Otoko Hiromashita / The Man I Picked Up by C. J. Michaelski

I actually read the second half of this volume, a chapter called, “Ano Koro No Mama De Ite” on a different site, but when I went to Baka-Updates to see more about it, I decided to hunt down the titular chapter as well.

I’m kind of glad I did.

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The two separate stories in Otoko Hiromashita are held together by a location, a fictitious gay bar called “Boy’s Club,” where “cute younger men keep  other men company.”  From the fact there’s a “menu” of waiters to chose from, it’s basically a gay host club.

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The first chapter, “Otoko Hiromashita / The Man I Picked Up,” ended up being my favorite.  In it, we have the owner, Tamaki, who has the most fabulous, casual-wear wardrobe of any gay guy I have ever read in a yaoi…

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Yes, seriously, that pattern is… FAB-u-LOUS, honey!

The meet-cute involves our hero, Tamaki, finding his would-be love interest in the alleyway, beaten to a pulp.  Normally, he’d just call an ambulance and that’d be that, but the guy begs him ‘no cops.’  So… there’s a little hurt/comfort on the couch. When the stranger wakes up, he exclaims that he’s seen a vision of loveliness, a prince, and tries to kiss Tamaki.

Who promptly tosses him out the door.

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It’s love at first sight!  But, Tamaki is unconvinced. NO, PLEASE, says the guy, “I have nowhere to go.” Tamaki stays strong, though.  Thing is, he doesn’t normally go for the rough-and-tumble sort, so… but then he gets hit with something no blue-blooded man can resist: SAD, PUPPY-DOG EYES.

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Turns out, Tamaki has always wanted a dog.

I briefly wondered if things were going to get REALLY kinky here, but, as it happens, Tamaki simply adopts this guy, Kouta.

Kouta works really hard to be a good guest, too.  He keeps trying it on with Tamaki, occasionally, but he’s actually a big help around the bar.  He’s big and strong and eager, so he happily does all the jobs no one else wants–cleaning toilets, carrying in the deliveries, looking scary for the problem customers.

Except when the local mob shows up, then he makes himself scarce.  Turns out, he used to run with that gang…and even though there’s not much of a chance with Tamaki, (though when the boss’s old flame shows up Kouta discovers that Tamaki did have at least ONE other fling with a guy with a similar build to his own) he decides to go confront the local yakuza boss and tell him to stay away from “Boy’s Club.”

This results in hospitalization.

…And Tamaki wondering how he ended up attached to this big galoot.

The end.

I loved this. There’s only one sex scene, which is a kind of hurried grope, but the dynamic of this hit my favorite ‘odd couple’ buttons.  I can’t say you’ll enjoy this one as much as I did, but you really should read it just to see all of Tamaki’s outfits.

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Tamaki has never met a patterned shirt he didn’t love.

The second chapter “Ano Koro No Mama De Ite / Stay the Way You Were,” is the one I actually read first.  This story follows “Hiraku”–Hosaku is his real name but he thinks it’s old-fashioned and dorky–who works as a host at “Boy’s Club.”

Hosaku has long harbored a crush on an upperclassman from his old high school.  Years have passed, but he still thinks back fondly about all the times he went to the library to borrow books just so he could see Takano-sempai.

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Who hasn’t done something like this? 

He never thought he’d see the object of his affection again–especially now that he’s working in a “place like this.”

But, who should waltz in?

You guessed it in one.

Takano is now a salaryman and his colleague has dragged him out for a little nomikai. Colleague is already drunk enough that he thinks it’d be ‘funny’ to mix it up and go to a gay bar, for giggles.  Takano is unhappy about this, saying “this is not the kind of club to visit just out of curiosity,” but goes along, because this guy is probably his senior at the company.

Hosaku recognizes Takano right away, but hopes that his club pseudonym and the years are enough of a disguise.  He tries to hook Takano and his office buddy up with another host, but Takano wants him.

In fact, once they’re seated and have a few drinks, Takano cuts right to the chase:

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Not exactly, “What is a cute guy like you doing in a dive like this,” but….

To Hosaku’s credit, he’s like, “D’uh, because I’m super gay and this is the best way to meet hot guys and hook up with them!”  Office buddy is like, “Ooh, so, like, I could hire you for SEX???” and before Hosaku can even say anything Takano is like, “NOPE. I’m buying him.”

Upstairs, it seems that maybe Takano is pretty experienced in all this, even if things are a bit rough…

Afterwards, he’s like, “Oh, yeah, and from now on I’m you’re ONLY client.”

Hosaku is all, “hahaha, sure,” but you know this wouldn’t be a yaoi if that was the end of things.

Sure enough, by the final panel, we get a love confession. Turns out, Takano always admired Hosaku back and now that they’ve discovered they’re “the same way,” the long honeymoon can begin.

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Bonus cameo by one of Tamaki’s amazingly patterned shirts…

This chapter had a much longer, more explicit sex scene, so it’s probably best that these stories are read together for maximum… er, enjoyment.

I’m beginning to wonder if 2018 is going to be the year of “eh, I enjoyed it; ah, what the hell.”  Last year, I was all about the the slice-of-life happy stories about nothing, so maybe this will be year that I love all the randomly slutty yaoi.

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Boku to Neko to Hatsukoi Kousa / Me and Cat and First Love Intersection by Miyoshi Ayato

I found Boku to Neko to Hatsukoi Kousa / Me and Cat and First Love Intersection  completely by accident. I was just wandering around Mangago and stumbled across it.

The title is a play on words. There is an actual cat that occasionally makes an appearance in this yaoi, but really, the ‘neko’ (a slang term referring to a ‘bottom’ among the GLBT community in Japan) is the boy next door.

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Intrigued?  I was, and that wasn’t even the set-up that starts this thing….

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Our ‘neko’ above, Taisuke (often Tai-chan in the manga), has been living next door to Masao (Maa-chan) since forever.  Taisuke has a kind of crap life: his parents divorced because his father is an alcoholic–a mean drunk, who randomly throws bottles at his son and, it’s quite clearly implied, beats him up on a regular basis.  Mom calls from time-to-time, but isn’t much invested in her first born.  Masao has a decent life, and worries about his friend, but, you know Tai-chan is the sort to laugh all this stuff off.

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The story starts when Masao is treating Taisuke for yet-more-injuries and he notices some new kinds of marks on his body… Taisuke’s all, “Whoa look at the time” and they head off to school.

After school, while looking for his club activities, a sleepy Masao wanders into the wrong classroom… lo-and-behold, there’s Taisuke and a teacher in flagrante delicato. Masao would have turned around, except Taisuke calls for help.  Apparently, the teacher was taking advantage, though it’s not clear how–Taisuke says the teacher noticed all of his bruises and wanted to have a home visit, but Taisuke begged him not to, because that would only make things worse, and “this sort of happened.”

Masao is mad that someone got to Taisuke first.  Plus, ever since an incident when they were very little, Masao imagines himself Taisuke’s protector… and he clearly failed and he gets all emotional about it and “things sort of happen.”

It’s actually pretty cute.

The rest of the manga is about them figuring out how to be a couple while in high school. They have a lot of sex before figuring out they’re “that way.”

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There’s a word for that… what would it be… mmmm, starts with a ‘g’ rhymes with HEY!

To be fair to the boys, what they’re really figuring out is whether or not this is all just sex or if they love each other.

I ended up liking this one… maybe because Taisuke’s life kind of stays an unmitigated train wreck through most of this and Masao is wonderfully straightforward at times.  For instance, his solution to the girl who wants to date him is, after the classic attempts to just ignore her and hopes she goes away, Masao actually realizes that his non-committal is hurting Taisuke and just tells her, basically, “Listen, I’m gay and Taisuke is my boyfriend.”

She tells him that, you know, she’s pretty sure she’s a better cook than Taisuke… to which Taisuke points out a skill set he has.

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OK-ay then! I think you win that one!

So, yeah, I enjoyed it. It’s complete at one volume, too, so it’s a quick read.

 

Ai ni Somare / Dye of Love by Fujikawa Yuri

 

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At long last, I bring you a new yaoi review.

Unfortunately, Ai ni Somare / Dye of Love is another one of those volumes that MangaReader cut up into its various chapters, so my review of it is somewhat incomplete. The link gives you the whole story, but there are other, unrelated chapters, as part of this volume.

If I end up reading any of the other chapters, I will be sure to put the volume’s title in the tags.

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The set-up is pretty simple. Ai (whose name means “Blue”) is the producer of kimono dyes and is especially well known for his deep crimson colors. Previously spurred by his fashion-designer cousin, Tokiwa, Tokiwa returns into Ai’s life and is desperate for that special deep red dye, so desperate he tells Ai, he’d do ANYTHING for it….

ANYTHING.

Yeah, Ai has the same thought you did.

Tokiwa is a lady’s man, we’re told, but he doesn’t seem to have any kind of learning curve to get things going right away with Ai.  Maybe because he’s been living in France?  😉

There’s some other plot bits involving a Ai’s father taking credit for Tokiwa’s original dye formula and Ai being jealous of “other women,” but that all works out easily.

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At least say “other people” when you’re talking to a guy, maybe? 

This is not a deep one, but it’s plenty smutty, if not explicit.  It’s a fast read so it’s not difficult to recommend.  I initially thought the art might be too “wispy” for me, but I found it tolerable enough. So, yeah, I’m not ga-ga over this, but it was a pleasant enough diversion.

You & Me, Etc. / Bokura ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera. by Kyuugo

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You & Me, Etc. / Bokura ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera is a collection of one-shots by the same author that brought us Acid Town.  A fact I didn’t actually notice until just now, though I should have had an inkling, given how much PLOT (and how little sex) is in each of these stories.

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The first chapter is “Someday We’ll” / “Itsuka bokura ha” and follows characters we’ll return to in the final, titular chapters “You & Me, Etc.” / “Bokura ni Matsuwara, Etc.”: Iku and Keita.  The two are best friends whose relationship becomes fraught when Keita, a rising baseball star in high school, has his career cut short by a tragic accident… an accident he suffered because he pushed Iku out of harm’s way.  Iku is horrified that he’s the cause of  the end of Keita’s big chance a stardom, but Keita is just happy Iku is alive, because Iku means the world to him.  Like, THE WORLD, but that’d be pretty homo, so, you know, things are just TENSE.

At least until Keita decides to just try going for it.

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A kiss Iku can’t get out of his mind. From there, the story goes where you might hope, with some extra baseball and a near repeat of the traffic accident to help Iku realize that he Loves This Man ™.

“The Sakura Pilgrimage” / “Sakura no Junrei” follows another set of high schoolers, these two basketballers, Sugaya and Fujishiro.  Fujishiro is that enviable guy, the one all the girls giggle after and call ‘prince,’ who is destined for the class presidency, and probably gets straight A’s. Only, turns out, there’s NOTHING straight about Fujishiro.  Sugaya accidentally catches Fujishiro making out with none-other-than a teacher!  Sugaya isn’t the sort to tell, but Fujishiro makes a point of paying him off, anyway.  Things go on like this for a while (a phrase that is actually used a bunch in this chapter,) until someone else spies the lovers and the teacher is fired.  Then, Sugaya listens to Fujishiro’s woes and they share a moment of camaraderie, the end.

Yeah, this one is literally about a guy who is kind of bored with life who makes a gay friend. I mean, I can’t say I’ve seen anything like it before, so I guess there’s that.

“The Beautiful Tomorrow” / “Utsukushii Asu” parts 1 & 2 follow Tatsushi Kuwahara, a famous editor/author, and Akira Shinozaki, the son of a beloved professor of Kuwahara’s, who has come to Tokyo… basically to impose on Kuwahara’s kindness.  Turns out, his father remarried and his step mom is legitimately evil. When dad died, she kicked him out on the streets.  Kuwahara learns all of this, slowly. Not that it matters, he gets used to having the kid around.  Akira is a guitar player who is trying to do the breaking in thing, so sometimes he stays out late or… comes home drunk.

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“Wanna what?  I’m an editor, kid. Use all your words.”

Even though initially, it looked like Kuwahara might be straight (he had a female writer living with him at the beginning), he’s fallen for this kid. Hard, I’d say, since right after this attempted love confession, Akira pukes between Kuwahara’s legs, and he still kisses him, later.

I will say that even though kissing is the most you’ll get (beyond one shadowed het blowjob in “Sakura Pilgrimage,”) I ended up reading all of these.  I guess I like Kyuugou’s writing style, despite the profound lack of nookie.  Milage may vary, however.  So I recommend this one hesitantly.  I do like how these stories tend to have a note or two of humor among all the angst.  Reminds me, as I said of Acid Town, of my own work.  (Though my fan fic is a WHOLE lot sluttier.)

 

Renai Game by Chidori Peko

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Once again, I discovered that this set of chapters, “Cinderella and the Shoemaker” (Act 1, 2 and extra,) have actually been hived off from its original volume and is presented as a stand-alone.  But, I read them this way, and the other chapters follow separate characters, so…. I’ll just review this as it is (though, it will be tagged by the volume’s title.)

Oh! And, Happy New Year, to you all!

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The story is basically as advertised: a very loose retelling of “Cinderella.”

I mean, okay, if there’s no fancy dress ball, no actual prince, nor a fairy godmother…. yeah, no, actually, it’s just a guy whose name is an apparent homonym to the Chinese Cinderella, Kaji, who ends up falling for a guy whose name is basically prince (Mao).  Oh, though there *is* a scene where Kaji runs off without his shoes.

In this version, however, Mao has MADE the perfect pair to fit, because he’s a slutty shoemaker that Kaji initially tried to apprentice to.

Mao didn’t really want to take on an apprentice–he’s never taught anyone before–and so when Kaji shows up and begs him to teach him his magical shoemaking ways and says, “I’ll do ANYTHING,” Mao decides to have a little fun.  Only, this isn’t the rape-y version, so Mao just has him dress in an apron and make food.  Hot?

I’ll let you decide:

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Well?

It’s ok-ay for me, personally, but, this was a cute enough diversion for a few minutes.

In case you’re wondering, also unlike the Cinderella story, Mao does eventually decide to go for it when Kaji turns 20, so there is some explicit stuff in the second chapter.  More sweet than hot, but, as I say, pleasant enough, should this sound fun to you.

Ja mata!

Acid Town by Kyuugo

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If you like your yaoi full of yakuza and a heavy dose of angst, Acid Town might be for you.

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Acid Town is the kind of manga I’d write, if I were a mangaka.

It’s both weirdly dark and full of implied non-consensual situations/sex, but also all about honor and angst and young men making stupid choices in the name of love and devotion.

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So. Much. Angst.

The world that our hero, Yukio and his best friend, Tetsu, live is extraordinarily dark.  Somehow the world has fallen into lawlessness and the yakuza reign supreme (and everyone is interconnected by fate and misfortune).

I do a very light amount of research for any title I review here, and I’m always a little surprised (and nervous) when I discover a TV Tropes page devoted to a manga that never got an official English-language release. There is also, should you desire “moar,” as the kids say, a singular piece of fan fic on Ao3.

I understand why someone felt compelled to write in this universe.

There are parts of this story that I really loved–specifically the relationship between Yukio and Tetsu–and a whole lot of stuff I didn’t entirely feel was necessary.  Just as Yukio and Tetsu are being torn apart by cruel fate and misfortune, the mangaka decides to wander into the convoluted backstory of several of the yakuza players for CHAPTERS.  I have to admit to skimming quickly through these so that I could get back to the main story….which only gets a couple of chapters before what is available scanned dried up.

Grrrr.

But if you like your porn plotty and light on the sexy-times, you might really enjoy Acid Town.  For myself, I could have used a little more sex.  Or focus. If the mangaka could have stayed with Yukio and Tetsu more, I might have been more into it, despite the sweeter tone.

Their characters are great. For instance Tetsu makes a really awkward love confession, and has this wonderful conversation with the fabulous guy who owns the restaurant under their apartment:

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“Ha-ha, maybe you pushed him down and kissed him, eh?” jokingly asks the restaurant guy.  Tetsu, says miserably, ” Yeah, I did.”

Good times.

More of this, please.

But, that being said, the writing is good. I read a lot of the yakuza turf battle plot without batting an eye. So would I recommend it? Yes, but with the caveat: BEWARE: PLOT-HEAVY.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?/ Kinou Nani Tabeta? (Vol. 12) by Fumi Yoshinaga

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I’ve been known complain about how Yosihnaga-sensei makes her gay protagonists (in everything, but in What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? especially) seem vaguely unhappy, like they’ve settled for something not quite perfect.  In the past, I’ve felt like, even though she might be going for “realism,” the Unhappy Gay Guy is such a hurtful stereotype that I’m angry that her sense of ‘real’ doesn’t accurately reflect my life.

Until Volume 12.

There’s a chapter in volume 12 (#95) that so perfectly encapsulates my life with my wife that I had to read it to her.

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Before I get into that scarily accurate chapter, I have to take a moment to appreciate this ridiculously awesome cover for volume 12.

Here we have Kenji and Shiro walking seriously out of a lined black background, dressed to the nines, looking like they could be yakuza hit men or something.  All around them are the titles of the recipes found within:  “apple muffins,” “sukiyaki,” “stir-fried chicken and turnips,” and “red squid, natty, and avocado rice bowl.”

I dunno. Something about the juxtaposition of this serious, stylish look and the recipes made me smile.

If you’ve never read What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? before, the thing you have to know about this slice-of-life manga is that it’s basically an illustrated cookbook with tiny–and I mean, minuscule–bits of plot threaded through very detailed recipes. I categorize it as yaoi, because the main characters are gay and because Yoshinaga-sensei is known for her yaoi/shounen ai. (It apparently debuted in a seinen magazine aimed at adult men: Weekly Morning. So maybe it should be categorized as seinen?)

Despite the fact that it’s mostly recipes, there are a couple of great character moments in volume 12.  One thing I will forever love Yoshinaga-sensei for is that she very much prefers to write about older men.  The heroes of What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? are in their 40s.  They even joke about how this is why their lives just aren’t that dramatic.  At one point, Shiro gets hit on by a friend of theirs.  It’s a really light pass–hand holding and a serious stare–but it’s not nothing.  He gets super flustered (and flattered) by it, but turns it down with a gentle laugh.  Fondly, he thinks, “Ah, if that had happened ten years ago, who knows what might have happened.”

That’s What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? in a nutshell, folks.

And, if the next chapter hadn’t been my life, I probably would be complaining right now about how it’s deeply unfair to so broad-strokes categorize older gay people as sexless and done having adventures and extra-(non-)marital affairs.  But, yeah, so comes chapter  #95.

Our couple have time off together for O-Bon. They’ve slept in, Shiro has made breakfast, and Kenji is trying to get Shiro out of the house to enjoy the day.  Shiro jumps up and is like, “Oh! The shops will all be closed. We have to get groceries for the week.”

I swear to god(s), I married this man.  And, just like my wife, when they get home from this huge shopping trip, Shiro is like, “Right! Let’s do some of that cleaning we usually neglect! I’ll clean the vents. You do the curtains!”

Did Yoshinaga-sensei peek in my window and just copy my life???

I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking, “What? This isn’t cute. Why did Lyda marry someone so… anal?”  Trust me that I’m over here smiling a huge smile.  (Case and point? My wife just said, “Okay, here’s your list” talking about the shopping I need to do today, so that we can spend the day baking.  I LIVE IN THIS MANGA.)

Except I’m not a hairstylist.

Or a dude.

Otherwise, this is my life.  The gay agenda: cooking and cleaning and shopping.