As soon as I saw the cover of Don’t Say Any More, Darling, I recognized Fumi Yoshinaga’s art style. I swear she has exactly one template for “handsome man.” It’s all good in this collection of shorts, however, because you don’t have to be able to distinguish VERY SLIGHT variations in handsome man template1 from handsome man template2 in order to keep track of an epic-sized set of characters like in Ooku.
Don’t Say Any More, Darling is the second in my Quatrefoil yaoi review.
When I showed off my pile of manga to Shawn, I told her that the reason I’m so giddy about the yaoi collection at Quatrefoil is because I literally read the entirety of Ramsey County Library‘s yaoi collection in one weekend. To be fair to RCL, I had already read the nine volumes they have of What Did You Eat Yesterday? / Kinou Nani Tabeta? (speaking of Yoshinaga-sensei.) But, otherwise, their collection included Vassalord and a smattering of others.
Manga, RCL has a ton of. Yaoi, not so much.
I will say that previous to this volume, I might have suggested that Yoshinaga-sensei was a bit of a prude. I mean, the guys in What Did You Eat Yesterday? talk pretty gay, but you never see them even kiss. To be fair, hardly anyone is reading that one for Teh Gay. (Probably only me.) We’re all tuning in for the recipes.
Yoshinaga-sensei ACTUALLY manages on-screen sex in these one-shots, at one point even giving us a foursome. So, thumbs up for that. On the other hand, we also get a very weird May/December straight romance (WITH NAKED BITS-ARGH MY EYES) in the middle of all the queer, which was a bit jarring, but whatever.
The first chapter, the title chapter, follows Kouhei and Tadashi. Here we have another dynamic that Yoshinaga-sensei likes a lot. Kouhei is the very serious, high-level professional. Since we already had Shiro as a lawyer in What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Koehei is a doctor. His best friend since high school, Tadashi, is a layabout lyricist who seems incapable of taking care of even his own basic needs.
Kouhei likes to nag Tadashi a lot, and call him ‘homo.’ (The lad doth protest too much, methinks!)
I have to admit, I liked their chemistry instantly. They were so comfortable with each other in fact that I briefly wondered if I’d missed a previous volume and that this was a much longer, on-going manga.
Kouhei might grumble about his good-for-nothing pal, but his life is no bed of roses, either. The instant he steps into his house, his parents pop up with another candidate for a miai, an arranged marriage date. Mom harangues Kouhei about being nearly 30 and destined for a potbelly and bald head. Dad, meanwhile, scores the real hit by calling him a ‘parasite shinguru,’ a parasite single!
Okay, that’s it! Those are fightin’ words!
Thus, Kouhei reluctantly agrees to meet this girl. He’s expecting her to be ugly, because she’s smart (grrr, Kouhei. Just when I was liking you, too!) Turns out she is nerdy, but very cute–in fact she reminds him of Tadashi! After the moderately successful date, Kouhei calls his BFF, like you do, only to find him post coitus!
This triggers just the right circumstances so that Kouhei is compelled to rush over to Tadashi’s place for a love confession and rough sex.
Best line in the chapter? Tadashi, sensing maybe Kouhei is on his way, tells the hook-up, “After you’ve ejaculated, I want you to leave and never come back, okay? Oh… that’s good.” Dude: “I’m coming.” Tadashi, basically: okay bye! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!
The second chapter is “My Eternal Sweetheart” which is, quite startlingly, science fiction horror, and, as such, probably my favorite chapter in this collection.
We meet young master Arthur Ruffwood (OMG, I just got that PUN) who is stuck inside a mansion because he is suffering from immune deficiency syndrome. Wahh! But, he’s 15! And all he wants is SEX!
So what do you do? You holo-call your genius older brother,
Tony Stark the Elder Ruffwood, the doll-maker and ask for a ‘sexaroid.’
Probably my favorite part of this manga is Arthur’s various descriptions of the droids he wants.
Actual quote: “You know that movie ‘Oscar Wilde’? I want someone handsome like Jude Law, but with no chest hair.” Dude. Seriously. Stop. Lesbians everywhere are like, wait, we can get them without chest hair??!! But, Arthur goes on, “Oh, and could you make him a bit smarter, too? Or he could also be like Rutger Hauer in ‘Ladyhawke!’ He’s cool.”
Hilarious! Also? YES, PLEASE.
But, then this light, cute chapter turns into horror when, randomly, Arthur murders all his ‘bots.
Yeah, I just said murders.
As in: blood everywhere. He even kills of sweet Ms. Hamliton, who he thinks of like a mother. Elder brother is weirdly unfazed. I mean, he shows up in a completely hazmat suit to see WTF is going on and scolds Arthur because, listen, these dolls aren’t cheap and besides, they’re kind of almost real people, given all the tissue–they think, they grow older….
Then we have a three year timeskip, wherein Arthur is down to two lovers. Ms. Hamliton has been repaired, and Arthur is graduated from long-distance high school. But, he’s still not happy. He wants one more love bot. And what he wants? His brother.
Now, I was like… uh… okay.
‘Incest’ is one of those tags I usually skip when I see it on AO3. But, I really liked the story so far and I was kind of curious how this bloody (literally!) train wreck was going to end. But, I figured Onii-chan would just send a look-a-like ‘bot and so, it wasn’t EXACLY incest…
Except this twisty story has one more final twist. One I should have seen coming, because the clues were all there, but didn’t. So, I don’t want to spoil that final bit, because I’m going to recommend you seek out this volume. Or, at the very least, this chapter.
The next is “Fairlyland” and it is another science fiction yaoi. In fact, it’s kind of a post-apocalyptic magical realism yaoi. Meet Ryohei, a child psychologist/counselor who is, maybe, the last man on earth. It’s a super odd apocalypse, he notes, when he finally runs into the one other person around, Kaouru because the food doesn’t spoil. The two lone survivors get to talking and Ryohei discovers that Kaouru is actually happy with the situation. He was badly bullied in school and he… uh…. wished everyone would go away. Ryohei puts on his counselor hat and is all, “No, you can’t blame yourself, etc., etc.” Kaouru has a breakthrough, and thinks, yeah…. maybe ONE other person around would be okay…BUT, WAIT!
Ryohei was a ghost.
The last line is a doozy, “And so… this is how god punished even the last remaining person on earth…”
OOOoOooo-KAY. Not depressing at all, why do you ask??
Then we have random straight sex in the next chapter, “One May Day.” The only thing I’ll say about that one is that I’ll never understand why censors have no problem with full-on boobies, nipples and all, but penises and testicles are these erased empty spaces. Also, because this story appeared in the middle of a yaoi collection, I kept expecting our old professor hero to fall for a hot young boy/student.
The last installment is called “The Pianist.” In “The Pianist” we see Yoshinaga-sensei exploring another reoccurring theme for her: THE ABJECT TERROR GAY MEN FACE AT THE PROSPECT OF GROWING OLD.
I have no idea how real this is, but Yoshinaga-sensei is pretty convinced that getting old and worn out it pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a hot gay boi. In fact, it might be grounds for suicide. I mean, really, when you’re cute, younger bar hook-up is horrified that a geezer like you wants to bottom? Dude, you might as well die.
I mean, really, so you lost your piano talent? That’s not really why you’re sad. You’re devastated by the fact that you can’t pull like you used to.
Seriously, that is the thematic arc of this story. So… it’s a little SAD.
Also, Yoshinaga-sensei seems to also have built in a subliminal message that cigarette smoking makes you gay. In the first chapter, our two heroes first bond in high school over the fact that when the chemistry teacher has forgotten her matches, they’re the two who automatically reach for their lighters when she promises she won’t tell on anyone who can provide. Here in “Pianist” sad old piano player dude has fantasies of hooking up with the young kid who approaches him with a carton of cigarettes–see young kid recently quit, so, you know, someone should have them.
Young kid keeps coming up with reasons to give sad piano player more smoking paraphernalia to the point that sad piano player is pretty convinced that young kid is super hot for him.
Only… yeah, no.
The rejection at the end is played for sympathy/laughs, but there’s no sexy hook-up except the interrupted one with bar hook-up and all the other scenarios that play out in sad piano player’s head. So I don’t know how to feel about that one, especially since it ends the volume.
I get the sense that if Yoshinaga-sensei were a man, she’d totally be gay, and she would write the most amazing yaoi in the history of ever. I mean, I had to pull out my reading glasses for this volume because, like most of Yoshinaga’s work, it’s very talk-y, very dense (not exactly meaty, but her plots can be very well executed, see: “My Eternal Sweetheart.”)
But, her gay men are also always so, so lonely, even when they’re with someone (or several someone’s). I don’t know if she does that to add depth/realism, or if it’s a bit of internalized homophobia. I mean, maybe she’s just attracted to unhappy sad sacks?
In her straight romance she was super-critical of the traditional, devoted wife. She made it very clear that simple, simpering happiness is a huge turn-off for her characters (and one can assume, by extension, the mangaka herself.) The professor’s previous marriage sounded like a love of equals, of intellectual rivals.
Yet, she never manages to hook up her gay men with people who would satisfy them the same way. One of my biggest complaints about What Did You Eat Yesterday? is how she seems to portray Shiro as settling for Kenji. Shiro is far happier cooking for him than he is hanging out with Kenji. I mean, maybe you could see that as ‘married life,’ but there’s a kind of note of self-loathing, a shrug of the shoulder, “Meh, I don’t really deserve to be 100% happy, anyway,” vibe that floats around the edges of that series, IMHO. What’s that line all the yaoi guys say?
“He’s not so bad, after all.”
I don’t know how to feel about that, because generally I think of Yoshinaga-sensei as one of the better yaoi writers out there. She can perform plot that is still sexy, and even if all the handsome guys are cut from virtually all the same cloth, it a PRETTY cloth and they’re often interesting. If nothing else, she does nagging/joking banter really well. She’s always a pleasure to read, even if it randomly ends in murder.
So, yeah, I mean, she’s always worth a read. Now I’m just waiting for her to write a legitimately HAPPY couple.
I may be waiting a long, long time.