Suguro Chayamachi – Digital Manga Guild – 2012 – 1 volume
It feels like it may have been a while since I’ve covered a DMG title. I think I still have at least a couple I still need to talk about (Rainy Day Love, Tired of Waiting for Love… and have I covered Faraway Places yet?), but I picked up Chayamachis Collection: BLANC last week, so I’ll talk about it while it’s still fresh in my mind.
This is a short story collection. After the first story, Jiro, it became obvious that this would be a short story collection similar to Keiko Nishi’s Kyudo Boys, where it’s sort of advertised as BL (inherently so, in this case, since DMG is only doing BL at the moment), but isn’t really. Jiro is a story told from a stray cat’s point of view. The cat is fed by an owner of a liquor store, and one day, a young man takes it upon himself to track down the owner based on clues from the cat’s worn collar. The young man stops to tell his life story to the cat, and talk about things that get him down, and we find the cat had its own sad circumstances. It’s a fine story, but nothing terribly memorable.
The second story, Tobasco and Tobacco, is about a pair of semi-delinquent/mostly just bored students. One of them was in a terrible accident, and the story becomes about him trying to catch the man that cut the brake lines on his motorcycle. The two develop a friendship at the beginning of the story, but no romance is even vaguely implied. The most they share are deep thoughts on the pointlessness and randomness of life. Again, it’s a fine story, but nothing outstanding.
The third story, Green Step, has the shounen ai content, and reminds me a lot of a 70s-era shounen ai tale. Partially because the main character’s name is Gilbert (the main character’s name in Song of the Wind and Trees), but also because… hmm, the little I’ve read of 70s shounen ai seemed more nature-oriented than classroom-oriented, if that makes sense? Much of the interaction takes place outside instead of inside the school. In the case of Green Steps, the focus is the green steps, the hookup spot at the featured school. One of the characters admires an upperclassman from afar, and during his spying, meets a disagreeable underclassman who always seems to be underfoot. The upperclassman is revealed to be in a relationship, which breaks the main character’s heart, but he realizes the disagreeable underclassman might be more of a crush than the upperclassman was. It’s short and sweet, and not overtly romantic.
Blue People mixes things up a little with a bizarre sci-fi/horror story. When a young man realizes his girlfriend is experiencing a miscarriage, he panics, and a random passerby agrees to help him. The man wants to ditch his girlfriend (the pregnancy is unwanted), and the stranger agrees to “help” him help her. The stranger has magic powers, though, and in a Monkey’s Paw-type situation, the woman is helped by having her uterus magicked out of her body, something that only the man knows about for some reason. Things escalate, until death and other things happen in true “careful what you wish for” style. It’s definitely a creepy and atmospheric story, but it’s also bizarre, and is a little too abrupt after the first few light, introspective stories. I did like that the main character’s name was Buzz, though.
Dreams, Oh Dreams is about a young man that becomes obsessed with another, who he swears he saw in the hospital ICU looking exactly the same age when he was a young boy. The ageless character dodges all manner of questions about his condition, and does his best to keep his distance from the main character. The main character is also in denial of what he believes, and even though the ageless character seems to provide all sorts of reasonable explanations, for whatever reason, the main character can’t let it go. This was a strange story, and darker again, which still felt a little jarring after the first few lighter stories. It’s also not really shounen ai at all, since the obsession in this case never really goes anywhere.
Momiji, the final story, is a tragedy, yakuza-flavored, about the bond between the son of the gang leader and one of the men. Again, not terribly romantic in nature, though the bond is a rather deep one. The tragedy strips any possible romance from this story, however. I think this may have been my favorite in the volume, since the introspection in this story was more earnest than the others.
Overall… mmm. I was a little disappointed by the complete lack of romance in this collection, which may have biased me against the stories more than it otherwise would have. The stories were okay, and the volume was a solid read, but I think I would have rather read something else. I didn’t wind up taking a liking to either the stories or the characters much at all, unfortunately, but the stories were well-written, and again, my disappointment may have had more to do with the fact I wanted a romance book and this wasn’t it. The author does have another collection coming from the DMG. I’m thinking about reading that one, actually, knowing full well what it is before I read it, just to see how I react to a second volume.