April 12, 2015
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 8+ volumes
OH GOD THIS SERIES. I randomly picked up volume 3 after a two-year hiatus, since I hadn’t reviewed it here yet. I remember liking it, and I actually read the first four Tokyopop volumes before the SuBLime release. The books tend to cover different couples, and usually has all the notes about the “Zooman” system inside each volume, so I thought I’d be okay.
And it started off great! There’s a cute story about a surgeon and nurse. They were childhood friends, and the nurse’s twin brother dated the surgeon when they were all in high school. But it was the nurse that wound up having a connection, and the two fooled around casually in high school. But their families didn’t get along, so they were separated until the surgeon wound up at the same hospital as the nurse. The two start up another friendship, and become casual sex partners, no strings attached. But the twin still has a major crush, and the nurse runs away when the twin declares his feelings for the surgeon.
Cool BL story, right? It pretty much had me until the (male) nurse got knocked up, and then I remembered how weird and sorta freaky this series is. I forgot the zoomans were all about “fertility” and had special “womb worms” that aided homosexual couples in childbearing. Thankfully, they don’t go much past the mechanics of that, because it freaks me out a little bit.
If you’re curious about the zooman connection, the couple is a snake and a mongoose (some category of cat?). Also, the snake is one of those seme giants, the type that are, like, twice the size of the uke, that periodically show up in BL. Norio is pretty tiny compared to Kunimasa, but man. The surgeon’s huge.
But most of the book goes back to Norio and Kunimasa. Kunimasa is rather heartless, and while their relationship is passionate, it’s not very romantic, and Kunimasa is treating Norio badly here. Unusually for BL, this story explores that, and has Norio… kind of break up with Kunimasa after Kunimasa makes jokes about sharing Norio and comes right out and says he doesn’t love him. This is a cliffhanger ending, and I assume that Kunimasa will see the error of his ways and reform next time, because this is BL and that’s what happens. But again, that it bothered to call attention to the poor treatment is unusual.
If I recall, the woman that shows up on the last page is one of the reasons this series stuck with me for so many years, and why it’s worth a re-read. It is, again, batshit crazy in nearly every way, but it’s just so creative, and fairly easy to follow in its mechanics, that it’s worth the read for the brave souls that try.
Also, I love author notes in BL books that are super cheerful and innocent that come right on the heels of something absolutely filthy in the afterward. This book may have the best transition yet. The last sentence on one page is Kunimasa’s wish: “Penetrate him and come deep inside him. But first, just do him.” At the top of the next page is Kotobuki’s author note: “Thank you so much. This is Tarako Kotobuki. I’m so happy you’ve been reading my series. Please continue reading!” I… got whiplash.
May 31, 2012
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 6+ volumes
Another from the SuBLime archives, I waited so long to review it that volume 3 came out.
As I’ve said before, I have… problems with this series. Very deep-rooted problems. But it’s hard for me to deny the fact that the author does a good job fleshing out her world and the rules within it. She uses animal magnetism as the relationship hook here, and it makes for some truly… bizarre storytelling. But fascinating. Also, wrong. And don’t get me started on the whole babies thing. Which is what the second half of this volume is about. But! Before that! Yonekuni!
The first half is about Kunimasa’s brother, Yonekuni. Yonekuni hates men. Hates them so much, in fact, that he makes Norio dress like a girl in front of him while he’s teaching him about being a zooman. So that he doesn’t look weird, he has one pretend male friend, the bookish class chairman. The two eat lunch together every day, and the chairman is the only man he’ll let get close to him.
So… Yonekuni is half snake, half dragon, and has body heat issues. If he gets too cold, he’ll die, more or less. Turns out, whenver he gets cold, he’s been unconsciously crawling into the bed of the chairman. Because this is a BL comic. When the chairman admits his feelings, Yonekuni rejects him and goes on an angry rampage about how wrong it is to be liked by a man… but you know where this is going.
I was really torn over this story. It’s easy to hate Yonekuni, because Yonekuni cares so little about what others think of him. He doesn’t care what the chairman thinks, or the chairman’s friends, or his fellow classmates… he does what he wants. This does not make for a sympathetic character. And part of me also hates the somewhat pathetic way the chairman is getting half of a relationship with Yonekuni while he is in need of body heat. On the other hand, their relationship works in the context of Love Pistols because of the whole animal magnetism thing. It’s really disappointing that Yonekuni gives in to it so easily, because if anyone is going to fight it, seems like it would be him. And it’s hard for me to believe that he goes from hating the Chairman’s guts to doting on him and being jealous of others. But I do like that it is so absolute that not even the obstinate Yonekuni can really fight against the zooman rules.
Hmm. I did like something about it, but I can’t say what. It’s a little addictive, and that might just be that I was dying to know more about how the zooman system works. It is a little classy that a series like this doesn’t take that to terribly dark places. But the relationship itself in the first half here… all signs point to no for me.
The second half is about Norio’s friend Kumakashi. Kumakashi is from one of the most prestigious bear zooman houses in Japan, and his family is looking for a suitable partner for him. They want it to be another upper-tier bear zooman. So they hire a stud. And Kumakashi has to do all the… procreating.
I hated this, honestly, and this was another semi-abusive relationship. There hasn’t really been a nice pair of partners yet, though I do like that every half-volume features a different couple.
On the other hand… the Kumakashi story. The partner was another big dude. I imagine that bara looks something like this.
So, yeah. While I am saying all these negative things… again, there’s something about this series that keeps me coming back. I may just be that big a fan of complex fantasy elements like this done right. Almost everything about this series freaks me out a little, but not as badly as, say, Ze. I think another part of the appeal is that it does switch couples so easily. Ze does that too, but it tends to sit on the couples a little longer, and nothing in Love Pistols has yet been as bad as the Himi story in Ze. I’m going to keep reading for now. Maybe next volume I’ll get a pairing I like.
February 11, 2012
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 6+ volumes
I hate myself a little bit for even entertaining the idea of reading this series. I’ve read the first four volumes before, but I thought I’d wait to talk about it until the SuBLime edition came out. Mostly as a procrastination measure. You can read it digitally on their site, no print edition has been planned yet. I couldn’t tell you what momentary impulse made me pick this up in the first place, or even read four volumes of it. But the part I’m most ashamed of is that I kinda like it. It’s the concepts that terrify me, but to be fair, Kotobuki’s execution is pretty great. She takes these bizarre concepts and pulls them off.
In the world of Love Pistols, there is a race of people called zoomans (high five for the pun!). Most humans evolved from primates, but zoomans evolved from other animals, including cats, dogs, dragons, snakes, bears, et cetera. A regular primate human cannot detect the animal soul of zoomans, but zoomans can sense another zooman, and which animal soul they possess.
Primate humans can’t tell that there are zoomans, but their special power is that they have no problem reproducing. Zoomans have trouble conceiving amongst themselves, and a primate partner will always produce a primate human, so zoomans are quite rare. There are also three different “classes” for each of the zooman animals, and the more powerful and rare the zooman soul is, the harder it is for them to conceive a child like them. The characters don’t really have animal powers or anything like that, but they do rely on powerful animal instincts when it comes to choosing a partner. And they are obsessed with procreation.
If this wasn’t weird enough for you, keep in mind that this is a yaoi manga, so the partners are all male. Males obsessed with fathering children. So yeah. It goes there. It’s only mentioned in volume one. It’s explained later. I don’t like it at all. It puts me off horribly. But I read it anyway, because it’s strangely compelling.
The first volume is about Norio and Kunimasa. The story starts with Norio suddenly seeing everyone in the world as animals, and landing in the predicament of having every single person he meets fall passionately in love with him. After being relentlessly pursued by giant bear-man Kumakashi and sexually harassed by Kunimasa, Kunimasa explains that Norio is a type of zooman called a “missing link.” Missing links are from primate human families that have a zooman somewhere in their background. Sometimes, a missing link will develop, like Norio, who has his ancestor’s cat soul, but the fertility of a regular primate zooman. For whatever reason, this makes Norio extraordinarily sexually desirable for both zoomans and humans of both genders. Norio, despite being completely straight, finds himself with a great deal of sexual attraction towards Kunimasa. Kunimasa, an asshole, makes all the time he can for Norio as well, but refuses to commit in a relationship, or even admit that he wants to have sex with Norio for any other reason aside from procreation.
They resolve their problems eventually, and there’s another storyline involving Kunimasa’s brother Yonekuni and a classmate of his. What the relationships boil down to is that zoomans are controlled a great deal by animal instincts, and in the case of Kunimasa and Norio, despite the fact that those two don’t even really like one another, there’s not a whole lot they can do about the fact that they are only sexually attracted to each other once they meet. Things work out after this is resolved, but I like that the two characters are bound together like that. Love Pistols tends to move from couple to couple, rather than focusing on Kunimasa and Norio, and most of the couples have problems like that. It makes for an interesting read in that way.
But yes. It is all sorts of crazy. Amazingly, as confusing as all my explanations are, Kotobuki’s in-text explanations are not. She actually designs a lot of charts and children’s books for Norio that make things easy to figure out and simple to remember. I had to refer to the chart again and again the first time I read the series, but it’s included with every volume (as far as I remember), and surprisingly, it doesn’t really take me out of the story. Even more shocking, is that all this zooman nonsense works in the context of the story she’s writing. It’s… weirdly not forced. It is batshit insane, and she does use a lot of weird humor to make everything work, but it works. That doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with the read, or the reproductive angle of the whole thing, but I’m still reading it, because it’s worth it.
So yes. I find I have to give it a very cautionary, shamefaced thumbs up. You can see why I would hate myself for liking it, but it is a pretty good story. Perhaps better than most, for making all that craziness work for it. It’s not the most sensitive, or the best, or even really respectful towards the characters at all. But it is different.