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.

 

Datte Maou-sama Wa Kare Ga Kirai / Good-bye World Conquest by Yamada Nichoume

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I absolutely adored the premise of this yaoi, the execution? Not as much.

SPOILERS

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Into every generation is born a Demon King.  For each Demon King, there is a hero who must conquer him.  This is almost exactly the same set-up as the anime  Hataraku Maō-sama! / Devil is a Part-Timer, which I likewise adored. Only, in this version Maou (the name literally means ‘devil’) is a kind of hapless storekeeper who doesn’t really want the power to randomly enslave delinquents (it’s awkward to have people falling at your feet all day long.) The hero, Kamiko, is likewise atypical for what you’re expecting of a hero. In fact, when we first met him, it’s because he’s bought the building Maou’s storefront is in and forcibly evicts him.

The hero is kind of an a$$hole.

Not only is he a jerk, but he’s a little bit shady. At one point, Kamiko confesses that he went into the family business (and, yes, he means that in the yakuza sense) because he really just wanted to break-in to people’s houses and knock over vases (like a cat?).  Maou, of course, is like, “Dude! That’s not cool.”

Because, somehow, in these stories the devil is always kind of decent human being.

In Datte Maou-sama wa Kare ga Kirai all of this is really just background for Maou and Kamiko to have a lot of sex–because, you see whomever dominates the other one is the victor in this spiritual/world-domination power play.  Maou keeps trying to top, but he’s pretty helpless to Kamiko’s advances.

This is listed under the tag “dubious consent” on Baka-Updates, and I suppose you can imagine it that way since Maou does say ‘no’ and keeps telling Kamiko he’s a pervert and not to touch him ‘there’–but this feels more silly to me than rape-y. I suspect milage may vary, however.

For me, this was too tame.  (Also the early pages of the manga are badly translated, so it’s probably okay to skim them to get to the sexy-times.)

Shinigami no Koi by Haruno Ahiru

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I bet you’ve been asking yourself, where is all the shinigami yaoi porn, haven’t you?  Well, I found it for you in Shinigami no Koi.

SPOILERS

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This manga describes itself as “shinigami x clumsy office worker,” and I kind of feel like that sums everything up quite nicely.  Our hero, Thanatos, doesn’t really like his job. As a shinigami, he’s supposed to watch over human’s lives. He finds humans dreadfully boring… well, most of them.  There is this one he finds amusing: Asahi Shintaro.  Shintaro is a big-hearted, goofy office worker, who has the tendency to act first, think later.  His antics make Thanatos chuckle.

So, of course, the assignment comes down.  Time to take out Shintaro.

Even though Shintaro is a favorite, Thanatos doesn’t figure it’ll be a big deal. Shinigami aren’t human. They don’t have time for all that messy copulating and procreating.  Feelings aren’t really their strong suit.

And yet…

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I have to say I’m kind of enamored with the supernatural imagery in this yaoi.  This is what it looks like when Thanatos steps out of heaven and heads down to the Human World.

Meanwhile, back in the story, Thanatos has tracked down his prey and is ready to strike him dead…i008.jpg

…when all of a sudden, Thanatos remembers a cute story of this guy’s life and suddenly falters.  The boss of the shinigami gets an instant ping (no kidding,) and, believing that Thanatos has been ‘possessed’ by this human,  intervenes to ‘change his fate.’

At first I misread the pronoun and thought that the shinigami-boss was interfering on behalf of Thanatos, but it becomes obvious that it’s Shintaro that the boss is after.  Since Thanatos hesitated, the boss plants what looks like a kitten drowning in the river. Shintaro is halfway over the rail to save it when Thanatos pulls him back. It’s only a stuffed cat.

And… here’s where things get… weird, or maybe badly translated.  Shintaro and Thanatos have a back-and-forth about which one of them was trying to commit suicide and Shintaro seems to be under the impression that Thanatos is either an escaped mental patient or trans (and/or a cross-dresser).  Irritated, Thanatos gives Shintaro a laundry list of all the ways he’s been kind of stupid and nearly died in his life, and Shintaro decides Thanatos is a stalker… but invites him back to his place anyway, to which Thanatos basically replies, “You moron, this is why you’re going to die young!”

Which is cute.

When Thanatos tries again, Shintaro is half asleep.  Shintaro wakes up a bit and sleepily mistakes Thanatos for a dream wife and kisses him.  That’s it for Thanatos, all hope of murdering this guy is out the window.  He stumbles his way out…. and gets his ‘pink slip.’

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Thanatos isn’t exactly fired. Let’s call it a semi-permanant transfer to the human world and a human body.  He’s now going by Tanato Subaru… and is working at Shinato’s office.

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The second chapter is a whole series of ways in which  Thanatos keeps saving Shintaro’s life. He keeps doing this ostensibly because he wants to be the one to kill Shintaro. It gets very silly. Though there is some serious implication that because Shintaro has outlived his due course, his body is breaking down and is now more vulnerable to death in all its forms.

Then, there’s a left turn.  While Thanatos is watching over Shintaro when he has the flu, Shintaro suddenly remembers the dreamy kiss. The memory of having kissed Thanatos triggers a desire to try out gay sex before he dies.  Only Shintaro can’t get away from Thanatos in order to try it out.  Apparently, masterbating to the gay videos isn’t the same (which we never see ‘on screen’ so this feels completely out of the blue), and so he contrives to sneak out and hook up with a pro.

Thanatos stalks Shintaro, of course, and confronts him about all the STDs he could catch… and then offers to “mimic sexual reproduction.”

They’re just getting to it when the chapter ends.

According to MangaHere, the final chapter is coming out soon.

I think I’d like this better if it wasn’t for the sloppy writing. The art is alternately very cute and very spooky.  The humor… almost works for me in the way a lot of translated Japanese humor nearly does, (that is to say, I can often see where I’m supposed to find things funny even if I don’t.)

But, I had to really think to parse what the hell Shintaro was doing with the gigolo and then we got the whole confession of how the doing it solo to the videos wasn’t working because real life was somehow hotter… and while I liked the IMPLICATIONS of that, I was like, “Wait, when did Shintaro have any time alone to even try this?  Also, hot? Couldn’t we have seen that on screen???”

Probably my issues have to do with humor, in general.  I much prefer serious stories, so, for me, the silliness got in the way of a potentially hotter storyline.  Milage may vary.

Diabolic Garden by Ichigo Shiraki

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Diabolic Garden is pretty much everything I would NEVER chose to read on my own.

But, once again, I decided to press the “Surprise Me” button on MangaPanda to see what it might find for me.  When this popped up, I thought, ‘No way!’

The art style was a big turn off and it had that label ‘comedy’ which is my least favorite.  I actually moved my cursor to hover over the button again, thinking I’d just try again,  but then I noticed that the manga looked to be complete at 10 chapters, so I thought ‘I can read ten chapters in one sitting, so why not?”

What a phenomenally bad idea.

Plus, this is another one of those manga that people just stopped scanlating. MyAnimeList.net tells me that what I have is about half the completed story.

In another weird turn of events, all the information I could find about this manga is in French.  According to the French Wikipedia (which Google helpfully translated for me): “The French version is published by Ki-oon in three volumes released between November 2010 and May 2011.”

So, you know how we’re always saying so-and-so is ‘big in Japan’?  Well, apparently, in Japan, Ichigo Shiraki is saying, “I’m big in France, you know.”

SPOILERS

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The manga starts with a fake-out.

The first few pages looks like we’re starting middle-battle in some fantasy fairy land, but it turns out that what we’re reading is a manga being presented to an editor of Monthly Gothic Fantasy by a high schooler/wannabe mangaka named Makimura Kotone.  The editor tells Makimura that she needs some fresh ideas.  Her stories are getting repetitive.

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I tend to actually really enjoy manga about mangaka.  I read all 21 volumes of Bakuman and watched the entire first season of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun (which is also a manga that you can read here: http://www.mangahere.co/manga/gekkan_shoujo_nozaki_kun/.) I also really loved the anime of Barakamon, even though that one is about a professional calligrapher, not a mangaka, per se.  For reasons, I tend to find the writing/artistic life–particularly struggles within the industry–endlessly fascinating.

Thus, at this point, I thought ‘oh, okay, maybe this won’t be so bad.’

While wandering around town, trying to think up ideas for her gothic fantasy manga, Makimura stumbles across a spooky-looking teashop.

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Yes, they sell TEA, not books….

Here, Makimura meets the mysterious Tsukasa, his clown-like demon doll assistant Kanon, and uncovers the secret garden of Hell plants.  For reasons of plot, Makimura breaks into the garden uninvited and accidentally ingests some Hell-devil fruit in the garden, which she mistakes for a strawberry (I see what you did there with your name, Shiraki-sensei!)  The side-effect of this devil fruit is that Makimura now exudes the odor of the very tastiest in demon food, which of course makes her deeply attractive to them.

This is actually kind of bonus for Tsukasa, whom Makimura instantly crushed out on, but who previously had zero interest in her.  Turns out the tea shop isn’t exactly popular among humans, given that most of Tsukasa’s concoctions taste like crap to us, and so he makes his living as a demon hunter.

All those books you see? They’re actually sealed demons.

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Um, yeah, that’s not vaguely horrifying at all, why do you ask?

The next several chapters involve ways in which Makimura gets herself into trouble with various demons and Tsukasa gets her out.  At the end of chapter five, we meet up with the local boss demon and his mouse yokai assistant, Geschtalt.

Geschtalt is kind of a classic bumbling demon assistant, who generally doesn’t have a bad heart, except for the fact that he’s working for the bad guys, you know? Plus, he turns into an adorably fat little mouse. What’s not to love?

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Weirdly, this guy was one of my favorites. I blame Stockholm Syndrome at this point.

Turns out that it was good that I didn’t invest a lot of my energy into Makimura’s character because for the next four chapters, she completely disappears.  Her storyline gets entirely dropped and instead we follow Tsukasa’s younger sister as she, the mouse, and the clown doll demon attempt to infiltrate a Goth rock band that’s been infested by a demon, who has been leeching life-energy from the bands’ followers.  Luckily, the Goth band is holding a contest for a fan-band opening act, and it just so happens that Tsukasa’s younger sister is an expert vocalist who specializes in Goth glam music.

The series ends just as our heroes get on stage to do their audition piece to hopefully impress the demon band.

I probably would have kept reading to the end, despite myself. As you can tell from my review, there were things I thought were moderately nifty about the universe of Diabolic Garden.  What I’m not focusing on, however, is the so-called comedy.

Humor is one of those things that doesn’t translate terribly well.

I get that.  So, milage may vary.  For me, a lot of the humorous moments in this manga fell flat.  For whatever reason, a lot of the humor in Diabolic Garden is of the sort where one character basically says something cold or cutting to other character… and so the humor seems biting and unkind.  I’ve run across this kind of humor before, particularly in Tactics. I get that it’s supposed to be funny from the reactions of the other characters, but it always leaves me cold, and certainly not in stitches.

Because I failed the humor, there was a good half of this manga that I didn’t appreciate at all. Also, I didn’t find Tsukasa hot in any way, shape, or form, so I failed the romance, too.  The supernatural stuff–now that kind of almost worked for me.

So, would I recommend it?

Maybe if you’re French.

Comedy and Terror – Exorcist Salaryman and Bleach

It’s been a busy time.  We got two new installments of Salaryman Futumashi Okumura Yukio no Aishuu 16, “The Sorrow of Being a Tsundere” & 17 “The Sorrow of a Birthday in August.”

And, of course, today was Bleach 628, “Seething Malice is the Height of Comedy.”

So, go on, then… go read them.  I’ll be here when you’re done, ready to discuss them.

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SPOILERS

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Okay, in the last Bleach chapter, I was promised that the story was about to begin.  Things seem promising right away with Pernidas insisting that it is its own being, with its own name, damn it.

But, what follows is not an explanation about what/how/why the Soul King’s limbs have rebelled, anything about the true nature of the Soul King, or even an explanation as to why parts of the Soul King want to be known as Pernidas.

Instead, we get Mayuri being ‘scientific’ and arguing about who has naming rights.  I mean, to me, that’s a little like Frankenstein calling the monster Proteus, if you know what I’m saying.  Okay, maybe that’s a little obtuse. What I mean is, I’m not entirely sure Mayuri is really entirely human himself, and, even if he isn’t a creature that was formed by Sutra (the weaver/former captain of the 12th), he is most certainly more monstrous/alien than any so-called monster/new life form.

So… I don’t know.  I guess the only other interesting thing that happens is that Mayuri uses the Quincy technique: Hirenkyaku.

If nothing else, his casual use of a Quincy technique should remind readers that this is the guy who tortured to death Ishida’s family (and thus presumably learned their secrets.)  It may be more sinister, however, since I’m not sure if a Shinigami can use a Quincy’s power.  A friend of mine suggested that maybe Mayuri’s fancy new boots might be, you know, literally forged from Quincy body parts.

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I remembered that earlier Akon thought Mayuri was building a body in his workshop…. so you know, it wouldn’t be THAT surprising.

But otherwise this chapter wasn’t terribly interesting to me.  I mean, yeah, I’m all in for a good shounen battle normally, but I like my fights to have stakes, to matter.  I kind of don’t care who wins this one.  In fact, I’m really rather rooting for “our” side to die a horrible and painful death.  Mayuri deserves it, though I think that it would be best if the person who killed him was Ishida (either one, but I was thinking Uryuu. Though, damn, I would pay money to see Ryuuken join this fight).

I’m also a little concerned that this fight is going to drag on for several more chapters with no more story revealed beyond power-ups and Mayuri “science” gadgets.  I care a lot more for what’s happening to Gimmjow, for instance, but also Hashwaldt (who should be taking over for Ywach right about now), Kyouraku, Aizen, Ukitake, Kenpachi, Renji, Ichigo, Rukia… okay, honestly, just about every character who is NOT Mayuri.

Unless Mayuri dies horribly and gives us a flashback of his life to-date, then this would be worth it.

Okay, so on to the REAL comedy, the Sorrows of the Exorcist Salaryman, Yukio Okumura.  Our two little interludes actually focused on people beyond Yukio: we got one story featuring Izumo (fox girl) and the second, starring my personal favorite, Bon (chant boy).

I kind of wish Bleach had this sort of thing–a full-on spin-off/omake where people are just going about their lives, doing silly, regular daily stuff.  Because, reading this is like getting to see what kind of fan fiction the mangaka would write of their own universe.

Turns out, Kazue Katō would write cute summer stories where people who seem stand-offish really wouldn’t mind being part of the party (except when people are annoying, which is kind of always), and people born in the summer get stuck playing kids games like cops and robbers/hide-and-seek on their birthdays.

What can I say?  Works for me.

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Salaryman Futsumashi Okumura Yukio no Aishuu 14 & 15

If you haven’t read them yet, you can catch the latest chapters of Salaryman Futsumashi Okumura Yukio no Aishuu/Salaryman Exorcist: The Sorrows of Okumura Yukio at MangaHere.

Caught up?

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Okay, I don’t have a lot to say about these chapters, but this spin-off will never cease to amuse me.  Probably my favorite of these collected shorts is the very last one involving Rin.  Yukio is watching his ani, and basically thinking, “Poor sod, everyone still so terrified of him.”  And, when his thoughts are confirmed by another exorcist who is watching Rin along with Yukio, Rin proceeds to do a series of completely dorky things… culminating in smacking himself around with an exercise band.

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A fairly awesome, and completely in-character Rin moment.  It’s this silliness that really makes this spin-off work for me.  Sometimes I don’t really get everything because I’m not much of a super-fan–like, I didn’t really understand much of chapter 14 because I’d forgotten the character in question, but it still served to amuse.  Yukio is basically being haunted by a mangaka’s ideas which freakily coincide with Yukio’s real life experiences with people he’s met.  But, even not remembering everything didn’t detract from my enjoyment.  I love seeing these characters in more relaxed settings and straight-laced Yukio is a perfect foil for all their antics.