Blue Exorcist / Ao no Exorcist #82

Blue Exorcist is out!  Blue Exorcist is out!  Go go it, it’s SUPER ADORABLE. http://www.mangareader.net/ao-no-exorcist/82

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I’m going to just say it now.  Kazue Katō is currently the only reason not to despise Weekly Shounen Jump, since her manga, Ao no Exorcist is published in JUMP+. She is also currently one of my all time favorite mangaka, hands down.

Look, boys, chapter 82 is how you do this whole ‘shipping’ thing with a light hand.

You guys KNOW how angry I get when people spray ‘no homo’ on a thing.  This was so not that, even though we see Rin and Shiemi (plant girl) awkwardly ask each other out.

So, why am I not mad?  I literally think it’s the awkwardness and real-life-moment-ness of this whole chapter that saves it from feeling like an author’s attempt to shout: OKAY SO I GAVE YOU SICKOS THAT BATH SCENE WITH THE BROTHERS AT THE INN BUT OMG THESE CHARACTERS ARE STRAIGHT–SUPER, SUPER-DUPER STRAIGHT-SO STAY AWAY! HANDS OFF!

I mean, look at this:

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This is so… adorable. I loved how the girls are listening in from around the corner and are like ‘crap, now we’re stuck in the bathroom!’ and ‘when did this even happen?’ (Chapter 73, I believe.)  I also love that, this whole ten chapters, Rin’s love confession has been hanging there, mostly forgotten by the readers, only to resurface like this, very naturally and very… high school.

This whole chapter is charmingly reminiscent of being a teenager.  I love, LOVED that Izumo (fox girl) instantly invites herself over for a sleepover so she can get the scoop AND, more importantly, bring over a stack of shoujo manga so that Shiemi can “learn about love.”

Can I just say? This is almost literally how I was taught about love.  When I asked my mother for romance advice, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Read some romance novels.”

So, maybe this seems ridiculous, but people do think this way!  (And, you know, I turned out a lesbian, so…)

But, the scene, while cute, also does a lot of plot work.  We are reminded that Shiemi’s grandmother doesn’t want her to be an exorcist because it’s dangerous–and we get moment after moment that re-illustrates how lonely and sheltered Shiemi was before going to the True Cross Order.  Then, we get this funky dream sequence, where we first see Shiemi coming up out of the ground, like, maybe, her origins aren’t entirely human, but, instead very Elemental:

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Of course, this is also a lovely sexual metaphor… his TAIL is even visible….

And, then… this whole thing makes Sheimi realize something important about herself.  Even though she desperately wants to catch up, to be like everyone else, she’s not ready for romance. She’s not ready to date.

Then we get this amazing/awkward moment… the anti-shoujo un-confession:

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(The boys watching from the steps made me super-happy, too. I also really loved that as this whole embarrassment is going down gray-haired Miwa’s like, “dang, better make the dinner reservation now–dude is gonna need cheering up.” They’re like so, so gay, while being  the best wingmen, ever!)

The chapter ends on a dramatic (and theme appropriate!) cliffhanger– with the return of this guy (who I had to look up) who says that Shiemi is his BRIDE:

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In case, like me, you’ve forgotten, this guy is Amaimon, a demon king, known as the King of the Earth. I think that last bit is significant and I bet that we’re going to learn in the next up-coming chapters that Sheimi is … well, not as human as she’s seemed so far.  She really spent a lot of time in this chapter trying to be a “proper human,” and between that and the dream, I feel like we’re being set up quite nicely for a big reveal about her nature.

All I can say?

I’m all in. Ao no Exorcist pretty much has all of what remains of my shattered, shounen heart.

House of Five Leaves by Natsume Ono

Ever since I started working at the library, I’ve been intrigued by this manga series.  I even read the first chapter some time ago, and the idea of it–a hapless ronin samurai who falls in with a kidnapping gang–stuck with me.  Last time I was at work, I saw they had all eight volumes, so I finally decided to pick it up….

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House of Five Leaves is written and illustrated by the same mangaka that did Ristorante Paradiso, which I reviewed some time ago.  I had some of the same problems with this manga as I did the first. The art style is really… funky.

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On top of that, Ono-sensei has a tendency to skip a lot of what, in writing, I sometimes refer to as “connective tissue.”  What I mean is that the action will make sudden, un-signalled jumps from a major moment–say a main character’s arrest (!!)–to weeks later, with no real sense of how people reacted to the news of the arrest or even any scenes going to the jail, etc., etc. (i.e. the connective bits).   It’s very disconcerting. You get a kind of emotional whiplash from it… and/or it serves to add an unnecessary distance, as though you, as a reader, just aren’t allowed in close enough to feel the feels with the characters–instead, you’re like a rock skipping over the surface of a lake.

While I really ended up enjoying House of Five Leaves, the writing and art style were things I fought against at every turn.  I mean, I find Ono-sensei’s art… compelling, in its own way, but it’s quirky af.

Same with her writing.

Of course, as I’m sure I’ve said here many times before I have a real weakness for stories involving the criminal underworld of Edo Period Japan (or, really, any time.)  I loved Samurai Champloo (which, tbh, is also quirky af.)  House of Five Leaves has a very similar vibe… and theme, really. It’s about a bunch of lowlifes/samurai who end up making their own kind of family/find a place in the world, together.  Both have a sense of secret pasts and a vague sense of foreboding that has the reader/watcher vaguely , yet constantly anxious for our heroes, worried that the police might catch up with them or fate or whatever is lurking in the darkness.

Samurai Champloo, at least, has it’s odd, light moments.  House of Five Leaves really doesn’t.

I mean, I guess House of Five Leaves has Masanosuke Akitsu, who is relentlessly hopeful and kind.  He’s a charming character who, at the start, really is pretty useless.  I loved watching him grow throughout the volumes.  He started as this big buffoon who basically trips over his own feet to a guy who can stand up to the toughest gang in region… as well as his disdainful younger brother (much harder/scarier!)  I wasn’t sure how fond I was of Masa, as he’s called a lot, but he really grew on me.

The character I adored was Yaichi.  Physically, he reminded me of Gin Ichimaru from Bleach.  Likewise, Yaichi is foxy and dangerous and sexy and strange…. and very, very secretive.  Like Masa, I pretty much fell for Yaichi from the moment he walked on the stage, as it were.

(Ironically, the voice actor for the anime version of Yaichi, who so reminds me of Gin Ichimaru, is played by Kira Izuru’s seiyū.)

Even though, at times, the volumes’ pace is almost leisurely, the conflict is always present in the form of Yaichi.  We–the readers and the gang of the House of Five Leaves–is tense when he’s away, upset when he’s threatened, and in danger when he’s close.  I will admit that the ending actually made me very tense and it might have been a tiny bit dusty in my house when Masa met Yaichi on the bridge.

I would not be surprised to find Masa/Yaichi as a pairing on AO3, but I actually sort of liked them as unrequited and ridiculously loyal friends, mostly because what I liked about their relationship by the end is how much Yaichi resisted admitting he already had a family an how important it was for him to be rescued by someone who loved him for who he was, warts and all.

I love sh*t like that when it works out in the end, you know?

Yeah, so I didn’t go into to a lot of the plot detail because this is totally a series I recommend you read.  I could not, easily, find an on-line, free version of this, however.  There is a twelve episode anime, so perhaps that’s something you could watch, if you’re curious.

Escape by Kyuugou

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Bitter-sweet? I’d say, heavy on the bitter….

I randomly tried a one-shot called Escape.  http://www.mangago.me/read-manga/escape_kyuugou/mf/c000/2/

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Shouta is a college student who works part-time at a video store. He has an unrequited crush on a salaryman who stops by the store every day.

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Their relationship is entirely based on movie recommendations.  It’s shallow, but salaryman, Shiraishi, must know what’s going on.  The kid isn’t exactly subtle as his dreadlocked boss points out.

But, Shouta is a red-blooded boy, so he gets his kicks elsewhere… namely with skeevy, smoker Karaki.

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There’s a lot to dislike about this guy. For one, he seems to have “wooed” our hero by telling him that they’re not boyfriends, because Shouta is really only good for one thing (hint: it’s not chatting.) On top of that, he’s said he’s only doing Shouta because it’s easier than doing girls. Boys are tighter, you see, and he can cum inside without worrying about consequences (though I am NOT seeing condoms, so I’m not sure how well Karaki has thought through all the “consequences.”)

Karaki also figures he can be as rough as he wants because, you know, boys are harder to break.

So, yeah, he’s a douchebag.  There is literally nothing likable about this guy.

After passing out after a bout of rough sex, Shouta accidentally murmurs the name of his salaryman in his sleep.  This awakens the green-eyed monster in Karaki.  And, oh boy, is it a MONSTER.

What happens next is… predictable, I suppose.  Karaki, who is at Shouta’s school gives him some lingering looks, which maybe is supposed to soften our opinion of him?  But, then when they meet up again there’s physical violence and rape (Shouta says no.)

 But, because this is yaoi, Shouta sees “that look” in Karaki’s eyes and decides that this is what passes as affection from Karaki and is determined to fall in love with him, The End.

Okay….. so, I can’t be too judgmental because in many ways I’ve written fan fic not unlike this.  But, if I were a better artist, I would write a sequel to Escape in which Shouta actually does manage an escape from Karaki.  Because, I’m sorry; this is sad.  I have some pretty dark kinks myself, but I’m still a romantic, and settling for some a$$hole who abuses you is SUPER NOT romantic (unless you give me a million words of convincing–which is what I try to do in my fic).

In my nonexistent sequel, salaryman Shiraishi comes to the video store the next day, sees abused Shouta, asks him what’s going on, and RESCUES THE F*CK OUT OF HIM.

I think this is plausible within “canon,” because, if you look at the way Shiraishi looks at Shouta, you can kind of tell that Shiraishi is on to the crush.  He might not want to do something about it because he already has a boyfriend or is deeply closeted, but it seems pretty obvious from the fact that he comes to the video store at the same time every day, that he’s getting something out of this, too.

I actually would really love to read a story where Shiraishi takes Shouta home to his boyfriend and says, “Look, honey, I’m sorry, but we have to adopt this kid for a while.” Then, the story switches to a slice-of-life where the three of them learn to become a kind of queer family, and maybe even a threesome/ménage à trios.  Of course, now I’m imagining a x-over with Shiro and Kenji form What Did You Eat Yesterday? and this poor kid.  I feel like Shiro would make him all the good food and Kenji would try to set him up with “someone nice.”

THIS WOULD BE ADORABLE, SOMEONE PLEASE MAKE THIS. (I know what I’m asking for for Yuletide now!!)

Let’s Take the Train Together, Shall We? #10-14

Somehow I missed a bunch of these!  The bonus is that I got to read a whole slew at once, which is lovely.  If you’ve not caught up either, you can find them all here: http://www.mangapanda.com/lets-take-the-train-together-shall-we

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If these two don’t end up as lovers by the end, there will be gross sobbing and possibly a little raging from me. I can no longer pretend I won’t be devastated if this ends in a platonic way.  Also, if these two just end up bro’friends at the end?  Sally-sensei is a queer baiting son-of-a-b*tch!

Because Chapter 10 is literally about how Chen Yuchen is having an extremely sh*tty day until he sees Li Tingyu in his street clothes.  Seriously.  Just seeing Tingyu in casual clothes lifts the cloud from Chen Yuchen’s day.

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Listen, I have some really awesome friends in my life with whom I have a 100% platonic relationship with, but they usually lift me out of  my crappy mood by talking to me about their lives or hanging out with me.  I do not get happy just by seeing them in cute clothes.

When I see my wife coming out of work in her cute shoes and a kicky skirt? Holy sh*t, yes. Just watching her walk will bring a smile to my face, brighten my day–before I even talk her.

Do you see the difference?

I don’t think that people in Taiwan are that much culturally different than people in the U.S.  Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe bro’mances are really different in Taiwan. Maybe guys there are just more laissez fair about it all. “Dude! Cute shoes! OMG, they make me so happy! How do they make you feel?” But, I have tons of girls who are my friends who do not make my day just by wearing something I’ve never seen them in before.  Hell, half the time I don’t notice when my friends who are girls get new glasses or change their hair, but that might be part of being a lesbian.  So, maybe this isn’t a Taiwan/U.S. thing, maybe this is a straight thing.  Maybe straight people really get happy when they see their other straight friends looking good.

BUT, JUST FYI, THIS READS AS VERY QUEER TO ME, AS A QUEER WOMAN.

Especially since the next three chapters are all about the guys finally exchanging phone numbers and then spending a lot of their waking hours wondering why the other one won’t call.

Plus, we do get some full-on queer baiting/fan service, when the two high school girls who were hoping to score some adult salaryman action try to get closer to Chen Yuchen and Li Tengyu again, and, when the train breaks suddenly, slam the two men “too close” together.  This ends with a bloody nose from Chen Yuchen, which has its own kind of cultural double-entendre, but in this case is actually cause by a hard skull whacking into a nose.

So, yeah, what to make of where this is going…. I’m not sure.

Let’s Take the Train Together, Shall We? is not, so far as I know, listed as a yaoi, so I can’t be certain things are going to go as they should.  In fact, what I’m suspecting is going to happen next is that now that Li Tengyu’s overly touchy boss is sitting next to him on a the train and is more a little sloshed, having had an afternoon client meeting at the Taiwanese version of an izakaya, there’s going to a Big Misunderstanding between our boys when touchy-feely boss gets a little too physically friendly with Tengyu.

Now, how that’s going to play out will be interesting.  Is there going to be a whole lot of Chen Yuchen avoiding Li Tengyu because “OH SHIT HE’S A HOMO!” or what?

I don’t know, but things could go terribly, terribly wrong from here.

Someone hold me.

Ruriiro no Yume by Morishima Akiko

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Mangasaurs is kind of annoying.  I really like the reader, in general. There aren’t any of annoying pop-up ads you find on sites like MangaPanda, but once you start reading something it stays in your ‘library’ until you down vote it. I’m sure that works fine for a lot of readers because then they can keep track of what they started and stopped, but I…

I just feel guilty.

I started Ruriiro no Yume and then kind of thought ‘meh, I don’t want to deal with a collection of one-shots’ and stopped. But, when I went back to Mangasaurs, the site reminded me, HEY, YOU NEVER FINISHED THIS, YOU LOSER.

So what’s a nice Midwestern girl to do?  I dutifully finished all 7.2 chapters of the complete volume. Now Mangasaurs can’t yell at me any more.  I will confess I skimmed some of these.

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The first story “A Lapis-Lazuli Blue Dream,” which the collection is named after, follows 28 year old Rokujou Ruri.  Rokujou tells us she has one dream: to marry before 30, if possible, and have a child so she can name it after a precious stone, like herself. This would be an excellent dream, except for the fact that she’s woken up in bed with a woman, Mikuni.  It was a drunken fumble in the night, but, turns out, for Mikuni, it was serious.

Now the question becomes: how serious is Rokujou about Mikuni? Especially if she has to give up her dream of a husband and kids? (Spoiler: it works out.)  I ended up liking this story okay. The art style is a bit childish, but the themes are fairly mature, which is what worked for me.  The sex is mildly explicit (read: nakedness, but mostly cuddles,) but there’s a lot of blushes and handholding and kisses.  Not actually my favorite in the collection, which might explain why I set it down before being guilted into continuing.

The second story is “Princess of the Stars” and follows Yui and Tsumugi, who were the ‘princess’ and the ‘prince’ of their high school (a phenomenon I may NEVER truly understand), are now in college and the shine of their romance has worn off with time.

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Now it’s all bra washing at midnight in the dorm room sink and ‘why are you sleeping on the floor?!’

Luckily, it turns out that sex is the cure to what ails them. (Again, very soft focus on the sexy bits.)

I dunno, this one left me a little *shrug* ‘WTF’ I mean, yeah, this could have been a nice Very Special Episode about how it’s maybe not such a good idea to hang all your dreams on your high school sweetheart, but I guess that wouldn’t make for a good romance, then would it?

The next story “Honey & Mustard” was probably my favorite in this collection.  This story follows two ex-lovers who have remained friends: Karashina Kaori (the mustard homonym) and Amai Mitsuki (the honey homonym) and their weird little competition to see which of the two of them can seduce the cute food truck server girl, Mai.

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Initially, Mai’s colleague in the food truck is VERY AGAINST THIS WHOLE HOMO THING.  Until, of course, she realizes that ‘the lady doth protest too much’ and the whole reason she’s super cranky about all the female attention Mai gets is because she’s in to Mai.

I think my favorite thing about this particular story is that the two exes are all, “D’aw, look! Young love. Kind of reminds us of us…” Meaningful look, followed by, “Yeah, good thing we’re over that.”

Honestly, that made me super happy.

I skipped “Nostalgia” because it was about an adopted daughter who falls for the woman who raised her as her mother.  I just… yeah, sorry NOPE.  Not for me.

“The Season of the 20-Year Old Virgin”/”On a Night when the Moon was Full” was okay.  It was about Emi (the aforementioned 20-year old) and her decade older lover, Keiko.  The majority of the story is about Emi feeling inadequate for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is that Keiko is more experienced and Emi hasn’t done it with anyone, much less Keiko.

Not to worry, Emi and Keiko get it done.

Sorry I killed the suspense there, but this is yuri. Getting it done is kind of the point, after all.

The last one was another incest one that I skipped, “Soft-Boiled Fujoshi” about college-studen Hayami Che a doujinshi mangaka who has fantasies about her high school age sister.  Yep, okay… you kids have fun, but you can leave me out, k?

But, all and all, I would rate this collection ‘meh.’ I could easily have read an entire volume about Honey & Mustard, but nobody asked me.

Alas.

Under One Roof by Fujio

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This shoujo ai manga was ADORABLE.  Unfortunately (or fortunate, depending,) it’s not complete, but on-going.  So, I’m going to have to keep tuning in for this one!

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The story of Under One Roof follows Yoshida, a twenty-something woman who has finally gotten up the gumption (and, more importantly the cash!)  to move out of her parents’ house… right into a room in the house of an out lesbian, Asou.

Oh, myyyyyy!

Except, it’s not really like that at all. Asou is perfectly respectful of Yoshida’s space, etc.  However, that doesn’t stop Yoshida from falling head-over-heels… slowly.  I think, in fact, that’s one of my favorite things about Under One Roof.  The relationship between Yoshida and Asou builds very slowly.  They’re literally charmed by each other in small increments.  Just like in real life.

The art style is kind of fascinating too.   As you can see by this opening set of panels, it osculates between semi-realistic/traditional manga-style to kind of chibi.

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Milage may vary, but the art really worked for me.  Also, this manga reads differently because it reads in columns.  You read all the way down the right before moving on the the left.  That threw me a bit more, but again, I got used to it very quickly.

The chibi style works really well in the cute/romantic moments, like when in response to a drunken joke, Yoshida kisses Asou you get this

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Dude. You kiss pretty good for a straight girl!

Did I mention that Under One Roof is tots adorbs?  IT’S TOTALLY ADORABLE.

And I can’t wait for the next one!!

I Love, Love You / Boku wa Anata ni Koi o Suru by Ichikawa Kei

So, okay, I decided today to give the old ‘tsundere uke’ search option a try. I have to admit that I was surprised by the number of hits that came up. I think the search engine is a little broad because not all of the manga it generated in this list seemed to be yaoi.  But, I may be working my way down some of these, just because I can.

But first, a friend of mine managed to find the THIRD chapter of Suteneko no Karute/ Love Song for an Abandoned Cat. (It’s very cute, highly recommended. The fourth chapter, however, follows another couple. That story is also sweet, but very different. Don’t be as surprised by the sudden change as I was).

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I Love, Love You / Boku wa Anata ni Koi o Suru  is an office romance, slice-of-life yaoi that made me wonder if ‘tsundere uke’ simply meant that instead of copious crying, there would be complaining during sex on the ‘uke’s’ part.

Also, this is the second time that, after the confession that our hero is gay, we get this massive concern and a line like: “Don’t you find that disgusting? Aren’t you horrified?”

Which kind of just makes me sad, but, you know, I think it’s suppose to.

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Okay, so, here we have Makasi, a new employee at some office or other.  He’s being trained by grumpy, curmudgeon Korokawa (skinny-a$$ hotty pictured above.)  Korokawa is the kind of sempai that everyone hates. In fact, it’s kind of amazing to everyone in the office how long Makasi has lasted under his tutelage.

Literally, two thirds of this one-shot manga is office drama.  To be fair, I find Japanese office culture kind of fascinating. This story, for instance, opens with Makasi being sent to wake up Korokawa, who has apparently overnighted–like you do–in the company’s nap room (because there’s a nap room.)  Voluntary overtime seems pretty standard. In fact, apparently there’s a term called sabisu zangyo that partly explains this phenomenon. Then, of course, too, there is the whole exchanging business cards etiquette….

At any rate, Makasi is chosen as part of a team to go to a conference. The conference is in some part of town he seems to know well, but is VERY RELUCTANT to return to for some reason.

Dunt duh DAH…..

Right, so the conference goes well.  But our heroes are basically ordered to go out drinking–again ,a thing called nomikai, which you see A LOT in various manga. But, unlike the usual nomikai, the bosses actually bail–leaving our heroes to their own devices.

When Makasi has an awkward encounter with a former coworker, Makasi suggest they go somewhere closer to home, like, maybe his home.

Oh, myyyyyy.

Once at Makasi’s place, Korokawa bullies out of Makasi what the deal was with the weird exchange between him and his former colleague.  Here’s where we get the “ARGH I’M GAY, ISN’T THAT SO GROSS!!? YOU’RE GOING TO HATE ME NOW” drunken confession. Apparently, Makasi got fired for being gay at his last job.

Dude. Here is where it would actually be nice to be in America.  They can’t do that here, and you have legal recourse, because that’s not okay.

But, apparently, it’s still totally a thing in Japan. In fact, being fired for being gay really messed up Makasi and he was groundless for a long time and even spent time abroad trying to outlive the shame of it all.

Korokawa is shocked, but not grossed out. In fact, he’s just drunk enough to not even really  be bothered by much of anything.  Makasi, meanwhile, is just drunk enough to think it’s a good idea to go all the way with his straight boss and to blurt out a very sloppy love confession while taking advantage of his drunken sempai, which is the title of this piece, “I love, love you.”

It’s… I dunno. The sex is pretty average, goes right for anal, and… then there’s a lot of morning-after guilt.

Not a huge turn on for me, personally.

I also find the trope this manga ends on kind of odd. It’s the one in which the previously straight guy is all, “Whelp, that was good times” and is completely unfazed by having spent the night with some dude.  That was exactly how Youhei was after being coached through topping our neko hero of Suteneko no Karute/ Love Song for the Abandoned Cat.  Apparently, it’s just a thing, because, literally there’s Masaki all guilt-stricken and near tears and Korokawa shrugs it off with a, “Whatever,  man, I’m hungry, make me breakfast.”

Because he has no food in the house, Makasi ends up asking Korokawa out on their first date.

I think the cutest moment is when, after Makasi kisses Korokawa, and asks him about it, he has this reaction:

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I don’t know. I’m kind of amused by the drunken grumpy stare that ends with an ‘OMG wait what?’

But, eh, this one was all right. Nothing to write home about, as it were.