Your Honest Deceit / Kimi no Tsuku Use Hontou (vol. 1) by Ajimine Sakufu

I only just noticed this is volume one (of two), so I have to apologize for my incomplete review. If you want to read the whole thing, Mangago has it.

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I liked this one more than I expected to, but I’m not sure that’s saying much.

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I was in a hurry when I was at Quatrefoil, so I grabbed a bunch of yaoi at random, with no rhyme or reason.  I mean, that’s part of the fun of it, right?  But this cover made me go ‘meh,’ and so I left it for last.

The main story follows a young lawyer, Kuze, who has finally landed his dream job–or maybe, more accurately has landed a job with a dreamboat boss, Kitahara-sensei, that he’s been pining after since Kitahara was a guest lecturer at law school.

Is it disturbing to me that Kuze never drops the formality of full surname + honorific the entire volume?  I’m guessing that’s meant to be part of the kink, because Kitahara definitely falls into ‘hot dad’ territory.  ‘Hot dad’ is not a place I normally go, but I will admit to really enjoying Kitahara’s dad haircut.

 

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This hair game is on point. Good hair is Important.

I found Kitahara weirdly attractive, what can I say?  He’s not my normal type at all, (see: bad boy with weird/wild hair.) But, I kept turning the page to look at him, which is clever on the mangaka’s part, because, otherwise, the story is a bit of a slow-burn.

Kuze didn’t really think he had a shot with the boss, see, because it was well-known that Kitahara was married. Kuze starts to have hope when he notices the ring gone, but then rumors are swirling around the office about whether or not Kitahara is getting back with his wife.  A drunken love confession is contrived for reasons of plot, and Kuze figures he’s screwed everything up for himself. Luckily, Kitahara is bi, or at least down with the idea of trying it on with Kuze.

The big moment comes, they’re getting hot and heavy, a little blow job action is happening, and it suddenly hits Kitahara that, hey, maybe Kuze has done this a time or two before.  Stupidly, he says something to this effect. (Pro tip: It’s never a good idea to make your lover feel like a ‘ho.) Kuze runs off, upset, convinced that Kitahara finds his queerness “disgusting.”

Luckily, they both know a private detective that helps Kitahara track down Kuze in a hurry (there is some handwaving as to why Kitahara doesn’t just phone the guy or walk back to the office and rummage through his HR file for the address.) I bring this up because the inclusion of the absolutely random P.I. baffles and delights me.

It all works out and they become a couple. The rest of it settles into an at-work relationship drama. Highlights include: Kitahara getting jealous of an old lover (which in Kuze’s case is a double-entendre because he’s into “geezers,”) and there is on-the-desk office sex, because if you’re doing this kind of story, it’s sort of like the gun over the mantlepiece, am I right?

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The office romance appears to continue in the second volume.

Interestingly, none of the on-line sources I found for Kimi no Tauku Uso to Hontou includes the second set of unrelated stories, “Honey*Bunny” and “Cutie*Bunny.”

“Honey*Bunny” and “Cutie*Bunny” continue the mangaka’s obsession with age gaps and stoic/cold lovers, where one of the couple refers to the other, formally.

So, we have Yuu and Kono-san.  The twist in this set of stories is that the elder, and former teacher of Yuu, Kono-san sleeps with a cute stuffed animal.  Yuu really wants the snuggles that the bunny gets.  He gets no respect until, after a series of events that leads Yuu to think Kono-san is swanning off with someone else on Yuu’s 20th birthday, Yuu gets so mad and jealous that he calls Kono-san by his first name, “Toru,” without thinking.

“Cutie*Bunny” involves more jealousy, this time with an ex of Toru/Kono-san’s who sends him a giant stuffed bunny.  (Just when they got rid of the last one!) Yuu stalks Toru to the meet-up (at a gay bar, ‘natch, with a trans bartender for the same random reason, I suppose, as the PI,) where it is revealed that the gift was a good-bye, as the old flame is going straight and getting married.

There is almost zero on-screen sex in these two chapters. (There’s some implied sex in the opening and some kissing.)

Would I recommend it?  Like I said, I ended up sort of liking Ajimine-sensei’s art. So, if you’re looking for well-drawn romantic drama, this could be a nice diversion.  It’s certainly short, especially given that the on-line versions skip the secondary stories.

It’s not terribly sexy, however.

But, you know, there’s something to be said for a decent story with good art.

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Man’s Best Friend / Inu mo Akurekeba by Takashima Kazusa

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The love of a dog is unconditional.  At least, that’s what my friends who have dogs tell me.  You see evidence of this sentiment all over, though, am I right? Bumperstickers that say, “Be the person your dog thinks you are,” etc., etc.

Well, in Inu mo Akurekeba / Man’s Best Friend our hero,  Ukyo, gets to discover just how awesome it is to be loved by a dog.

And, yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but, actually, this story is really sweet.

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 This is another one I picked up at Quatrefoil.  I actually remember thumbing through it in the used section of Barnes & Nobel, many years ago, before I really understood my deep and unabated love for yaoi.

What is weirdly awesome about the title story (because this is actually another story collection), is that, even though Kuro is able to shapeshift into the hotty on the cover, he is actually a dog.

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The dog has been praying to the moon, every night, to be able to meet his beloved, Ukyo. One day it happens. Kuro, a stray, is being picked on by some kids, and Ukyo rescues him and takes him home.  When he gets excited, he transforms into a human:

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Mostly.

He still keeps his ears and tail, though, like you do.

And then you know, there’s a lot of licking and excited sex, and, I swear, despite how that sounds, it’s actually a really sweet story.  Ukyo tries to keep Kuro’s magical nature a secret, but the problem is….well, you know dogs, right? You say, “Kuro! Let’s go for a walk!” and suddenly you have a six foot one naked man with a tail who really really wants to go for a walk, but who isn’t really sure how these two-legs creatures do that two-legged thing.

It’s stupidly adorable.

If you can get over the fact that this is basically a dog, it’s plenty sexy, too.  I mean, they go for it ALL THE TIME.  I guess, you know, like a dog would.

The next two chapters, “Summer’s Here Again” and “Pinpoint Lovers” about two thoroughly human childhood friends, Kasumi and Kentaro. When Kasumi had to move away, Kentaro made a promise to wait for him… only, apparently, he thought Kasumi was a girl.  So, when Kasumi shows back up in town Kentaro is in for a shock.

He gets over it pretty quickly, though.

What I like about this one, though, is that the two guys spend time becoming friends again.  We get a kind of relationship montage, where it’s clear they’re spending the summer just doing things together and Kentaro is realizing that maybe there’s a different reason why he’s jealous of all the female attention Kasumi gets.  Like, maybe he doesn’t want the girls, so much as he wants the guy.  So, one night when they’re reminiscing, Kentaro makes a move.

They have a brief moment of, “oh, oops, I slept with you and maybe that wasn’t cool” where they then avoid each other for the rest of summer, until Kentaro gets wind of the fact that Kasumi is cutting his vacation short.  Kentaro rushes to make his love confession and we get to more sex and a HEA.

Though the next chapter shows the downsides of trying to have a long distance relationship… this one is also, ultimately, very sweet.

The last chapter is probably the weirdest one, “Princess Goldfish,” in which a guy rescues a goldfish from being tossed aside, after having been won at a fair.

Did your county fairs do this? Ours did. You could win a goldfish in a plastic bag, if you got the pingpong ball to balance on some glass or something. It was actually a fairly easy game to win, and I must have murdered more than my share of goldfish, because who has an aquarium waiting at home? It’s interesting how universal this is between cultures.

At any rate, this guy overhears some kids wondering what they’re going to do with the goldfish and they basically say, “I dunno, I guess I might as well dump it now,” and our hero rushes in and saves the fish.

Who, later that night, turns into a naked boy and… yeah.

Goldfish sex.

I mean it’s kind of classic right? The hero gets a reward for acting kindly towards [fill in the blank].

Except, magical goldfish….????

Eh, it was a fast read, and maybe was a dream? I dunno, I regret nothing.

Would I recommend it?  I would, but hesitantly.  I think if you have an Ah-What-The-Hell casual attitude towards shape-shifting/beast stories, you could find some humor and sweetness, particularly in the dog stories–though the childhood friend story was mainstream yaoi, so there is that, if nothing else.  The sex was plentiful, but was never in the category of super-hot, for me.  So take that as you will.

 

Dining Bar Akira / Kuimonodokoro Akira by Tomoko Yamashita

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?

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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.

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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!

Selfish Love / Kunshusama no koiha katte by Naduki Koujima

There’s some conflict about the Japanese title of this manga. It’s either as listed above (via Wikipedia) or Kunshusama no Koi no Oaite (via Baka-Updates.)  Normally, I’m tempted to trust Baka-Updates on principle, but I’m intrigued by the fact that Wikipedia 1) had an entry, and 2) tells me this is literally translated as “The Monarch’s Lover.”

The other note of interest is that, for the English-language version, the setting was changed from a high school to a university.

Probably because of all that rape…

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First we have to talk about this art.  Okay, yes, it’s a trope, that anime/manga eyes are larger than normal, but this…

This is a mutation:

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You need to see someone about your condition, son….

This bug-eyed monster is Ryuya Fujio.  He’s the main character for the first three chapters of this volume (and then the rest of the second volume).  I spent a lot of time trying to decide if his eyes were that big naturally, or if I was just supposed to imagine that they seem bigger because of the glasses he wears.

I finally decided it was just bad art.

The cute-meet of Selfish Love leaves something to be desired, too.  It’s missing …. a set-up for starters.  We end up getting a kind of love-interest backstory, but it’s not very compelling and very late in the game. Instead, we jump right in to the lusting. Ryuya is called into the honor society’s office by its president, Orito Kuroha. You see, Orito needs to pick a VP, and he wants Ryuya.

No, I mean, REALLY wants.

Ryuya says no. To all of it–he doesn’t want to be vice-president of the honor society and he does NOT want Orito’s disgusting homosexual advances. (Note: there’s a lot of saying ‘no’ and not being listened to AS WELL AS a lot of ‘get your perverted hands off me, you disgust me’)

Orito, being a rich dude, has never heard this word “no” before in his spoiled, pampered life. He always gets what he wants, and he wants Ryuya.

He hits on Ryuya. Ryuya just plain hits back.

Cue central conflict (physical as well as thematic), including a tragic (maybe supposed to be heartwarming?) backstory in which we discover this isn’t the first time Orito has beat-up Ryuya….

Normally, I love me a good class conflict, especially when the poor guy who stands up to the rich guy and says “no,” but the world-building needs more meat than: rich people suck. It’s not that I disagree, but “some rich kid beat me up in Kendo Club and now I despise all rich kids” seems a little shallow, when, you know, there are plenty of legit reasons to hate people who have money and power and abuse it.

Also, Ryuya is so homophobic that he doesn’t even notice his best friend, Kyogo, is super-gay. Poor Kyogo keeps asking Ryuya out and gets friend-zoned over and over. Kyogo was my favorite, honestly. He got in on money, but his dad is a famous actor. So famous that people are always asking if Kyogo can get an autograph to which he says, cryptically, “My dad and I aren’t close.” Curious!  Thing is, he was at least decent. He seemed to genuinely care about Kyogo. I wanted him and Ryuya to get together. But, that doesn’t happen. I had hopes in the second volume, but, no, all that happens is that Kyogo gets physically pushy and basically pushes Ryuya right into confessing love for Orito.

Which is a shocker, because I was pretty convinced Ryuya was so homophobic that he could actually resist the magical, transformative power of Teh Gay yaoi-style.

But, when all else fails, pull out the high school play trope and be sure to have the heroine, who is set to play Juliet to Orito’s Romeo, fall ill and Ryuya be the only one available to cross-dress for the part (oh, and as a bonus, have the BFF/rival Kyogo step in to play Tybalt.)

I found this whole thing messy and unconvincing, frankly.

There are two shorts in the first volume, however, which are much smuttier and straight-forward (AS IT WERE).

The first is “Sweet Seduction” in which our hero comes over to his best friend’s younger brother’s place for a lesson in English and gets a lesson in love, instead.  Or as the younger brother puts it, “How about we try a little shock therapy!”

The second one, “Luscious Intoxication” starts with our hero waking up after a hard night of drinking on the job (the couple looks so much like the previous two, I thought it as a continuation at first… maybe it is? Maybe this is after our previous hero has met up with the English-speaking clients…? Except this guy says he’s the manager?..)  At any rate, the boss presses his advantage… in more ways than one!

Then we get “Worst Day” involves that creepy kid from your high school admitting he’s always staring at you because he wants to fuck you, the end.

“Strange Smile” actually continues with creepy kid, who has now found you in a hurt/comfort situation. Turns out, you got in a knife fight (apparently, you are a delinquent).  Creepy kid lives just around the corner (convenient!) and also figures the best way to clean your wound IS WITH HIS TONGUE.  Sex convinces you that “he’s not that bad, after all.”

Not sure why that got into second person there for a moment, but there you go.  In the end, I found the little shorts more satisfying. I think this was true because the mangaka actually sucks at storytelling, and it hardly matters when the point is to just get the two guys to the point of getting it on.

You can find this one at Quatrefoil Library, too, though I’m less sure why you’d want to….

Yakuza in Love / Hanagumi Nikyouden by Shiuko Kano

Ah, my favorite yaoi sub-genre, we meet again!

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Yakuza in Love is another of my Quatrefoil Library picks.

The story follows Aoi Ichimura, a hapless young guy with a mean face.  Yeah, literally, he ended up as a gangster because a car accident left him with this adorable little cross-shaped scar on his face, a.k.a at TV Tropes as “X Marks the Hero.” I mean, why the f*ck even finish high school with a face like that? Weirder, apparently all the kids in high school were scared of Ichimura and so he’s had a lot of practice acting tough.

It’s really kind of an shame that’s all it is, an act–

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…Because, I kind of liked the cocky tough guy we meet at the beginning.  He’s the sort who uses a gun-shaped lighter to bluff his way out of a tough situation.  Alas, this clever, pluckiness is all just for show. Ichimura is suffering serious imposture syndrome because, he’s been awarded a silver badge (this whole badge thing is new to me, but apparently it’s legit) for saving the boss’s life.

Turns out? He was just trying to protect a baby bird from being stepped on!

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D’aww! (Personally very invested in this story. Is the bird okay? Did Ichimura make sure it went back to its nest? Did the mama bird find it????)

Earned or not, he’s the boss’s new favorite, so he’s sent to go pick-up Yugi Sakigaya from prison. Ichimura’s been told that Sakigaya is a ‘real man’ so he’s expecting someone terrifying.  Turns out, Sakigaya is… well,… HOT.

In this same scene we’re introduced to Chihiro Karasuma a gangster with really bad hair who is Sakigaya’s confidant and friend.  It’s from Karasuma that we learn all the various and complex plots that play out in this three volume manga.

The story itself isn’t bad.  I mean, as I’ve said before I’m a sucker for tough guy/yakuza manga (and particularly yaoi. I blame Viewfinder.)  I am, however, deeply amused by just how GAY everyone is in this gang.  Sometimes being gay in yakuza yaoi is a source of conflict.  I mean, no one ever really agonizes about their sexuality in these things, but sometimes, like in Hearstringsyou at least have some rumblings that maybe the guy doesn’t really want to be a mafia wife/one-chan. But, in Yakuza in Love the big conflict turns on the fact that one guy is straight and that f*cks up, well, EVERYTHING.

Don’t worry, our hero and his HONORABLE and NOBLE underboss get it on without too many hiccups.  I mean, sure Sakigaya is kind of random in his affection, but that’s only because he lost his last lover–a woman also named Aoi–due to some mafia-related retribution/reprisals, so he’s just gun shy (AS IT WERE!)

No, the main conflict that f*cks it up for everyone is one between Chihiro and the gayest little bitch mafioso, Junki Ozawa.  Junki is kind of a stereotype: he’s delicate, small, extremely judgmental, temperamental, and horny af.  Pretty much if you’re a dude, Junko wants to f*ck you–or insult you for not being good enough for him, or possibly both.

Junki has been holding this unrequited thing for Chihiro since forever.  Chihiro is oblivious and hurtful because he’s straight.

Cue: all the trouble in the world, complete with betrayal to a rival gang that ends tragically.

Moral of this story: if you’ve got a scar, you’re scary and should lead a life of crime with hot bois everywhere!; if you were only gay, none of this would’ve had to happen.

So, listen up out there, kids! If you’re in the mafia and NOT gay? This is where the trouble starts.  Just be gay.  Straight yakuza goons = death and tragedy; gay gun-toting gangsters = good.

Also, if you do go ahead and check-out/read the following volumes, be sure to read the really steamy extras at the end, which include a sexual ghost encounter with tragic victim. They’re all pretty hot.

Love Bus Stop / Ren’ai Bus Stop by Ritsu Natsumizu

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Salarymen on public transportation!  Can it any get better than this?

Let’s find out!

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First of all, when doing my usual prep for these posts, I realized that I’ve been misrepresenting Mangago!  Here I’d been calling it Mangagogo (which, what the hell, why would you not just go for it? Go-go, baby!)  But, even if I like my version better, technically the site is called Mangago, so my apologies.

Gomenasai, Mangago!

Right, okay, so Love Bus Stop is another yaoi you can find at Quatrefoil.  Maybe you’re wondering why bother checking a book out when you can read it on-line?  Well, perhaps you would prefer to read on your phone or iThing or laptop or have Google beam it onto your retinas.  For me, I like the context a paper volume provides. For one, you get the official translation. That’s not a dis at scanlations or their bevy of fan/volunteer translators.  HOWEVER, you will not get what I’m dubbing the “Let’s Take the Train Together… problem.” There will never be weird, intrusive editorializing, unless the mangaka puts it there. Secondly, the copy is always clean. No squinting at grainy reproductions.  Third, you get to see what else is advertised in the back. To me, that’s the best part? It’s like the previews at the movies.

Like, who doesn’t want to rush out and find the TASTE THE FLAVOR OF LOVE… Vanilla volume?

VANILLA!

Just like the previews give you a hint of who the movie producers think is sitting in the audience  at the movies, this ad copy tells you a lot about Love Bus Stop.

A lot.

So, thus prepared, let’s get to it.  Love Bus Stop has six chapters, plus an extra. In a startling deviation from the norm, the first chapter is called “Fantasy Love Bus Stop” and not “Love Bus Stop” per the title.  The story opens with our hero thinking, “I never thought it was like that.” At first I thought he mean ‘like that’ in the GAY way, but I think he means that he didn’t realize that catching Teh Gay would involve, like, crushing out on someone.

Like, you know, people do. (Pro tip: most queer people find out they’re gay by having  GAY feelings for people they meet. You know, like how straight people figure out they’re straight. Okay so maybe it’s not an “AHA! I must be straight! moment, but you know the same confusing rush of feelings….)

Which does beg the question: what did he think it was going to be like?

Maybe our hero is just shocked because he feels so much like a school girl. (I will say, having thought I was straight in high school and only figuring out the gay in college, did mean that I sometimes felt SO STUPIDLY high school about my crushes. So, this kind of makes sense.)

I guess dude was just thrown to realize that seeing the guy waiting for the bus made his heart all doki-doki and how he instantly starts having sex fantasies–all of which are graphically drawn out for us. (Thank YOU, Natsumizo-sensei!)

Except one time when, hilariously, they are represented as shoujou-flowers that the love interest just blows through:

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Almost would have been funnier as a field of penises… Just me? At least lilies, am I right?

The fun of this chapter, of course, is how our Walter Mitty-esque hero keeps spinning out wilder and wilder fantasies–once he decides that because his mystery salaryman has good posture he must be a detective. Cue cop fantasies.

The chapter ends when our hero works up the courage to introduce himself!

*sniff* Do I smell the flavor of love? Is it…. VANILLA?? Yes, gentle readers, we have stumbled into BL territory. Alas.

Moving on…

“Love Bus Stop” seems to pick up with the same couple, some time later, when they are casually being friendly.  They go out to eat together regularly, anyway.  Our hero–who now has a name: Tsuzuki Fujusaki–has discovered that his fantasy man is kind of dork. He’s clumsy, blunt, easily lost (like can’t find restaurants) and sensitive. But, that just makes Tsuzuki love him EVEN MORE.  When a co-worker runs into Tsuzuki helping his fantasy bus salaryman into a cab, he rushes up and is all, “Oh! Your lover! What’s she like–? .. ???”

In a corner, Tsuzuki freaks out, basically blurting, “WHO? THIS GUY? HE’S NOT EVEN A FREIND. BARELY KNOW HIM. I WOULD NOT BE PINING FOR HIM. NO! NO HOMO!!”

Predictably, mystery salaryman is a bit miffed.  Like, even if he wasn’t “that way” (which, btw ‘sensitive’ telegraphed like a BEACON,) dude would be pretty pissed off to be not even a friend.

And of course, he’s not just mad to not even be recognized as a friend, he’s secretly hiding his own crush.

Tsuzuki does about two seconds of soul searching and comes to the conclusion: “No homo? Did I say ‘no homo’? I meant SO Homo!”  With that settled, he rushes to mystery guy’s apartment and makes his love confession. Boys together = the end!

I’m not sure they even kiss (outside of Tsuzuki’s fantasies in part one of this.)

Next up, “Blame it On Love.”  Our mangaka seems to like to set up her one-shots with a opening line.  Kirishima’s is, basically, “When they said ‘it gets better’ I thought it would, but it sucks and I’m still not over my high school crush.”

Except he says it: “When I grow up, things will work out. I believed that back then.”

Which is maybe more succinct, but whatever.

The story here is that Kirishima is a guy who clearly could be enjoying a carefree life of fun, decidedly NON-vanilla sex…. (The texts this guy gets from his hook-ups! Yowza!)

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OMG, Kirishima! GO OUT WITH THIS STRANGER MORE! THAT is the yaoi I want to read!!

But no, Kirishima is hung-up on some dude he crushed out on in high school who seems hopelessly straight (my guess is: HE ISN’T!)… and, worst of all, is now working in the same office! Oh, the heart ache, oh the angst.

I think I actually like how these two get together though.  As they’re headed back to Kirishima’s after some office party or other, they’re accosted (off-screen) by one of Kirishima’s hook-ups who’s gives them lip: “Whoa, replaced already by this stuck-up looking man! And you were all over me too, you skank!” And straight boi/old flame is all, “Suck it, bitch!”

I actually had to re-read that panel a couple of times to make sure it was really straight boi who had the sassy comeback, and yes, yes, it was.  Kirishima is even a little like, “Uh… … did I know you were so sassy?”

This of course gives straight boi the opening he needs to say. “Look, moron, there’s a lot you didn’t know about me, like how I’M A FLAMING HOMO.” Rough smooching commences to prove it!

Except Natsumizu-sensei writes this much more subdued.  (See advert for “vanilla.”)

Next up is a florist AU–okay, actually, I guess this is flower shop canon, called “All My Flowers For You” in which I learn that the Japanese middle school kids have it rough.  Apparently they have a “work week” as part of “vocational eduction.”

My Google Fu has failed me and thus I have no information on how accurate a description of school life this is, but, if this manga reflects some real thing, apparently teachers send their students off to do work in various shops to learn something about work life?

This seems a little odd, because: middle schoolers?  But then 1) this is Japan and 2) maybe this is like “Take Your Son/Daughter to Work Day” here in the states and not really child labor.  The kids do seem to be doing some of the work unsupervised, but probably this is an indication that this is a casual thing–like a kind of ‘working’ field trip, where they let you touch the button at the factory, but you’re not actually clocking in hours.

At any rate, if anyone out there knows what the hell, I’d love to hear about it.

Sensei is one of those ‘bespectacled’ types and he’s kind of cold fish, as well.  The florist meanwhile is a flouncy stereotype who keeps throwing himself on sensei in a flirtatious, flippant way.  Except that one time, when he gets serious because there is a rush order and he really needs grown-up help.  Sensei, being the responsible sort, steps up and florist rewards him with a bouquet.

The bouquet, I think, has been sprayed with those ‘homosexual pheromones’ that the fake news sites are always convinced liberal politicians are putting in the water supply.  Because, just staring at the flower arrangement in the bucket he dumped them into in his bathroom makes sensei wish he would be looked at by florist the way florist looks at his flowers.

Uh, okay, that’s kind of sudden, but… sure, why not?  Seems like as good a reason as any on which to base a love confession! Go for it, sensei!

Meanwhile, apparently the florist is wishing to be cared after the way sensei cares after his kids.

Mmmmm…..

Well, at least they get together and smooching commences!

Back to the salaryman office (a hotbed of Teh Gay, let me tell you!) in “First Kiss.”  In fact, this love affair starts with a warning that seems seasonally appropriate: don’t get drunk at office parties.

Okay, so in this story, it actually starts in spring because I’m guessing Sakura Season. Who cares? The point is, there is an office party and our hero gets HAMMERED. So hammered, in fact, that he decides the best way to welcome the new guy to the firm is with a big, wet, passionate kiss. Hence the chapter title, “First Kiss.”

The twist is… this ‘first kiss’ is NOT new guy’s first.  In FACT, it is, unexpectedly, totally returned. Double the passion! And a deep meaningful look and the vaguely challenging line, “You sober now?”

In fact, let’s f*ck all this angst-y, I wonder if I’m gay bullish*t and skip right to the screwing like rabbits!

So, what’s the conflict?  Well, a rom-com misunderstanding wherein our hero overhears new guy saying he doesn’t want to go to any party where hero is any more.  So, hero is thinking, “Huh, okay. I’m good for screwing, but you don’t actually like me. NICE.” Except, of course, new guy was saying that to the rest of the office because he’s afraid that if they both got drunk it would all end in humping on the office furniture he’s so into our hero.

It takes a snowy day and stopped trains to get there, though.

But they get there and it’s all good.

The final chapter “Passion Bus Stop” is a return to our original couple and a funny story about how long it takes fantasy/nerd salaryman to be ready for sex. This is literally a story about the rewards of consent and taking it slow with someone you love.

D’awwww!

The extra is actually kind of amusing.  Nattsumizu-sensei tells us about how easily she can come up with yaoi stories. She sketches out how she can just be flipping through a magazine and be like, “Oh, expensive couch! Someone should get f*cked on that!”

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So that kind of made me happy.

Don’t Say Any More, Darling / Sore wo Ittara Oshimai yo by Fumi Yoshinaga

As soon as I saw the cover of Don’t Say Any More, Darling, I recognized Fumi Yoshinaga’s art style.  I swear she has exactly one template for “handsome man.”  It’s all good in this collection of shorts, however, because you don’t have to be able to distinguish VERY SLIGHT variations in handsome man template1 from handsome man template2 in order to keep track of  an epic-sized set of characters like in Ooku.

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These guys literally are only in a short that runs from the cover to the back flap. WTH.

Don’t Say Any More, Darling is the second in my Quatrefoil yaoi review.

When I showed off my pile of manga to Shawn, I told her that the reason I’m so giddy about the yaoi collection at Quatrefoil is because I literally read the entirety of Ramsey County Library‘s yaoi collection in one weekend.  To be fair to RCL, I had already read the nine volumes they have of What Did You Eat Yesterday? / Kinou Nani Tabeta? (speaking of Yoshinaga-sensei.) But, otherwise, their collection included Vassalord and a smattering of others.

Manga, RCL has a ton of. Yaoi, not so much.

SPOILERS

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I will say that previous to this volume, I might have suggested that Yoshinaga-sensei was a bit of a prude.  I mean, the guys in What Did You Eat Yesterday? talk pretty gay, but you never see them even kiss.  To be fair, hardly anyone is reading that one for Teh Gay.  (Probably only me.) We’re all tuning in for the recipes.

Yoshinaga-sensei ACTUALLY manages on-screen sex in these one-shots, at one point even giving us a foursome. So, thumbs up for that. On the other hand, we also get a very weird May/December straight romance (WITH NAKED BITS-ARGH MY EYES) in the middle of all the queer, which was a bit jarring, but whatever.

The first chapter, the title chapter, follows Kouhei and Tadashi. Here we have another dynamic that Yoshinaga-sensei likes a lot.  Kouhei is the very serious, high-level professional. Since we already had Shiro as a lawyer in What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Koehei is a doctor. His best friend since high school, Tadashi, is a layabout lyricist  who seems incapable of taking care of even his own basic needs.

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Kouhei likes to nag Tadashi a lot, and call him ‘homo.’ (The lad doth protest too much, methinks!)

I have to admit, I liked their chemistry instantly.  They were so comfortable with each other in fact that I briefly wondered if I’d missed a previous volume and that this was a much longer, on-going manga.

Kouhei might grumble about his good-for-nothing pal, but his life is no bed of roses, either.  The instant he steps into his house, his parents pop up with another candidate for a miai, an arranged marriage date. Mom harangues Kouhei about being nearly 30 and destined for a potbelly and bald head.  Dad, meanwhile, scores the real hit by calling him a ‘parasite shinguru,’ a parasite single! 

Okay, that’s it! Those are fightin’ words!

Thus, Kouhei reluctantly agrees to meet this girl.  He’s expecting her to be ugly, because she’s smart (grrr, Kouhei. Just when I was liking you, too!) Turns out she is nerdy, but very cute–in fact she reminds him of Tadashi!  After the moderately successful date, Kouhei calls his BFF, like you do, only to find him post coitus!

This triggers just the right circumstances so that Kouhei is compelled to rush over to Tadashi’s place for a love confession and rough sex.

Hooray!

Best line in the chapter? Tadashi, sensing maybe Kouhei is on his way, tells the hook-up, “After you’ve ejaculated, I want you to leave and never come back, okay? Oh… that’s good.” Dude: “I’m coming.” Tadashi, basically: okay bye! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

The second chapter is “My Eternal Sweetheart” which is, quite startlingly, science fiction horror, and, as such, probably my favorite chapter in this collection.

We meet young master Arthur Ruffwood (OMG, I just got that PUN) who is stuck inside a mansion because he is suffering from immune deficiency syndrome. Wahh! But, he’s 15! And all he wants is SEX!

So what do you do? You holo-call your genius older brother, Tony Stark the Elder Ruffwood, the doll-maker and ask for a ‘sexaroid.’

And another.

three

And another.

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Probably my favorite part of this manga is Arthur’s various descriptions of the droids he wants.

Actual quote: “You know that movie ‘Oscar Wilde’? I want someone handsome like Jude Law, but with no chest hair.”  Dude. Seriously.  Stop. Lesbians everywhere are like, wait, we can get them without chest hair??!!  But, Arthur goes on, “Oh, and could you make him a bit smarter, too? Or he could also be like Rutger Hauer in ‘Ladyhawke!’ He’s cool.”

Hilarious! Also? YES, PLEASE.

But, then this light, cute chapter turns into horror when, randomly, Arthur murders all his ‘bots.

Yeah, I just said murders.

As in: blood everywhere. He even kills of sweet Ms. Hamliton, who he thinks of like a mother. Elder brother is weirdly unfazed. I mean, he shows up in a completely hazmat suit to see WTF is going on and scolds Arthur because, listen, these dolls aren’t cheap and besides, they’re kind of almost real people, given all the tissue–they think, they grow older….

Then we have a three year timeskip, wherein Arthur is down to two lovers. Ms. Hamliton has been repaired, and Arthur is graduated from long-distance high school. But, he’s still not happy.  He wants one more love bot.  And what he wants?  His brother.

Now, I was like… uh… okay.

‘Incest’ is one of those tags I usually skip when I see it on AO3.  But, I really liked the story so far and I was kind of curious how this bloody (literally!) train wreck was going to end.  But, I figured Onii-chan would just send a look-a-like ‘bot and so, it wasn’t EXACLY incest…

Except this twisty story has one more final twist.  One I should have seen coming, because the clues were all there, but didn’t.  So, I don’t want to spoil that final bit, because I’m going to recommend you seek out this volume. Or, at the very least, this chapter.

The next is “Fairlyland” and it is another science fiction yaoi.  In fact, it’s kind of a post-apocalyptic magical realism yaoi. Meet Ryohei, a child psychologist/counselor who is, maybe, the last man on earth.  It’s a super odd apocalypse, he notes, when he finally runs into the one other person around, Kaouru because the food doesn’t spoil. The two lone survivors get to talking and Ryohei discovers that Kaouru is actually happy with the situation.  He was badly bullied in school and he… uh…. wished everyone would go away.  Ryohei puts on his counselor hat and is all, “No, you can’t blame yourself, etc., etc.” Kaouru has a breakthrough, and thinks, yeah…. maybe ONE other person around would be okay…BUT, WAIT!

Ryohei was a ghost.

The last line is a doozy, “And so… this is how god punished even the last remaining person on earth…”

OOOoOooo-KAY. Not depressing at all, why do you ask??

Then we have random straight sex in the next chapter, “One May Day.” The only thing I’ll say about that one is that I’ll never understand why censors have no problem with full-on boobies, nipples and all, but penises and testicles are these erased empty spaces.  Also, because this story appeared in the middle of a yaoi collection, I kept expecting our old professor hero to fall for a hot young boy/student.

The last installment is called “The Pianist.”  In “The Pianist” we see Yoshinaga-sensei exploring another reoccurring theme for her: THE ABJECT TERROR GAY MEN FACE AT THE PROSPECT OF GROWING OLD.

I have no idea how real this is, but Yoshinaga-sensei is pretty convinced that getting old and worn out it pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a hot gay boi.  In fact, it might be grounds for suicide.  I mean, really, when you’re cute, younger bar hook-up is horrified that a geezer like you wants to bottom?  Dude, you might as well die.

I mean, really, so you lost your piano talent? That’s not really why you’re sad. You’re devastated by the fact that you can’t pull like you used to.

Seriously, that is the thematic arc of this story.  So… it’s a little SAD.

Also, Yoshinaga-sensei seems to also have built in a subliminal message that cigarette smoking makes you gay.  In the first chapter, our two heroes first bond in high school over the fact that when the chemistry teacher has forgotten her matches, they’re the two who automatically reach for their lighters when she promises she won’t tell on anyone who can provide.  Here in “Pianist” sad old piano player dude has fantasies of hooking up with the young kid who approaches him with a carton of cigarettes–see young kid recently quit, so, you know, someone should have them.

Young kid keeps coming up with reasons to give sad piano player more smoking paraphernalia to the point that sad piano player is pretty convinced that young kid is super hot for him.

Only… yeah, no.

The end.

The rejection at the end is played for sympathy/laughs, but there’s no sexy hook-up except the interrupted one with bar hook-up and all the other scenarios that play out in sad piano player’s head.  So I don’t know how to feel about that one, especially since it ends the volume.

I get the sense that if Yoshinaga-sensei were a man, she’d totally be gay, and she would write the most amazing yaoi in the history of ever.  I mean, I had to pull out my reading glasses for this volume because, like most of Yoshinaga’s work, it’s very talk-y, very dense (not exactly meaty, but her plots can be very well executed, see: “My Eternal Sweetheart.”)

But, her gay men are also always so, so lonely, even when they’re with someone (or several someone’s). I don’t know if she does that to add depth/realism, or if it’s a bit of internalized homophobia. I mean, maybe she’s just attracted to unhappy sad sacks?

In her straight romance she was super-critical of the traditional, devoted wife. She made it very clear that simple, simpering happiness is a huge turn-off for her characters (and one can assume, by extension, the mangaka herself.) The professor’s previous marriage sounded like a love of equals, of intellectual rivals.

Yet, she never manages to hook up her gay men with people who would satisfy them the same way.  One of my biggest complaints about What Did You Eat Yesterday? is how she seems to portray Shiro as settling for Kenji.  Shiro is far happier cooking for him than he is hanging out with Kenji.  I mean, maybe you could see that as ‘married life,’ but there’s a kind of note of self-loathing, a shrug of the shoulder, “Meh, I don’t really deserve to be 100% happy, anyway,” vibe that floats around the edges of that series, IMHO. What’s that line all the yaoi guys say?

“He’s not so bad, after all.”

I don’t know how to feel about that, because generally I think of Yoshinaga-sensei as one of the better yaoi writers out there. She can perform plot that is still sexy, and even if all the handsome guys are cut from virtually all the same cloth, it a  PRETTY cloth and they’re often interesting. If nothing else, she does nagging/joking banter really well. She’s always a pleasure to read, even if it randomly ends in murder.

So, yeah, I mean, she’s always worth a read. Now I’m just waiting for her to write a legitimately HAPPY couple.

I may be waiting a long, long time.