Satoru Kannagi – DMP/June – 2006 – 5 volumes
this is a novel

I’m a sucker for these BL novels.  I’m sorry they weren’t more popular, because I inhale them like peanuts.  There are still a few I haven’t read, but this is probably the most well-known of all the June BL novels, so I thought I’d give this a try.

Wataru hooks up with Yuichi, the most talented and good-looking guy at his school.  Unusually, the story is told from Wataru’s point of view, but Yuichi is the one who nursed the crush longest.  The first half of the novel is the story of those two hooking up.  Admittedly, it didn’t make much sense, since Yuichi was terrible to Wataru (presumably to mask how he felt), but Wataru fell for him anyway, and everything worked out in the end.  The second half of the novel is set a little later, and is about a bet between the two of them about their relationship crossing physical barriers if Yuichi can rank on a national exam.  While Yuichi is studying, a girl tricks Wataru and it looks like the two are dating.  Also somewhat unusual is the fact that Yuichi is more mad that he isn’t spending time with Wataru than he is about the rumors of Wataru dating the girl.  He knows they aren’t true.

The titular theme of rings is very prominent.  Weirdly so.  It’s a thing at their school for couples to share rings.  Wataru wears a ring because he likes it, not because he’s a couple with anyone.  Yuichi steals it one day and has a copy made, but because they’re in different years, nobody notices they wear the same ring.  When Wataru nearly finds out, Yuichi picks a fight and is generally terrible to him for a couple weeks, until they hook up.  Where either boy wears the ring (on their ring fingers, versus their middle fingers) is the subject of much rumor and speculation.  Before they start dating, Yuichi is forced to call attention to the fact they have the same ring in front of several people, which is the subject of much speculation.  And the whole second story is about a girl stealing Wataru’s ring, and Wataru not wanting Yuichi finding out because he knows Yuichi will be really upset that the symbol of their love has been tampered with.  It’s a little weird.

Overall, this novel was… okay.  It was pretty straightforward, the characters were pretty regular guys, but mostly likable.  I have a low threshold of quality for these, so I liked it well enough to continue the series.  But DMP has better novels… my favorite is probably still Lonely Egotist, but if you’re looking for a cute, earnest relationship with a couple of nice boys, Only the Ring Finger Knows is pretty great.

And Yuichi has the same birthday as me.  That never happens!

Also, like Lonely Egotist, this book has awesome spot illustrations.  Lonely Egotist had illustrations by Masara Minase (I LOVE HER), but Ring Finger is illustrated by Hotaru Odagiri.  She’s more famous for The Betrayal Knows My Name.  Her art is very good, and a lot like having CLAMP illustrate your BL novel.  Realizing she did the illustrations was what put me over the edge for buying the series.  A small detail, but still.

Gasp!  This has gone through three printings!  That’s almost unheard-of from DMP!

Love Pistols 5

June 28, 2015

Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 8+ volumes

This volume is a lot about having kids.  I wasn’t particularly fond of the featured couple… one of whom is a friend of the mongoose guy from a few volumes back, who is somehow related to Karen (I think).  Mongoose’s husband, snake, is also the brother to the guy who has a crush on Shiro.

Again, for being so infertile that they had to invent a way for guys to have kids, the zooman families are huge.

Apparently some zooman babies are born fist size, especially if you are a “heavyweight?”  So… I don’t know what to think about that.  I prefer not to.

ANYWAY.  The couple here is a new type of Zooman that doesn’t belong to one of the six categories, flying types.  There’s a guy who’s French/Saudi, and also a rare hawk zooman, one of the last.  His boyfriend here is a fruit bat guy, also a rare flying type, but apparently bats are the more common of the flying types.  Fruit bat has led a hard, awful life, and is currently dating a rich friend, the same rich friend who pulled him out of his hard living.  He likes the rich friend, but the rich friend doesn’t really make much time for him, and loves hanging out with other “rare” types of zooman.  Their relationship isn’t portrayed particularly affectionately.  So he starts hooking up with the hawk, who he keeps running into at parties and winds up saving while he’s on the brink of death one time.

Things get pretty hot and heavy with the hawk, but bat eventually pushes him away because he feels he has to be loyal to his distant boyfriend.  Hawk kidnaps him to Saudi Arabia, because he’s impregnated bat and it turns out he needs that kid to be the heir to his rich, murderous, and contentious family.  Bat has actually taken a bunch of experimental drugs that turn him into a woman, because when he lived hard, he wanted to be anything else but himself.

The end of this story isn’t even that romantic.  The hawk keeps a harem, and wants bat as a second wife.  Eventually, this is apparently okay.  He sends bat away, because it is too dangerous for bat in Saudi Arabia.  When he comes to get bat, it looks like he’s trying to kidnap their kid.  He then invites him to be a second wife, and this is apparently incredibly romantic.

Characters that are only tangentially related to the main ones, a terrible love story, and more creepy pregnancy logistics.  This wasn’t my volume.  Volume 7’s cover appears to have a mermaid on it, so I’m hoping volume 6 is better (the covers tend to feature the prominent character from the last volume… this one has David, next volume has Seth Hawk, et cetera).

Earthian 1

June 16, 2015

Yun Kouga – Blu – 2005 – 4 volumes

I’ve always been partial to Yun Kouga.  Reading this, I realize her work has a lot of the same weaknesses, which are especially glaring here since this is such an early work (from, I believe, 1988).

Her characters really, really look the same.  Chihaya is dark-haired, and Kagetsuya is light-haired.  Sometimes, Chihaya doesn’t have his hair shaded, and it’s not clear who is speaking (they technically have different hairstyles as well, but the wispy, indistinct art also sometimes blurs this line).  In one chapter where the narrative shifts, it took me quite some time to realize the main character wasn’t Kagetsuya, just someone who looked and kind of acted like him.

The narrative also jumps around.  A lot.  At one point, we are told that Chihaya has shown his wings to two people, including someone named Toki.  This actually made me flip back to the first chapter, since I didn’t remember him showing his wings to that character, nor did I think that person was named Toki.  I was right, he’s describing something we haven’t seen.  Then, the narrative jumps from the present to the past (in the middle of a rather dramatic decision), to tell the story of how he and Kagetsuya met.  Then, the narrative shifts again, and we learn about a character named Toki meeting a little girl he names Chihaya (this was the one where it took me a long time to figure out Toki wasn’t Kagetsuya).  Neither Kagetsuya nor Chihaya is in this chapter, and their relationship to Toki isn’t explained.  After that, we get a story about how Toki and Chiyaha met.  Then it goes back to the present for the last couple stories in the volume.

I’m willing to bet at least part of this was… maybe a doujinshi, but at best, serialized irregularly.  This would have been around Kouga’s debut, so the scattered nature might be due to an irregular serialization.  Still, it ain’t so great collected into a sequential volume like this.  Having said that, I would have hated for this material to be left out… I just wish it was organized a little better.  And, hopefully, it was serialized more regularly after this, and later volumes have a continuous narrative.

Anyway, angels are evaluating humans.  Chihaya is the kind, overachieving angel who is grading humans based on good actions, Kagetsuya is the curmudgeonly angel who is tallying up the bad.  Whichever side gets to 10,000 actions first wins (minuses means humanity is eradicated).  Chihaya is also a rare “black mutation,” and all other angels are white.  There is a relationship implied between Chihaya and Kagetsuya, though it’s not romantic as of yet.  It is forbidden though (mysteriously, m/f relationships are not), and they would both be excommunicated and possibly killed if they fell in love with one another.

Confusingly, there are relationships heavily implied between a lot of the angels.  Uriel makes no secret of having a huge crush on Chihaya later in the volume.  A relationship is also heavily implied between Michael and Raphael.  So… there’s that.

This was a tough volume to make my way through, and I usually do like Yun Kouga.  It picked up some momentum after the narrative stabilized towards the end, and I’m curious to see how it continues into a second volume.  I’m a little confused by the Blu imprint, since they usually published more explicit series… and Kouga is normally CLAMP-like in her implied-but-not-confirmed BL relationships.  I’m trying to picture Kagetsuya and Chihaya having sex, and I cannot.  If they do, it is wispy, indistinct sex, and again, when I think of Blu, I think of Gerard & Jacques, Love Pistols, and some dirty Hinako Takanaga stuff.  But maybe I only remember dirty Blu series, and they published some less explicit stuff, too.  It’s been many moons since Blu released a book.

Anyway, on with Earthian.  These books are certainly the prettiest ones Blu released.

Crimson Spell 5

June 16, 2015

Ayano Yamane – SuBLime – 2014 – 5+ volumes

Yamane keeps alluding to the fact the story is approaching the end!  I’m guessing it’ll be at least 7 volumes, because the ultimate enemy… we see him here, and he has Lim’s face, but we still aren’t quite sure what he’s up to?  I mean, we kind of are (he’s binding demons to weapons to fuse with people, and Vald is the only success so far), but… I guess I’m still curious to see what he’s up to in terms of what he’s doing in this town, and what other cursed weapons are floating around?  I’m not completely confident all my questions will be answered, but on the other hand, I mostly came for the sex, so that’s probably fine.

They get to the capitol of the country they’re in, and it’s pretty great.  It’s a city infused with magic, and the citizens have magic stones that help them to get around now that the magic is fading from the land.  Except the stones are stealing their life force, and the bad wizard may be feeding it to a monster or the little girl princess of the land.  They keep trying to kidnap Vald, and eventually successfully do.  He and Havi are on slightly better terms at the beginning, but spend most of the volume apart anyway.

It doesn’t sound like I give the book a lot of credit, but it’s actually a pretty great fantasy series.  Yamane’s art is, once again, fantastic, and she’s great at drawing buildings, scenery, clothing, monsters, and pretty much everything (weirdly, the thing with the ears is once again absent, so those look good, too).

The slight irreverence in the first volume that I enjoyed is gone, but I don’t mind what it has turned into.  I am surprised she doesn’t make it a little more sexy (I’ve read the Finder series, and the early volumes), but I don’t mind that, either.  I’m waiting for the big Vald/Havi payoff at the end.  I know Yamane is good for it.

I read these last three volumes in the space of a couple hours, and I regret it terribly.  Here’s hoping volume 6 comes out in Japan, at least, this year.

Love Pistols 4

June 7, 2015

Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 8+ volumes

Annoyingly, the rather in-depth fight Norio and Kunimasa were having last volume isn’t resolved here.  I thought it was kind of nice that the series was calling out Kunimasa, who’s the stereotypical overpowering seme who takes what he wants and treats his partner horribly, who clings to him because he’s weak and he loves him, blah blah blah.  Norio tells Kunimasa if Kunimasa can’t treat him equally, or even well, he’ll leave him.  But then they wake up in bed together here (sleeping, Norio and Kunimasa don’t have sex), without having resolved the argument.  I was more than a little disappointed.

Anyway, it goes downhill from there.  Kunimasa and Yonekuni’s mother is introduced.  She’s a caricature, a witchy woman who runs a high-end brothel and abuses her sons.  Norio saves Kunimasa, Kunimasa gets all weepy and apologetic, blah blah blah.  I was a little disappointed by Makio, who everyone made out to be a truly frightening character.  She’s a little scary, but gets defeated… kind of easily?  But she’s married to Karen, the matron/mother/parent of Kunimasa and his siblings (of which there are a TON… what happened to the Zooman infertility?).  Her and Karen make a cute couple.  And it’s not often you find badass lesbians in your BL books.

The second half is about Kunimasa and Yonekuni’s fathers, who are also married (Kunimasa and Yonekuni are their sons with Makio).  Not only is this pair attractive and powerful older men in the present, they were good-looking artists types in their youth, and their love story is freaking adorable.

On one hand, I do like Norio and Kunimasa (I complain about their relationship here a little, but Kunimasa is normally pretty affectionate, he was weirdly a jerk last volume… I suppose to make this storyline more dramatic).  I kinda wish we’d see more of them, and part of me doesn’t like it when the main narrative is diverted by side characters.

On the other hand, the side character stories are always SO CUTE.  I liked the snake/mongoose story last volume, and I LOVED the fathers story here.  I’m curious to see if this will continue to be balanced so well, or I’ll hate all the characters getting introduced constantly, or if I’ll want to see more of Norio and Kunimasa.  We’ll see.  I’m going to binge-read this entire thing.

Crimson Spell 4

June 7, 2015

Ayano Yamane – SuBLime – 2014 – 5+ volumes

Vald and Havi are having a fight through most of this volume, and both agree it would be better not to pursue a relationship.  But Vald’s sorta-control over his demon powers has suddenly made him more reckless, which Havi disapproves of.  Vald disregards him, and when Havi points out that Vald doesn’t even need him to control the demon powers anymore, the two sorta sulk until Havi leaves and Vald chases after him.

I know the summary I just gave was mostly about the relationship (which is obviously very important in a BL series), but I still love the fantasy stuff that’s going on.  There are two dragons slain in this volume, and Havi’s skills as a sorcerer are what cause him to seek gainful employment elsewhere.  The gang stops at a town with a magical gate that requires a seal to pass.  In addition, this kingdom is not friendly with Vald’s kingdom, and there’s the chance someone could recognize him as the Crown Prince.  They are traveling to seek a sorcerer (someone Lim knows), the magician who is apparently enchanting weapons like Vald’s sword with demons to build an army, in order to get him to break Vald’s curse.

We also get a juicy tidbit that almost everyone who fuses with a demon dies, so that Vald can cope is rare indeed, and he will probably be captured by said sorcerer.  Hm.  Plus, we have the magicians/demons that were fighting Vald and Havi in volume 2, who still aren’t beaten, and I’m not sure if they’re related to the big bad sorcerer or not.

Admittedly, the fantasy stuff is a little ill-defined, but it works, and Yamane is keeping the story moving through mini-arcs with the fantasy elements.  It’s all I ask.  Fantasy and demons are a major weakness of mine, and I’m loving every page of this.

I’m a little concerned that the traveling party has grown so large.  I liked Vald, Havi, and Rulca, but after the dust settled in the last volume, somehow they now travel with Rein (who’s spying on Havi), Mars (I don’t know why, but he’s awesome), and briefly Lim (who seems to know about the sorcerer that cursed Vald’s sword).  So far it works, but they are already interrupting private/personal time between Vald and Havi.  Hm.

The storyline at the end of the volume where Vald has to sneak into the castle to speak to Havi is tied into the bonus story from last volume.  That’s also the only sex scene in the volume (Gasp!  Again!), but it is spectacular.

Yamane’s art is once again fabulous (the costumes in the above sex scene are a big part of what make it great), but I just realized in this volume that she can’t draw ears from behind.  Now I can’t unsee it, and it’s bothering me.  It’s weird, because I just picked up the first volume of Finder, and they’re fine there, but there’s a lot less heads drawn from behind.  Maybe these chapters were rushed or something?  The art look awesome otherwise, it’s an odd thing to stumble over.

Crimson Spell 3

May 16, 2015

Ayano Yamane – SuBLime – 2014 – 5+ volumes

This volume is surprisingly serious, given the light tone of the early volume.  Havi is bewitched beyond saving.  Vald is trying to fight a sorcerer, who has possibly captured his younger brother and is making him fight Havi.  A few very bad things happen.  This takes up the first 2/3 or so of the volume.  It was nice.

Later, Havi and Vald are sort of at odds, and Vald is trying to come to terms with the fact that, maybe, he kind of likes Havi.  Havi is as brash as always about it, but Vald fought hard enough as a demon in the previous fight that he apparently kind of transforms while still himself, so he has to accept the way Havi bound him.  And he’s not really mad about that.  He’s more mad about the fact Havi is a brash jerk, which is an excellent thing to be mad about.

The major demon plot that started last volume still isn’t resolved, and there’s a newcomer at the very end of this volume.  I’m not sure if he’s evil yet.  Maybe!  Probably.

There’s also a silly short story in the back about how Vald and Havi met (maybe?) when they were children.  Yamane usually puts silly one-shots at the end of the main story, so I don’t put a lot of stock into it.  It was a cute story, and unlike her usual ones.  Yamane usually goes for the nonsensical sex one-shot, and I was expecting it this time too, since there was only one sex scene in this volume.  This may be a record for Ayano Yamane, two sex scenes in two volumes.  But the one-shot set in the past is a nice change of pace.  And Yamane makes up for it with her cheeky end notes.  It’s obvious she doesn’t take her smut too seriously, which is why she’s so great.

I like this series a lot.  I’m going to burn through the last two volumes quickly.  And then I’ll have to wait a bit.  Oh well.  In this volume, she makes it sound like she wanted to finish the series before they did a drama CD, so it can’t be that long, right?  Right?

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