Sapuri / Suppli (Vol. 1) by Okazaki Mari

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I normally don’t judge a book by its cover, but I thought the cover of the first volume of Sapuri / Suppli was unusual and gorgeous af.  It did its job; the artwork got me to pick up the tankōbon and read it while bored at work last night.

As unusual and standout as the cover is, I found the storyline to be the opposite–very… well-tred and stereotypical.

“Minami Fujii is an employee at a high-powered advertising firm. She’s good at her job but finds herself torn between the pressure and expectations of her career and her attraction to two of her coworkers: the younger, arty Ishida, and the classy, put-together Ogiwara!”

Except Sapuri / Suppli is a little bit more than a torn between two lovers story, but I’ll get to that after the spoiler break.

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In manga, Japanese women seem to worry a lot about not getting married.

I mean, I guess we see something similar among the older gay men in Fumi Yoshinaga’s work–this preoccupation with having to reach a certain pinnacle of traditionally-defined success by age fill in the blank, but usually 30.

There is a thing that happens to a lot of people around the age 28-30.  In astrology it would be defined as a “Saturn Return,” but a lot of people do some kind of “what am I doing with my life?” soul searching at that age.  It’s a fairly common/universal conundrum.

My problem with how it often seems to end up being portrayed for women, in these particular manga, is that there’s a lot of unexamined, internalized misogyny.

Our heroine in Sapuri / Suppli, Fujii talks about not wanting to ‘dry up’ and basically turn into ‘an old hag.’ Fujii worries about not being cute any more, and tries to glam it up at one point (and gets mocked for trying to dress young by her officemates).

There’s a successful businesswoman in the office, who, on the surface (at least in the first volume), seems happy enough, who is the fear of every office lady. Don’t end up like her! Alone at 40!  Like that’s some kind of death sentence.  Worse, the older lady herself participates in this myth, by telling Fujii to go out to karaoke one night because, “you don’t want to end up like me!”

This might be more poignant, if she was was actually portrayed as sad. The only time we see her out of the office, she seems to be happily shopping for houseplants by herself.  (Is that a cultural metaphor? If so, I didn’t get it.)

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My version had her Fujii’s boyfriend saying, “Isn’t that the woman you always say you don’t want to end up like?”

To be fair, a lot of this particular drama bounces off me as a queer woman.  We get perceived this way a lot: washed-up, frumpy, alone (even when we’re not. In fact, given this scene and Fujii’s loving description, I briefly wondered if this was going to end up a yuri romance!)

But this whole drama also bounces off me as a nerd, a geek.  We never like the things we’re supposed to, we’re also often seen as weird and lonely (again, even when we’re not.  Lonely, I mean. Of COURSE we’re weird af.)

I think the last time I worried about ‘fitting in’ or participating in culturally-defined success was 1983, when I was in high school. (No, strike that, by 1983, I’d already found Gay Comix at the local head shop.)

This is not to say that I can’t sympathize. There is a secondary tension in Sapuri / Suppli about the pressures of work versus keeping any kind of social life.  For Fujii, that means trying to continue to date, but it’s generally relatable in terms of how in your mid-20s (and, really, almost at any point in one’s life) the struggle of “does this job define who I am?” is real.

I am also endlessly fascinated by the work culture in Japan.

There’s actually a diagram in the manga, at one point, about how to form a stable napping platform out of three wheel-y office chairs. Fujii also demonstrates how to wrap your blazer around your skirt so you don’t accidentally give your officemates a free show, while you nap in the boardroom.

Fujii is regularly shown staying overnight at the office.

I can’t even.

There is no job on the planet I like this much. Even when I was writing full-time, I always took the weekends off (unless my deadline fell on a Monday.)

I’ll be honest, too. Despite her traditional obsessions, Fujii is a sympathetic character. The manga is well written.  Enough so, that I ended up spending some time last night after I finished the first volume trying to find out how easy it might be to get the rest. Scanlation sites don’t seem to have much of it–the first few chapters of the first volume, at most.  Amazon has English-language versions up to volume 5 (out of the 11 published in Japan.)

So, I mean, I might be able to pressure my library into at least finishing up the run of what they started (at least up to what’s currently available in English), but… I just don’t know that I’m that interested, especially if it ends with some kind of underscoring of traditional societal norms, you know?

It’d be boring to me if Fujii ends up leaving her career for marriage.  Or, worse, if she settles with some dude just because she doesn’t want to grow old alone.  That’s what people do in real life.  Yawn.

What I’d rather read is the story of the career woman who is happily single, despite all the pressures to be otherwise.  That’s a bit more edgy to me, a bit more exciting.  I mean, smash the patriarchy, sister. Even if it’s just to defy everyone’s expectations and be a happy, well-adjusted singleton.

However, Sapuri / Suppli was apparently made into a J-drama, so perhaps you might like to consume it that way? I couldn’t find it on Crunchyroll, but it looks like a fan site might have it for you.

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So, am I recommending this or not?  I don’t know.  It kind of looks like from the description of the J-drama this ends up a straight-forward romance.  I guess we can all be relieved that Fujii won’t end up a lonely, old woman, eh?

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Watashi Sekai o Kouseisuru Chiri no You na Nani ka / The Feelings We All Must Endure by Amano Shuninta

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There I was, randomly hunting down the list of tags on Baka-Updates, like you do. I hadn’t even gotten out of the ‘A’s (Antarctica, really? There are THREE??), when I came across “Asexuality.”

And, I thought, “Hmmm, yeah, color me intrigued.”

Not a ton of people are scanlating Watashi Sekai o Kouseisuru Chiri no You na Nani ka / The Feelings We All Must Endure, but I did find a good copy at Kiss Manga. I should tell you, right up front, that despite the tag, the main character isn’t the asexual one. (In the picture above, she’s the one sleeping in striped stockings.)

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The main character is actually Ruki–we first meet her when she’s critiquing how much of society is focused on sex and love and relationships.  She hates all that (which made me originally think maybe she’d be the one to turn out to be ace.)  In fact, Rukia kind of hates how all the girls in her college are. They’re all so giggly and relationship-focused that Ruki wonders how she ever got here.

Well, turns out, it was because of a girl.

For Ruki it was very much love at first sight. She met Sachi (Sacchan) when going for her college entrance exam.  Meeting Sachi was so distracting that Ruki blew her test. They both ended up going to their safety school. It’s all kind of a mess, since Ruki doesn’t understand these feelings and just wants to get through to graduation, but she’s stuck doing a group project with, what seem to her, to be a bunch of ditzy women.

Little does she know, they’re actually the SECRET LESBIAN CABAL.

For real.

In chapter three, there’s even a fun connect-the-dots for you to play: Who’s All Sleeping with Whom?

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Remi-san (Remia) probably has a line to everyone, because she’s the resident… shall we say, “free spirit.” In fact, when Ruki confesses to being a virgin, Remia seduces her on the spot.  Ruki is underwhelmed by the sexing, but figures it’s nice enough.  Her problem is that the girl that she fell for at the entrance exams, Sechi?  TOTALLY straight.

Ruki spends much of the manga first figuring out that she’s gay and then figuring out that she’s completely smitten with Sechi. Luckily, Sechi’s boyfriend is a controlling, two-timing jerk, and, though it takes a lot to get there, it turns out Sechi can be convinced to give lesbianism a try.  (The magic of gay sex, I’m telling ya!)

Probably my favorite scene in that regard is when Remi-san and Ruki are hanging out for the first time, and Remi-san notices Ruki’s hands.

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Possibly the truest moment in all of yuri. For real. Fingernails like that? Not with me, sister!

I found a lot of this yuri to be very… ANGSTY.  There’s a lot of questioning about what is love, anyway.

The ace character, Fueko, seems to also have narcolepsy, since she falls asleep constantly.  She’s in a relationship with Asuna (the woman with the glasses). As she says, she loves their “quiet time together.” Asuna has a slightly more than healthy sexual appetite, and, while Fueko can be convinced to have sex now and again, they agree to an open relationship. I can’t say it’s terribly happy, however. They break-up and get back together a bunch in this, and I kind of want to take Fueko home and snuggle her properly… but she’s so damn in LOVE with Asuna.

And that’s kind of the general theme of Watashi Sekai o Kouseisuru Chiri no You na Nani ka / The Feelings We Must Endure: you can’t chose who you fall for and sometimes that sucks.

Oh, and love kind of sucks in general.

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Would I recommend it? Maybe? The story is compelling enough. The sex isn’t explicit, though there are a lot of naked boobs to be had, as it were. If you want angsty, relationship stuff, however, I’d say yeah, go for it.

It does, at least, have a happy ending for our two main love interests, Ruki and Sachi.

Lupin Sensei / Lupin III (Vols. 1 – 4) by Monkey Punch

Today, I happened to read through some of the other blogs that I follow, and I came across MangaHoarder‘s Manga Reading Challenge 2018.  It looks like a fun list, and so I’ve decided to give it a try… somewhat passively. I figure I’ll just continue to read the things I read and see which boxes I can check by the end of the year.

Occasionally, if I’m looking around for something, however, I might try to hit a particular category.

Like, “a manga that is older that you.”

When I saw that one, I thought, “Whoo boy, where am I gonna find a manga published before 1967?”

Turns out, I had four volumes at home.  Lupin Sensei / Lupin III was first serialized TWO MONTHS and 8 days before I was born.

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I first came across the characters of Lupin III in the late-1980s/early 1990s, when the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis did a midnight showing of The Castle of Cagliostro.

I was enchanted and… energized. There’s a scene in this movie that had me getting up out of my seat, and I remember thinking, “Holy sh*t! This ‘Japanimation’ stuff is amazing!”  (I didn’t know the word ‘anime’ yet and, honestly, The Castle of Cagliostro was originally released in 1979.)

In fact, I often credit The Castle of Cagliostro as being one of the first major influences in my later interest in anime and manga.

Thus, several years ago, when I saw four tankōban of the original manga in the used section of my local science fiction store, I snapped them up.  Baka-Updates informs me that I have no where near the entire run, which is apparently 14 volumes. But, you’ll notice, should you go the link to Mangakalot that I provided above, the most you can find  scanned on-line seems to be the first four chapters of volume 1.

So, what can I tell you about this series?  Lupin III is a master thief. He’s kind of the original international man of mystery who galavants around the world dodging the law and having (mostly) comedic capers (some of which break the 4th wall.)

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I’m really disappointed that more chapters haven’t been scanned. Even with reading glasses, I found a lot of the panels difficult to parse.  As you can see from the above panel (and the one below), too, Punch-sensei has a very crude, loose style.

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Now, imagine this a fourth of the size it is here….

Plus, you know me, gentle reader. I’m a tough sell on humor, and a lot of the humor of Lupin Sensei / Lupin III is crude and even slapstick.  I had a hard time actually tracking some of the action…. and there are a lot of naked ladies getting ravished.

A LOT.

That being said, it’s often a lot of fun to see just how Lupin III is going to outsmart Detective Zenigata this time. Plus, you gotta love lines like this one:

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But do I recommend it to you?  Ah, maybe for the head-trippiness of it… but, honestly, the movie is much better.

Peace out, man.

Gangsta 48 by Kosuke (46 & 47, anyone?)

Speaking of splatter-fests, the newest chapter of Gangsta. is out at various scanlation sites. It is labeled as 48, though the last one I reviewed (and which seems to be out) is 45.

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I’m a terrible Gangsta. fan.  I mean, here it is, the end of Marco/Connie and I should be in tears. Yet, my only source of any feels is this panel spread:

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Do not hurt my PRECIOUS CINNAMON BUN, KOSUKE-sensei. I will hunt you down and kick you in the shins and yes I know you’re sick but DO NOT WITH MY BABY BOY.

I will be happy, however, if Connie is able to take out Striker with her final act. I hate that guy.

Likewise, given this couple of panel teaser with Nic, I am hopeful that the next chapters will bring us back to the main story arc.  “Hopeful” being a relative term, given that, if I remember correctly, Worick is working for the biggest anti-Tag doucenozzle, Corsica, in his guise as “Storage,” which just bodes so, so ill. Of course, speaking of “this can’t end well” scenarios, Nic has already agreed in Chapter 43 to give Dr. Theo his corpse to study, after he completes an ominous “final order” (which one PRESUMES is from Worick.)

So, we may be hurtling towards a grim, grim ending.

I mean, I do hope that Kosuke-sensei gets a chance to see her story to completion while she is still well enough to write and draw it, so you know, god speed and all that.

But, to quote the Star Wars franchise: “I have a VERY BAD feeling about this….”

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Brief UPDATES (with spoilers) of other manga chapters:

 

For anyone who depends on me (not likely) for alerts as to when some of the things that I follow have been updated, here’s a few that I’m reading, but have not individually reviewed:

Wombs: there have been three chapter updates since last I posted. As of this date, MangaHere has published up to: Chapter 35: Homecoming (19 weeks). What can I report about it? These last few chapters have gone deep on the political machinations between Dr. Lin and our stalwart Sargent Armea.  Something is rotten in transfer space and Olga is trapped in some kind of faux utopia… until she isn’t. This is getting into weird territory, but this manga has kind of been like that from the start. I’m glad someone seems to be continuing the work of scanlating this, however.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me: has two new chapter updates since I last reviewed it. They’re now up to Chapter 52: Their First Time?? The question of is Yoshiro stealing our heroine’s boyfriend is answered:

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And then this whacky “it should have been over when she picked one guy” reverse harem manga continues with an installment in which our two love birds realize that both of them are virgins and have zero clue how to get it on. They solve this in a typical for this manga way: our heroine realizes she’s straight and checks out shoujo manga; our hero talks to his fellow harem members who give him the straight talk (as it were) on how to take the lead (and remember consent!)

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!

Deadlock by Aida Saki/Takashina Yuu

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Because you know what you want? You want to read about hot gay guys in prison!

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Deadlock is the story of Yuuto Lenex, a former DEA investigator falsely convicted of killing his partner. He’s been sent off to Schelger Prison, where the FBI has cut him a deal: see if you can infiltrate prison culture and find the notorious ‘Corvus.’ All Youuto knows about ‘Corvus’ is that he’s a white guy and has a burn scar on his back.  Meanwhile, Yuuto finds himself inexplicably drawn to his handsome cellmate, Dick Burnford.

Dick.

Yeah, really.

The best part about Dick is that he’s actually gay.  He comes out as a legit gay guy in one of the later chapters, and Yuuto is like, “Should you really admit that here?? IN PRISON?” Meanwhile, I was thinking: “Shouldn’t you go by Richard? I mean maybe? But really? An out gay guy named Dick???”  But, Dick comes out, because Yuuto is wondering why he is treated so kindly by “the sisterhood,” a gang that seems to be comprised of trans women, who have been forced into the male prison system.

Deadlock has these weird moments of psuedo-realism attempts.  Like, not only are there trans women, but race is a huge factor in prison politics.  Even though he’s lily white, Dick is in the cell block that is usually given to mixed race or other racial groups, like Asians, apparently, who don’t make up a significant number of the prison population.

The love story is a slow burn. It’s pretty clear that Yuuto and Dick are destined for one another. I mean just look at this sexy rescue:

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It seems also just as obvious to me that Dick is being set up as a possible “Corvus.” The fact that he’s in the wrong cellblock, gets much more extended pat downs than anyone else, and absolutely every single gang leader is utterly terrified of him… despite him literally doing nothing obvious to deserve this respect… all seem to point to: Dick has a secret.

Alas, the only thing wrong with this yaoi is that I’ve read everything available so far (seven chapters,) and there has been nothing graphic–not even a kiss–despite off-screen gang rapes and the constant threat of rape, in general.

This is a prison yaoi for crying out loud!  I can’t believe nothing has happened on-screen!

Where is the smut???

I mean, I guess the romance is okay.  I find both Yuuto and Dick passably handsome and the plot is interesting enough (although much more plotty than I normally like in yaoi), but I would like some one to get naked, and soon.  I hate to say it, but half of what I’m hoping for in a prison yaoi is, well, you know… all the non-con rape-y stuff, like in Under Grand Hotel.

Ah, well.  If you want prison plot, this may be for you!

Urakata!!/Behind the Scenes!! by Hatori Bisco

Hatori Bisco-sensei is probably best known for Ouran High School Host Club, but I have to admit to bouncing out of that anime when I tried to watch it, dubbed. (Sorry, J. Michael Tatum! I loved you in the dub of Black Butler, though, I promise!)

This is a similar kind of story to Ouran… in that our hero, Ranmaru, ends up accidentally stumbling into a college zombie movie and ruins it. The bombastic art squad president, Ryuji Goda, gang-presses super-negative Ranmaru into helping them as reparations.

Apparently, no one is scanlating this one….

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Urakata!!/Behind the Scenes!! is basically about a lost lamb–or as Goda calls him at one point “the dude majoring in wool-gathering from the pessimist department in the school of listlessness”–who finds his people, his tribe: the “art squad.”

Ranmaru comes from rough, small town fisher folk. He grew-up feeling useless.  Due to this, he’s become an extremely negative person. But, of course, even before the end of the second chapter, Ranmaru discovers that, because of his humble beginnings, he’s particularly well-suited for making the most out of limited supplies–a skill set that that the underfunded “Art Squad” desperately needs.

The rest of the volumes is Ranmaru getting to know the other members of the group and learning how to fit-in in various ways.

I’m surprised that this one is labeled as ‘shoujo,’ while Nozaki-kun is ‘shounen.’  I guess this really is a marketing issue. There’s not even much hint of a strong romance (though there is a mild one between Ranmaru and the costumer, Ruka Enjoji), though I could see how this story, even with its heavily masculine cast, might appeal more to girls than to boys.  Most of the story arcs have a feel-good ending, not unlike Barakamon (though that one is listed as shounen, too.)

Ah, well, a marketing mystery.

I would recommend this, but you’ll have to find it via the library or actually buy it.  I’m not sure if it’s worth the price of a brand-new manga, but if you can pick it up somewhere free, I would.