Shi ga Futari wo Wakatsu Made / Until Death Do Us Part by Takashige Hiroshi / Song Ji-Hyoung (Double-S)

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I haven’t been in the mood for anything like Shi ga Futari o Wakatsu Made / Until Death Do Us Part for a long, long time. But, holy crap, when I want a blind, katana-welding vigilante to protect a clairvoyant middle schooler, the only one for me is Hijikata Mamoru.

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Look at this badass mofo

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Seriously, what’s not to love?  The story starts with Haruka Tooyama, a middle schooler, who has the power of precognition. Everyone is after her for her predictive skills, and some baddies have murdered her parents and kidnapped her.  The problem for them? She knows just who she needs to get herself out of this mess: enter the blind ‘samurai’, Hijikata Mamoru.

Mamoru is loosely affiliated with an paramilitary organization that fights international crime called the Elements, or something like this. It doesn’t much matter, except that because of this tangental relationship, Mamoru has access back-up in the form of a hacker named Igawa in a bullet-proof van who supplies him all the best tech, including a cane-katana made from a space-age microfiber that can literally cut ANYTHING and fancy sunglasses that allow Mamoru something akin to “sight.”

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Aren’t you all in? Because at this point, I was ALL IN!

I mean, holy sh*t, is this whole thing some kind of high octane ‘way of the sword,’ but there was hardly a misstep in all 214 chapters for me.  The final arc gets a little political and “scheme-y” for me with the introduction of a spy/game master character known as “Wiseman”, but I can attest to the fact that a lot of that can be skimmed and the gist of it is still very enjoyable.

The women characters in this have gigantic boobs (Double-S, indeed!) with a lot of what my gamer friends would call “jiggle physics,” but that’s the worst of the fan service, IMHO. And, for all of that, we also get a lot of lingering on the male form, as well,

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This is my boi, Dai, the hot-headed motorcycle ace introduced late in the series. Dude, if you had red-hair and tattoos, I would marry you.  

The only other problematic bit in this manga is the relationship between Mamoru and Haruka Tooyama, THE MIDDLE SCHOOLER.  Girl is YOUNG.  I mean, you see her at the top there? She’s a child.  Mamoru is AT LEAST ten years older than she is, if not more.  But, Haruka announces early on that her precognition has told her that Mamoru is her future husband.

Mmmm, yeah, that hits my squick button pretty darn hard.

However, don’t let that stop you from the rest of this amazingly over the top, cheesy-awesome ride. Having read all the way to the end, I can assure you that the relationship stays mostly platonic.There’s no courtship beyond them fighting side-by-side an the occasional awkward promise.  If you can stand Haruka cooking for Mamoru from time to time and the people around them making crass jokes about her being “wife-y” you’ll be okay. There is ONE kiss in the chapter near the end, but it’s: “you’re probably dying so here is a chaste kiss on the lips.” For me, that was almost too much, but since most of the rest of the story was about other stuff, I was okay with it.

9/10ths of this manga is Mamoru being bada$$ with a katana.  But they do go there at the end — as in, after a timeskip where Haruka grows-up, they do utter the titular phrase in the kind of setting where you’d expect that. (Psst, they get married.)

For me, knowing that was likely coming helped me ignore it, you know?  Personally, I kind of hoped they’d go an unexpected direction, given what they set up in terms of the limits of Haruka’s precognition, but alas.  Honestly, I think because it was stated as a possibility at the start, it didn’t get under my skin that this was yet another adventure that seemed to have end in the dreaded wedding bells ™.

At least, the ensemble cast is so interesting that I could also ignore that weird relationship for all the others. (So many ships!) In fact, I was excited to see that several of the characters got manga of their own:

Aegis gets two separate spin-off manga: a six volume manga called Akatsuki no Aegis / Aegis of the Dawn (which no one appears to be scanlating) and Yami No Aegis / Aegis in the Dark, an on-going prequel (7 volumes scanlated so far out of 27) by a different author/artist team: Nanatsuki Kyoichi and Fujiwara Yoshihide.

The Aspergers genius behind “Elements” and the creator of SPARC, Tatsumi Daiba, gets a three volume spin-off called: Alcbane.  No one seems to be scanlating this one either, which is a shame because it looks almost like a superhero manga, with a cover showing Daiba wearing SPARC in its helmet form. This one is written by Takashige-sensei, but illustrated by Kinutani Yuu.

Jesus also gets a couple of spin-off manga, as well. He gets Jesus – Sajin Kouro, (14 volumes) and Jesus , a prequel, (13 volumes.)  Both of these manga are produced by the Nanatsuki/Yoshihide team. Only the prequel is currently being scanlated, alas.

I’m sad to see that “Double-S” (a.k.a. Song Ji-Hyoung) was not associated with any of the spin-offs, because in so many ways, his art makes this story.  The action is AMAZING:

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I also just really loved the way Mamoru is rendered:

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But, I was interested enough in this vaguely futuristic world enough to consider checking out the spin-offs that are available.

I loved this one. I totally recommend it for anyone who can handle violence and enjoys sh*t like pages of people talking about various sword-forms and The Art of War. Plus, did I mention?  BLIND MODERN-DAY SAMURAI.  I mean, what the heck more could you possibly need??

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My Neighbor Seki / Tonari no Seki-kun (Vol. 1) by Morishige Takuma

I actually picked up all nine volumes of My Neighbor Seki /Tonari no Seki-kun that my library had in hopes of having a manga to last me over winter break. It should have been right up my alley being a light, slice-of-life, low drama sort of story.  That’s exactly the sort of thing I’ve been craving lately.

Alas.

I stopped reading this one after about a volume and a half, because the gag seemed repetitive.

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The story is about a middle grade girl, Rumi, and her desk neighbor, Seki. Seki brings toys to school and plays imaginative games with them that Rumi gets emotionally invested in… to the point that SHE’S the one who gets in trouble for goofing off, not him.

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This seems to be a never-ending gag.  I could have read the remaining eight volumes that I’d checked out of the library, but I just didn’t trust that the story would ever move beyond this. TBF, normally, I don’t need it to.

If this turns awesome a few more chapters in, let me know. I can always check it out again. But, this time, for whatever reason, I was just much less willing to push forward on my own.

As long-time readers of MangaKast know, I’m a really hard sell on certain types of broad humor–in manga (often the exact same stuff will work just fine for me in anime.) Luckily, there is an anime for this manga: Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time, which is available on Crunchyroll (linked above.)

I haven’t tried it out yet, but I will put it in my ever-expanding queue.  I mean, I went from feeling “meh” about One-Punch Man to absolutely loving it, so just because I bounced out of the manga, doesn’t mean I won’t love My Neighbor Seki / Tonari no Seki-kun in a different format.

You & Me, Etc. / Bokura ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera. by Kyuugo

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You & Me, Etc. / Bokura ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera is a collection of one-shots by the same author that brought us Acid Town.  A fact I didn’t actually notice until just now, though I should have had an inkling, given how much PLOT (and how little sex) is in each of these stories.

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The first chapter is “Someday We’ll” / “Itsuka bokura ha” and follows characters we’ll return to in the final, titular chapters “You & Me, Etc.” / “Bokura ni Matsuwara, Etc.”: Iku and Keita.  The two are best friends whose relationship becomes fraught when Keita, a rising baseball star in high school, has his career cut short by a tragic accident… an accident he suffered because he pushed Iku out of harm’s way.  Iku is horrified that he’s the cause of  the end of Keita’s big chance a stardom, but Keita is just happy Iku is alive, because Iku means the world to him.  Like, THE WORLD, but that’d be pretty homo, so, you know, things are just TENSE.

At least until Keita decides to just try going for it.

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A kiss Iku can’t get out of his mind. From there, the story goes where you might hope, with some extra baseball and a near repeat of the traffic accident to help Iku realize that he Loves This Man ™.

“The Sakura Pilgrimage” / “Sakura no Junrei” follows another set of high schoolers, these two basketballers, Sugaya and Fujishiro.  Fujishiro is that enviable guy, the one all the girls giggle after and call ‘prince,’ who is destined for the class presidency, and probably gets straight A’s. Only, turns out, there’s NOTHING straight about Fujishiro.  Sugaya accidentally catches Fujishiro making out with none-other-than a teacher!  Sugaya isn’t the sort to tell, but Fujishiro makes a point of paying him off, anyway.  Things go on like this for a while (a phrase that is actually used a bunch in this chapter,) until someone else spies the lovers and the teacher is fired.  Then, Sugaya listens to Fujishiro’s woes and they share a moment of camaraderie, the end.

Yeah, this one is literally about a guy who is kind of bored with life who makes a gay friend. I mean, I can’t say I’ve seen anything like it before, so I guess there’s that.

“The Beautiful Tomorrow” / “Utsukushii Asu” parts 1 & 2 follow Tatsushi Kuwahara, a famous editor/author, and Akira Shinozaki, the son of a beloved professor of Kuwahara’s, who has come to Tokyo… basically to impose on Kuwahara’s kindness.  Turns out, his father remarried and his step mom is legitimately evil. When dad died, she kicked him out on the streets.  Kuwahara learns all of this, slowly. Not that it matters, he gets used to having the kid around.  Akira is a guitar player who is trying to do the breaking in thing, so sometimes he stays out late or… comes home drunk.

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“Wanna what?  I’m an editor, kid. Use all your words.”

Even though initially, it looked like Kuwahara might be straight (he had a female writer living with him at the beginning), he’s fallen for this kid. Hard, I’d say, since right after this attempted love confession, Akira pukes between Kuwahara’s legs, and he still kisses him, later.

I will say that even though kissing is the most you’ll get (beyond one shadowed het blowjob in “Sakura Pilgrimage,”) I ended up reading all of these.  I guess I like Kyuugou’s writing style, despite the profound lack of nookie.  Milage may vary, however.  So I recommend this one hesitantly.  I do like how these stories tend to have a note or two of humor among all the angst.  Reminds me, as I said of Acid Town, of my own work.  (Though my fan fic is a WHOLE lot sluttier.)

 

Renai Game by Chidori Peko

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Once again, I discovered that this set of chapters, “Cinderella and the Shoemaker” (Act 1, 2 and extra,) have actually been hived off from its original volume and is presented as a stand-alone.  But, I read them this way, and the other chapters follow separate characters, so…. I’ll just review this as it is (though, it will be tagged by the volume’s title.)

Oh! And, Happy New Year, to you all!

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The story is basically as advertised: a very loose retelling of “Cinderella.”

I mean, okay, if there’s no fancy dress ball, no actual prince, nor a fairy godmother…. yeah, no, actually, it’s just a guy whose name is an apparent homonym to the Chinese Cinderella, Kaji, who ends up falling for a guy whose name is basically prince (Mao).  Oh, though there *is* a scene where Kaji runs off without his shoes.

In this version, however, Mao has MADE the perfect pair to fit, because he’s a slutty shoemaker that Kaji initially tried to apprentice to.

Mao didn’t really want to take on an apprentice–he’s never taught anyone before–and so when Kaji shows up and begs him to teach him his magical shoemaking ways and says, “I’ll do ANYTHING,” Mao decides to have a little fun.  Only, this isn’t the rape-y version, so Mao just has him dress in an apron and make food.  Hot?

I’ll let you decide:

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Well?

It’s ok-ay for me, personally, but, this was a cute enough diversion for a few minutes.

In case you’re wondering, also unlike the Cinderella story, Mao does eventually decide to go for it when Kaji turns 20, so there is some explicit stuff in the second chapter.  More sweet than hot, but, as I say, pleasant enough, should this sound fun to you.

Ja mata!

Acid Town by Kyuugo

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If you like your yaoi full of yakuza and a heavy dose of angst, Acid Town might be for you.

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Acid Town is the kind of manga I’d write, if I were a mangaka.

It’s both weirdly dark and full of implied non-consensual situations/sex, but also all about honor and angst and young men making stupid choices in the name of love and devotion.

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So. Much. Angst.

The world that our hero, Yukio and his best friend, Tetsu, live is extraordinarily dark.  Somehow the world has fallen into lawlessness and the yakuza reign supreme (and everyone is interconnected by fate and misfortune).

I do a very light amount of research for any title I review here, and I’m always a little surprised (and nervous) when I discover a TV Tropes page devoted to a manga that never got an official English-language release. There is also, should you desire “moar,” as the kids say, a singular piece of fan fic on Ao3.

I understand why someone felt compelled to write in this universe.

There are parts of this story that I really loved–specifically the relationship between Yukio and Tetsu–and a whole lot of stuff I didn’t entirely feel was necessary.  Just as Yukio and Tetsu are being torn apart by cruel fate and misfortune, the mangaka decides to wander into the convoluted backstory of several of the yakuza players for CHAPTERS.  I have to admit to skimming quickly through these so that I could get back to the main story….which only gets a couple of chapters before what is available scanned dried up.

Grrrr.

But if you like your porn plotty and light on the sexy-times, you might really enjoy Acid Town.  For myself, I could have used a little more sex.  Or focus. If the mangaka could have stayed with Yukio and Tetsu more, I might have been more into it, despite the sweeter tone.

Their characters are great. For instance Tetsu makes a really awkward love confession, and has this wonderful conversation with the fabulous guy who owns the restaurant under their apartment:

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“Ha-ha, maybe you pushed him down and kissed him, eh?” jokingly asks the restaurant guy.  Tetsu, says miserably, ” Yeah, I did.”

Good times.

More of this, please.

But, that being said, the writing is good. I read a lot of the yakuza turf battle plot without batting an eye. So would I recommend it? Yes, but with the caveat: BEWARE: PLOT-HEAVY.

Sign Language by Ker

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Just by chance when I was looking for something to read, I stumbled across Sign Language, a manhwa, about a Soo Hwa, a chronically unemployed young man, who ends up for reasons of plot working part-time at a café managed (owned?) by Yo Han, who is deaf (and his mischievous friend Gyoon.)

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This manhwa is like someone read I Hear the Sunspot and thought, “Hmmm, I kind of like this, but NEEDS WAY MORE SEX,” and then they thought about the sexy deaf people they’d read in other manga and said, “You know what’s hot? When Nic Brown [from Gangsta.] talks” and went: “I think I can combine these and make a winner.”

And, indeed, they did.

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Because, okay, the schtick of Sign Language is that Soo Hwa is completely turned on any time Yo Han speaks.  Yo Han, like Kohei from I Hear the Sun Spot, became deaf later in life; he also reads lips. Like Nic from Gangsta., he will speak, if necessary, but prefers sign language.

Soo Hwa, hoping to avoid the awkward of a raging hard-on, tries to learn sign language.

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As a commenter said: “When you’re trying to learn sign language, and all you can do is…”

There’s a little hand-waving attempt to make Soo Hwa more sensitive.  He says something about wanting to make sure Yo Han is included, or spoken to on his level, or something, but really, he’s trying to avoid being sprung every time Yo Han opens his mouth.

This leads to a lot of, “Oh, let me help with that,” from pretty much all the boys, even Gyoon, Yo Han’s friend/co-worker. In fact, Gyoon spends a lot of the nine chapters currently available torturing poor Soo Hwa–which I, admittedly, found fairly amusing. He, at least, stops when he’s discovered that he’s made Soo Hwa cry.

 

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Gyoon’s mind is probably like this 24/7, FYI.

If you are the kind of reader who is very sensitive about people not stopping when someone says ‘no,’ you might want to give this one a pass. To be fair, I’m not sure Yo Han HEARD Soo Hwa saying stop, and we’re talking about a hand job and not full-on anal, but…. no means no, and he very clearly says “Stop. I don’t like that.”   So, you know, take that under advisement.  It could ruin for you what is, IMHO, an otherwise fun, smutty story.

I enjoyed this. There are whole panels devoted to teaching us what I presume is Korean sign language/KSL. As someone who loves watching the sign language interpreters in general, no matter what the language, I can get behind the aesthetic of that.  So this was another winner for me.

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What Did You Eat Yesterday?/ Kinou Nani Tabeta? (Vol. 12) by Fumi Yoshinaga

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I’ve been known complain about how Yosihnaga-sensei makes her gay protagonists (in everything, but in What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? especially) seem vaguely unhappy, like they’ve settled for something not quite perfect.  In the past, I’ve felt like, even though she might be going for “realism,” the Unhappy Gay Guy is such a hurtful stereotype that I’m angry that her sense of ‘real’ doesn’t accurately reflect my life.

Until Volume 12.

There’s a chapter in volume 12 (#95) that so perfectly encapsulates my life with my wife that I had to read it to her.

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Before I get into that scarily accurate chapter, I have to take a moment to appreciate this ridiculously awesome cover for volume 12.

Here we have Kenji and Shiro walking seriously out of a lined black background, dressed to the nines, looking like they could be yakuza hit men or something.  All around them are the titles of the recipes found within:  “apple muffins,” “sukiyaki,” “stir-fried chicken and turnips,” and “red squid, natty, and avocado rice bowl.”

I dunno. Something about the juxtaposition of this serious, stylish look and the recipes made me smile.

If you’ve never read What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? before, the thing you have to know about this slice-of-life manga is that it’s basically an illustrated cookbook with tiny–and I mean, minuscule–bits of plot threaded through very detailed recipes. I categorize it as yaoi, because the main characters are gay and because Yoshinaga-sensei is known for her yaoi/shounen ai. (It apparently debuted in a seinen magazine aimed at adult men: Weekly Morning. So maybe it should be categorized as seinen?)

Despite the fact that it’s mostly recipes, there are a couple of great character moments in volume 12.  One thing I will forever love Yoshinaga-sensei for is that she very much prefers to write about older men.  The heroes of What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? are in their 40s.  They even joke about how this is why their lives just aren’t that dramatic.  At one point, Shiro gets hit on by a friend of theirs.  It’s a really light pass–hand holding and a serious stare–but it’s not nothing.  He gets super flustered (and flattered) by it, but turns it down with a gentle laugh.  Fondly, he thinks, “Ah, if that had happened ten years ago, who knows what might have happened.”

That’s What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? in a nutshell, folks.

And, if the next chapter hadn’t been my life, I probably would be complaining right now about how it’s deeply unfair to so broad-strokes categorize older gay people as sexless and done having adventures and extra-(non-)marital affairs.  But, yeah, so comes chapter  #95.

Our couple have time off together for O-Bon. They’ve slept in, Shiro has made breakfast, and Kenji is trying to get Shiro out of the house to enjoy the day.  Shiro jumps up and is like, “Oh! The shops will all be closed. We have to get groceries for the week.”

I swear to god(s), I married this man.  And, just like my wife, when they get home from this huge shopping trip, Shiro is like, “Right! Let’s do some of that cleaning we usually neglect! I’ll clean the vents. You do the curtains!”

Did Yoshinaga-sensei peek in my window and just copy my life???

I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking, “What? This isn’t cute. Why did Lyda marry someone so… anal?”  Trust me that I’m over here smiling a huge smile.  (Case and point? My wife just said, “Okay, here’s your list” talking about the shopping I need to do today, so that we can spend the day baking.  I LIVE IN THIS MANGA.)

Except I’m not a hairstylist.

Or a dude.

Otherwise, this is my life.  The gay agenda: cooking and cleaning and shopping.