Shushushu Sakurai – DramaQueen – 2010 – 1 volume
This was purchased and read purely out of love for DramaQueen. I normally don’t like sci-fi themed BL stories (I’m currently gagging on the third volume of Ai no Kusabi), and the plot to this one didn’t pique my interest, but DramaQueen definitely needs the support, and I’ll pretty much buy anything new they publish in hopes of seeing more volumes of DVD, Audition, and The Summit.
The War in Space themes definitely don’t appeal to me, although in a BL book, you know the “plot” is generally secondary. Leo Bleed is a mercenary with a rough past that was called back to Core to be in a unit with a handful of other mercenary soldiers. Leo enjoys friendships with a few members of his team, and loves hearing about their families, but his world is rocked one day by a cruel assault from Iron Rose. Slowly, he begins to become disillusioned with his new job and alternately fascinated and repulsed by Iron Rose, who is increasingly cruel to him. Bad things happen, Core is turned on its head, and in the end, everybody is a hero.
The one thing this book has going for it is that, in my standards, the manlier the men, the better. These guys are soldiers, and are fairly manly by BL standards (though not huge and burly, like that description would have you think). Points against it include a lot of emotional blackmail, torture, and manipulation, and some non-con (so graphic, in fact, some had to be edited in order to make this okay to publish in the US). Again, fairly standard in most BL books, but it still makes me cringe no matter how many times I run across it.
The plot is also a little more detailed and slightly more convoluted than can be told in one volume, let alone one volume where romance should be center stage. The details about what’s going on at Core, and the transformation Leo Bleed is going through, are a little more plentiful and confusing than I would like. I found myself re-reading certain passages when trying to put the pieces together, and again… in a BL book, a confusing plot is the last thing you want. And all the abuse they put Leo Bleed through… it doesn’t really make sense in the context of their goal, either.
As far as romance goes, Iron Rose is never far from Leo’s mind, but I wasn’t really sold on the romance between the two, nor by the sudden sad role of Brinston, the torturer, at the end of the book. Iron Rose also creeped me out to the very end (he seems to order a lot of torture, and has his own dark past), so it was hard to see him as the love interest.
I did like the artwork, and the presentation of the book. I’d read another by the same artist, but I’d probably avoid anything with these themes in the future. I liked her character designs, and the amount of detail she puts into her settings. And, as always, I love the way DramaQueen produces their books.
Overall, I did not enjoy this book, but I think there’s probably an audience for it. It is a lot like Ai no Kusabi, with hard sci-fi themes, emotionally distant characters, and a lot of torture. It’s heavy on the plot, too, so if you like substance with your BL couple, this might be for you.