any job for any one. In fact, when we first meet him, he’s dog sitting for a client.  But, he returns to his office one day to find a brusque, icy investment banker waiting for him. They exchange the usual insults: “What kind of detective leaves his door wide open? Though clearly there’s nothing worth stealing here!” / “If you don’t like me, try another detective agency.”

Classic.

Destined for sex, wouldn’t you say?

Well, except, of course, our hero is presented as fairly straight.  I say ‘fairly’ because the client he’s walking that dog for is a super-queer–queeny, even, guy–he gets called ‘mama-san’ and I don’t think he’s also a pimp, (though….more on that in a bit).  Anyway, Detective and super-queen are clearly friends, so, like a lot of straight guys in these yaoi, it’s not like it’s completely foreign to him.

Anyway, Banker wants to hire Sanjou to find his sex friend, a rent boy who has ran off with a briefcase full of several million yen.

At this point, I kind of thought the story might get plot-heavy and we’d spend some time chasing after rent boy.  But, no, Sanjou is a good detective, and finds him right away.  He let’s the banker know where the rent boy has holed up and is about to take his leave when banker is, all, ‘I’m worried I can’t confront him. Will you help? I can pay.’  Our hero, being a gentleman is very, “No worries. I’ll do this gratis.” Banker is very insistent. We start to get the sense that paying for things is a THING for him.

Maybe you can see where this is going?

Well, it takes awhile to get there, because, of course, Sanjou needs to figure out he’s bi, first.  Luckily, an opportunity presents itself fairly immediately.  When banker and Sanjou go to confront Rent Boy, Rent Boy is out. Banker convinces Sanjou to break in to the apartment because he really just wants that briefcase back, even if the money is gone.  As they’re looking for the briefcase, Rent Boy returns. They hide in a closet.  Rent Boy comes back with company.  Sanjou tells banker he shouldn’t watch this, so he covers banker’s eyes, watches the whole thing, gets super turned on to the point where, banker very prissily says ‘this is ridiculous’ and starts giving Sanjou a blowjob on the spot.

This is all very awkward, but they manage not to be discovered. The banker is suddenly, ‘it’s fine, I don’t care any more’ and Sanjou figures, well, that was weird, but whatever the client wants, *shrug*… until he runs into Rent Boy.  Then, things get interesting. Turns out, Rent Boy stole the money in an attempt to get the banker to chase him.  Rent boy was kind of falling for banker, but banker was very insistent that theirs was a PAID relationship.

Sanjou makes it his mission to uncover why banker is so cold and focused on the paycheck.  Meanwhile, of course, he starts to fall in love with him. When Rent Boy returns the money and briefcase to Sanjou, Sanjou discovers a picture of banker as a young boy looking adorable. Later, Sanjou finds out there’s a tragic backstory with the picture–banker’s mom was a single mom, cold and calculating, the kind who gave receipts after paying allowance, etc., and banker had the picture taken in the hopes of trying to win her over with sheer cuteness. It doesn’t work, so this is part of banker’s brokenness, apparently.

Now Sanjou wants to fix this, and in the way of rough-and-tumble meets Ice Queen, basically Sanjou bullies the banker into falling for him.

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Also a trope I like. (Guilty pleasure #2? Probably.)

Then we switch gears and we have the story of two childhood buddies.  One of them is a stereotypical easy-going, charismatic lady’s man who is the rising star of his company, and the other is a nebbish food critic, who specializes in alcohol.  They meet-up regularly for drinking dates, because Food Critic doesn’t want to drink alone.

Cue: drunken sex.

At the love hotel, Food critic drunkly tells Lady’s Man that the reason he can’t settle down and find a wife is because he’s barking up the wrong tree. Food critic decides that a bit of seduction is the ticket to get salaryman to wake up and smell Teh Gay, as it were.

It works.

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And literally the rest of the two chapter story is salaryman trying to figure out how to be better at the gay sex thing, because he REALLY LIKES the gay sex thing.

I found this story adorable.

I also really loved that the first thing salaryman does is rent all the gay porn and tries to study up. He also starts asking his ex-girlfriends for blowjob tips (ha!) and even tries out a little bondage because he gets obsessed with making sure his partner is as aroused as he is.

Then we return to Rent Boy, who, it turns out is actually secretly the son of a yakuza boss and the gang needs him back.  Rent boy doesn’t want to, so he tells his lieutenant, I’ll come back if you can seduce me so hard I cum.

Cue: random hot tattoo sex.

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Works for me! (Bonus Guilty Pleasure #3 AND #4 — Yakuza and Tattoos!)

I honestly enjoyed this one pretty well, but, I’m not sure how you will feel about it, unless some of your guilty pleasures align with mine. The art, as you can see, is hit and miss. I felt like the writing was pretty good in that all the straight-turned-gay guys did, at least, attempt to do some research, so that makes me happy.

Pandora’s Heart (vols. 1 – 24) by Jun Mochizuki

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I’ve been absent from reviews for a while because I was reading… I read all 24 volumes of Pandora Hearts.  What is Pandora Hearts…?  Well, I described it thusly, when I was only a couple of volumes into it: “Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki is about… huh, how do I describe this thing? There’s a rich/tragic little lordling named Oz, who gets caught up in a supernatural adventure, probably because he’s the key to some mystery involving “the Abyss,” and ends up in a contract with a devil.”

I’d say that’s fair. At least as an introduction…

SPOILERS

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…now, for the rest of it.

I kind of liked the beginning of this series.  The set-up is neat. After being tossed into the Abyss for the crime of “being born,” Oz ends up making an ‘illegal’ contract with Alice, a “chain.” Chains are basically Abyss demons with superpowers. Alice uses the power of B. Rabbit (a giant, scary, scythe welding black rabbit) to spit them back into the Human World… only the Abyss is a little like fairyland. For you, you might think you spent ten minutes in the Abyss, but years might pass in the Human World.  So, Oz is actually reunited with his valet, only to discover that Gil has gone from being a wimpy little kid to  a grown-up, gun-totting hottie.

Gil has also joined a secret demon hunting society called Pandora.  Oz and Alice get roped into helping hunt down various paranormal criminals–mostly other people with illegal contracts.  Why exactly anyone needs to hunt very hard is a little iffy, since they all have this giant tattoo on their chests, counting down the time left on the contract, until they and their Chain are dragged down to the deepest pits of the Abyss.  Problem kind of solves itself, no? Well, I mean, I guess the point of stopping them early is because most Chains seem hellbent on destruction, murder, and mayhem.

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Ostensibly the trio is also searching for Alice’s memories, which got shredded at some point.

But, not one of them remembers anything, really.

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What am I forgetting?  Oh, right…. LITERALLY EVERYTHING!

In fact, they’ve–all three of them–forgotten major sh*t. REALLY, INCREDIBLY MAJOR SH*T.

And the characters who have been around for a couple of hundred years, who later seem to have been damn well aware of a good portion of this major sh*t, conveniently chose not to say anything more than a few coy, existential hints.  “Where are you, Oz?” (Where is he? That’s what you’re gonna ask, Xerxes Break??  HOW ABOUT WHAT THE F*CK EVEN ARE YOU, OZ??)

A lot of the mysteries are cloaked in a veneer of tragedy.  Why does Oz’s father despise him so much, when clearly little Oz just needs a cuddle?  Is Gil’s brother, Vincent, a rape-y sociopath or just in desperate need of a hug? Why does Alice understand loneliness so well (would bite-y kisses help)? What is the mystery of the eternally reincarnating Jack and Glen, could all this immortal animosity just be hugged out???!!?  HOW ABOUT A TEA PARTY? I HEAR TEA PARTIES HELP!

Look, I’m an a$$hole, okay? I just never really warmed to any of the characters, despite my extremely determined efforts. This came highly recommended; it’s extremely well-received on Goodreads. Clearly, I am a heartless anomaly with zero taste in manga.

In fact, I’ve been trying to figure out what is wrong with me. All day, since I finished this, I’ve been wondering why I had such a profound ‘meh’ reaction to so much of Pandora Hearts.

I mean, I was certainly engaged enough to keep reading volume after volume after volume.

So what happened?

I do know that I suffered a bit of attachment disorder. The lives of fated-for-great-things aristocrats does nothing for me. The only poor person in this entire series turns out to be the Big Bad–a really twisted Stalker-y Non-Love Masquerading as Love-Becomes-World-Ending-Obsession kind of Big Bad. Even the devoted servants turn out to be Lost Princes with a Special Destiny–both of them. That’s just a tough sell for me, personally.  Everyone looks lovely dripping in jewels, but, for reasons entirely my own, I’m just not there for them.

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Except this guy. If only he hadn’t been so, so STRAIGHT…. *sigh*

I ended up semi-attached to Gil (gun-toting hottie manservant, which is good because he’s kind of a surrogate main character), but, ultimately, I find servant/master devotion that goes beyond the grave to be… not something I can relate to?

This is where I started to wonder if I was just not enough of a Romantic (yes, I capitalized that intentionally,) for this series, because normally, as a hardcore shounen fan, I’m all about the Precious Friends Forever.

And, these guys have GREAT hair.

Seriously good hair.

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That braid goes past his butt, friends! 

I will say, too, in the plus column, that I feel that Mochizuki-sensei is a good writer, in that, for the most part, all the big reveals were well foreshadowed. I didn’t get the sense that she was scrambling for an ending or dropping outlandish plot twists just for the shock value or to make the sales numbers climb.

The plot was convoluted af (especially the stuff around the Intention of the Abyss), but it all felt earned, if that makes sense.

This did NOT suck. Nowhere near.  I just… didn’t love it.  Which, it maybe ironic, given how important love is to the plot.

I think, ultimately, it just wasn’t my cup of tea despite all the apparently delicious cups of tea contained therein.

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Would I recommend it to you?

Actually? I would.

I suspect my problem with rich characters is some kind of pathology, and that the majority of manga readers / human beings out there do not share it.  I just never had princess fantasies as a girl. Nor did I want to be the prince. The one I wanted to be was the rough-and-tumble rogue: Han Solo, all the way, baby!   This story lacks Han Solos. That’s not the mangaka’s fault, she wanted all the princes.  That’s not a matter of good vs. bad; that’s a matter of taste.  (And there’s no accounting for taste. I like rough-and-tumble so much that I watched that whole Girl vs. Boy anime and secretly enjoyed every minute of it.)

Thing is, I can acknowledge that this did not suit my tastes, but it was still a fine story.

Pandora Hearts has interesting characters and ends well (which is more than I can say for my once-beloved Bleach).

Bunny Drop / Usagi Drop

On Wednesday night, it was very, very slow on my shift at the library.  I was on “the machine” (a book sorting automated thing) that requires enough attention that it can’t be left while you go off, say, shelving books or something.  So I looked around the backroom for any manga that had a first volume…

And I found this:

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Bunny Drop / Usagi Drop. The back cover copy reads thusly: “Going home for his grandfather’s funeral, thirty-year-old bachelor Daikichi is floored to discover that the old man had an illegitimate child with a younger lover! The rest of his family is equally shocked and embarrassed by this surprise development, and not one of them wants anything to do with the silent little girl, Rin. In a fit of angry spontaneity, Daikichi decides to take her in himself!”

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I’m a sucker for stories like this–the ones that are sort of fish-out-of water fatherhood tales.  Kind of literally nothing much of consequence happens in the first volume, though. Our hero, Daikichi, gets to know Rin and does a lot of fretting about daycare.  It’s only by the very end of the volume does there seem to be a mystery brewing about the identity and whereabouts of Rin’s mother.

Even so, I enjoyed it in the same way I love all slice-of-life manga.  Daikichi’s worries about taking on a job that doesn’t require so much overtime just underscored how different Japanese office culture is from American.

Speaking of work, the lights are hardly even all the way flicked off before most of us library workers have bolted out the backdoor and are in our cars, revving the engines.  I can’t imagine living somewhere where I was not only expected to work after hours, but also hang out drinking and socializing with my co-workers.  Sounds a bit like hell, to me.  (Maybe this is why the office ladies in these manga always quit when they get married and have babies? I think I would FAKE pregnancy to get out.)

Daikichi is likable in that he seems to take his new role as caretaker very seriously, even though little girls clearly baffle him.

usagi_drop_c004.pngI give it a thumbs up.  If you want to read Bunny Drop / Usagi Drop, MangaFreak has it.  If you get super into it, there appears to not only be an anime, but a live-action film, as well.

After Morning Love by Fujii Mitori

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So… once again, I went looking specifically for “animal characteristics” and ended up with a volume that had one story that fit that category.  I would complain, except that I really rather liked the main story.

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Matsuno is not the kind of guy who pulls drunken one-night stands, so he’s especially surprised to wake up one morning, hungover, with a rent boy named Rin in his bed.  This is particularly surprising because Matsuno considers himself straight.

To be fair to Matsuno, he’s one of the straightest of the “straight seme”s that I’ve seen.  I mean, he’s had a taste of Teh Gay, after all, and it does not magically or instantly queer him up.  Plus, he lives in ni-chome in Shinjuku (which our translator tells us is a well-renown gay neighborhood) and hangs out in a bar frequented by gay guys (the bartender is bi, and is clearly a college-buddy, longtime friend of Matsuno’s).  If he was going to randomly start finding dudes cute, he would have done it by now…

But, there’s something about Rin.  Rin tells us he was kicked out of his house for being gay and so he’s turned to hustling in order to have somewhere to spend the night.

Matsuno wants to offer his place, but, in talking about it to the bartender, the bartender warns Matsuno to be careful. It would be unkind to lead Rin on, since there’s no hope for love with a straight guy.

Matsuno actually tries really hard to abide by this.  But, he sees Rin chatting up a trick in the alley and pulls him away.

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Because of my own proclivities, I love the tiny scene of the salaryman clutching his briefcase wondering if Matsuno is Rin’s pimp or yakuza.  Gods, I’m easy.

At this point, Matsuno really just wants to tell Rin to stay at his place and not work the streets, but he’s afraid of coming on too strong.  For once, this motivation makes sense to me.  He’s straight and he knows saying, “Stay at my place, quit hustling” is basically saying, “I will be your sugar daddy.”  He doesn’t want to set either himself or Rin up that way, so he compromises by telling Rin he can stay at his place if he ever strikes out… or, you know, just doesn’t want to work that night.

Rin likes being fussed over, but has sussed out that Matsuno is straight af.  So, he makes agreeing noises, but he stays away.

Until one night, when Rin turns the wrong trick.  He gets battered and, having nowhere else to go, ends up at Mastuno’s.  Cue: hurt/comfort.  At this point, Matsuno starts insisted that Rin stay at his place.

YET, things stay platonic.  Rin starts talking to his hustler friends because, man, Matsuno is everything Rin wants in a guy.  He’s handsome, steady, and seems to sincerely care for him.  Hustler friend says, “Look, only heartache is going to come from falling for a straight guy,” and offers to set him up with a good client who is interested in something steady. The client is a little pushy (wants to bareback), but Rin finds himself feeling kind of empty afterwards and can’t wait to get home to Matsuno.

Bartender suggested to Matsuno that if he’s going to be all jealous like this, maybe he should try to help Rin get off the streets.  So, Matsuno gets Rin a job–as bartender’s apprentice.

Things seem to be picking-up in Rin’s life.  Matsuno tries to get Rin to work things out with his dad enough to get his health insurance straightened out, but Dad is a huge homophobe and instead of talking has set all of Rin’s stuff out on the sidewalk.  This makes Matsuno sad and, not knowing that it is similar to a marriage proposal, offers to adopt Rin.

This was news to me.  I knew that in Japan, adult adoption is thing.  I somehow missed that, culturally, this has been how the Japanese solved some of the legal issues of gay marriage (since that’s still not legal in most districts.)  Wikipedia says, “The adoption of one individual by another in Japan is commonly used as an alternative to same-sex marriage, which does not exist in Japan. By the elder party adopting the younger (as stipulated by the rules of adoption), the estate of either party can then be inherited or absorbed by the other without the payment of the prohibitive gift tax that would otherwise apply.”

Rin is, of course, shocked and gives an emphatic “NO” and runs off in tears.

Luckily, queer bartender helps Matsuno figure out what he did wrong.  Matsuno, however, realizes that the idea of ‘marriage’ doesn’t freak him out that much.  He kind of digs on the idea of a life together with Rin. They’ve been living that way for a while now, after all.

Working at the bar, Rin runs into the ‘good client’ in an alleyway.  Rin had been sent to fetch fruit for the fruity drinks, and was making his way back.  “Good client” shows his true colors by beating up and raping Rin.  (Almost all of it is off-screen. This is very much BL instead of smut.)

That’s it for Matsuno, though. He wants to be Rin’s protector, his HUSBAND.  So, he offers again, and explains that, no, he knows what he’s asking this time, and he loves Rin–not just in a platonic, big-brother kind of way, but like let’s do the sexy stuff kind of love!

That would be great, but Rin is worried that since the “good client” finally got his opportunity to go without a condom, he might be infected with AIDs. So, they have to wait to find out the results of the test.  In four months, they can do it, but not sooner. Rin won’t risk infecting Matsuno.  Not even with a kiss.

Test comes back negative and it’s smoochy-smoochy happily ever after for the guys! Hooray.

I actually really like this story, despite the lack of sex. The relationship-building seemed more plausible to me than many of these set-ups (particularly with a straight seme) and… ugh, true confession time, I totally love stories with sex workers.  Also, there is a tiny bit of implied yakuza goings-on in the bar that also worked for me because I love yakuza stories, too. So by chance, this one hit a lot of buttons for me.

I adored the fact that when they finally go for it, Matsuno has done his research and Rin is the one who wants things to be ‘what it’s like when people are in love.’

It’s actually kind of romantic that way.

The animalistic stuff appears in “The Ear’s Feelings.”  It’s fanatical story where, like Kafka’s cockroach, our hero randomly and spontaneously wakes up with cat ears. His coworkers tell him that they sort of like the ears because previously he’d been the sort of person who was hard to read. Now his ears give away his emotions. In fact, they work just a little too well, and a male co-worker finally twigs to the idea that ear boi finds him hot.

When they sleep together, they trade. Suddenly Interested Co-worker ends up with the cat ears.

There is some jealousy because all of the office ladies find the ears super-kawaii. Our hero is forced to make a love confession and somehow this makes the ears transfer to the company’s boss (? or maybe the joke is that Interested Co-worker is actually a run around and is trying to blame the sudden appearance of the cat ears on the boss as being an “airborne” virus.)

Obviously, I liked the morning after love story better. If you want a bit of romance and aren’t in desperate need of smutty smut, you can read After Morning Love at Mangago.

Bachi Bachi by Kuma Hyougo

I went looking under the tag “animal characteristics” at Baka-Update and was promptly inundated by a flood of choices, most of them NOT yaoi.  Alphabetically, this is the first one I found that looked promising.

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SPOILERS

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So, the guys on the cover aren’t actually animals or have animal characteristics.

In fact, they’re regular high school volleyball players.  They are the stars of the first chapter, “Bachi Bachi,” in which it looks like we’re getting set-up for the little guy to facilitate a love confession between his two senpai. What ends up happening, instead, is that they both confess they’re in love with him.  Very graphic sex ensues and they become a happy-for-now threesome.

The second chapter, “Youth, the Color of Sunset,” which involves another hottie dad….

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I’m beginning to worry about myself, but look at his guy!

In this story, we have a lonely, super-gay hairdresser who is working late one night when a pushy young woman comes in and demands that he make her dad hot, so Dad can find a woman. It seems he’s been divorced for some time and that was all fine when the daughter was still at home, but she’s off for college now, and it’s time for dad to get some action.

Guess where he finds it?

Yep, got it in one.

“Samurai Honeybee” follows a kick boxer who decides to try out a karate class at his local gym.  The normal instructor steps aside and let’s his super-attractive, younger apprentice teach the course. Kick-boxer is immediately smitten, but initially thinks his desire is to surpass the little runt and show him how awesome his skills are.

Instructor-kid is my usual type…. (the one staring stupidly out at us below:)

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As he’s actually an ex-gang member who turned to Karate to get out of the life of crime (I’d say “straighten-up” except… yeah, there’s nothing “straight” about what happens next.)  In his past, he looks even more like my usual sort:

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Playing out the scene we all want in a shounen anime, our kick-boxing main character challenges youthful karate instructor to a duel. If kick-boxer can beat karate instructor, he gets to dominate him.

And… that works out exactly how you hope. Right there in the dojo….

“Nana-nii-san’s dog and cat: 723-1122” is the “animal” chapter.  Here we have a science fictional universe where at some unnamed point in the future a virus spread that made most people infertile. The Japanese response to this, apparently, was to create human/animal hybrids.

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When the virus was cured, the “pets” were tossed out onto the street to perish from neglect.  Our hero, Nana (Seven), who is, himself a clone, has adopted two of these strays.  There is another threesome in this one that is kind kinky, and maybe hot??–I’m not sure I want to admit that, though.

The cat is charmingly cat-like, so that amused me.

The next chapter is called “Hatagaya Lullaby” and follows an old-fashioned, middle-aged author and the young goth rockstar that live in the same apartment building. They meet by accident and start up an intellectual affair–this might be one of the first times I’ve seen this kind of meet-cute.  The rockstar has read sensei’s work and they pass time talking about literature and eventually sensei, even though he really doesn’t fit with the goth scene, appreciates the similar artistry and poetry that goes into song lyric writing.

This, somehow, miraculously, leads to sex.

Clearly, the mangaka does not know any real novelists.  😉

The last chapter, “Blue, the Color of Depression” is a return to hairstylist and hottie dad, who have now moved in together.  Hairdresser is feeling like a bad partner because when he comes home, he finds hottie dad passed out on the couch, sick. Dad refuses to let hairdresser take care of him, but after a call to the daughter, hairdresser finds out that Dad just needs some attention.

Hairdresser takes time off work to be with Dad and everything is good again.

Kinda cute, I guess. It is actually sweet to have a romantic story in among a lot of very graphic smut.

Speaking of all the smut, I totally recommend this one.  I had a hard time finding a place that had all the chapters AND wasn’t totally riddled with spyware/pop-ups (the problem with full-on graphic images, I imagine), but, eventually, I discovered the full version of Bachi Bachi on MangaPark.

Have fun, kids. Read responsibly.

Your Honest Deceit / Kimi no Tsuku Use Hontou (vol. 1) by Ajimine Sakufu

I only just noticed this is volume one (of two), so I have to apologize for my incomplete review. If you want to read the whole thing, Mangago has it.

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I liked this one more than I expected to, but I’m not sure that’s saying much.

SPOILERS

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I was in a hurry when I was at Quatrefoil, so I grabbed a bunch of yaoi at random, with no rhyme or reason.  I mean, that’s part of the fun of it, right?  But this cover made me go ‘meh,’ and so I left it for last.

The main story follows a young lawyer, Kuze, who has finally landed his dream job–or maybe, more accurately has landed a job with a dreamboat boss, Kitahara-sensei, that he’s been pining after since Kitahara was a guest lecturer at law school.

Is it disturbing to me that Kuze never drops the formality of full surname + honorific the entire volume?  I’m guessing that’s meant to be part of the kink, because Kitahara definitely falls into ‘hot dad’ territory.  ‘Hot dad’ is not a place I normally go, but I will admit to really enjoying Kitahara’s dad haircut.

 

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This hair game is on point. Good hair is Important.

I found Kitahara weirdly attractive, what can I say?  He’s not my normal type at all, (see: bad boy with weird/wild hair.) But, I kept turning the page to look at him, which is clever on the mangaka’s part, because, otherwise, the story is a bit of a slow-burn.

Kuze didn’t really think he had a shot with the boss, see, because it was well-known that Kitahara was married. Kuze starts to have hope when he notices the ring gone, but then rumors are swirling around the office about whether or not Kitahara is getting back with his wife.  A drunken love confession is contrived for reasons of plot, and Kuze figures he’s screwed everything up for himself. Luckily, Kitahara is bi, or at least down with the idea of trying it on with Kuze.

The big moment comes, they’re getting hot and heavy, a little blow job action is happening, and it suddenly hits Kitahara that, hey, maybe Kuze has done this a time or two before.  Stupidly, he says something to this effect. (Pro tip: It’s never a good idea to make your lover feel like a ‘ho.) Kuze runs off, upset, convinced that Kitahara finds his queerness “disgusting.”

Luckily, they both know a private detective that helps Kitahara track down Kuze in a hurry (there is some handwaving as to why Kitahara doesn’t just phone the guy or walk back to the office and rummage through his HR file for the address.) I bring this up because the inclusion of the absolutely random P.I. baffles and delights me.

It all works out and they become a couple. The rest of it settles into an at-work relationship drama. Highlights include: Kitahara getting jealous of an old lover (which in Kuze’s case is a double-entendre because he’s into “geezers,”) and there is on-the-desk office sex, because if you’re doing this kind of story, it’s sort of like the gun over the mantlepiece, am I right?

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The office romance appears to continue in the second volume.

Interestingly, none of the on-line sources I found for Kimi no Tauku Uso to Hontou includes the second set of unrelated stories, “Honey*Bunny” and “Cutie*Bunny.”

“Honey*Bunny” and “Cutie*Bunny” continue the mangaka’s obsession with age gaps and stoic/cold lovers, where one of the couple refers to the other, formally.

So, we have Yuu and Kono-san.  The twist in this set of stories is that the elder, and former teacher of Yuu, Kono-san sleeps with a cute stuffed animal.  Yuu really wants the snuggles that the bunny gets.  He gets no respect until, after a series of events that leads Yuu to think Kono-san is swanning off with someone else on Yuu’s 20th birthday, Yuu gets so mad and jealous that he calls Kono-san by his first name, “Toru,” without thinking.

“Cutie*Bunny” involves more jealousy, this time with an ex of Toru/Kono-san’s who sends him a giant stuffed bunny.  (Just when they got rid of the last one!) Yuu stalks Toru to the meet-up (at a gay bar, ‘natch, with a trans bartender for the same random reason, I suppose, as the PI,) where it is revealed that the gift was a good-bye, as the old flame is going straight and getting married.

There is almost zero on-screen sex in these two chapters. (There’s some implied sex in the opening and some kissing.)

Would I recommend it?  Like I said, I ended up sort of liking Ajimine-sensei’s art. So, if you’re looking for well-drawn romantic drama, this could be a nice diversion.  It’s certainly short, especially given that the on-line versions skip the secondary stories.

It’s not terribly sexy, however.

But, you know, there’s something to be said for a decent story with good art.

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