Ten Count (Vol 5) by Rihito Takarai

I continue to be amazed that my library not only has this manga, but keeps on buying it:

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And, of course, I keep reading it.

SPOILERS

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Volume 5 spans chapters 2533, plus the shorts “Kurose Shirotani and Difficulties” and “Ten Count Drama CD 3 Session Report.”

The story picks up just where it left off: in the elevator.  Kurose continues to blow hot and cold. First, barely talking to Shirotani and acting like they’re going to go their separate ways, and, then, after Shirotani returns a CD Kurose accidentally leaves in the taxi (sure it was an accident!) he has his wicked way with him.

I’m still struggling to like this guy.  I mean, their dubious consent sex is pretty hot, but Kurose is baffling to me. Like, would it kill him to be consistent?

In this volume we get Kurose’s tragic backstory.

Apparently, his family home life was fine, except that his parents pretty much ignored him. They clothed and fed him, but there just wasn’t a lot of affection tossed around in this selfish upper-middleclass household.  Kurose resorts to trying to pull dirty tricks to get his mom to notice him, but she just couldn’t even be bothered to get riled up about her fancy new dress getting an ink jar spilled on it.

So, Kurose starts doing random vandalism, including tossing a baseball through some guy’s window.

The maid makes twelve year old (? definitely pre-teen) Kurose apologize to the owner of the apartment with the broken window, a recluse germaphobe named Nishigaki.  Kurose starts showing up at Nishigaki’s apartment and hangs out with him, uninvited, but tolerated.  Kurose gets attached to Nishigaki because he’s an adult who at least seems to notice him. This attachment seems to turn into lust, because they’re getting along pretty well until one day when Nishigaki’s loneliness triggers Kurose to… lick him.

On the abs.

On the naked, under-the-shirt abs.

Nishigaki who is not only a germaphobe, but also at LEAST a dozen years older than Kurose freaks out and says, “What the hell is wrong with you? Get out!”

I feel like this is a pretty reasonable response. It’s really not clear why Kurose went there–like to sex.  I don’t get the sense that he only seen his parents giving each other affection that way, except that maybe he just doesn’t know anything about how to be affectionate since they’re so empty.

What is clear, is that he’s feeling possessive of Nishigaki.  When Nishigaki is feeling like maybe Kurose had acclimated him enough to having people around that he might consider getting a better job and getting outside to see the world, Kurose doesn’t want him to. He tells him that the world is nothing special. He wants to know why things can’t stay the same, since Nishigaki should have everything he needs in Kurose.

After being banished from Nishigaki’s place, Kurose reads up on germaphobes and shut-ins (a hobby he already had).  Though his mother’s gossip circle, Kurose discovers that Nishigaki has disappeared: there are rumors he ran away or maybe killed himself.

Kurose, naturally, blames himself.

He becomes determined to never make this mistake again and gets a degree in psychology.

The problem I have with this tragic backstory is that Kurose is determined never to make another mistake like the one he made with Nishigaki, he’s not exactly going in the right direction.  He’s still super-possessive and goes right to f*cking = therapy/love.  Literally the stuff that killed Nishigaki–or sent him packing, whichever. (I do wonder if we’re going to have a reappearance of Nishigaki in future volumes.)

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Does Shirotani look comfortable to you? But, you know, just keep on holding tight there, Kurose. Those germaphobes just need you getting super close–breathing and sweating on them–like that to get over it!

Seriously, where did this guy get his therapy license? Off the back of a matchbook?

It doesn’t help, of course, that Shirotani does seem to be more of a masochist than he is a germaphobe, so this cruel-to-be-kind “therapy” seems to be working.

The sex is super-hot, though. So, I might be complaining about the alpha lead a lot, but I’ll be reading the next volume ASAP.  I mean, I don’t need my yaoi couples to be perfect human beings (obviously, if you’ve read any of my fan fic), so Kurose’s foibles are more of an intellectual curiosity to me, not a deal-breaker.

Would I recommend it? Hesitantly.  You really have to be not only okay, but kind of into dubious consent for this one to work for you.

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Ten Count (Vol 4) by Rihito Takarai

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I still can’t quite get over the fact that my public LIBRARY carries this.

SPOILERS

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WARNING: NSFW LANGUAGE BELOW

…especially since this volume starts with a butt plug scene.  There are none of the invisible penises, either. There are the usual useless censor bars that cover little strips of things that I wouldn’t necessarily think were more explicit than the whole member, but whatever.

I’m not complaining, mind you.

Volume 4 of Ten Count covers chapters 19 through 24 and includes what looks like three shorts, “Kurose, Shirotani, and Thumb Wresting;” “Kurose, Shirotani, and Silky Sensations;” and “Kurose, a White Cat, and a Can of Tuna.”

What can I say about this that you don’t already know?  If you’re into Ten Count you’re probably caught up to the latest scanlated chapter.  I took this out of the library, because I want to encourage the librarians to keep BUYING it.  I can’t always afford to support mangaka the traditional way, but library sales can be significant income for authors (at least they are to US novel writers.)

If you’re new to Ten Count, you should probably read my previous review.

But, this volume picks-up with Dubious Consent Boy (Kurose’s superhero name) torturing Shirotani with a butt-plug. I’m not surprised that poor Shirotani is pushed into telling Kurose that he’s disgusting and should get lost again, but OMG am I tired of this same old, same old.

As someone who has written this kind of m/m romance/erotic story, I understand the impulse to keep using ‘we’re breaking up!’ as the main conflict.  But no reader, anywhere, enjoys our paramours being apart! It’s literally the anthesis of what we signed up for (even with an extended masturbating scene). Takarai-sensei gets them back together in the most random, coincidental way, too. They randomly get locked in an elevator together and when Shirotani kindly asks to hold Kurose’s hand, Kurose goes full-on dom and demands a kind of tribute first: “You must kiss my hand.”

Oooo-kay.

I’ll be really interested to find out if the next volume is going to try to explain Kurose’s pseudo-sadism or whatever it is that drives him to push beyond Shirotani’s boundaries, the same way we got the full back story of Shirotani’s germophobia this time.

Shirotani’s backstory was interesting, if chilling to me, as a parent. I’m a little stressed out that a big part of Shirotani’s phobia is rooted in the fact that his father used to put his hand on Shirotani’s head and say, “I can read your thoughts when I do this.”

I’M TOTALLY THAT PARENT.  OMFG.

In fact, I do know that the sort of casual/I’m-being-flippant things I’ve said to my son did trigger some fears in him that I was going to go away and never come back (he was too little, and I basically just teased that his fears were silly, I wasn’t going to run off to France. Lesson I have yet to entirely learn: my son is ALWAYS serious. Teasing is NEVER a good idea.)

So, as far-fetched as it might seem, it’s not unreasonable that Shirotani might have developed fears based on a throwaway comment/awkward attempt to be the cool parent.  And, you know, masturbating to your dad having sex is… yeah, the combo seems legit traumatizing, especially with annoying girlfriend (named Lieda, no less, which is basically how my name is pronounced) telling you that you’re gross for having done so (and wanting to marry a man.)

The sex continues to be hot, so long as you’re down with the whole dubious consent thing.

Would I recommend it? Well, obviously, I’m still reading it. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about Kurose, but I can’t deny that he’s totally cut from a mould that I… appreciate. (I’ve totally written my own version of this guy, so hey.)

Ten Count (Vols. 1 – 3) by Takarai Rihito

My public library had this yaoi… yeah, seriously.  I noticed it because it was in the NEW! section of the adult graphic novels.  I don’t exactly know how the purchasing decisions get made at the library, but I can’t help but think that maybe, in this case, someone thought they were buying something else.  Because, why, of all the yaoi out there, did the library decide on this one?

SPOILERS

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Ten Count is billed as the story of someone with OCD, Shirotani, who falls in love with his therapist, Kurose.  I don’t know a lot about OCD, but a quick scan at the Wikipedia entry on it, tells me what Shirotani really is, is probably more of a germaphobe who has an intense desire to wash his hands. Outside of the hand washing, there doesn’t seem to be any other kind of repetitive thinking or need to obsessively check things.

The therapist meets Shirotani by accident, when he leaps in to save the president of Shirotani’s company from a car accident.  Shirotani has guilt about this because he feels if only he could have touched the car handle maybe he could have warned the president of the impending car crash himself.  So when the president wants Shirotani to hunt down Kurose t in order to thank him properly, Shirotani is all over that.

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Kurose is a weird one, though.

For a long time I wasn’t sure he was really a doctor. There a moment when Shirotani shows up at the clinic when Kurose is working late, and I totally expected the big reveal to be that Kurose was just the secretary or the janitor.

But, apparently, he’s a real therapist, though mostly works with kids.

When Kurose and Shirotani (oh… I see it now, they’re like black & white! D’oh!) meet up, Kurose is like “I see you are OCD. How about, I give you free therapy, and you be my ‘friend.'”

Shirotani is a little taken aback by this, but, dude has the kind of serious medical issue that keeps him from having a lot of friends himself so he agrees.  Cue: romance.

The title of the manga comes from the list that Kurose wants Shirotani to write, a list from 1 to 10 of the things he absolutely hates to do, with one being the least awful and ten being unthinkable.  Shirotani can’t think of the worst thing, but Kurose is very intense yet casual about it, and says, “You can tell me that one later.” This tenth thing becomes a kind of promise between them.

A lot of the early volumes are Shirotani making little break-throughs on the things on his list. Most of them, unsurprisingly, happen because Shirotani really wants to impress Kurose.  Several times, he goes too far, and ends up collapsing, like the time they try to take the train to a restaurant.

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Luckily, you have a strong man to catch you.

At least once, after this point, Kurose leans in like maybe he wants to kiss Shirotani, but then pulls back last minute either citing some bullsh*t reason like, “Oh, I thought there was something on your eyelash” or complete honesty, “Well, since you can’t drink water out of someone else’s cup, no way we can swap spit.” (last part is paraphrasing, of course.)

Kurose has fairly sh*tty boundaries, all while talking the talk of consent.  Shirotani explicitly says, “Don’t, that’s gross,” more than once, and Kurose is like, “Yeah, except, you can keep your pants on so you can handle it, right?”  To which Shirotani ALWAYS capitulates and demurs. Since a lot of this stuff happens when he’s aroused and Kurose has already used that classic “If you continue to see me, I can’t promise I can control my desire to touch you” line, this could be very triggering for some people.

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Because… is it “therapy” or is that dubious consent?  You can be the judge.

Of course, being a well known pervert, I liked it.

My only squick in the entire thing is the couple of very odd moments when Kurose says things like, “Oh, with your hair down you look childish.  You should wear it that way all the time.” Shirotani is even like, “Um, childish? At our age, shouldn’t you say ‘younger’?”

THIS DOCTOR WORKS WITH CHILDREN. CHILDREN YOUNG ENOUGH TO GET CANDY TREATS AFTER APPOINTMENTS.  RED FLAG! RED FLAG! CRIMSON! LAVA-COLORED!!! DANGER! DANGER! BACK AWAY SLOWLY!!!

If only Takarai-sensei could have just skipped those couple of moments, I would have been pretty enamored of this series.  You know me, gentle reader, I love me a slow burn with a kinky twist.  Ten Count is totally gearing up to be that.  In fact, when the third volume ends, Kurose is introducing Shirotani to the idea of a butt plug….

AND Takarai-sensei has these asides at the volume endings, which make it sound like she’s studying up on BDSM relationships, which… well, that would be right up my alley.

BUT… I don’t know. Baka-Updates tells me that Ten Count is up to five published volumes.  I suspect that my interest in this is only casual enough that I will read them if the library continues to buy them, but I’m not sure I want to seek out the scanlations.

Anyone else reading this one?  Got any idea why my library thought it was popular or “important” enough to purchase?