Himegoto Asobi/Hide and Seek by Yaya Sakuragi

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Okay, you guys, this is new.  You see this volume?  I actually bought it.  I was at Barnes & Noble with my family today and, in the used section, I found three different yaoi titles. And I bought them all.  Of course, I brought it home and discovered there were actually three volumes of this particular one, so I ended up reading most of it on-line, anyway. Mangagogo has it here: http://old.mangago.com/read-manga/himegoto_asobi/mh/v01/c001/10/

SPOILERS

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WARNING: NSFW LANGUAGE BELOW

The set-up of Himegoto Asobi/Hide and Seek involves a scenario we’ve seen before. Divorced single dad/straight guy, Shuji, meets handsome, out-gay doctor Saji and, I dunno, just decides being seduced by a dude would be a laugh and then, predictably, falls head-over-heels (and heels over head!) for him.

I don’t know whose fantasy this is.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like it.  I ended up liking it so much that I sought out the other two volumes of Himegoto Asobi/Hide and Seek and read them in one night.  But, it’s kind of odd, don’t you think?  Is the idea that straight guys just need the right gay guy to turn gay for a queer fantasy? Or, do straight girls fantasize that all straight guys have a secret gay deep inside?

One of the things I like about this ‘trope,’ if it is one, is that usually the stories that explore the straight-guy-falls-for-gay-guy dynamic go a lot deeper (pardon the pun!) in exploring what attraction is.  The straight guy needs to soul search, you see. He needs to wonder what it actually is about this guy that’s turning him on (besides the getting f*cked/f*cking someone).

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Also–and this is becoming a very important thing for me the more yaoi I read–the uke/bottom never cries.

I mean, I don’t think Shuji even did the customary tear-up during anal, you know? This straight dude is tough.  He can take it up the ass for the first time and not even get a little droplet in the corners of his eyes.  And frankly, I’m down with that.  (I helped, I think, that Shuji was a well-prepared gay lover and had lube and patience, since, you know, he’s a doctor and all that.)

But, even when they have the classic misunderstanding break-up, Shuji toughs it out.  He gets wistful.  He gets despondent.  He drinks too much. But, there’s none of this sobbing thing that seems typical of certain yaoi.

I think another thing I tend to like about stories like this, where the mangaka decides the romance is going to be straight-turning-gay, is that there’s moments of ‘real talk’ about being gay.  Often, you don’t get a lot.  The homophobia I’ve encountered in yaoi really is heavy on the phobia–even in this series, Saji is grateful that Shuuji isn’t grossed out the first time he sees another man’s hard-on. (??)  But, what I don’t see is a lot of worry about hate crimes from other straight people. Mostly Shuuji’s Shinto priest friend, whom, it is explained is a prude about sex, anyway, tells Shuuji he’s disgusting, but Shuu laughs it off, like it’s no big deal.  So, the social aspect of being gay is weirdly commonplace. (The only place I’ve really seen the social aspect of homophobia dealt with was in Otouto no Otto / My Brother’s Husband which is targeted directly at a queer audience.)

But, even so, I like that queerness is on the page, you know?  You tend in these stories to get character moments where people think about what it’s going to mean if they’re suddenly gay.  Gay marriage isn’t a common thing in Japan (I think currently only a few places allow it) and so thinking about what it means to commit without marriage is a thing that a lot of us old queers went through.  So, when I see characters considering long-term relationships this way, it feels real to me.  The ending of Himegoto Asobi/Hide and Seek really resonated for me,  in fact, because I literally had the same kind of thought process–which is basically: time will tell if this stands the test of time.

Straight-becomes-gay stories also seem to have moments where the straight guy will talk about what’s different about being gay.  This isn’t something that gets acknowledged a lot in our culture.  The GLBTQ movement has intentionally spent a lot of effort in ‘normalizing’ gayness.  “We’re just like you, only two women!”  Except, thing is, we’re not. And, I really like seeing even the small things explored.  “Oh, I’m not used to being the one cuddled!” our hero admits at one point.  “I know you’re the top, but can I be the one to hold you after sex?”  This kind of stuff.  Even though it’s small, it touches on a reality of being queer–where you know, one isn’t always the femme, and the other isn’t always the butch–and I appreciate it deeply.

I ended up also really generally liking the characters in Himegoto Asobi/Hide and Seek, too. The stuffy doctor with the scary face combined with the driven-yet-free-spirited-single-dad really hit the part of me that adores odd couples.  I like ying/yang relationships, where one person is almost the polar opposite of the other, and they have to struggle to find common ground beyond animal attraction.

I mean, this is literally the sort of relationship I can write a million words about.  So, it didn’t really surprise me to find myself liking the odd couple dynamic here, too.

So, I don’t know.  Maybe this whole straight-guy-discovers-the-joys-of-queerness is my fantasy, after all.

Or, as we use to say:

10% is not enough, recruit, recruit, recruit!

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