Border by Kodaka Kazuma

Right now, in my Amazon cart are the next three volumes of Border.  I am seriously considering purchasing the official English-langague publication of this, it’s that good.

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What do I like about Border so much?

The things that this hits for me, include, but are not limited to:

  • Decent to good art.
  • A storyline where queerness matters and is not just window-dressing.
  • An ensemble cast of characters, which includes hot straight guys and well-characterized women.
  • ACTION. Well-drawn action and adventure, for real. Like, holy sh*t, this could be one of my favorite shounen fighting manga except it’s SUPER-QUEER which makes it seventeen thousand times BETTER!!!!
  • Good storytelling. Like, I actually enjoyed the adventure part of this action-adventure and would have read it without the promise of hot gay sex, BUT I ACTUALLY GOT TO HAVE EVERYTHING FOR ONCE HOLY CRAP.

The only complaint that a person could have (which I don’t in this case, but I’ll explain later) is that for something marketed as yaoi, there isn’t a huge amount of sexy times.  Don’t get me wrong. It’s there.  Border starts with a sex scene, but you have to wade through a lot of plot before you get to the next bit of naked.

For me, that lack is made up by the fact 1) the plot is good enough to stand on its own, but also 2) that the main character, Yamato, is man hungry in a way that feels very true to the real gay men I have known in my life.  Like, sometimes he’s just like, “I haven’t been laid in a while. See you guys later! I’m going cruising!” Yet, Yamato is deeply admirable. Like, he’s actually a hero I’d want to BE, which is not something I’ve come across all that often in a yaoi. His gayness permeates him–he’s totally the “squad mom” while also being super f*cking bada$$ and very masculine (if pretty).

Yamato is something queer characters hardly ever get to be: out af and legitimate heroes  in a story I would read, even if the characters weren’t gay.

So, this is the official set-up:

Yamato runs a detective agency that will use any means to get the job done, no matter how unconventional. His three misfit employees are more than his teammates, they’re his family too.

Wow, that doesn’t sound all that exciting, does it? But, you know, in some ways, yeah, that’s basically it.

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It kind of doesn’t surprised me that Kodaka-sensei has written voluminous amounts of doujinshi.  Kodaka-sensei’s work reads like someone who is as frustrated as any other manga fan, like myself, who reads a lot of great action adventure stuff and thinks, “THIS WOULD BE SO MUCH BETTER IF EVERYONE WAS GAY! IMMA GO WRITE FAN FIC AND MAKE IT SO.”

Only, Kodaka-sensei lives in Japan, where a person can actually make a living with thoughts like that.

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So, here’s our ensemble cast.  In the foreground is Yamato Suou. As I mentioned, he’s the team leader. He’s a former U.S. special forces officer turned detective. He mustered out of the army after feeling responsibility for his commanding officer’s death. The dog tags that Yamato wears actually belong to Will, as they became lovers despite the fact that Will was married (separated) and had been telling himself he was a 100% straight. (Turns out, Will was much more bi than he knew!)  But, what I LOVED about this tragic backstory is that Yamato was gay from the start. He must have signed up for this unit when he was barely eighteen, but he already knew he was gay, gay, SUPER-gay and no “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was going to change that. His guilt came from thinking that Will still loved his wife and that their relationship constituted cheating (oh, did I mention Yamato was raised Catholic?) and, because, Will ended up saving his life, that maybe Will died doing more for his lover than he would for another teammate.

There’s a moment in the manga where this is all worked out, however. We find out that Will’s wife was already VERY done with Will and that she KNEW the two of them were lovers and thought that was _great_, because, unlike a lot of other women in yaoi, she’s not a horrible person and wanted Will (and Yamato) to be happy.

Did I mention that our squad mom, who is totally the ‘bottom’ in his sexual relationships, and who has a soft spot for smols, is an an INSANELY competent leader and was in the Special Forces??

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I am f*cking in love with this man.

The next member of the team also breaks a ton of stereotypes.

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Tamaki Shinonome is a pretty hairstylist. Other than his unrequited crush on Yamato, he’s super-duper STRAIGHT.

Tamaki gets the entirety of the second volume to explain this aberration and why Yamato steadfastly refuses to sleep with him.  Turns out, in a surprise to no one in the Real World ™,  growing up on the streets and being abandoned by your family can leave emotional scars. Tamaki is taken in to the same Catholic orphanage a Yamato, but he’s already seen some sh*t and he can never quite adjust to ‘normal’ life.  He’s got a kind of attachment disorder that makes him super needy and to imagine any kind of ‘no’ as a complete rejection.

To be fair, Yamato isn’t in a whole lot of better shape. He joined the Special Forces because, if he died, which he fully expected to, the pay-out to the designated beneficiary–in his case the Catholic orphanage–would be a ton of money.

In Tamaki’s case, this caused him to run away from the orphanage, join a gang, and end up in an even worse situation with a man who abused him horrifically because Tamaki would literally do anything for praise and affection.

We find all this out because the detective agency is hired when Tamaki’s abuser resurfaces, and so the team has to rally together to help Tamaki face his old ghosts and put some of his past behind him.  Part of Tamaki’s constant attempts to get Yamato into bed are entirely wrapped up in the fact that Yamato takes his job as squad mom/older orphanage brother seriously and has remained steadfast in his unconditional love for Tamaki.  He rescued him the first time, and when Tamaki gets in trouble again, is there for him again.

There’s a scene where Yamato gets fed up with all of Tamaki’s teasing and says, “Really, is it lust? Do you even know what guys do together?” And Tamaki looks genuinely…

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… scandalized.

Though, this seems to backfire, because then Tamaki is like, “Fine. You won’t let me do you until I’ve done other men. I’m going to go be the gayest guy around!”

We’ll see how that works out if I end up buying the rest of the volumes of this.

Then we have Sougo Kitaouji, another hopelessly straight guy (or…. is he?? Extra chapters/omake suggests more flexibility than Yamato realizes.)  He’s the only one of the team, so far as I can tell from where the story stopped being scanlated, who is NOT from the orphanage. Sougo and Yamato seem to have met at a karate dojo–and high school? For sure the one, the other isn’t as clear.

Sougo is, physically, “the tank,” if you know your gamer jargon. He’s also the most level-headed, stoic one of the group.

In the omake where the entire crew decides to follow Yamato to his favorite gay bar, that all the men there dream about:

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Also, if Yamato has a crush on any of the guys on his team, it’s Sougo.

He’s kind of my type, so I get it.

But, the scanlation stops on what it obviously his backstory chapter, so he will remain a mystery unless I shell out hard earned cash to find out what happens next.

The final member of the team is Kippei Yaotome.  Kippei is the resident “guy in the chair”/computer genius/hacker.  His backstory is the subject of the third volume and is the only “mission” that Yamato’s team goes on that even vaguely seems like the sort of thing a private eye/detective would actually be hired to do.  Kippei ends up being the ‘lost’ son of a dying millionaire, who never knew his true family because his mom was the millionaire’s secret lover.

Kippei is the team member that most draws out Yamato’s mom side, though he mothers everyone.  But, Kippei is young and cute and fairly innocent.

One of the things I like about all the guys in Border is that they are physically affectionate with one-another. Occasionally, everyone all sleeps in the same bed together, platonically, because it’s an orphanage comfort thing. Kodaka-sensei never forgets that these men were all damaged by their past and that they have these rituals that have helped them cope.

There’s also a whole lot of emphasis on a theme that I adore, which is ‘made’ families.  I adore storylines that underscore the idea that the blood of the covenant is thicker than than water of the womb, ie, that families are not made in the womb, but by people coming together and MAKING it work, putting _in_ the work to make a family.

I’ve probably talked too much about this one, but I really loved it.

Now I just have to go break open my piggy bank and see how much is in there…

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Anata no Jinsei Hikiukemasu! / I’ll Take Over Your Life! by Kamo Nabako

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It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed anything. Gomen! Gomen!  And, I feel worse since I have to come to you with a less than stellar (if kinda cute?) BL.

Initially, the story of Anata no Jinsei Hikiukemasu / I’ll Take Over Your Life!  appealed to me because I’m always fascinated by any manga that gives a glimpse into the daily life of a mangaka. However, I’m NEVER fond of the underage look, so I almost put it down… but then it turned out to be far more sweet than smutty and, thus, I pushed ever onward. (It’s only one volume, so…. it wasn’t even a very strenuous push.)

The basic set-up here is that we have Saijou, an ambitious salaryman who has been working in the sales department of a successful manga magazine.  Saijou, however, is not the best with people and runs afoul of his bosses and ends up being “demoted” to the job of editor.

Okay, taking a moment here to process this.  In American book publishing, this is not how things work–at least not the way I understand them to work. In fact, to my understanding, this could happen the OTHER direction.  Editor is considered a skilled position.  Yes, salespeople would get a much bigger salary than an editor, but, NORMALLY, editor is a job title you have to have earned via experience/an MFA/something like that in order to land. There are graduate students starving in grotty New York City apartments right now reading ‘slush’ at publishing houses as unpaid (or low paid) interns with the hopes of eventually working their way up to the editorial staff. You don’t just get dropped into the job because you f*cked up somewhere else.

However, in the U.S., you could totally get fired from editing and end up in marketing or publicity.

I could see that scenario. The publicity department, for instance, had so many staff changes that I had one book that must have had a half-dozen publicists because people kept quiting. (Also, maybe I was a low-level mildest author that no one wanted to have to deal with, but you get my point.)

Regardless–I am fascinated by this flip.  Does this happen in Japan? Do people with zero interest in the manga industry end up in charge of storylines/mangaka?  Do people who are complete screw-ups in other departments get demoted to the job of editor?

If so, THEN THIS EXPLAINS SO MUCH.

Anyway, back to my quick summary: So, this former salesman Saijou gets assigned a problematic mangaka, Inorizono-sensei, who is very popular, but who is living in a garbage-filled studio and has a lot of trouble making deadline, despite his “super-assistant” (who, weirdly, looks a lot like him, physically.)

Romance sparks when Saijou sweeps in to basically run Inorizono’s life for him, so he can focus on his creative work.

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Yes, I’ll admit it. This is when the romance started working for me. An editor who would come to my house and clean it for me? Bring me snacks and meals so that all I had to do was sit and write/draw?

I AM ALREADY IN LOVE A LITTLE WITH THIS IMAGINARY EDITOR.

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I would have loved this manga a lot more, however, if it were a little less cutesy?

Kamo-sensei uses that device that I have seen elsewhere, where, when characters are under stress, they turn into small animals.  It’s a metaphor, of course, but it’s one of those tropes that’s a bit jarring to this Western reader, no matter how often I see it used or how much I understand the point of it. I suspect, if I were a different person, this device would serve to make Inorizono and his assistant more sympathetic.  As it is, the aesthetic is wasted on me.

I don’t mind it? But, I find myself sort of mentally rolling my eyes every time it happens. It’s like, “Oh, look, sensei an his assistant are tiny, sobbing bunny-like animals again… whatever.”

Plus, too, for me–who was already feeling a bit squicked by the massive height/age difference between the two love interests–the infantilizing of this particular character just served to turn me off even more.

So, I was reading for the plot?

Yes, that’s right, I was reading it for “the articles,” and that can’t be good for BL/yaoi.

Because, then, rather than skimming the story for the smutty bits, I start analyzing WAY TOO MUCH, and I start being annoyed by the meta trope of “What I’m feeling is just like what they write in those shoujo manga; it must be LOVE!”

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I fear for a generation of manga readers who judge Real Life ™ Love by what they have read in manga… particularly, if they’re deciding to go gay on a quickening pulse, shortness of breath, and flushed face.

First, GO TO THE DOCTOR to make sure it’s not asthma, and then you know, try considering whether or not you are also entertaining fantasies about seeing this person naked and kissing them or cuddles or you can’t get them out of your mind and every day when something happens your first thought is, “oh, I need to tell so-and-so about that,” because OMG, any of that is a much better indicator of sexual attraction/love than shortness of breath!

I mean, hyperventilating is a real medical issue, friends. Do not base who you date by your ability to BREATHE.

/rant

Okay, enough of that. If you like cute and aren’t turned off by the underage look, then this one might be worth a spin. It’s certainly short and self-contained enough to quickly buzz through in one sitting.

And, you know, I do like a lover who will take care of me. That’s a lovely fantasy.

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Zombiepowder. by Kubo Tite

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Thanks to this guy (Zombiepowder.s “C.T. Smith”), I dreamed last night that I was Kubo-sensei’s other character, Aizen from Bleach.

The dream, btw, was AWESOME.  I closed a Garganta with a snap of my fingers… plus, in my dreams, I was the affable Aizen from his early captaincy, so the theme of the dream was “power in disguise,” which is a fantastic feeling. It was one of those dreams where you feel sort of sad because, suddenly, you wake up and you’re back to being a regular, non-superpowered person. (Such a bummer.)

The dream was probably the best thing I got out of this four volume series, however.

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Grimmjow?  No, Gamma Akutabi.

The only reason to read Zombiepowder. is if you’re a hardcore Bleach fan and you want to say you did… and/or you’re the sort of person who that likes to make memes like this one:

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Which is, quite honestly, a fine use of your time.  You saved me the trouble, after all.

The schtick of Zombiepowder. is that there are thirteen rings of the undead and our hero–who is actually NOT Gamma Akutabi, but a kid named Elwood– gets caught up in the race to collect them all “Avenger: Infinity War” style, complete with bad guys who want the rings for nefarious and megalomaniacal reasons.

Kubo-sensei himself writes in his author note at the beginning, “Hello, Kubo here. This is my first graphic novel. Mainly, it’s all battles. It’s completely OK to just read through it without thinking about anything.”

And, he’s not wrong, because if you think about it too much you spend a lot of time thinking “WOW, that was VIOLENT AF, and now you’re making a joke???!!  WTF, Kubo!” As you know, gentle reader, I have trouble with humor to begin with, so I spent a lot of this manga going, “Is that funny? I guess….  Maybe I’m missing a hilarious Japanese language pun or something.”

But, there’s a lot of tonal shift between horror and humor.  A LOT.  I mean in the first chapter Elwood’s very likable, ill sister is killed in front of his eyes for no reason other than to, I presume, motivate him to want to make Zombie Powder in ORDER TO RESURRECT HER FROM THE DEAD BECAUSE THAT ALWAYS WORKS OUT LIKE YOU HOPE, HOLY SH*T, WHAT A BAD IDEA. (It’s probably good this got cancelled because is it a happy ending if you resurrect your sister who has been dead and buried for months?)

So, yeah, you kind of have to suspend your disbelief and enjoy watching Kubo learning how to perfect his fighting art style:

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Very cool. I mean, I will forever and always be a fan of this guy’s art, what can I say?

There’s a lot to mine for those hoping for psychological clues about what Kubo likes in stories and in general.  I have to say, I’m continually surprised by his racial diversity. Some of the people of color are clearly exaggerated for “humor” (see my problem with humor here? There’s nothing especially funny about that to me, and maybe it’s not racist but some kind of Eastern trope, I dunno, that’s not actually my point), because then there’s this random stoic brave doctor who is likable and complete and heroic.

I think it’s kind of rare to see PoCs who seem both authentic (not just a tone slapped over an otherwise innocuous character) and genuine.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe I just liked this guy. He was like someone’s kick-a$$ grandpa (with a medical degree).

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Then, there’s Kubo’s relationship to queer sexuality, which is another sort of “??” because he also loves to play alternate sexuality (or in the case of Giselle in Bleach, trans folks,) for laughs. Yet… there’s representation? I mean, in 1999 how often did you see this AT ALL?

 

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I’m also pretty convinced that Kubo-sensei’s editor had to remind him to include women at all, because the female character doesn’t make an appearance until volume 2, and then she’s kind of drawn like Kiego with giant melons strapped to his chest.

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Are ANYONE’S boobs this firm?

So, as usual, I don’t now how to feel about the problematic parts of Kubo’s work.  I mean, when our heroine shows up, she’s a fighter who takes hits like the men in the story, fight/flirts with the main adult, and has a complicated backstory. Yet her boobs look like strap-on beach balls.

I don’t even know.

So, should you read it? I’m going to say NO. There’s a reason this was cancelled. I have given you the highlights–oh, except to mention that there are three unrelated short stories at the end of volumes 2, 3, and 4. The first is “Ultra Unholy Hearted Machine,” which I loved, which was about a mercenary and his robot sidekick uncovering a government plot to try to make super soldiers that goes wrong on a whole bunch of twisty levels. That ones is in volume 2.

The second (in volume 3) I liked a lot less, though it does show that Kubo does know how to end things, called “Rune Master Urara.”  This involved tattoos (clearly another favorite motif of Kubo’s) and fairy creatures that pop out to fight for the ‘rune master.’

The last one is “Bad Shield United,” which is another sort of government organization that gets twisty because it has the hunted doing the hunting.  Admittedly, I was pretty done by the time I got to this one, so I skimmed it.

In my opinion, the short stories are probably generally more worth it than Zombiepowder.  But, if you’re going so far as to hunt down the shorts, you might as well admit that you’re a Kubo fan and read the whole thing.  Then, you can say you did.

With any luck, you can have cool dreams about this guy:

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Dosei Mansion / Saturn Apartments by Iwaoka Hisae

I came across the complete run of Dosei Mansion / Saturn Apartments at my library, so I checked all seven volumes out at once.  You can read up to the end of volume 3 on-line, so far (last update was six months ago, so scanlators may still be working on this one.)

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I liked this one a lot.

I’ve been struggling with how to describe this manga to friends of mine in order to make it sound cool enough for them to want to read it, and I think I fail partly because: “You guys, you guys!  It’s about window washers in SPAAAAAAAAACE!” sounds much cooler in my head than it does out loud.

But, but… window washers in SPAAAAAACE!

Am I convincing you yet?  No?  Okay, okay, so the story follows a young orphan named Mitsu, who is following in his father’s footsteps. Dad was an affable window washer who, one day, had an accident and likely plummeted to the surface of Earth. See, despite ‘Saturn’ being in the cover, this story actually takes place in a human-built ring in the stratosphere of Earth (35 kilometers/ 21.8 miles above earth.) We built this spinning apartment complex in order to escape the environmental collapse. Life in the apartment ring has become stratified.

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The people in the upper levels are all super rich, and those down below are poor working class.

Several people from below (and a few above) dream of a returning to Earth and starting afresh… including our little hero, Mitsu.

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For a slice-of-life manga, Dosei Mansion/Saturn Apartments, actually has a lot of plot.

Remember when I had the revelation while reading Yotsuba&!/Yotsuba to! that maybe slice-of-life manga are some kind of weird propaganda?  When I got to the final line of the manga, I really, really felt that I might be on to something. There’s a revolution fomenting up above that never comes to pass, our hero gets to Earth and discovers that the people on the bottom were once on the top, and his only thought is, “Wow, the ring is so pretty because the windows are so clean!”

I mean, he even goes to jail for a few years?  It’s… I mean, the end seems to imply that maybe you should just be happy where you are, enjoy hard work, and don’t rock the boat because, ultimately, you can’t change the world all that much (there does seem to be a bit more freedom of movement by the end, to be fair.)

It kind of reminded me of the dreaded ending of Bleach, in that there’s this major push against the status quo, but by the end, everything just falls back into its place and we’re all supposed to be okay with that.

People will no doubt tell me that I’m looking at this with too Western an eye.  That’s likely true. I can’t entirely help that.  However, I do think it’s worth noting, regardless.

Especially since, in the case of Dosei Apartments/Saturn Apartments, I really enjoyed the story…. all the way through. Even though the ending was a quiet sort of change, I really loved the constant pride that Mitsu had in his window washing work and how his love for his job actually made other people like him and accept him.  He both followed his dad AND surpassed him in all sorts of quiet, yet meaningful ways.

Quiet yet meaningful.

That’s a fine revolution, IMHO.

So, with the caveat of the ending doesn’t seem like much, I say this manga is well worth the read. I can see why this series won the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival Grand Prize for Manga (according to Baka-Updates.)

 

Isekai Izakaya ‘Nobu’ / Otherwordly Izakaya “Nobu” by Semikawa Natsuya / Virginia Nitohei

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After all that yaoi, how about something ridiculously wholesome?  I stumbled across Isekai Izakaya ‘Nobu’ / Otherworldly Izakaya ‘Nobu’  thinking it was Isekai Shokudou / Restaurant to Another World, the anime for which I’ve been seeing advertised on Crunchyroll.

Given that they’re both seinen, both based on a light novel, and BOTH out about the same time (‘Nobu‘ came out in 2015, ‘Shokudou‘ in 2016,) I’d say it’s a pretty easy mistake to have made.  I haven’t read Isekai Shoukudo yet, but I found Isekai Izakaya ‘Nobu’ really quite charming.

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I want someone to look at me the way people in foodie manga look at their meal.

The look of pure wonder combined with unspeakable lust

I want someone to be so surprised and amazed by my beauty that they simultaneously blush and start to sweat.

Also, dude. It’s fried chicken.

To be fair to the people frequenting this izakaya, they’re clearly living in some fictitious part of  Medieval Germany and are probably eating things like wurst and blood sausage and knoephla on the regular. More to the point, like the MCU Captain America so famously said in “Winter Solider” about food prep from the past: “We used to boil everything.”

The real magic here is that the izakaya owners actually live in modern Japan, and the izakaya has an unexplained doorway to this alternate Germanic world.

Which is possibly why something this simple: salted cucumber gets an “OMG WHAT IS THIS GLORIOUS, LIFE-CHANGING WONDER???!!” reaction from the guests.

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I will not argue that fresh food is amazing.

But, I have my theories as to why ‘Nobu’ couldn’t make it over on the “other side.”

I had cucumbers with salt yesterday. It’s good, but I’m not sure I’d pay to eat it at a restaurant, you know? Maybe it’s the plating?  I mean, that’s a really nice plater and the cucumber is artfully laid out. Perhaps this is enough to “elevate” the “taste profile” of regular, plain cucumber?

It’s still just salted cucumber.

It’s not actually explicitly stated that ‘Nobu’ failed as a business back in modern Japan, but there’s a panel that strongly implies it. In one of the later chapters (Vol. 3, chapter 16), we see our heroine returning from an antique dealer on ‘our’ side and she pauses in front of their storefront an it’s clearly shuttered.

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But over in the other world, Nobu is well loved.

The entire schtick of this manga is that good food is magical and can change your outlook, lift your spirits, and melt cold, dead hearts.

Honestly, I’m not sure I disagree. Yet, I started to find something about the miraculous and curative power of SALTED CUCUMBERS quite unintentionally hilarious.

None of that, however, diminished the charm of this story. I totally signed on for each and every ‘very special episode,’ more than happy to see which type of food changed what person’s attitude/position/etc.  The characters aren’t deep, but they innocuous and sweet in the way of a lot of these foodie manga. I’m also super curious about what, if anything, will be the fallout from our world (it’s hinted that maybe they shouldn’t be bringing over so much gold and silver and copper from the alternate universe.) After all, they’ve had a couple of scares/threats to their business from the alternate universe.

There are apparently 6 volumes of Isekai Izakaya ‘Nobu’ out in Japan. Scanlators have, as of the time of this review, posted three of those. I only mention this because if you rush off to read this RIGHT NOW (or anytime before the next update), it might seem as though the manga has reached a natural conclusion at Vol. 3, chapter 18.

In fact, when I went to do my usual cursory research of this manga, I was surprised to discover there was three volumes more of story.

Not that I’m complaining!

This is exactly the kind of stuff I love in a foodie slice-of-life:  Little to zero drama, light character moments, and lots and lots of people sitting around talking about how amazing food is while cooking and eating it.

If you want to read the light novel that Isekai Izakaya ‘Nobu” is based on, there are people translating that, as well. (If you go, be sure to click on the chapter number.) There is an anime that has only just begun its run available on Crunchyroll as well (as of this review they have two episodes available.)


 

Quick additional commentary:  Having watched the two episodes of the anime for this, it continues to be adorable.

My favorite part, however, is that the Japanese tourism board has clearly realized that people getting excited over salted cucumbers and other simple bar food is a GREAT selling tool, so there are mini live-action adverts/cooking prep/bar crawls post the show.  Complete with directions to the pubs serving this food and telephone numbers so you can BOOK YOUR RESERVATIONS NOW.

I mean, it’s kind of amazing.

Owaru-senei Round-up

I joked that after reading Kichiku, Encount / Brutal Encounter, I would read everything Owaru-sensei has ever written.  I’ve compromised and read all of her m/m smut available on MangaHere. Turns out, I’d already read and reviewed: Our House Love Trouble about a college-aged guy who ends up slutting around at his new ‘share-house’ (think: communal living.)

But, there were several new gems….

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If you’ve ever said to yourself, what the world is missing is a hot love story about Big Pharma, then Omoichigai ga Koi no Tane / Love Sprouts from a Misunderstanding is for you.

In Omoichigai go Koi no Tane / Love Sprouts from a Misunderstanding, you have pushy pharmacy sales rep, Kuruno. Kuruno is the guy who will do anything–yes, anything–to make a sale.  Enter Ice Queen, Houjou-sensei who absolutely hates Big Pharma… for all the right reasons.

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But, what kind of story would it be if Kuruno gave up easily?  Instead, he sees penetrating (pun intended!) Houjou’s barriers as a challenge. Kuruno becomes even more insistent.

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This culminates in the doctor not only agreeing to get Kuruno a contract with his hospital, but also invites him along to a conference out of town.  The misunderstanding is that each of them thinking the other has been trying to seduce them from the start.

Owaru-sensei seems to be somewhat enchanted by scenarios where one of the guys gets caught up in the moment and ends up just going along with sex.

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Literally me, every time I have sex.

What’s funny is that other than one “Ah, I wonder what his smile is like,” moment from Kuruno, we really have no sense if he’s ever been with a man previous to this ‘misunderstanding.’  But, apparently, he’s just THAT willing to close the deal.

Alas, this one was last updated sometime in 2016.  Despite the ridiculousness of finding myself relating to a Pharmacy rep, I’m kind of disappointed that I won’t find out how this  relationship develops.

Next one I read was: Hang Out Crisis

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The description for this one starts, “Josei Tsubakiya is a rich law school student. Motoki Sakurai is the most popular guy in the education department. Together, they’re the hottest guys around, and totally irresistible to ladies.”

The set-up is pretty basic, the two party boys end up striking out one night with the ladies and drunkly decide to be each other’s consolation prize.

That’s the entirety of the plot, with the addition of Motoki finding it impossible to get it up with the ladies after having been ravished by Josei and coming to realize that perhaps, despite assurances that sex with a guy would not make him gay, he’s clearly That Way.

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Mmm, I’m pretty sure that’s the textbook definition, but whatever… 🙂

One thing I have to say that I love about Owaru-sensei is that her guys ALWAYS have safe sex. Condoms are always visible.  Sometimes, like in this one, the condoms just magically appear, but you very clearly see that they’re on.

This is another one that seems to have stopped updating somewhere around the same time, which is also kind of a shame since I tend to like the way Owaru-sense writes and, even if I’m not super-sold on a story, her smut is often very good.

The last one I read was Junju Bitch, Hatsukoi Kei / Pure-Hearted Hustler, First-Love Style.k000_cover

Haruya is a part-time gay prostitute, part-time art student.  He enjoys his life, for the most part, because his work is what most people consider pleasure.  It’s all good times, except he has it kind of bad for his serious, studious best friend, Hitoeda.

Somehow, Haruya hasn’t noticed that the only thing that Hitoeda ever paints are portraits of him. In fact, Haruya has somehow convinced himself that not only is Hitoeda straight, but he’s not at all interested in him.

Luckily, Haruya accidentally interrupts Hitoeda masturbating on one of his many paintings of him and kind of almost figures out that Hitoeda might have it just as bad… except, he spends a stupid amount of time NOT GETTING IT.

But, they do finally figure it out and the rest of the manga is about them learning out how to go from best friends to boyfriends…. like, dealing with Hitoeda’s jealousy and the fact that Haruya only seems to know how to say ‘thank you’ for something by performing sexual favors.

This was was probably my least favorite of the three, if only because I wasn’t especially charmed by Hitoeda.  He’s fine, he’s just not my type.

Owaru-sensei has written several things that aren’t yaoi, though no one has bothered to scanlate them.  If you want a full list of her work, it can be found at Baka-Updates.  She’s apparently also written a couple of Tiger & Bunny Doujinshi, which I guess just means she has great taste, because I totally ship that.

Overall, I have to say that Owaru-sensei is an easy read. If you’re not into the story, her smut is very smutty and likely to satisfy.  She does seem to have a type for her men–the aggressive one is usually the spiky, dark-haired one, and the ‘bottom’ is nearly always the wispy, girlish lighter-haired one–but her art is otherwise very palatable, IMHO.  So, yes, if any of these stories seem like your sort of thing, I would recommend.

Kichiku, Encount / Brutal Encounter by Owaru

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They say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I totally picked up Kichiku Encount / Brutal Encounter because the cover looked cool.

Also? Aggressive dude? Totally my “type.”

And then I see that it’s tagged ‘smut’? Was there really anything else I needed??

Oh, wait, then I get this little gem:

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A wild manwhore appears? OMG, YOU HAVE TO CATCH THEM ALL.

SPOILERS

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I was so completely sold after the “A wild manwhore appears” moment, I kind of didn’t even care what happened next. That being said, I should probably warn for those hoping for a sweet story that, while this one has its moments near the end, it’s definitely of dubious consent.

Our hero is Hajime Sato, age 25, a typical, overworked salaryman.  One early morning, after pulling an all-nighter at work (because you DO that in Japan), he’s sitting in a mostly abandoned train car and overhears the unmistakable sounds of his favorite porn star, moaning.  Hajime looks over, expecting the listener to be some nerdy virgin, like himself. Instead, he sees a total hottie, Chihiro (a guy, it turns out, who just happens to have the same name as said porn star.)

Chihiro sees Hajime looking at him and goes over to confront him. It kind of seems like Chihiro might beat Hajime up, but instead… well, er… let’s just say something else with the word ‘beat’ in it happens.

But before that happens, they have this weirdly cute interaction in which Hajime tells Chihiro that it’s his fault that he’s all hot and bothered because Chihiro didn’t properly plug in his headphones:

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Chihiro then drags Hajime to a train station bathroom and lots of super-porny sex happens.

Super. Porny.

As Chihiro points out, Hajime can relax. He’s a professional.  We later find out that this means that he’s a host at a host club that serves both men and women–one that clearly services ‘afters,’ if you know what I mean. (Spoiler: he’s a sex worker.)

In fact, they settle into this kind of relationship for the next several chapters. Hajime kind of does/kind of doesn’t want to keep ending up in compromising positions, but he can’t seem to help himself.

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Can you blame him? Look at him. (I mean, pick your favorite, but mine is on the right.)

Hajime feels so tormented by Chihiro, that he’s put Chihiro’s contact information into his phone as “That Devil,” which is a humorous little touch.

And, actually, there are a lot of those throughout.

This one is SUPER. PORNY., but there are moments of both humor and sweetness interspersed in the story.  For instance, early on, Hajime ends up with Chihiro’s phone and discovers that most of the pictures on his phone are not, in fact, porn, but adorable shots of his much younger brother and their dog.  The guy is a delinquent and sexually aggressive (borderline rapey), but he’s a good onii-chan and loves his puppy!  He can’t be all bad, right?

And, that’s kind of what the next chapters do–they try to convince the reader that, yeah, Chihiro is oversexed, but really, he’s a good guy. We get more and more of Chihiro’s softer side, culminating in the classic hurt/comfort scene in which Hajime comes down with a cold/fever and Chihiro aggressively mothers him (because he’s even aggressive in his kindness).

I have to admit that I was extremely charmed by this smutty installment. The mangaka didn’t actually have to work that hard to convince me of Chihiro’s appeal, but I’m just as glad she did because his aggressive caring justifies my attraction to him.

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You can’t hate a guy this nice to his puppy and his younger brother, can you?

There is a bonus chapter at the end that involves the pretty bartender at Chihiro’s host club and his secret BDSM fetish, which pretty much puts the icing on the cake of this manga for me.

Thank you, Owaru-sensei, you pretty much hit ALL my buttons for this one-shot. I will now commence checking out everything else you have ever written.

So, yeah, if you have all my perversions and kinks, this manga is totally for you. If you squick at any whiff of non-con and are especially annoyed when Mr. Rapey McRaperson is then given a soft-focus lens, yeah, no this will enrage and disgust you. STAY AWAY.

Meanwhile, I bookmarked it. I’m a terrible person.