Salarymen on public transportation! Can it any get better than this?
Let’s find out!
First of all, when doing my usual prep for these posts, I realized that I’ve been misrepresenting Mangago! Here I’d been calling it Mangagogo (which, what the hell, why would you not just go for it? Go-go, baby!) But, even if I like my version better, technically the site is called Mangago, so my apologies.
Right, okay, so Love Bus Stop is another yaoi you can find at Quatrefoil. Maybe you’re wondering why bother checking a book out when you can read it on-line? Well, perhaps you would prefer to read on your phone or iThing or laptop or have Google beam it onto your retinas. For me, I like the context a paper volume provides. For one, you get the official translation. That’s not a dis at scanlations or their bevy of fan/volunteer translators. HOWEVER, you will not get what I’m dubbing the “Let’s Take the Train Together… problem.” There will never be weird, intrusive editorializing, unless the mangaka puts it there. Secondly, the copy is always clean. No squinting at grainy reproductions. Third, you get to see what else is advertised in the back. To me, that’s the best part? It’s like the previews at the movies.
Like, who doesn’t want to rush out and find the TASTE THE FLAVOR OF LOVE… Vanilla volume?
Just like the previews give you a hint of who the movie producers think is sitting in the audience at the movies, this ad copy tells you a lot about Love Bus Stop.
So, thus prepared, let’s get to it. Love Bus Stop has six chapters, plus an extra. In a startling deviation from the norm, the first chapter is called “Fantasy Love Bus Stop” and not “Love Bus Stop” per the title. The story opens with our hero thinking, “I never thought it was like that.” At first I thought he mean ‘like that’ in the GAY way, but I think he means that he didn’t realize that catching Teh Gay would involve, like, crushing out on someone.
Like, you know, people do. (Pro tip: most queer people find out they’re gay by having GAY feelings for people they meet. You know, like how straight people figure out they’re straight. Okay so maybe it’s not an “AHA! I must be straight! moment, but you know the same confusing rush of feelings….)
Which does beg the question: what did he think it was going to be like?
Maybe our hero is just shocked because he feels so much like a school girl. (I will say, having thought I was straight in high school and only figuring out the gay in college, did mean that I sometimes felt SO STUPIDLY high school about my crushes. So, this kind of makes sense.)
I guess dude was just thrown to realize that seeing the guy waiting for the bus made his heart all doki-doki and how he instantly starts having sex fantasies–all of which are graphically drawn out for us. (Thank YOU, Natsumizo-sensei!)
Except one time when, hilariously, they are represented as shoujou-flowers that the love interest just blows through:
The fun of this chapter, of course, is how our Walter Mitty-esque hero keeps spinning out wilder and wilder fantasies–once he decides that because his mystery salaryman has good posture he must be a detective. Cue cop fantasies.
The chapter ends when our hero works up the courage to introduce himself!
*sniff* Do I smell the flavor of love? Is it…. VANILLA?? Yes, gentle readers, we have stumbled into BL territory. Alas.
“Love Bus Stop” seems to pick up with the same couple, some time later, when they are casually being friendly. They go out to eat together regularly, anyway. Our hero–who now has a name: Tsuzuki Fujusaki–has discovered that his fantasy man is kind of dork. He’s clumsy, blunt, easily lost (like can’t find restaurants) and sensitive. But, that just makes Tsuzuki love him EVEN MORE. When a co-worker runs into Tsuzuki helping his fantasy bus salaryman into a cab, he rushes up and is all, “Oh! Your lover! What’s she like–? .. ???”
In a corner, Tsuzuki freaks out, basically blurting, “WHO? THIS GUY? HE’S NOT EVEN A FREIND. BARELY KNOW HIM. I WOULD NOT BE PINING FOR HIM. NO! NO HOMO!!”
Predictably, mystery salaryman is a bit miffed. Like, even if he wasn’t “that way” (which, btw ‘sensitive’ telegraphed like a BEACON,) dude would be pretty pissed off to be not even a friend.
And of course, he’s not just mad to not even be recognized as a friend, he’s secretly hiding his own crush.
Tsuzuki does about two seconds of soul searching and comes to the conclusion: “No homo? Did I say ‘no homo’? I meant SO Homo!” With that settled, he rushes to mystery guy’s apartment and makes his love confession. Boys together = the end!
I’m not sure they even kiss (outside of Tsuzuki’s fantasies in part one of this.)
Next up, “Blame it On Love.” Our mangaka seems to like to set up her one-shots with a opening line. Kirishima’s is, basically, “When they said ‘it gets better’ I thought it would, but it sucks and I’m still not over my high school crush.”
Except he says it: “When I grow up, things will work out. I believed that back then.”
Which is maybe more succinct, but whatever.
The story here is that Kirishima is a guy who clearly could be enjoying a carefree life of fun, decidedly NON-vanilla sex…. (The texts this guy gets from his hook-ups! Yowza!)
OMG, Kirishima! GO OUT WITH THIS STRANGER MORE! THAT is the yaoi I want to read!!
But no, Kirishima is hung-up on some dude he crushed out on in high school who seems hopelessly straight (my guess is: HE ISN’T!)… and, worst of all, is now working in the same office! Oh, the heart ache, oh the angst.
I think I actually like how these two get together though. As they’re headed back to Kirishima’s after some office party or other, they’re accosted (off-screen) by one of Kirishima’s hook-ups who’s gives them lip: “Whoa, replaced already by this stuck-up looking man! And you were all over me too, you skank!” And straight boi/old flame is all, “Suck it, bitch!”
I actually had to re-read that panel a couple of times to make sure it was really straight boi who had the sassy comeback, and yes, yes, it was. Kirishima is even a little like, “Uh… … did I know you were so sassy?”
This of course gives straight boi the opening he needs to say. “Look, moron, there’s a lot you didn’t know about me, like how I’M A FLAMING HOMO.” Rough smooching commences to prove it!
Except Natsumizu-sensei writes this much more subdued. (See advert for “vanilla.”)
Next up is a florist AU–okay, actually, I guess this is flower shop canon, called “All My Flowers For You” in which I learn that the Japanese middle school kids have it rough. Apparently they have a “work week” as part of “vocational eduction.”
My Google Fu has failed me and thus I have no information on how accurate a description of school life this is, but, if this manga reflects some real thing, apparently teachers send their students off to do work in various shops to learn something about work life?
This seems a little odd, because: middle schoolers? But then 1) this is Japan and 2) maybe this is like “Take Your Son/Daughter to Work Day” here in the states and not really child labor. The kids do seem to be doing some of the work unsupervised, but probably this is an indication that this is a casual thing–like a kind of ‘working’ field trip, where they let you touch the button at the factory, but you’re not actually clocking in hours.
At any rate, if anyone out there knows what the hell, I’d love to hear about it.
Sensei is one of those ‘bespectacled’ types and he’s kind of cold fish, as well. The florist meanwhile is a flouncy stereotype who keeps throwing himself on sensei in a flirtatious, flippant way. Except that one time, when he gets serious because there is a rush order and he really needs grown-up help. Sensei, being the responsible sort, steps up and florist rewards him with a bouquet.
The bouquet, I think, has been sprayed with those ‘homosexual pheromones’ that the fake news sites are always convinced liberal politicians are putting in the water supply. Because, just staring at the flower arrangement in the bucket he dumped them into in his bathroom makes sensei wish he would be looked at by florist the way florist looks at his flowers.
Uh, okay, that’s kind of sudden, but… sure, why not? Seems like as good a reason as any on which to base a love confession! Go for it, sensei!
Meanwhile, apparently the florist is wishing to be cared after the way sensei cares after his kids.
Well, at least they get together and smooching commences!
Back to the salaryman office (a hotbed of Teh Gay, let me tell you!) in “First Kiss.” In fact, this love affair starts with a warning that seems seasonally appropriate: don’t get drunk at office parties.
Okay, so in this story, it actually starts in spring because I’m guessing Sakura Season. Who cares? The point is, there is an office party and our hero gets HAMMERED. So hammered, in fact, that he decides the best way to welcome the new guy to the firm is with a big, wet, passionate kiss. Hence the chapter title, “First Kiss.”
The twist is… this ‘first kiss’ is NOT new guy’s first. In FACT, it is, unexpectedly, totally returned. Double the passion! And a deep meaningful look and the vaguely challenging line, “You sober now?”
In fact, let’s f*ck all this angst-y, I wonder if I’m gay bullish*t and skip right to the screwing like rabbits!
So, what’s the conflict? Well, a rom-com misunderstanding wherein our hero overhears new guy saying he doesn’t want to go to any party where hero is any more. So, hero is thinking, “Huh, okay. I’m good for screwing, but you don’t actually like me. NICE.” Except, of course, new guy was saying that to the rest of the office because he’s afraid that if they both got drunk it would all end in humping on the office furniture he’s so into our hero.
It takes a snowy day and stopped trains to get there, though.
But they get there and it’s all good.
The final chapter “Passion Bus Stop” is a return to our original couple and a funny story about how long it takes fantasy/nerd salaryman to be ready for sex. This is literally a story about the rewards of consent and taking it slow with someone you love.
The extra is actually kind of amusing. Nattsumizu-sensei tells us about how easily she can come up with yaoi stories. She sketches out how she can just be flipping through a magazine and be like, “Oh, expensive couch! Someone should get f*cked on that!”
So that kind of made me happy.