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.
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’….
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….
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.
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:
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….
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…
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.
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.
Read this one at your own risk.