So… once again, I went looking specifically for “animal characteristics” and ended up with a volume that had one story that fit that category. I would complain, except that I really rather liked the main story.
Matsuno is not the kind of guy who pulls drunken one-night stands, so he’s especially surprised to wake up one morning, hungover, with a rent boy named Rin in his bed. This is particularly surprising because Matsuno considers himself straight.
To be fair to Matsuno, he’s one of the straightest of the “straight seme”s that I’ve seen. I mean, he’s had a taste of Teh Gay, after all, and it does not magically or instantly queer him up. Plus, he lives in ni-chome in Shinjuku (which our translator tells us is a well-renown gay neighborhood) and hangs out in a bar frequented by gay guys (the bartender is bi, and is clearly a college-buddy, longtime friend of Matsuno’s). If he was going to randomly start finding dudes cute, he would have done it by now…
But, there’s something about Rin. Rin tells us he was kicked out of his house for being gay and so he’s turned to hustling in order to have somewhere to spend the night.
Matsuno wants to offer his place, but, in talking about it to the bartender, the bartender warns Matsuno to be careful. It would be unkind to lead Rin on, since there’s no hope for love with a straight guy.
Matsuno actually tries really hard to abide by this. But, he sees Rin chatting up a trick in the alley and pulls him away.
At this point, Matsuno really just wants to tell Rin to stay at his place and not work the streets, but he’s afraid of coming on too strong. For once, this motivation makes sense to me. He’s straight and he knows saying, “Stay at my place, quit hustling” is basically saying, “I will be your sugar daddy.” He doesn’t want to set either himself or Rin up that way, so he compromises by telling Rin he can stay at his place if he ever strikes out… or, you know, just doesn’t want to work that night.
Rin likes being fussed over, but has sussed out that Matsuno is straight af. So, he makes agreeing noises, but he stays away.
Until one night, when Rin turns the wrong trick. He gets battered and, having nowhere else to go, ends up at Mastuno’s. Cue: hurt/comfort. At this point, Matsuno starts insisted that Rin stay at his place.
YET, things stay platonic. Rin starts talking to his hustler friends because, man, Matsuno is everything Rin wants in a guy. He’s handsome, steady, and seems to sincerely care for him. Hustler friend says, “Look, only heartache is going to come from falling for a straight guy,” and offers to set him up with a good client who is interested in something steady. The client is a little pushy (wants to bareback), but Rin finds himself feeling kind of empty afterwards and can’t wait to get home to Matsuno.
Bartender suggested to Matsuno that if he’s going to be all jealous like this, maybe he should try to help Rin get off the streets. So, Matsuno gets Rin a job–as bartender’s apprentice.
Things seem to be picking-up in Rin’s life. Matsuno tries to get Rin to work things out with his dad enough to get his health insurance straightened out, but Dad is a huge homophobe and instead of talking has set all of Rin’s stuff out on the sidewalk. This makes Matsuno sad and, not knowing that it is similar to a marriage proposal, offers to adopt Rin.
This was news to me. I knew that in Japan, adult adoption is thing. I somehow missed that, culturally, this has been how the Japanese solved some of the legal issues of gay marriage (since that’s still not legal in most districts.) Wikipedia says, “The adoption of one individual by another in Japan is commonly used as an alternative to same-sex marriage, which does not exist in Japan. By the elder party adopting the younger (as stipulated by the rules of adoption), the estate of either party can then be inherited or absorbed by the other without the payment of the prohibitive gift tax that would otherwise apply.”
Rin is, of course, shocked and gives an emphatic “NO” and runs off in tears.
Luckily, queer bartender helps Matsuno figure out what he did wrong. Matsuno, however, realizes that the idea of ‘marriage’ doesn’t freak him out that much. He kind of digs on the idea of a life together with Rin. They’ve been living that way for a while now, after all.
Working at the bar, Rin runs into the ‘good client’ in an alleyway. Rin had been sent to fetch fruit for the fruity drinks, and was making his way back. “Good client” shows his true colors by beating up and raping Rin. (Almost all of it is off-screen. This is very much BL instead of smut.)
That’s it for Matsuno, though. He wants to be Rin’s protector, his HUSBAND. So, he offers again, and explains that, no, he knows what he’s asking this time, and he loves Rin–not just in a platonic, big-brother kind of way, but like let’s do the sexy stuff kind of love!
That would be great, but Rin is worried that since the “good client” finally got his opportunity to go without a condom, he might be infected with AIDs. So, they have to wait to find out the results of the test. In four months, they can do it, but not sooner. Rin won’t risk infecting Matsuno. Not even with a kiss.
Test comes back negative and it’s smoochy-smoochy happily ever after for the guys! Hooray.
I actually really like this story, despite the lack of sex. The relationship-building seemed more plausible to me than many of these set-ups (particularly with a straight seme) and… ugh, true confession time, I totally love stories with sex workers. Also, there is a tiny bit of implied yakuza goings-on in the bar that also worked for me because I love yakuza stories, too. So by chance, this one hit a lot of buttons for me.
I adored the fact that when they finally go for it, Matsuno has done his research and Rin is the one who wants things to be ‘what it’s like when people are in love.’
It’s actually kind of romantic that way.
The animalistic stuff appears in “The Ear’s Feelings.” It’s fanatical story where, like Kafka’s cockroach, our hero randomly and spontaneously wakes up with cat ears. His coworkers tell him that they sort of like the ears because previously he’d been the sort of person who was hard to read. Now his ears give away his emotions. In fact, they work just a little too well, and a male co-worker finally twigs to the idea that ear boi finds him hot.
When they sleep together, they trade. Suddenly Interested Co-worker ends up with the cat ears.
There is some jealousy because all of the office ladies find the ears super-kawaii. Our hero is forced to make a love confession and somehow this makes the ears transfer to the company’s boss (? or maybe the joke is that Interested Co-worker is actually a run around and is trying to blame the sudden appearance of the cat ears on the boss as being an “airborne” virus.)
Obviously, I liked the morning after love story better. If you want a bit of romance and aren’t in desperate need of smutty smut, you can read After Morning Love at Mangago.