The Trials and Tribulations of Queer Otaku

I’m going to go off-script for a moment and make some general commentary prompted by an essay over on Yaoi Playground.  Apparently, there’s some shipping crisis over in the Tokyo Ghoul fandom.  I’m not going to pretend I know anything about what’s happening there. Knowing ship wars from Bleach, I’m sure it’s ugly af. But, Yaoi Playground’s essay implied that gay/queer ship fans are particularly angry.  As soon as I heard that, I have to admit, that my sympathy shifted 180 degrees.

Queer fans get the shaft a lot.  And not in a good way.

There’s a couple of things going on here that I’d like to address specifically from a queer point of view.

I feel like queer fans of shounen have been blind-sighted by sudden canon pairings a LOT.  Naruto and Bleach being the most obvious and most egregious examples of this. Both Bleach and Naruto are shounen manga. What most queer fans read shounen for is the same thing I imagine all shounen fans sign up for: Explosions! Action! BIG-SWORDS! Cool fights! Honor and Justice! Big, obvious, evil bads!  Random, unbelievable, but totally awesome power-ups!

Am I right, fam?

Romance, if it’s present at all, tends to be very much of a subplot.  Both Naruto and Ichigo had straight love interests, but that was not what the story was meant to be ABOUT, at least it didn’t seem that way when the stories started.

Then, all of a sudden, at the end, there were marriages and babies and WTF.

I think straight fans should have been angered by those endings, too, and, from what I can tell, many of them were.  Ending an action story with some kind of unnecessary time skip where there are marriages and babies makes literally no sense, and in fact does great harm to your story. You can tell J.K. Rowling I said so, too.  I get the impulse to tie up all the loose threads, but unless you’re specifically writing romance, what a good writer should focus on is making sure that the PLOT is complete: the bad guy(s) are defeated and the world/characters have changed/learned something.

Queer fans are particularly hurt by this impulse because no one ever thinks of us.  (Exceptions being Yuri on Ice! and Legends of Korra.) But, 99.999999% of the time, no matter how hard you shipped their ‘precious friendship,’ the likelihood that the male hero is going to end up with their best male friend/rival is zilch.

The reason queer fans get angry about this isn’t because we expect everyone to be gay, it’s because there is LITERALLY NO REASON TO END AN ACTION MANGA THIS WAY.  The manga can end without a canon ship tacked on.

You don’t see queer fans being upset when the shoujo couple gets together, do you?  (I mean, there are crazy fans, so probably you do, but…) most people know going into shoujo that they’re going to get a girl falling for a boy! That’s the main point of the genre.  Romance novels, end with a romantic HEA.  That’s the deal.

Similarly, no one expects a yaoi hero to suddenly fall for a woman at the end (though I have seen that happen in yuri, so I guess there are exceptions to every expectation/rule.)

My point is, I think queer fans get particularly bent out of shape when a manga that is not otherwise marketed as romantic feels the need to slap on a straight romance.

Speaking of Harry Potter, this move also often feels punitive. I am pretty sure Rowling knew how hard a lot of her fandom shipped Harry and Draco.  I’m also pretty certain that Kubo-sensei knew that most of his fandom preferred one straight ship over the other (all you have to do is see how the Bleach: The Musical was written to confirm.  Similarly, if Kubo-sensei was ever in the audience when the fans screamed when Renji and Byakuya held hands briefly or when Kyouraku flirted with Ukitake, he also knew that he was purposefully breaking hearts when he broke those fan favorite gay couples apart.)  I felt that, too, when Isayama-sensei tacked in a wholly unnecessary “no homo” comment on Reiner and Bertholdt in some of the later chapters of Attack on Titan. Like, it came so out of the blue, that my only conclusion is that the mangaka was reacting to fandom.

And, that’s the second thing.  We have to put up with a lot of queer-baiting.  When I discussed this before in conjunction to Let’s Take the Train Together, Shall We…? a lot of straight fans got bent out of shape.  But, this is a real phenomenon. There are plenty of examples of queerness being used as a tease or as a joke, so that the straight/cis reader can be titillated and/or have a moment of “Oh, haha! People think they’re a couple! How uncomfortable for them, teehee!” when the author has no intention of ever getting the two same-sex characters together.

Often, this happens in shows/manga that I really enjoy.  An example I brought up on my comment over at Yaoi Playground, is Free! Iwatobi Swim Club/Eternal Summer. I loved that show for its queer subtext, but let’s be honest: no one gets together at the end. No one ever explicitly comes out as queer.  People will argue that’s not what that show was about (it’s about swimming!), but I will argue right back that the writers knew what they were doing and did so intentionally.  There’s a whole episode that’s entirely subtextual where Nagisa has to “come out” to his parents and is kicked out.  I mean, sure, you can read that entirely on its surface, but subtext only works if there’s a there there, if you know what I mean?

Girl’s Monthly Nozaki-kun has a lot of this, too.  I also adored that story, and because it’s a shoujo, I was not mad about the ending of the anime.  But, there are definitely moments where there’s a gay element that gets played up…. remember the dating sim episode?  I loved it, but it was a wink-and-a-nod, not full on ‘baiting,’ per se, but it was queerness played for laughs.

These queer-baiting moments aren’t meant to be hurtful, I don’t think.  I think they’re just as the Wikipedia article defines queer-baiting: what they are is trying to draw in queer-friendly audiences.  But, that being said, they are also done with NO INTENTION of ever making good on the queer ship tease.

Queer fans get double-slapped this way.  We get your straight pairing rammed down our throats, while we’re also expected to laugh along at hilariously awkward it is when straight people get mistaken as a gay couple.

I’m not even going to touch the odd fetishizing of our sex that happens.

My point is, if you run across a queer fan who is angry about a straight ship becoming canon?  Try to consider the source. Some fans are just crazy, we all know that. But, sometimes this hurt we’re feeling comes from all the other places where we were unexpectedly, or even intentionally, jerked around. We love our ships with the same passion you do.  We hate to see ours broken, but was also have this huge history of having to be broken.  It used to be that even gay writers wrote only tragic gay romances, where you could find love, but it had to be torn from you.  Ukitake had to die, that was the only way to have pure queer love.

And we’re sick of it.

Thank goodness for “Yuri on Ice!,” eh, fam?

Gangsta. 43

With any luck, this chapter will come out from an easier to read source, but a friend of mine pointed to a downloadable version that seems kosher.

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The cover splash page scan seems to be missing part of Worick, but then again, that seems ominously appropriate to the events of the chapter.

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The story picks up with the aftermath in Ergastulum (the name of the city, but also the name of a Roman building used to hold dangerous slaves.) As usual, there is chaos.  Bodies of Twlights litter the streets and the Normal population is protesting.

In the police office, Cody seems to be attempting to call the Benriya.  Chad tells him not to use that number ever again.  Instead, Chad calls the head of the Twilight Guild, Gina Paulklee.  Chad is angered that the Guild seems to have locked their gates to their own kind. She pushes him off, he keeps pushing, until she says (basically,) “Look, it’s out of your hands. You need to stop worrying about things you failed to protect.” (Cue: close-up on the wanted posters of Nic and Worick.)

Speaking of Worick, he’s still going down whatever weird preprogrammed path that “Storage” has laid out before him.  We get a flashback to young Worick. Worick apparently disrupted some people involved in “slave trade.” I’m assuming Tags here. Big Mama has found him in a rain-drenched street and admonishes him for being on a fool’s errand, since his actions went unnoticed and nothing will ever change.  He cuts her off and says he’s going to keep doing it anyway, because no one else will.

She calls him a foolish boy, but clearly is charmed by his determination to do what’s right. The flashback then transitions to the now with this lovely panel….

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Then she says that Uranos (Corsica) is waiting and so she’s going to introduce him to “Storage.”

Meanwhile, Nic is still in rough shape. His hands are shaking and he complains to Dr. Theo that he’s anxious for his stupid body to work properly again.  Theo tells him he should forget it and just sell his contract to him so that he can study his body for science. Nina is horrified by this proposal, but Nic is like, “Nah, he’s right. I’ll give it to him, but he has to wait. I have one last order.”

The last scene is Alex going back to the Benriya office only to find the beheaded body of Miles, Monroe’s second-in-command. She freaks out and sees Worick’s note that tells her to run, the precise words are “Get out of here.” As Alex laments the fact that they brought her into their lives, we get a close up of the words “Take care” having been scribbled out.

The chapter ends there.

There’s a heavily foreboding sense of doom in this chapter.  The fact that Nic and Dr. Theo are certain enough that Nic is free of his contract is spooky enough, but Worick not even pretending to care enough about Alex to tell her to “take care” IN A GOOD-BYE NOTE pretty much cinches it.

It sets my teeth on edge, because I really want the Benriya to make it out of this alive. Despite the giant red arrows saying Worick is the doomed one in this chapter, I’m actually far more concerned about Nic.  That scene of him talking so casually about his contract was deeply unnerving (though it was always Worick who hated any mention of it, more than Nic. Nic always seemed sort of resigned to the fact that he was disposable property.)

I’m super-glad to see Kohske-sensei back in the game. As I told my friend, I feel like the art is a bit off, a little flat–like, literally.  Normally she cuts in a odd angles. (The art this time reminded me of the art of the spin-off, and I wonder if she’s getting a boost from that artist.  Which would be fine, because I long found that art close enough, you know?) But I’m perfectly willing to give Kohske-sensei all the slack she needs.  She’s been so sick for so long.  I’m just happy that we seem to be right back into the story…. even if it seems deeply foreboding.

I really don’t want any of the trio to die, but I’m not holding my breath….

Host is Down by Nishin Masumi

Still… cooking… Though I appear to be in the final stretch, so this may be the last one for the night.

I decided to search for science fiction yaoi again and I managed to find a quirky, dark one-shot called Host is Down.

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What we have here in an android who appears to be the sole-survivor on a derelict and adrift ship.  In fact, he’s been afloat so long he’s down to siphoning off little bits of energy from what remains of the ship’s power in order to keep himself and the body of his human master, which is being held in stasis, alive.

The ship gets raided.  At first, our hero is unfazed:

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You know what I find attractive in a man? The size of his “battery.”

Then space pirates do as space pirates are.  Cue: fully-functional android jokes and a lot of gang-rape, while the ship itself is also raided. The android seems willing to exchange all this abuse for his master’s stasis chamber being fixed/powered-up. Of course, the pirates say they will, but they really only care about the pillaging and the plundering, being pirates.  In fact, the head pirate is all, ‘you want this fixed, how about a permanent fix’ and starts to go after master with an axe.

Android goes full on assassin mode and his former rapists are now just a bunch of rotting corpses.  The bad guys get a swing in, so our android hero is out for the count… and out an arm.

That is, until real rescue arrives….

They recharge our android healer and give our poor android the bad news, ‘Master is no more.’ “No, no,” our despondent android says, “That’s not right! He should be waking any moment.”  I thought, “Aw, poor delusional android. He got all that abuse for nothing and his master isn’t even still alive.”

Except, there’s a twist.

Should I tell you? I mean, I feel like it might be worth it for you to go and read this extremely short piece and get the pay off for yourself.  At this point, you can probably guess, anyway.  But, suffice to say, I found this one kind of fun and surprising in a horror sort of way.

OMG, last of the fleischkuechle out of the frier!

*collapses*

Ace no Kyuujitsu by Nishida Higashi

I’m staggering these posts, but I’m STILL cooking. So, while I continue to slave over a bubbling deep-frier, I’m reading manga. This time I decided to hop over to my old favorite, Mangago and see what appeared in the “popular” sidebar.  I saw Ace no Kyuujitsu and could NOT resist this cover….

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I mean, am I right?

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Hidaka Tohru is the star pitcher for the Blue Seas.  The season is over and so he’s off for a cruise with his girlfriend… only she cancels on him last minute.  Seems Hidaka-san is kind of a player and boasted about it in some tabloid or another.  Since Hidaka got on at an earlier port, he’s now stuck on the cruise ship without a playmate.  Worse, he’s constantly hounded for autographs and photos.  He loses his patience when a little brat comes up to ask for his autograph and can’t even pronounce his name right. Even though the kid is no more than 8, dude gets up in his face and tells him to bug off.

Generally in a foul mood after that, Hidaka gets drunk at the big opening dinner and has to get escorted off by security.  Not letting that stop him, he moves to the lounge and attempts to set up his own ‘hostess club’ with all the ladies there.  Security is not amused and contrives to trick him into going back to his room for ‘an urgent message.’

The ‘message’ he gets is in the form of a late night visitor.

The visitor tosses him around and eventually pins him, face down on the bed. Hidaka is then told, ‘shape up or get off the boat at the next port of call.’  When Hidaka continues to be belligerent, the masked stranger sticks his fingers up Hidaka’s butt. Like, yeah, just kind of finger rapes him.

Well, well… off to a good start, I’d say, eh?

Yeah, I know. But look at these two:

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A scuffle ensues and Hidaka manages to scratch the assailant’s arm with the edge of a broken lamp.  The guy runs off leaving Hidaka bewildered (and, because this is yaoi, vaguely turned-on.)

The next day, Hidaka is still weirded out by what happened, but he’s out and about.  He sees the annoying kid playing by himself.  The kid accidentally goes over a railing and Hidaka uses his baseball sliding skills to catch the kid.  He saves the boy, but gives himself a concussion.  As he’s passing out, a man thanks him for saving his son—in the very voice of the guy who assaulted him last night!

Of course, it turns out that the assailant is the captain.

Hidaka’s bravery complicates things because even as the captain wanted him off the ship, now it’s kind of not cool to have kind of raped a guy to coerce him into leaving the ship.  Hidaka makes it clear that he knows that the captain is his assailant. The captain mostly avoids dealing with that awkwardness by thanking Hidaka profusely for his son’s life.

What’s kind of amazing throughout this manga is that the captain never is entirely remorseful for his actions. Oh, he apologizes at one point, but he’s kind of unabashedly skeevy and rape-y.  I guess that’s his version of being a seme.  It’s explained that he can overpower this trained athlete because he was in special forces and is some kind of war veteran (though what war Japan has been active in lately, I’m not entirely sure. But, who cares. He’s seen things.  And… maybe got kicked out for being a huge homo?)  The idea that the captain is just the kind of guy who ogles ikemen‘s hot butts is a given all the way through to the HEA.

Also there’s a side character, the security guard/steward, who was apparently the captain’s adjutant during service who is very odd and fussy and weirdly kick-ass (implications make it seem as though he was once a crack sniper, too.)

How the two guys finally get it on is a semi-baffling series of one-upmanship challenges and random ‘hey, so maybe I’m gay and horny?’ moments from Hidaka.  But, when they do get together it’s kind of hot and I found myself sort of deeply amused by the end omake in which they appear to be off on an extended holiday celebrating Hidaka’s retirement from baseball and sending home videos back to teenage kid. Although it says “20 years later” so maybe this is young adult kid, although he seems to still be living with the steward.

The love confession is a pretty good moment too and involves the captain launching himself off the side of the cruise ship to run after Hidaka.  So, I mean, all the rape-y-ness aside, it’s kind of a good story?

I don’t know. It might be the exhaustion kicking in.

Spider-Man by Hirai Kazumasa & Ikegami Ryoichi

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If only the rest of the manga looked like this….

I’m doing some mindless cooking (it makes sense) and so I decided to hit the “surprise me” button over at MangaPanda again.  This time it turned up a singular chapter of the 1970s Spider-Man manga by Hirai Kazumasa (writer) and Ikegami Ryoichi (artist), and I thought, “Okay, why not?”

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For me as a long-time Marvel fan, probably the best part of this was noticing the differences between the Japanese version of the main character of what could arguably be considered Marvel’s flagship title.

The most notable difference is the name.  Gone is Peter Parker, and in his place is Yu Komori (his name sounding quite similar to the Japanese word for spider: kumo.)  Yu is still very nerdy and spends his after school hours in the lab, where he is bit by the self-same radioactive spider that gives him the same superpowers as his American counter-part.

The other startling difference is that in place of Mary Jane is a pen pal, Rumiko.

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Aunt Mei (May)

Rumiko introduces the shounen element here.  She comes to Tokyo to enlist Yu’s help finding her nii-san.  Their mother is sick and is in desperate need of a million yen to pay the hospital bills, but elder brother has gone missing and, being a country girl, she doesn’t know her way around town.

Yu agrees to help her.

Meanwhile, TOTALLY COINCIDENTALLY, there is a bank robbing cyborg on the loose: Electro.  He’s been stealing from banks, almost like he’s desperate for money for something. This is a departure from what I remember about Electro.  I thought he was just a guy who got hit by freak lightning, but in this universe somehow people instantly assume he’s a cyborg (maybe this is just Japan. You know, “Oh, another kaiju… no, one of them cyborgs.”)

Yu doesn’t put two-and-two together though, until it’s too late.

In fact, he helps Rumiko follow her brother’s trail until it grows cold. Yu figures he has failed in his promise to help Rumiko either find her brother or get the money to help pay her mother’s hospital bills. That is, until the Daily Bugle newspaper (the one the Marvel Spider-Man is a photographer for) offers… wait for it…. a MILLION YEN prize to anyone who can capture or kill Electro.

A big fight ensues and Yu rips the mask off only to find…….

Yeah, Electro is Rumiko’s nii-chan.  Life sucks for Yu.  He gives Rumiko the money (with no explanation) and she leaves hating Spider-Man for having killed her elder brother.  Yu is left with guilt about the enormity of the responsibilities involved with superhero-ing.

Despite the massive origin story differences, I would say that, emotional arc-wise, this Japanese Spider-Man is exactly who Spider-Man would be if he were originally from Japan and not Queens, New York, if that makes any sense.  I guess what I mean is that this kind of crushing sense of ‘am I a monster or a hero?’ feels very Marvel.

Also I love that Yu has a pen pal!  That’s both so very 1970s and so… dorky (she says as someone who is an avid pen pall-er well into the 2017s.)

Would I recommend this?  Uh…. maybe as a historical document.  The art is old-timey and not really what I hardly even think of as manga-esque.

Ja mata!

Princess Jellyfish vols. 2 & 3

I was hoping to be able to report something new for the people who have only watched the anime, but I took a quick scan of Wikipedia’s episode synopses for the Princess Jellyfish anime, and it actually looks like my Volume 3 ends a little ahead of where the series ends.  (I accidentally gave myself a tiny bit of a spoiler, but that’s not a big deal to me. I’m one of those odd folks who don’t really care if I’m spoiled for a thing.)

I have put in a request for volume 4 which the Ramsey County Library has listed as ‘in cataloguing’ and for volume 5 which is ‘on order.’  Even though I work at the library, I have no sense of how long it takes for something ‘in cataloguing’ to get processed and put on the shelves, alas.

On the other hand, a quick perusal of the fan sites makes it pretty clear that there likely isn’t going to be a second season of the anime. So, anything I have for you once I get the next volumes should be useful to my anime-only readers.

To that end, I did find an online source for the manga: http://mangakakalot.com/manga/kuragehime  that appears to be up-to-date. The last chapter in the my volume 3 is  #34, “Party Girl,” (which is listed on Mangakakalot as volume 6: chapter 34. I seem to have 2-in-1 volumes.) Looks like these scanlators seem to be uploading on a regular basis so I may hit that site up after I finish volume 4.

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For both volumes the thee-way romance is mostly on hold (with a only few developments, which I’ll get to,) while the ladies of Amars try out a number of different fundraising ideas to save their home from demolition.  The big break-through comes in the form of a flea market. Kuranosuke decides to dig through the commune for stuff to sell. Among the things he gathers up are a couple of the hand-sewn jellyfish dolls that Tsukimi made for herself.  Turns out, these sell like hotcakes.  All the ‘stylish’ find them deeply kaiwaii.

Between this and watching a badly-costumed college theatre production, Kuranosuke hatches a wild plan to launch a jellyfish-inspired dress label.

Meanwhile, elder brother gets caught up in a faked sex scandal with ‘land-shark’ lady.  She got him drunk, poured him into bed half-naked, and then slipped in beside him to take selfies. She’s using this as leverage to get him to use his influence as the PM’s son to broker her land deal.  This mostly works, except for Chieko’s mom, who actually owns the Amars.  She’s been off in Korea being a fan-girl to Bae Yong-joon. But, the crisis comes when evil land-shark lady bribes Chieo’s mom with tickets to one of Bae Yon-joon’s events and it seems as if she might sell up after all.

The romance developments are: elder brother finally twigs to the fact that Tsukimi’s nerd self and her made-up self are the same person (and that he likes her), the blackmailing real estate agent discovers she finds the elder brother’s spontaneous violence against her (he slaps her around when she fakes her suicide), and, probably most significantly, Kuranosuke does the big lean-in for a kiss with Tsukimi. He also calls Tsukimi out on her attraction to his elder brother, and that sends Tsukimi’s otaku self into a kind of tailspin because, I guess, nerds never get lovin’ where she’s from.

I continue to LOVE the slice-of-life moments in this and the ensemble cast.  I’m less thrilled with the continued emphasis on the fact that for these nerdy women, performing femininity is more powerful in society than one’s authentic self. However, some of that is being mitigated by the fact that Kuranosuke begins to recognize the talents that the otaku commune posses both collectively and in community.  There’s several lovely scenes highlighting Chieko’s own sewing talents as well as her connections in the community of doll-makers/collectors. Tsukimi, too, has found a bridge between the world of ‘stylish’ fashion and her fannish obsession with jellyfish, since all the dresses she ends up designing are based on various types of jellies.

So, yeah, still giving this a cautious thumbs up. I will be very interesting to see where this goes from here… and whether I will have the patience to wait for the manga tankōban to come out or if I’ll break and read the rest on-line.

I will say that these two volumes went down fast.  Plus, I had a couple of those classic moments when I realized my family was trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t hear them because I was so deep into the story.

Classic.

Classic otaku.

Princess Jellyfish/Kuragehime (Volume 1) by Akiko Higashimura

I picked up Princess Jellyfish because a friend recommended it to me and I saw that the library had it.

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The premise of this is kind of fun. Tsukimi Kurasita, 18, lives in a commune of self-proclaimed fujoshi and otaku. (If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘fujoshi,‘ it means ‘rotten woman’ and is usually a designation specifically given to otaku/fannish/geek women who are obsessed with BL or yaoi.  The translator’s notes in the back of Princess Jellyfish also implies that in the case of the women in this manga, it’s more that they are generally geeks, but that there’s specifically an element of defying patriarchal expectations of what makes a ‘good girl’ for anyone who self-defines as fujoshi.)

Tsukimi’s geekery is jellyfish. She’s been obsessed with them since she was a little girl.  She reads about jellyfish, she draws them…. everything. She even has a tragic backstory involving jellyfish and a dead mother.

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The inciting incident of this story happens when Tsukimi happens by a fish store and discovers that someone has mistakenly put a moon jellyfish in the same tank as a spotted jellyfish. They are incompatible in way that’s deadly to the spotted jellyfish and Tsukimi tries to get over her social awkwardness/anxiety to tell the clerk this, but is unable to until a brash ‘stylish’ shows up and bullies the clerk into giving Tsukimi the spotted jellyfish in order to save its life.

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Tsukimi is pretty horrified to discover that after their big rescue of the jellyfish, the ‘stylish’ has stayed over.

Worse, this super-cute girl turns out to be a boy–a beautiful boy named Kuranosuki.  Bringing home one of the cool girls would have been bad enough, but boys are strictly verboten in their commune, which they jokingly call the ‘Amamizukan’ the Nunnery.

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Tsukimi accidentally pulled off his wig and was trying it on in the mirror.

Kuranosuki insists that he is not okama, but cross dresses as a ‘hobby’ and as an easy way to get away from his high-powered political family. (Sure, honey.)

Kuranosuki, who usually hangs out with the cool girls, suddenly discovers the joy of nerds.  Like, they talk about more than sex and clothes! What are these wonderful creatures? I must pet them and hug them and call them my own!

Yes, it’s true. Nerds make much better friends than the clubbing sort. However, the Amars (nuns) as they call themselves, do NOT want men in the commune, so Tsukimi is the only one who knows Kuranosuki is a boy.

But, even as a lady Kuranosuki rubs the Amars the wrong way. They tell Kuranosuki to get lost.  Repeatedly. They have a quiet life. Go home; you’re too friendly.

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But like every privileged rich dude everywhere, Kuranosuki ignores their request and worms his way into their hearts by being persistent AF and buying them stuff. (Niku! The answer to unlocking nerd girls’ hearts, apparently? ‘Niku,’ aka meat. Seriously. Bring fancy meat to hotpot night is apparently the ticket.)

Then, Kuranosuki decides that what Tsukimi needs is a makeover.

And, let’s face it, ladies, makeovers are magic, am I right?

I mean I saw Grease. I know how this works. You get the big dance number at the end and the Happily Ever After if you ‘dress to impress.’

And, sure enough, when Tsukimi is all dressed up, that’s when she stumbles into Kuranosuki’s older brother and she finally feels chemistry for a guy.  Of course, he’s only hot for her when she’s dolled up. In fact, he doesn’t even recognize her when she’s in her natural otaku form.

There’s a subplot that involves the house being bought by a corporation, but mostly, in the first volume (the one I have might be a two-in-one because I have 380+ pages–12 chapters) is about the little three-way that’s forming:  Kuranosuki developing feelings for Tsukimi, Tsukimi’s interest in Kuranosuki’s nii-san, and Nii-san’s attraction for made-up Tsukimi.

I’m not sure how I feel about this aspect of the story.  It will depend on how it ends. I have a very bad feeling that Kuranosuki’s influence is going to end with all the nerd girls dolled-up.  He already has them convinced at the end of this volume that make-up is their “armor” and a weapon they can use as an advantage in the world.

He seems to be right about this.

This depresses me.

But, I’m hopeful that maybe that’s not going to be the point. I’m hopeful, given this is a josei, that maybe we’ll get something more out of it. Although, maybe not, maybe like Kids on the Slope, the whole point will end up being that the nail that sticks up will be hammered down and settling for less-than-your-dream is just fine.

So far, I’m in it for the side characters. I like Tsukimi okay enough to keep reading, and I would like Kuranosuki much more if he WERE an okame or trans, but he’s very NO HOMO, so whatever. I have only so much patience for pretty rich boys.

Currently, my favorite character is Mejiro-sensei, a mangaka shut-in that we never see. She lives behind a door that never opens, and apparently she’s only been seen a few times. She communicates via notes slipped under her door, and sometimes also solicits help finishing her BL manga close to deadline.

I also like Mayaya, who is a Records of Three Kingdoms nerd. I think I like her because she reads the most like a anime fan, plus she’s drawn very non-binary/gender non-conforming.

So, you know, I’m kind of in it for the ensemble cast; I could take or leave the romance.  I’ll definitely get the other two volumes from the library, though. I like the somewhat unconventional art style quite a bit, and I kind of want to see if this whole thing is going to be about the magical GIRL power of make-up and a good hairstyle. (If so, expect angry rant when I finish this series.)