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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Akujiki no Dinner / Bitter Relevé by Ogawa Chise

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Akujiki no Dinner/ Bitter Relevé could be described as a one-shot based on the concept of crossing some foodie show like “The Great British Bake-Off” and vampires.

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The concept is simple. Vampires used to walk in the shadows, but now, for some never-revealed reason, they’ve been reclassified as a subset of human being and walk among us, totally accepted–if considered a little weird for their tastes, as it were.

Our hero, Kanjina, has some kind of disease and he eats a lot of fruit to cover the smell of the medicine he takes for it.

Geena, a vampire, considers Kanjina’s blood a delicacy.

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Geena shows up in Kanjina’s life and pesters him into becoming a donor.  It’s really unclear why Kanjina agrees to this, except that, in this world, vampires’ saliva contains an addictive aphrodisiac (and there’s some semi-nakedness for those of us tuning in for that.) So… it’s no like Kanjina gets _nothing_ out of the deal.

Except, we see him going back to the doctor trying to figure out how to cure his disease, so maybe he wants out?

It’s not entirely clear, especially since he does seem to enjoy Geena’s possessiveness.

From what I can tell, the one-shot is kind of a mediation on the connection between food and ecstasy, which probably is more profound in the original Japanese.

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ブルー!ブルー!ブルー!/ Blue! Blue! Blue! by Amamiya

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ブルー!ブルー!ブルー!/ Blue! Blue! Blue! kind of makes me regret my policy of reviewing any manga I read.

There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, it’s just sort of ‘meh.’

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The summary reads:

When Takiya Kippei, the brother of two older sisters, realises that he desperately needs money to buy a birthday present for his lover, he decides to live and work onsite at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn). There, he meets the well-educated Honjou Masumi, a man who is neither too strict nor too lenient, and who has a charm which embodies the word ‘mature’. “This is the first time I’ve met someone like Honjou-san” – as Takiya continues working at the ryokan, he starts to become interested in Honjou…

It’s hard to judge a manga by its first four chapters, but I guess I’m going to anyway…?

Right now, I either wanted a faster romance or more life in the slice-of-life.  This one is still being scanlated regularly and, thus, ends rather abruptly, and so maybe the exciting bits are just around the corner?

As it stands I’m not feeling the chemistry.

Takiya (or, more likely, Amamiya-sensei) has a different sense of what constitutes ‘charmingly mature’ than I do. That’s not to say that Honjou doesn’t have his charming moments (more on that in a bit), but currently the only thing that sets him up as more mature than Takiya is his age and the fact that he manages the ryokan… oh, and that he smokes.  Otherwise, he kind of seems to be clinging to bits of his wilder youth, like motorcycle riding and an unrequited thing for an old (straight, or at least married,) high school chum.

I did find the fact that Honjou keeps putting off Takiya’s advances really VERY charming.

This series of panels made me happy:

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So, I mean, it’s possible that, once complete, I’ll have fewer complaints.

There was a series of shorts that I read long ago, before I kept track of such things (which is partly why I started the policy of reviewing EVERYTHING), that this reminded me of.

The collected stories I’m remembering were these very… I’m trying to think of the right word. My brain keeps reaching for ‘realistic’ or ‘mature,’ but neither of those is quite right. They were quiet, reflective romances, where the hook-ups were very… grounded?  Like, there was one in this series where a guy returns to his hometown for a festival and ends up having sex with one of the drummers in the stands after hours. There’s both not a lot of reflection about the characters’ emotional state, while also being oddly atmospheric.  There was a lot of wordless staring at the object of affection/lust.

So maybe it’s the tone of this manga that reads as ‘mature’?

Like I said, I ended up feeling ‘meh’ about it in the end, but it might be worth returning to once its complete.

Bagjwi Sayug / Raising a Bat by Jade

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Bagjwi Sayung / Raising a Bat might be one of the sweetest vampire manhwa I have ever read.

The official summary reads like this:

“Park Min Gyeom is a human with a disease that makes him produce excess blood. Kim Chun Sam is a half-vampire who needs blood to live. So begins an unusual symbiotic relationship between ‘predator’ and ‘prey.'”

Every once and awhile I wish that I could work for various scanlators/official translators.  Raising a Bat is a terrible title for this manhwa. Having read the whole thing, I know what they were going for.  There’s scene when our hero, Park Min Gyeom, sees a stray cat and is tempted to give it a bit of the sausage he’s having for a snack. The owner of the restaurant Min Gyeom is working at, sees him and says, “You don’t want to do that. Once you feed ’em, they’ll expect you to ‘raise’ them.”

What is really meant here is obvious. In English, we normally wouldn’t call that particular relationship ‘raising’ an animal, but ‘taming’ it.  So, I would have offered that this manhwa be titled, “Taming a Bat” or even “Adopting a Bat,” given that there is a strong theme of ‘what makes a family’ in this manhwa, too…. which is why I suspect they went with ‘raising.’  But, the connotation of raising is, in English usage, at least, about having had  responsibility for something since birth. You raise chickens and children.  You tame strays.  You adopt a pet.

Okay, enough with the English lessons.  On with the story.

 

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In the opening scene, we’re introduced to the idea that Min Gyeom has a rare disease that causes him to produce too much blood.  He regularly donates to a blood bank in order to maintain his health.  I think this is a made-up disease, if only because he doesn’t seem to have any other health risks due to it.  Doesn’t matter, because clearly this is a match made in heaven for a vampire.

It just so happens that, recently, on the streets of Seoul, there have been attacks reported which leave the victims with two puncture marks on their neck.

Dun-dun-DAH!

Min Gyeom is attacked and is left with the tell-tale sign.

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This sucks (pardon the pun) because it’s his first day at a new school and now he has to wear a turtleneck under his uniform.

Yeah. This was his biggest concern.

At this point, you can tell that 1) Min Gyeom is super gay and 2) has had a seriously sh*tty life up to this point, because he’s been ATTACKED in the dark and is all, “Well, f*ck, there goes my ensemble!”

Why Min Gyeom didn’t, say, go to the police after being attacked, I don’t know. I mean, maybe Korean police are useless? But, honestly, to do think this is an intentional clue that he’s just used to waking up feeling like sh*t and going on with his life.

He gets to school an who does he end up sitting next to?

His attacker, Chun Sam.

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Again, Min Gyeom rolls with this.  Maybe because Chun Sam is so… listless. He spends much of class time asleep and he faints a lot.

Turns out, that’s because he’s starving.  Chun Sam is a half-vampire. (In an interesting twist, we later discover that full vampires actually have an easier time of it. They can drink animal blood. Full vampires can eat extremely raw food and/or blood-infused food.  Half-vampires can’t–and they have to have HUMAN blood only. It’s nice to see the half-vampires have the restrictions.)

The point it, the two boys quickly establish a symbiotic relationship.

Min Gyeom initially has the upper hand.  Chun Sam is the one with the need and the secret, after all.  He doesn’t take advantage in the ways you might think–mostly, he just bosses Chun Sam around.  He’s a little cruel, because Chun Sam is very innocent… almost childlike.

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I think we don’t see a true sadistic side come out because, it turns out, Min Gyeom has a Tragic Backstory ™ that involves being starved and bled by his father.

Dad, we find out, is an A-#1 jerk. It’s not explicit in the text, but Min Gyeom’s mother died during childbirth possibly due to complications of his blood illness.  Dad never wanted a kid, anyway.  He seems to hope that with enough neglect–literally only setting one place at the table, for himself–Min Gyeom will just fade away and die.

Until, one day, Min Gyeom is in an accident and dad finally figures out that Min Gyeom has some use.  Dad, you see, is a scientist who needs human blood for research.

These scenes–where Dad comes to harvest blood–are totally drawn like molestation.

Dad creeps into Min Gyeom’s room at night, even after Dad is remarried and Min Gyeom ends up with a stepsister who is thrilled to have a big brother. (She’s the only one. We also find out that the reason Min Gyeom lives on his own in high school because the new wife is the classic wicked stepmom and wants Min Gyeom out of the house and the family ASAP.)

So, this new relationship with Chun Sam is… triggering.  It’s very easy for Min Gyeom to think his only value is being bled out.  Yet, this same goofy innocence that Min Gyeom mocks Chun Sam for starts to worm its way into Min Gyeom’s heart.  Chun Sam likes him.  He doesn’t have ANY friends, and he really does follow Min Gyeom around like a pet, like a stray who has been shown the first ounce of kindness.

The manhwa is very much a slow burn.

There’s moments when the boys almost make their love confessions when circumstances rip them apart.  There’s also a Predatory Bisexual ™ who Min Gyeom initially turns to for love advice, but who ends up seducing Min Gyeom when he thinks he’s been dumped by Chun Sam.

I was initially very excited to see the Bisexual dude as ‘gay mentor.’  He was as UN-repressed in his sexual identity as Min Gyeom was repressed.  He was clearly attracted to Min Gyeom when they first met, but I had been really hopeful that he would be an All a Big Misunderstanding ™ guy instead of a sexual rival.

Nope, the moment it seemed that Min Gyeom’s confession had been rejected, he pounced.  I wouldn’t have even minded that (because, look–we’ve all been there gay, straight, bi, queer, etc.) BUT it’s revealed that he had a lady on the side that he had promised to stay faithful to and, for whom, he dumps Min Gyeom like a hot potato… without telling the TRUTH.

Visually, one of my favorite scenes is the moment that Chun Sam sees the bisexual dude off with his ‘real’ girlfriend and knows just how badly Min Gyeom is being treated.

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That’s more than side-eye, friend. That’s Side-eye of DOOOOOOOM.

Chun Sam is, in this scene, trying to respect that Min Gyeom has said he’s dating someone and so has gone out on a date himself with a girl from his class who asked for his phone number.

That’s one of the things I like about Chun Sam–and the whole manhwa, for that matter.  It feels much more like a real life scenario, because they do these things where they try to go on.  And when Min Gyeom thought his love confession was being rejected Chun Sam actually just got tongue tied and screwed up trying to say, “Yes, let’s, but I want to go slow, I want to be friends first again,” but instead just blurted “Let’s be friends first.”

Who can’t relate to that?

This whole thing is weirdly relatable, despite there being vampires who can legit sprout wings AND a bear daddy (Chun Sam’s actual dad, the vampire) who just happens to be the famous, bestselling author that Min Gyeom adores.

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Do I recommend this one?  YES, whole-heartedly.  There’s even an extra that contains  Min Gyeom and Chun Sam’s first sexual encounter, so, even though this is mostly romance/relationship, if you want the smut, you can have it.

I also really love all the stuff that circles back to families and what constitutes a real family…. and how your made/found family can be the true bonds, etc.  I adore Chun Sam’s parents.  At one point (thanks to evil scientist dad), they end up housing Min Gyeom and there’s a whole lovely bit about the difference between feeling like a guest in someone’s home and being HOME.

It’s also, unlike a lot of things I read and recommend, complete at 52 chapters, all of which have been scanlated.  If you go to the Manga Rock site I linked to at the beginning you will see 86 chapters because there is also a complete side story about how Chun Sam’s folks got together.

So there’s not only a good story, but a whole (LONG-ish) story to enjoy.

Ani no Chuukoku / Brother’s Warning by Asada Nemui

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I went down the rabbit hole of the Baka-Updates tags again.

Look, I was hoping to find another good yaoi about sex work, and, instead, stumbled across Ani no Chuukoku / Brother’s Warning, which has to contain some of the WEIRDEST BL shorts I have ever read.

Given some of the stuff I’ve read, I think that’s saying a lot.

But, seriously, there’s a romance in this manga that involves a giant, hairy caterpillar. No, I am NOT kidding.  And… I read them all. None of these stories are even very explicit, so I have no excuse.

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The first few chapters are the titular story, “Ani no Chukoku / Brother’s Warning.” (Note, if you read via the link I provided, start with chapter 2. Chapter 0-1.5 all get repeated, but are better scanlated later.) This is one of those incest stories that I never understand. I know that there is a fondness for the ‘childhood friend turns lover’ trope among the Japanese audience, but what is it with brothers? These two are full brothers by blood, even, so I dunno–I mean, I guess it’s the ultimate ‘childhood friend,’ but when they start the hurt-comfort with ‘listen, I’ve changed your diapers’….

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Is this sexy?  I don’t think so.

Let me back up a bit…. right, so, I think the reason Baka-Updates gave me this manga under the tag ‘sex work,’ is because Younger Brother, Tsuzuki, seems to be part of a pimping gang in Tokyo, who do a little hustle on the side.  The girls cry foul and they squeeze a little extra ‘hush’ money out of the johns.  It’s pretty nasty business and one day it catches up to them, sort of.  Tsuzuki notices a car following them after one of these little cons, and confronts the guy…. turns out it’s his long lost older brother, Hajime (whom he’d literally just been dreaming about.)

Big Brother is like, “Whoa, what a coincidence! Let’s hang out, catch up!” and shows Tsuzuki to his upscale apartment.  Tsuzuki’s all, “Dude, you’re loaded” and wants to know why he didn’t share all this good fortune with mom.  Older brother’s like, “Look, I was…uh, ‘overseas,’ and, anyway, I did. Oh, yeah and you should stay with me, here’s a key. Oh, yeah, and the catch? You need to give up your life of crime.”

Younger brother isn’t having it.  They have a fight about it and he storms back to his girlfriends’ place.

Lo and behold, next time Tsuzuki runs his little scam, the local yakuza boss comes down hard on him and his crew.

Two guesses who the local mafia capo is!

Yep. “Aniki,” the mafia version of Big Brother.  But, here’s where things get weird. Hajimi’s henchmen beat up Tsuzuki so hard, he’s actually incapacitated for six months–with broken arms and legs.

Cue: weird hurt/comfort.

Weird is maybe harsh. I mean, I get that there are catheter kinks and kinks involving having to use the bathroom in front of other people… but add the incest, and I read the whole thing with Ichigo’s expression above (but, yeah, okay, I read the whole thing.)

Still. Not for me.

The next chapter is called “The Swerve.” I’m not quite sure how this qualifies as either boys’ love or yaoi, but, okay, so we have Yukichi, a middle-aged, out-of-work salaryman. It’s the recession, so no matter how hard he tries, Yukichi just can’t land a job. He takes himself to a city park for a sulk and runs into another middle-aged unemployed guy named, Inazou.

Inazou  is a little shady-looking, but Yukichi bonds with him over their mutual love of sweet buns (Oi! The kind you eat! No, not like THAT!~the ones made by bakers!!)  Inazou is staring longingly at a bun-selling food truck and mutters to himself about needing a vehicle and tools. Yukichi assumes that Inazou’s plan for recession employment is to get himself a van and start selling sweet buns.

He begs Inazou to cut him in on the plan.

Only, yeah, Inazou was thinking about a heist. There’s a fairly hilarious scene of a botched robbery, where Inazou’s toy gun gets bent in a very suggestive way….

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The only thing even remotely reminiscent of a phallic symbol in this entire chapter, and it never even “goes off.”

…and the robbery is a bust. Inazou gets busted and thrown into jail, but Yukichi gets away… because he was too chicken to go in.  A year and a half later, when Inazou has served a year and a half in prison, Yukichi is there waiting for him….

….with a bakery van.

Love?

I mean, I kind of liked it as a male friendship story, but….?

The next chapter is “Kemushi / Hairy Caterpillar,” and, in many ways, defies description, but I will try anyway.  Right, so, these two high school guys are in love: Dai and Shou.  They’re so annoyingly lovey-dovey:

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That a woman who is being dumped by her boyfriend for being too clingy curses them.  She just happens to be a witch with real supernatural powers, I guess.  She curses Dai to see Shou as a hairy caterpillar.

The thing that’s funny about this–besides the whole hairy caterpillar thing, which is… pretty weird–is that Dai keeps trying to think the right thoughts/do the right things to break the curse.  He thinks: “Oh, maybe, if I love him for more than his looks?” Squeezing his eyes shut, he thinks about other things about Shou he loves….

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Eventually, he does figure out how to break the curse… and it’s, honestly, sort of cute. (I’d spoil it, but you might want to read this one for the sheer weirdness of it.)

The witch also comes back and lifts the curse because things actually worked out better for her, thanks to the break-up.  So, everyone’s happy again, yay! The End.

The next chapter is “Life in the Parks,” and is also more about male friendship than anything.  Momoki works at the Social Welfare Department and is given the assignment of asking the local homeless population to move out of “Onigashima Park.”  The translator notes that “Onigashima” is a mystical island of ogres, so when this guy, Kijima, shows up…

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I figured he was the local god/oni… only, if that’s the case, nothing supernatural ever happens with him. The two guys get into a dust-up over whether or not it’s cool to kick the homeless out of the park, and they end up working together to solve the problem, with a bonus “tragic” backstory to explain Kijima’s fierce loyalty to the homeless population.

Yay? I mean, I guess it’s nice that it all works out? (No sex and no magic. I dunno, man. Especially since this combo hit my favorite odd couple type, damn it.)

The penultimate chapter is “Nami no Oto ga Kikoeru / The Sound of the Waves” is a story about a horror writer who only write well when he’s angry about a break-up.  Sensei falls for a young waiter named Mitsuru… and the editor spends a lot of time trying to get things to go badly so that sensei will be inspired to write the grotesque revenge torture porn he’s so famous for.

Only, things keep working out.

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The true confession of every writer, everywhere….

Until they don’t…

Luckily, editor is there to pick-up sensei yet again…and sensei finally sees that he’s always had a constant companion in editor.  The end.

The final chapter is a return to the first story, “Ani no Kokuhaku / An Elder Brother’s Confession.”

So, yeah, the stories were… unsatisfying? A little weird?

I mean, you know me, gentle reader, I’m kind of in it for the smut, and so this romance stuff is a bit baffling, especially when they are these kinds of shorts that don’t even seem to be all that romantic to me. I mean, a food truck? I guess it’s nice that the salaryman waited for the guy for a year and a half, but, does the robber even know you’re into him? Is he going to really say ‘yes’ to life with you as a BUSINESS partner? I mean, I almost would rather read chapter 2 of that one where they are JUST NOT GETTING ALONG BECAUSE OMG WHO THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO MAKE STICKY BUNS WITH A FAILED MAFIOSO?? And, salaryman is all, “I WAITED FOR YOU; THIS IS ALL FOR YOU, MY LOVE” and mafia dude is all “Okay, but what was your name again?”

I mean, maybe we’re supposed to figure that’s the next scene and that makes the whole thing that much funnier?

I don’t know.

And then there were illusionary caterpillars?

I think maybe the worst part is that the only even vaguely explicit stuff happens between the two brothers and that’s the one thing that just DOES NOT do it for me.  *sigh*

Here’s the other thing. I LOVED the art. I really liked the way everyone was drawn… all of them were very different from one another(–for the most part, the younger brother and the kid with the caterpillar had some similarities in looks).

Plus I probably would have put up with some of the weirdness, if there were more sex…with the park onis and the salarymen. I even love yakuza stories!  Just not with brothers, okay??

This one was frustrating for me, all around.

You  might want to check out the caterpillar story, though.  Is it weird that I kind of wish there’d been sex in that one? Yeah, it’s probably weird. Very weird. But, humor? It could have been funny! Especially since Dai couldn’t tell where Shou’s face was…. (yeah, no, I’m a sick puppy.)

And why couldn’t this guy have been a real oni? (I mean, I kind of still think he is? Look at his ears?) So, what the hell, we had witch magic!  And, yet all the social worker and the oni did was work together and talk.

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Damn it.

Read this one at your own risk.

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.)

 

FAKE (Vol. 1) by Matoh Sanami

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I picked up this volume at a garage sale years ago.  It’s been sitting in my pile of manga forever, which is weird because I rarely buy manga that I haven’t already read. Most of the tankōbon that I own are of series that I loved so much I wanted to collect them (in order to re-read) and to support the mangaka (Bleach, Blue Exorcist, Bakuman, Full Metal Alchemist, Gangsta., Samurai Champloo… and I think a few early Attack on Titan. Mason has also picked up random copies of One Piece, Toriko, and Naruto.)  So, that single volume FAKE sitting there among those was an anomaly.  It finally bugged me so much to see it there that I read it.

Perhaps not the best reason to decide to read something, but there you have it.

SPOILERS

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I can NOT stand the art.  I feel like FAKE has the kind of art that gives yaoi a bad name. The eyes are beyond ‘big’ into disproportioned and a little terrifying, and everything is so… wispy that a strong wind could blow the characters right off the page.  I suspect this is a big reason why I had this manga volume in my possession for so long before I pushed through to read it.

To be fair to Matō-sensei, she was drawing in the mid-1990s into the early 2000s, and I think her style reflects her era.

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So… the story.  Our hero Randy McLean, is a rookie cop in the 27th district, New York City, who gets partnered with the brash homicide detective Dee Laytner. As they solve crime, sparks fly and they fall in love.

Of the two of the characters above, which one would you expect to be INSTANTLY RECOGNIZABLE by everyone he meets as ‘half-Japanese.’ Like, literally, someone will see this person and say, “You’re half-Japanese, aren’t you? What’s your Japanese name?” Yeah, the dark-haired one? No, that’s not him. It’s blond one, Randy (Japanese name: Ryo).

That’s the guy everyone instantly pegs specifically as half-Japanese.

Okay, one, Americans are racists, for sure, but I feel like in New York City saying, “Are you half-Japanese?” is not how this would go down, especially since the clue proffered is “Whoa, your eyes are so dark!”  I think what you’d get from people would be both much worse and far less specific.

Let’s just say that “What’s your Japanese name?” is not likely the very next thing out of people’s mouths. (And, seriously, EVERYONE does this to Randy.) So, I found this particularly… well, I’d say ‘jarring’ but I’ve seen this sort of odd take on American racism before in manga (see: Under Grand Hotel) and so, while it was noticeable and a little odd, I mostly rolled with it (because, let’s be honest, it’s far more culturally sensitive than what would probably really happen in America.)

Speaking of jarring, though, I don’t think that Dee waits more than five pages before coming on to Ryo.  I have to admit that with the back cover copy–“Meet Ryo and Dee, two New York City cops with an attraction for action, and for each other! When Ryo, a soft spoken officer, joins the NYPD’s 27th precinct, he’s soon partnered up with Dee’s a cocky, confident cop with attitude to spare.”–I was expecting SLIGHTLY more of a slow burn: more action and then attraction.  I totally expected that the title would be part of story, too.  Like, that they’d have to fake being a gay couple to solve a crime and then fall madly in love for real.

That kind of happens in one scene, but it’s more like that Captain America/Black Widow moment from Captain America: Winter Soldier, where  in order to evade capture by the bad guys they kiss, you know, because people only see ‘kissing’ and not the droids they’re looking for.

And, in this case, double-plus “eewww-DON’T LOOK” because: gay!

I will say for a manga written in the late 1990s, Dee’s casual acceptance of his own bisexuality is sort of refreshing.  At least here, unlike, say, in 10 Dance, the bisexuality isn’t used as a weird sort of ‘no homo.’ In fact, at one point, one of Dee’s ex-paramours JJ shows up and causes some friction because, despite all the kissy-kissy and the sort of mostly living together, Ryo has not accepted his feels for Dee.

That’s not to say that bisexuality perfectly handled here, however. There’s a very creepy  ‘I’d totally hit that in ten years’ line from Dee, when talking about Carol, a prepubescent/teenage street girl that Ryo has semi-adopted.

And that’s the other thing. If all you have ever wanted from life is a gay/bi cop rom-com kid fic, Fake is ready-made for you.  Ryo manages to collect a little family around him, a troubled orphan named Bikky and Carol, the pickpocket.  Not being a huge fan of kid fic, I can’t say this aspect entirely works for me, but I can kind of see how this has been very popular/enduring in BL circles. (And FAKE is not explicit, at least not in the first volume.)

If you’re curious and want to read it, MangaHere has it: http://www.mangahere.co/manga/fake/ .  If you’d rather try to consume this in another way, there was a one-hour OVA produced that’s on KissAnime: http://kissanime.ru/Anime/Fake-Sub/OVA?id=68734, which I watched several minutes of as well, and is based on the second volume.