Finder Series 6: Passion Within the Viewfinder

Ayano Yamane – DMP/June – 2012 – 6+ volumes

We are officially caught up with the Finder series. I read this in a ridiculous smut spree last fall, and I had forgotten just how dirty and silly it really is. Finder definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s probably downright worth avoiding for many (I hated it, the first time I read volume 1). But it’s definitely exactly what some are looking for. You know who you are.

I really liked this volume. Not that anyone really reads Finder for the story, but I enjoyed the break after the lengthy Hong Kong abduction arc and getting back to the business of Akihito being a sleazy tabloid photographer that keeps bumping into Asami, a sleazy underworld businessman, and their sleazy dealings with one another. Akihito gets home to find his apartment completely emptied, with a single key taped to the wall, presumably to Asami’s place. Flat-out refusing to be kept, he stays with a friend and begins to try and put his life back together. His former place of employment gives him a job conditionally, where he needs to beat out another photographer for the best paparazzi-style shot of an infirm celebrity. Of course, things are never as easy as they seem, and the celebrity is in the hospital because she has a stalker, who has of course gotten on the wrong side of Asami. And then the man begins to stalk Akihito. So… you know. Things get bad. Happily, the story arc is self-contained in this volume.

Yamane describes the story as Akihito clawing his way back the top, which is one of the best things about it. He’s trying very hard to go back to the way things used to be, but he finds he just doesn’t have the stomach to be as sleazy as the job requires. He also finds that, to get the ins that he needs to investigate, he needs to rely on Asami more than he’s comfortable with, and he also begins to realize that Asami may be a truly bad man. There’s lots of good stuff here, in terms of story and characters.

But you didn’t come here for that, did you? Well, there’s plenty of the other stuff, too. Shockingly so, given how much else is going on. But that’s Finder for you.

There’s also a fun story in the back that re-introduces the Mizuno/Hiyama pair, and to make things way better, they are on a class trip and personally chaperoned by Akihito. While I rarely like filler and B-side material in BL books, the Mizuno/Hiyama stories that have been intermittently appearing in the backs of the Finder volumes have grown on me, and this lengthy story is pretty excellent. Well, aside from the fact that Hiyama is still not very responsive, and it’s more of a silly romance than it is romantic. But there’s plenty of that in the main series, so I enjoy this one quite a bit for the silliness.

So, basically, this volume is a whole lot of awesome for those who are into the series. Get it while you can, it seems like there might not be a lot of copies circulating.


Finder Series 05: Truth in the Viewfinder

Ayano Yamane – June – 2011 – 7+ volumes

Ah, the end of the Hong Kong story. Finally! The deal that was supposed to happen, Asami exchanging sensitive documents for Takaba, took an entire goddamn volume to happen. In that time, Takaba was kidnapped again (this time by Russian gangsters), there was lots of shooting, people getting slapped around, people getting shot and killed, and many chase scenes. Asami… loses his temper more than once, and Asami is definitely not the type that you want to make angry.

At this point, I was totally done with this hostage story. While this is surprisingly good (I can’t deny I tore through this volume like a madwoman), I desperately wanted to move onto the next big thing. Again, what I like best about this series are the stories where Takaba takes sensitive photographs, and Asami somehow busts in and saves/kidnaps him. There’s something a little funny, a little dangerous, and… uh, fairly steamy about those stories. It’s definitely the right mix.

Speaking of the latter characteristic, there’s plenty of that at the end of the volume. Rather than a Japan story, there’s an exotic vacation for Asami and Takaba. Asami is… uncharacteristically indulgent here, and Takaba turns out to be traumatized from his experiences in Hong Kong (because… yeah, that was terrible), so the whole thing felt a little out of character. But still. The steam. It’s there.

And that’s about all I have to say about this. Experiment successful! Again, I read all five volumes of this in a row to see how much my tastes have changed since I read the first volume from Be Beautiful five years ago. It was off-putting then, but now I’ve read so many more terrible BL books that… yeah, I love every page of this series. And yes, there’s lots and lots of sex, which is why all these reviews are so short. I’m ashamed. I’m sorry.

Obviously not ashamed enough to keep my opinions to myself.


Finder 4: Prisoner in the Viewfinder

Ayano Yamane – June – 2011 – 7+ volumes

“I had to show Fei Long’s story out of necessity, but I could just as easily have filled 30 pages with Akihito’s masturbation sessions – that’s how pent-up he is (Enough already!) It’s gonna be huge when he blows! Please hurry!”

I wish so goddamn much that this had been included in this volume. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

I get a kick out of Ayano Yamane’s author talks. BL artists tend to be surprisingly coy about what they’re drawing, so it is both bracing and hilarious to see one own up to it. I love that, in a series this full of sex, Yamane is still holding herself back, and also clearly enjoying herself while drawing it. It makes me happy to see an artist enjoying her work so much.

On the minus side, I was a little disappointed by this volume. This is the middle part of a long story where Akihito gets kidnapped by Fei Long, and there’s almost no Asami at all in this volume. With no Asami to have sex with, non-con rears its ugly head as Fei Long makes Akihito his sex slave. Unfortunately, Akihito is also the worst sufferer of Stockholm Syndrome in BL, since he never protests this attention (he puts up with it after Fei Long threatens to sell him as a real sex slave, where he would die a bad death addicted to opium). Worse, he seemingly becomes attached to Fei Long as the volume goes on, and realizes just how lonely and tortured Fei Long really is. He begins to offer advice, and even sticks up for him in certain situations by the end of the volume. It really does read like the two are friends and/or lovers, though Akihito is still a rather badly kept captive that keeps trying to escape to Japan.

Not to say that Akihito hasn’t had past Stockholm Syndrome tendencies. After all, that’s what’s going on between he and Asami. I don’t know.

Fei Long needs to be developed more before Asami can swoop in for the rescue. That happens next volume, but in the meantime, it’s strange in this type of series, which is all about the “action,” not to have plenty between the main couple for an entire volume.

And yet, despite that, and the horrible, horrible guilt I have now that I’ve watched Akihito and Fei Long for an entire volume, I can’t help but adore these books. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s just damn fine romance, and I tend to like these ones with the action mixed in, too. Plus, as I said, Ayano Yamane seems to be extremely self-aware, which I think does help. I just wish there wasn’t non-con on, like, every page.

I think I was completely won over by the last page of the bonus chapter when Akihito gets himself drunk and comes on to Asami. When he wakes up from his drunken stupor in the middle of sex with Asami, he begins to get upset, but Asami simply tells him “Now that you’re awake, pump that ass!”

See what I mean about being self-aware? Yamane obviously knows what to put in the bonus story to win me back over. It’s not even the sex. I live for cheesy lines like that.


Finder Series 3: One Wing in the Finder

Ayano Yamane – Be Beautiful – 2007 – 7+ volumes

“Please look forward to all the action Akihito’s butt will get!”

I will, thanks! <3 THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

More Asami and Takaba. I love that Be Beautiful has dropped all pretense, and now the character introductions are just a series of sex panels. In particular, each character profile image for Asami and Takaba features one going down on the other. I miss CPM books. They have a very distinctive presentation. They all have lengthy, well-illustrated character information pages, story so far segments, generous extras in the back, and wonderful endpapers that are often something hilariously inappropriate, even when it’s not a Be Beautiful book.

This time, Fei Long is back, and he’s using Takaba’s friends to blackmail him into getting information from Asami. Except all this does is drive Takaba into Asami’s arms, and they have sex for awhile while Fei Long calls and periodically listens. Takaba’s friends remain bound and gagged until, for some reason, Fei Long lets them go. There’s an altercation involving Asami, Fei Long, and a third party. I’m not too clear on what’s happening here, or who is where when the action goes down. But the storyline carries over into the next volume, and Takaba has fallen hard for Asami, though he still won’t admit it to himself.

Aaaah. The cover of the book tells me this is the “most controversial yaoi saga ever!” I’m not sure about that, but I am glad that June is re-releasing the whole thing. I’ve got volume 4 and 5 handy for reading, and will probably indulge in both as soon as I finish writing this.

It’s romantic stuff, to be sure. Asami is a pretty typical stoic seme, but he guards Takaba quite jealously, and Takaba needs guarding from the variety of bad guys that are after Asami and whatever bad-guy stuff he does. I like that Takaba also seems to have a knack for snooping and taking pictures, and takes a more active role in getting abducted than the usual scenario… as in, he actually deserves it for apparently trying to blackmail these guys with photos. Not that he deserves what Fei Long actually does to him (there’s lots of non-con in this series… really brutal non-con, at that, and I hate hate HATE that it’s in all these books). But he does walk into the kidnapping part, at least. Literally. Like, walks into it more than once, and doesn’t learn his lesson after the first time.


Finder Series 2: Cage in the Finder

Ayano Yamane – Be Beautiful – 2005 – 7+ volumes

Here’s an interesting experiment for you. The Finder series was one of the first BL manga I ever read. I bought all three of the Be Beautiful volumes when the third one was released. I read the first one and was traumatized. There’s a lot of rough non-con, and the characters aren’t very likable. Plus, bondage, which I think affected my delicate sensibilities of the time. I never read the second and third volume. Since then, I have read dozens more BL volumes than I care to admit, among them A Fallen Saint’s Kiss. I think there are few BL books that can be as shocking, sexually, as that volume, so I thought I would give the Finder Series another chance now that I know more about how BL works.

I already reviewed volume one, but yes, my tastes have changed quite a bit over the years. The non-con and bondage still isn’t something I want to see, but now it reads much less awkward than it did before. Unfortunately, Takaba is the type of uke that falls in love with his tormentor, and while I hate that convention, it does make it easier to read. Takaba never really protests what Asami is doing to him, and by the end of the second volume, it’s implied that Takaba wants everything that Asami gives. The strained and stoic silences between them do read full of anticipation now, where as before I missed that element and was dreading the inevitable moment when Asami would lay hands on Takaba again. I hate myself a little, but I like the strained relationship between Asami and Takaba, and I like all the criminal intrigues the two find themselves involved in independent from one another.

Unfortunately, this volume leaves Takaba behind and focuses primarily on Fei Long, a villain that kidnapped Takaba in volume one. There’s some implied history between Fei Long and Asami, and this volume goes about telling it. The story this time is much more about Fei Long’s criminal family and his standing in it, rather than a romance, and the romantic elements between Fei Long and Asami are stunted and quickly quashed as soon as they spring up at the end. Yamane said she didn’t really want a romance between the two to detract from the story, but unfortunately I wasn’t as interested in the story of Fei Long.

But, on the other hand, we did learn a little bit more about Asami. He’s a stoic, mysterious man, and this volume doesn’t really change that. Nor is the story really about him. It doesn’t really attempt to shed light on his character, either. All the same, it was a little fun seeing a slightly different side of him.

There is a short chapter in the beginning when Asami happens across Takaba in one of his clubs. Takaba is being used by the police without his knowledge, and Asami kindly points the fact out to him while the two have rough sex. There’s also some sort of gun deal going on, I don’t know. It’s not really important.

While I was disappointed that the bulk of the volume was a Fei Long story, I loved the unrelated short story in the back. It’s a follow-up to one of the one shot stories in volume one. Two classmates find out that their rich and powerful fathers might be engaged in a gay relationship. The first story had the two boys follow their fathers to a nice hotel, only to engage in a rather steamy night together themselves. The second story picks up again, when one of the sons is sick and the other mentions it to his father, the father uses it as a pretext to go over to their house. The fathers get to business downstairs while the sons experiment upstairs again. There’s something about stories like this, with hilariously unlikely premises, that I love every time. Plus, the two sons relationship isn’t really romantic at the moment, they both seem to be giving in to impulses. Even funnier, the title is something along the lines of “It’s in the DNA.”


Finder Series 1: Target in the Finder

I obtained the first two volumes of this series after Be Beautiful announced at New York the third was surely coming out. Shortly after I placed the order the whole Libre thing happened and my books got lost in the mail. I reordered them anyway. As I mentioned before, I’m a bit paranoid about ordering graphic Boy’s Love through the mail for fear of getting busted on archaic comstock laws or something, and I’m so sad that the first two volumes of this were among the less than 5 volumes I’ve ever had lost in the mail.

This was FILTHY. This was one of the most filthy, porny things I’ve ever read. I briefly debated buying an actual porn manga a la Icarus or Mangerotica, but I realized I just wasn’t into porn that much. This reaffirmed the belief, as it was unbelievably dirty and I just didn’t like it.

Those looking for more hardcore BL will probably like it, though… almost definitely.

About half the volume was dedicated to the main story, which is about a photographer getting violated in the roughest ways possible.  You… can’t really see any penises most of the time (the censorship in this one is hard to explain), but then again, he is clearly… getting rough stuff.  There is bondage.  There is a vibrator.  There is anal rape.  These things happen with two different men, which makes him the world’s most unlucky photographer, I guess.  The sex scenes last for a long time.  There is another short story dealing with the main character towards the end which, while smutty, was not nearly as graphic as the stuff at the beginning.  It also shows him coming around to the main antagonist for no reason, just like any other respectable BL story.

There are, if I remember correctly, two other stories.  I may be wrong about this, but one was fairly cute and humorous, about two boys who found out their politician fathers may be gay, then wind up doing each other while on a stakeout.  The sex in that one wasn’t very long or terribly graphic.  The other one was about two students (the translation says college, but it may have been high school in the original), one of which gets violated for absolutely no reason on his first day.  Admittedly, I kind of liked that one though, because the victim’s reactions were kind of funny.

As far as the story goes… it’s not very good, or coherent.  It reads more like a volume of short stories than anything, even though I’m pretty sure the photographer story is the one that gets carried over.  If you’re buying this, you’re buying it for porn.  I’m not aware of many truly hardcore Boys Love series, so this is definitely one if you’re looking for it.


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