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.

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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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1-en no Otoko / One Yen Man by Monden Akiko

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One Yen Man  (not to be confused with One Punch Man) is a collection of yaoi one-shots by  Monden Akiko. So many of my guilty-pleasure buttons got hit with this one, it isn’t even funny.

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Guilty pleasure #1: Sex workers.

I will pretty much read any story featuring sex-for-hire.  Give me a sympathetic gigolo and I’m golden.

The first story doesn’t exactly center around a gigolo, per se, but ‘getting paid for it’ is part of the whole meet-cute, if you will.  So, what happens is that we have a detective, Sanjou Keisuke.  He’s a classic tough guy sort, who will do any job for any one. In fact, when we first meet him, he’s dog sitting for a client.  But, he returns to his office one day to find a brusque, icy investment banker waiting for him. They exchange the usual insults: “What kind of detective leaves his door wide open? Though clearly there’s nothing worth stealing here!” / “If you don’t like me, try another detective agency.”

Classic.

Destined for sex, wouldn’t you say?

Well, except, of course, our hero is presented as fairly straight.  I say ‘fairly’ because the client he’s walking that dog for is a super-queer–queeny, even, guy–he gets called ‘mama-san’ and I don’t think he’s also a pimp, (though….more on that in a bit).  Anyway, Detective and super-queen are clearly friends, so, like a lot of straight guys in these yaoi, it’s not like it’s completely foreign to him.

Anyway, Banker wants to hire Sanjou to find his sex friend, a rent boy who has ran off with a briefcase full of several million yen.

At this point, I kind of thought the story might get plot-heavy and we’d spend some time chasing after rent boy.  But, no, Sanjou is a good detective, and finds him right away.  He let’s the banker know where the rent boy has holed up and is about to take his leave when banker is, all, ‘I’m worried I can’t confront him. Will you help? I can pay.’  Our hero, being a gentleman is very, “No worries. I’ll do this gratis.” Banker is very insistent. We start to get the sense that paying for things is a THING for him.

Maybe you can see where this is going?

Well, it takes awhile to get there, because, of course, Sanjou needs to figure out he’s bi, first.  Luckily, an opportunity presents itself fairly immediately.  When banker and Sanjou go to confront Rent Boy, Rent Boy is out. Banker convinces Sanjou to break in to the apartment because he really just wants that briefcase back, even if the money is gone.  As they’re looking for the briefcase, Rent Boy returns. They hide in a closet.  Rent Boy comes back with company.  Sanjou tells banker he shouldn’t watch this, so he covers banker’s eyes, watches the whole thing, gets super turned on to the point where, banker very prissily says ‘this is ridiculous’ and starts giving Sanjou a blowjob on the spot.

This is all very awkward, but they manage not to be discovered. The banker is suddenly, ‘it’s fine, I don’t care any more’ and Sanjou figures, well, that was weird, but whatever the client wants, *shrug*… until he runs into Rent Boy.  Then, things get interesting. Turns out, Rent Boy stole the money in an attempt to get the banker to chase him.  Rent boy was kind of falling for banker, but banker was very insistent that theirs was a PAID relationship.

Sanjou makes it his mission to uncover why banker is so cold and focused on the paycheck.  Meanwhile, of course, he starts to fall in love with him. When Rent Boy returns the money and briefcase to Sanjou, Sanjou discovers a picture of banker as a young boy looking adorable. Later, Sanjou finds out there’s a tragic backstory with the picture–banker’s mom was a single mom, cold and calculating, the kind who gave receipts after paying allowance, etc., and banker had the picture taken in the hopes of trying to win her over with sheer cuteness. It doesn’t work, so this is part of banker’s brokenness, apparently.

Now Sanjou wants to fix this, and in the way of rough-and-tumble meets Ice Queen, basically Sanjou bullies the banker into falling for him.

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Also a trope I like. (Guilty pleasure #2? Probably.)

Then we switch gears and we have the story of two childhood buddies.  One of them is a stereotypical easy-going, charismatic lady’s man who is the rising star of his company, and the other is a nebbish food critic, who specializes in alcohol.  They meet-up regularly for drinking dates, because Food Critic doesn’t want to drink alone.

Cue: drunken sex.

At the love hotel, Food critic drunkly tells Lady’s Man that the reason he can’t settle down and find a wife is because he’s barking up the wrong tree. Food critic decides that a bit of seduction is the ticket to get salaryman to wake up and smell Teh Gay, as it were.

It works.

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And literally the rest of the two chapter story is salaryman trying to figure out how to be better at the gay sex thing, because he REALLY LIKES the gay sex thing.

I found this story adorable.

I also really loved that the first thing salaryman does is rent all the gay porn and tries to study up. He also starts asking his ex-girlfriends for blowjob tips (ha!) and even tries out a little bondage because he gets obsessed with making sure his partner is as aroused as he is.

Then we return to Rent Boy, who, it turns out is actually secretly the son of a yakuza boss and the gang needs him back.  Rent boy doesn’t want to, so he tells his lieutenant, I’ll come back if you can seduce me so hard I cum.

Cue: random hot tattoo sex.

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Works for me! (Bonus Guilty Pleasure #3 AND #4 — Yakuza and Tattoos!)

I honestly enjoyed this one pretty well, but, I’m not sure how you will feel about it, unless some of your guilty pleasures align with mine. The art, as you can see, is hit and miss. I felt like the writing was pretty good in that all the straight-turned-gay guys did, at least, attempt to do some research, so that makes me happy.

After Morning Love by Fujii Mitori

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So… once again, I went looking specifically for “animal characteristics” and ended up with a volume that had one story that fit that category.  I would complain, except that I really rather liked the main story.

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Matsuno is not the kind of guy who pulls drunken one-night stands, so he’s especially surprised to wake up one morning, hungover, with a rent boy named Rin in his bed.  This is particularly surprising because Matsuno considers himself straight.

To be fair to Matsuno, he’s one of the straightest of the “straight seme”s that I’ve seen.  I mean, he’s had a taste of Teh Gay, after all, and it does not magically or instantly queer him up.  Plus, he lives in ni-chome in Shinjuku (which our translator tells us is a well-renown gay neighborhood) and hangs out in a bar frequented by gay guys (the bartender is bi, and is clearly a college-buddy, longtime friend of Matsuno’s).  If he was going to randomly start finding dudes cute, he would have done it by now…

But, there’s something about Rin.  Rin tells us he was kicked out of his house for being gay and so he’s turned to hustling in order to have somewhere to spend the night.

Matsuno wants to offer his place, but, in talking about it to the bartender, the bartender warns Matsuno to be careful. It would be unkind to lead Rin on, since there’s no hope for love with a straight guy.

Matsuno actually tries really hard to abide by this.  But, he sees Rin chatting up a trick in the alley and pulls him away.

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Because of my own proclivities, I love the tiny scene of the salaryman clutching his briefcase wondering if Matsuno is Rin’s pimp or yakuza.  Gods, I’m easy.

At this point, Matsuno really just wants to tell Rin to stay at his place and not work the streets, but he’s afraid of coming on too strong.  For once, this motivation makes sense to me.  He’s straight and he knows saying, “Stay at my place, quit hustling” is basically saying, “I will be your sugar daddy.”  He doesn’t want to set either himself or Rin up that way, so he compromises by telling Rin he can stay at his place if he ever strikes out… or, you know, just doesn’t want to work that night.

Rin likes being fussed over, but has sussed out that Matsuno is straight af.  So, he makes agreeing noises, but he stays away.

Until one night, when Rin turns the wrong trick.  He gets battered and, having nowhere else to go, ends up at Mastuno’s.  Cue: hurt/comfort.  At this point, Matsuno starts insisted that Rin stay at his place.

YET, things stay platonic.  Rin starts talking to his hustler friends because, man, Matsuno is everything Rin wants in a guy.  He’s handsome, steady, and seems to sincerely care for him.  Hustler friend says, “Look, only heartache is going to come from falling for a straight guy,” and offers to set him up with a good client who is interested in something steady. The client is a little pushy (wants to bareback), but Rin finds himself feeling kind of empty afterwards and can’t wait to get home to Matsuno.

Bartender suggested to Matsuno that if he’s going to be all jealous like this, maybe he should try to help Rin get off the streets.  So, Matsuno gets Rin a job–as bartender’s apprentice.

Things seem to be picking-up in Rin’s life.  Matsuno tries to get Rin to work things out with his dad enough to get his health insurance straightened out, but Dad is a huge homophobe and instead of talking has set all of Rin’s stuff out on the sidewalk.  This makes Matsuno sad and, not knowing that it is similar to a marriage proposal, offers to adopt Rin.

This was news to me.  I knew that in Japan, adult adoption is thing.  I somehow missed that, culturally, this has been how the Japanese solved some of the legal issues of gay marriage (since that’s still not legal in most districts.)  Wikipedia says, “The adoption of one individual by another in Japan is commonly used as an alternative to same-sex marriage, which does not exist in Japan. By the elder party adopting the younger (as stipulated by the rules of adoption), the estate of either party can then be inherited or absorbed by the other without the payment of the prohibitive gift tax that would otherwise apply.”

Rin is, of course, shocked and gives an emphatic “NO” and runs off in tears.

Luckily, queer bartender helps Matsuno figure out what he did wrong.  Matsuno, however, realizes that the idea of ‘marriage’ doesn’t freak him out that much.  He kind of digs on the idea of a life together with Rin. They’ve been living that way for a while now, after all.

Working at the bar, Rin runs into the ‘good client’ in an alleyway.  Rin had been sent to fetch fruit for the fruity drinks, and was making his way back.  “Good client” shows his true colors by beating up and raping Rin.  (Almost all of it is off-screen. This is very much BL instead of smut.)

That’s it for Matsuno, though. He wants to be Rin’s protector, his HUSBAND.  So, he offers again, and explains that, no, he knows what he’s asking this time, and he loves Rin–not just in a platonic, big-brother kind of way, but like let’s do the sexy stuff kind of love!

That would be great, but Rin is worried that since the “good client” finally got his opportunity to go without a condom, he might be infected with AIDs. So, they have to wait to find out the results of the test.  In four months, they can do it, but not sooner. Rin won’t risk infecting Matsuno.  Not even with a kiss.

Test comes back negative and it’s smoochy-smoochy happily ever after for the guys! Hooray.

I actually really like this story, despite the lack of sex. The relationship-building seemed more plausible to me than many of these set-ups (particularly with a straight seme) and… ugh, true confession time, I totally love stories with sex workers.  Also, there is a tiny bit of implied yakuza goings-on in the bar that also worked for me because I love yakuza stories, too. So by chance, this one hit a lot of buttons for me.

I adored the fact that when they finally go for it, Matsuno has done his research and Rin is the one who wants things to be ‘what it’s like when people are in love.’

It’s actually kind of romantic that way.

The animalistic stuff appears in “The Ear’s Feelings.”  It’s fanatical story where, like Kafka’s cockroach, our hero randomly and spontaneously wakes up with cat ears. His coworkers tell him that they sort of like the ears because previously he’d been the sort of person who was hard to read. Now his ears give away his emotions. In fact, they work just a little too well, and a male co-worker finally twigs to the idea that ear boi finds him hot.

When they sleep together, they trade. Suddenly Interested Co-worker ends up with the cat ears.

There is some jealousy because all of the office ladies find the ears super-kawaii. Our hero is forced to make a love confession and somehow this makes the ears transfer to the company’s boss (? or maybe the joke is that Interested Co-worker is actually a run around and is trying to blame the sudden appearance of the cat ears on the boss as being an “airborne” virus.)

Obviously, I liked the morning after love story better. If you want a bit of romance and aren’t in desperate need of smutty smut, you can read After Morning Love at Mangago.

Bachi Bachi by Kuma Hyougo

I went looking under the tag “animal characteristics” at Baka-Update and was promptly inundated by a flood of choices, most of them NOT yaoi.  Alphabetically, this is the first one I found that looked promising.

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So, the guys on the cover aren’t actually animals or have animal characteristics.

In fact, they’re regular high school volleyball players.  They are the stars of the first chapter, “Bachi Bachi,” in which it looks like we’re getting set-up for the little guy to facilitate a love confession between his two senpai. What ends up happening, instead, is that they both confess they’re in love with him.  Very graphic sex ensues and they become a happy-for-now threesome.

The second chapter, “Youth, the Color of Sunset,” which involves another hottie dad….

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I’m beginning to worry about myself, but look at his guy!

In this story, we have a lonely, super-gay hairdresser who is working late one night when a pushy young woman comes in and demands that he make her dad hot, so Dad can find a woman. It seems he’s been divorced for some time and that was all fine when the daughter was still at home, but she’s off for college now, and it’s time for dad to get some action.

Guess where he finds it?

Yep, got it in one.

“Samurai Honeybee” follows a kick boxer who decides to try out a karate class at his local gym.  The normal instructor steps aside and let’s his super-attractive, younger apprentice teach the course. Kick-boxer is immediately smitten, but initially thinks his desire is to surpass the little runt and show him how awesome his skills are.

Instructor-kid is my usual type…. (the one staring stupidly out at us below:)

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As he’s actually an ex-gang member who turned to Karate to get out of the life of crime (I’d say “straighten-up” except… yeah, there’s nothing “straight” about what happens next.)  In his past, he looks even more like my usual sort:

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Playing out the scene we all want in a shounen anime, our kick-boxing main character challenges youthful karate instructor to a duel. If kick-boxer can beat karate instructor, he gets to dominate him.

And… that works out exactly how you hope. Right there in the dojo….

“Nana-nii-san’s dog and cat: 723-1122” is the “animal” chapter.  Here we have a science fictional universe where at some unnamed point in the future a virus spread that made most people infertile. The Japanese response to this, apparently, was to create human/animal hybrids.

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When the virus was cured, the “pets” were tossed out onto the street to perish from neglect.  Our hero, Nana (Seven), who is, himself a clone, has adopted two of these strays.  There is another threesome in this one that is kind kinky, and maybe hot??–I’m not sure I want to admit that, though.

The cat is charmingly cat-like, so that amused me.

The next chapter is called “Hatagaya Lullaby” and follows an old-fashioned, middle-aged author and the young goth rockstar that live in the same apartment building. They meet by accident and start up an intellectual affair–this might be one of the first times I’ve seen this kind of meet-cute.  The rockstar has read sensei’s work and they pass time talking about literature and eventually sensei, even though he really doesn’t fit with the goth scene, appreciates the similar artistry and poetry that goes into song lyric writing.

This, somehow, miraculously, leads to sex.

Clearly, the mangaka does not know any real novelists.  😉

The last chapter, “Blue, the Color of Depression” is a return to hairstylist and hottie dad, who have now moved in together.  Hairdresser is feeling like a bad partner because when he comes home, he finds hottie dad passed out on the couch, sick. Dad refuses to let hairdresser take care of him, but after a call to the daughter, hairdresser finds out that Dad just needs some attention.

Hairdresser takes time off work to be with Dad and everything is good again.

Kinda cute, I guess. It is actually sweet to have a romantic story in among a lot of very graphic smut.

Speaking of all the smut, I totally recommend this one.  I had a hard time finding a place that had all the chapters AND wasn’t totally riddled with spyware/pop-ups (the problem with full-on graphic images, I imagine), but, eventually, I discovered the full version of Bachi Bachi on MangaPark.

Have fun, kids. Read responsibly.

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.

SPOILERS

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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!