Youka Nitta – Be Beautiful – 2005 – 14 volumes
So, I found the first two volumes of this in a used bookstore. I never thought I’d get to read this in English, so I was super-excited. Be Beautiful translated… five volumes, I think? But the volumes are quite expensive secondhand, and I never thought I’d get to read it, myself. This is kind of a BL classic that will likely never see another edition in English due to some copyright infringement issues in Japan. A shame, because the first volume was amazing.
So the story starts with Iwaki and and Katou, two adult film stars who are auditioning for a role in a new movie, Embracing Love. The role uses their particular… talents, but the film is a serious one, outside the adult film industry, and it would mean a step up for the career of whoever gets it. As part of the audition, the director, Sawa, asks the two men to have sex with each other. Both seem taken aback at first, but they are professional porn stars, and Iwaki wants the role badly, so he climbs on top of Iwaki and dominates. His prowess wins him the role…
As Sawa’s submissive sex partner. Because Sawa is also starring in the movie as well as directing. Katou laughs his way all the way out of the audition.
The movie, Embracing Love, is such a huge success that a television drama is announced, and this time Katou is cast in Sawa’s role. Iwaki is still not happy about playing the “woman” in the male/male relationship, so a follow-up story involves challenge sex with Katou to see who wins the “male” role. Iwaki is drunk, and loses. There’s also some issues about the popularity of both actors (Katou is more popular, and Iwaki is jealous) and how Iwaki isn’t proud of his roles in adult videos. So it’s not just sex, although it kind of is. I found it very interesting that the two switched in chapter two. That almost never happens in BL. But because both are “adult” actors and about to enter into a role that involves a relationship between the two, Iwaki (rather nonchalantly and easily) chalks the encounter up to drunk practice, and there’s not really a relationship developing between the two yet.
Though that changes in chapter three, Flesh Flute, when Sawa invites the two over to his house for a sexual experiment to help him write his new book about partner swapping. This doesn’t go very far, though it becomes obvious by the end of the story that Katou really does have feelings for Iwaki. I liked that, somewhere in here, there was a note explaining that “Flesh Flute” was a sexual metaphor, as if that wouldn’t be immediately obvious to anyone who picked this up.
Anyway. The rest of the book is about Katou trying to convince Iwaki he isn’t acting, that he’s in love For Real, and Iwaki resisting, thinking that Katou would stoop to any level for his professional career, or is so unprofessional that he falls in love with anyone he acts with. There’s another chapter about a man with an obsession with Katou that resembles Iwaki. That one’s a creepy story.
Mostly, it’s appealing because it’s an ace drama with acting to confuse things (as I said, Iwaki believes Katou isn’t really in love with him), and I like the layer of meta staging this in a BL drama gives the story. I also like that making them adult film stars makes sex between the two fine for both partners, even when there’s not really a relationship involved. It’s a little strange. Plus, Youka Nitta’s art is sort of an odd fit for a BL book, but I really like it. She has super-manly character designs.
But yes. I adored this book. It pushed all the right drama buttons for me. I’m looking forward to volume 2, though I’m afraid I’m going to have to put the other three English volumes on my “keep an eye for a cheap copy” BL list now. That’s a lot of work, but I always get my cheap book in the end.