I picked up this volume of Dining Bar Akira / Kuimonodokoro Akira at Quatrefoil, but you can read it on-line at MangaReader.net (linked to the title, above.) For some reason, Dining Bar Akira has its own Wikipedia page, possibly because there was a drama CD released in Japan?
This volume is actually a collection of shorts. The table of contents is offered as a menu, which is kind of cute, except that not all of the stories have anything to do with working a restaurant. The largest one (five chapters, plus an afterward of character sketches,) however, is.
Is it weird that I’m sort of disappointed we don’t see more about the Dining Bar itself? I don’t really know what a dining bar is in Japan, even after having read this whole manga. I wish I knew a lot more about what is served at a dining bar, how they work, what kind of customers they get… anything slice-of-life-y!
Instead, I get a bunch of dude emotions.
Much to my dismay, the story focuses on straight boi, Akira, who receives a love confession from the surly Torihara (pictured above on the left). Having a homo hit on him freaks him out, makes him angry, and, of course, aroused. Cue: five chapters of a lot of “I hate you!” “No, you don’t!” “Yes, I do!” “Why’d you kiss me, then?”
Except, some how, we never see the kissing.
There seems to be some actual sex going on, but we hardly see any of it, and so occasionally I was confused when Akira grumbles about the fact he’s dating Torihara (Akira grumbles about everything) and all they’ve done is mess around. I was like, “Wait? When have you even touched him, other than to Grab His Arm ™ ?”
Can someone please explain to me when Grabbing Someone’s Arm ™ became some kind of universal romance gesture in yaoi? I only ask because I’m currently watching Junjo Romantica and it really seems like the Grabbing of the Arm ™ is always stop-framed, given a close-up, and seems to be some kind of visual shorthand for “I am gay and I am making a claim.”
I guess gay dudes are grabby?
Grabby and crabby in this yaoi, anyway. I did, however, like the one chapter that seemed to be from Torihara’s point of view where, when Akira drags him off to play an early morning game of baseball, he comes to realize that maybe just hanging out with someone is as romantic as it gets. I find this true to life (although, dude, you CAN ask for dinner and a movie night. Honestly, you don’t have to be the world’s saddest sack, begging for love crumbs.)
Sad people in sh*tty relationships does seem to be the volume’s theme, however. The second story is called “Foggy Scene” about a high schooler who is in love with a straight classmate and, in frustration, goes off for skeevey hook-ups. One of he hook-ups ends up being with a substitute English teacher, who ends up at his school. He and the English teacher (who is 31 to his 16) strike up a non-relationship/sex thing and the high schooler pines after his straight best friend, until one day the best friend sees him and the teacher getting it on on the rooftop, the end. It’s called a foggy scene because our hero’s contact falls out and he has no idea how people are reacting to the big reveal of him being kind of slutty.
The last, very short scene is called “Riverside Moonlight” in which our hero wakes up from a wet dream about his pudgy (who is not drawn all that fat, so whatever) co-worker. He then proceeds to attempt to ask him out by basically saying, “Hey, you’re desperate, I’m desperate. I’m good at sex. What do you say?”
It ends before we find out of anyone says yes or if our hero is just having a mental breakdown in front of his straight co-worker.
I mean, wow.
I feel like Yamashita-sensei is some kind of apprentice/fan of Fumi Yoshinaga-sensei in that there’s this sense that the mangaka is trying really hard to be über-REALISTIC, but is actually just being kind of depressing. I mean, I get it as a push-back against some of the more ridiculous yaoi tropes, but… I don’t know.
I guess I’ll be honest. If you’re going to give me sad-sacks having meaningless hook-ups and talking about settling for second-best, at least give me super-graphic hot sex, okay? Otherwise, what’s the point? What am I getting out of my time commitment, as a reader? I have a couple of friends in my life that might fit the stereotype of unhappy, aging gay men, but they always have fantastic stories of wild sex. So, I mean, if you want to be REAL, at least give me the hot, hot (sometimes funny) sex!
Or at the very least, don’t pan to the left, or have the characters talk about it as an afterthought!