July 21, 2015
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2013 – 8+ volumes
This is the first time the whole volume was dedicated to one couple. Shinobu and Vulnera. Not even Kunimasa and Norio have had the honor, and they’re the main characters. In the middle of a life-changing decision!
Most of this is about Vulnera’s nature as a Mer. This was… hm. He’s locked in a mansion behind some barriers. It’s not clear to me… he might actually be a building (at one point, Shinobu stabs a door with a sword and there’s a silhouette flinching back), or he might be the whole property? He also manifests a building at one point to demonstrate all the knowledge contained within his being, and how difficult it would be to stuff that into a human body. So I don’t know how that works.
Similarly, he can’t pass outside the barriers, but he can… see anywhere there’s water? At one point, he’s spying on Shinobu in a hotel room. This hotel is probably not on the grounds of his estate, and definitely outside his barrier. But that’s not really explained? Similarly, he says he can spy wherever there’s water, and Canario tells Shinobu to close his eyes so Vulnera can’t see (presumably because we’re 80% water, though that isn’t explained either), but Vulnera sees anyway. He… doesn’t see through, like, a full coffee cup or something, he’s hovering in the room.
So I don’t know what’s up with Vulnera.
He’s creepy creepy creepy, though. He falls in love with Shinobu at first sight, but super-awkwardly straddles the line between controlling and dependent. He wants Shinobu to be his teacher, but also seems to contain more knowledge than Shinobu has. He doesn’t fall for Shinobu’s intimidation strategies. But he does love him.
I read this volume twice. The first time through, the love read as selfish, and I thought Vulnera was just using Shinobu as a new toy. The second time, it seemed sincere. Vulnera gets very protective at the end, and it’s implied he’s very protective in the present, despite the pair not speaking for some time. Mysteriously, when Shinobu’s family decides he can’t be Vulnera’s teacher anymore… the two suddenly… uh… fight. Brutally. Vulnera seems to accept this? I hope this gets explained better, we’re only shown this confrontation for a page or two.
Presumably, we’ll learn more about that when we learn about the Madarame family. But man. That means that this series will probably be 3 more volumes, minimum. There’s a lot of stuff going on.
I… still kind of liked this volume, but it was confusing, and there wasn’t a whole lot of romance. And there was no Norio/Kunimasa. But I guess this had to happen? I’ll be patient and wait for the parts I want.
July 21, 2015
Yun Kouga – Blu – 2006 – 4 volumes
You know, I don’t give Kouga enough credit for her art. Her pages look AMAZING here. She draws very pretty series. Her character designs do suffer a little bit for it, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off. The later stories in this volume are absolutely gorgeous. Great composition, good mood, lots of pretty shoujo effects, and her linework is lovely.
I’m… not entirely convinced this is actually BL/yaoi. It ran in Wings… which has other, similar borderline series, but what I’ve read from there I would consider more shoujo than BL. Antique Bakery is another fellow Wings alumni that I wouldn’t call BL. Tokyo Babylon is as well, and is also not BL, though Subaru and Seishirou are sort of in a relationship. Adekan also ran in Wings, and while it wishes with all its heart it was about the two main characters having sex, realistically, there isn’t any romance between the two at all. I think the distinction, for me, is if the relationship is featured alongside a plot that is just as important to the series. Many/most chapters of Earthian are not really about Chihaya and Kagetsuya’s relationship most of the time (though that the plot interferes with it in this volume is definitely a factor). This is a fine line, because you could argue that Crimson Spell also has a plot that takes over after the first volume. But Crimson Spell also features many chapters of graphic sex, so I feel like that’s the other factor.
Again, I’ve heard about this as a BL classic for years, and it was published by Blu, who I thought mostly did smut. But unless the next volume convinces me, I’m going to pull it from my BL tags. It doesn’t have what I’m looking for in a BL series.
The second volume endeared me much more than the first. The plot picks up, as Seraphim and Elvira do their thing. Elvira vows vengeance on angel-kind for Seraphim needing to live as an outcast. Meanwhile, because Seraphim was the head of the pluses count in the Earthian do-or-die thing the angels were working on, Chihaya and Kagetsuya are recalled to heaven and split up, since Chihaya is the only one who can take Seraphim’s place. Chihaya is initially okay with this, which bugs Kagetsuya. The split eventually wears on both, until Chihaya demands they be partnered up again towards the end of the volume. The last chapter lets us know that both are still too clueless to really express their feelings, or be a couple, though Kagetsuya is now “in season.” If that ends with this last chapter, I’m going to be disappointed. Kouga dumps sexual symbolism in heavily (and it is very, very pretty), but again, both characters seem clueless to what’s between them.
Kagetsuya and his new partner are sent down to retrieve Elvira, who has all of Seraphim’s data on the black angel disease (the disease that killed him). Elvira proves to be a handful, and doesn’t really want to cooperate unless she gets to see Eden.
Chihaya is depressed with his new position, and takes a break to visit android boy and his fire-starter girlfriend from last volume. There’s a couple chapters that feature that pair, and the girlfriend’s insecurities about not being good enough for him.
There are also a few… Seraphim/Elvira chapters. These are CREEPY. Elvira is Seraphim’s daughter, and it’s clear she has a huge sexual crush on him. She makes herself grow to adulthood fast so that she can be a suitable mate (she’s actually… not very old at all, maybe 2?). Seraphim also eventually admits he desires his own daughter. They have a couple chapters together, though again, no physical relationship is implied between them.
There’s also some chapters about Kagetsuya’s new partner, the two of them working together, and he and Chihaya eventually butting heads at the end of the volume.
More coherent story, and while I don’t like all the side characters, I was pretty engrossed in the story here. I think the next volume wraps up the main story (I assume the “main story” has something to do with Elvira, and the synthetic boyfriend/girlfriend pair?), and volume 4 is a gaiden volume of short stories. I’m promised Raphael/Michael stories in that volume. I’m excited about that. I hope there’s some Chihaya/Kagetsuya as well.
July 5, 2015
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2013 – 8+ volumes
This volume was… a change of pace. We actually did get a Kunimasa/Norio-centric story for the first half, which was nice. Kunimasa has come of age, and is being presented as a heavyweight in zooman society. Both he and Norio are angsting while he’s off being presented, so Kunimasa comes back and… makes a rather large step in their relationship. This sets Norio off, but after consulting with several people, he decides to accept it.
IT’S ADORABLE. A little weird… something about it didn’t feel quite right. Possibly because all the side characters were involved and offering their opinions. Possibly because the set-up for the next story was going on at the same time. Possibly because Kunimasa and Norio still don’t spend that much time together. But still, it was the sweet stuff, the kind of thing this series does so well.
The next story is about Shinobu and his destined love, Vulnera. Vulnera is also called “Pride First,” and is a lion/mer hybrid, a chimera. We learn that Mer are super-powerful, and aren’t really part of the same plane of existence as other humans/zoomans. Vulnera is acting as mer interpreter at the heavyweight debut ceremony that Kunimasa is attending. Meanwhile, a mer visits Norio and his school. This mer can swap faces and clothes with others with a gesture, make magic happen, and make water taste bad.
Admittedly, I’ve read ahead before I wrote this volume up. It’s not clear to me whether the mer at the school is Vulnera or not. He wants to “see society,” and the story later implies that Vulnera does have the power to do some of the things shown (the weird water is him spying). But I’m not sure why he’d be spying on Norio and company? He already appears to be out and functioning in the world at this point. He also has a nasty scar on his face. Maybe he keeps it because Shinobu gave it to him? If he can change his face, seems like he could wipe out the scar. But if it were another mer, it’s implied that they can’t speak to humans, and function on another plane of existence that makes it hard/impossible to take a physical form? I don’t know. This was really confusing.
Vulnera is also confusing. We see the start of a flashback, where a young Shinobu is teaching a young Vulnera to take a physical form (apparently he’s good at this, since he’s also teacher for Norio and Shiro). It’s implied that Shinobu is an unwanted son, and we also learn that… zooman babies apparently don’t grow in the womb, but manifest spiritually outside the body? I don’t know?
Anyway. All signs point to Shinobu not being up to the task of teaching Vulnera. He gets deathly ill at the barriers that keep Vulnera caged, when it’s implied that his father and sister find the barrier trivial. Meeting Vulnera for the first time causes him to pass out. But Vulnera really likes him. Present-Vulnera appears to be stalking him, and his intentions appear to be very sinister. Past and present Vulnera are both kind of creepy and evil. There are also text balloons about loving someone that aren’t clear whether they’re meant to be for Norio or Vulnera. Maybe both. Maybe Vulnera loves Shinobu so much he would kill him.
There are a couple short side stories in the back. One is about the snake and mongoose again, and the other, longer story is about Kunimasa and Yonekuni’s fathers. Apparently Kunimasa and Yonekuni are twins (???). Makio had sex with both fathers without the other knowing, and bore them each a son simultaneously? Hilariously, David is really pissed at Maximilian for it, while offering no defense for himself. Maximilian stays with Makio and Karen for a little bit. Makio and Karen are the best, though this later characterization of Makio (lazy, kind of take-things-as-they-come, a bit childish) doesn’t match with her initial story. But her and Karen are still great, as are David and Maximilian. Again, it’s these kinds of stories that the series does well, though I wish Kotobuki wasn’t trying so hard to make having kids weird.
Also, Kunimasa and Yonekuni are, like, the third set of twins we’ve met in the series. Another weird strike against the initial point of zoomans having trouble making kids.
July 5, 2015
Kiyo Ueda – DMP/June – 2011 – 1 volume
This one was good! Both characters were adults, and gay! That never happens! This is more what I look for in BL, so it gets high marks for me.
Hiroki is pretty casual when it comes to relationships, and tends to have a lot of casual sex partners. His brother calls him one day to ask if he knew a nice guy to set up with his heartbroken coworker. For whatever reason, Hiroki decides he’d like to go for it, despite the fact he doesn’t really do relationships like that. He seduces Yasuyuki, and when he realizes Yasuyuki is a nice guy who is very serious about him, he pushes Yasuyuki away. Hiroki is lonely, and eventually (accidentally) wins Yasuyuki back.
Unfortunately, Hiroki isn’t very nice. His seduction of Yasuyuki reads a little bit like a game, though he doesn’t seem like he plans on cheating on him or breaking up with him. He just thinks it’s easy. He does seem really good for Yasuyuki, who is ashamed of being gay. Hiroki thinks nothing of shopping with him, discussing relationships in public, or holding hands in crowds of people. It means a lot to Yasuyuki. Hiroki’s brother accuses him of taking from Yasuyuki and never giving (Yasuyuki cooks for him, and it’s Yasuyuki that comes to Hiroki’s house and generally dotes on him), but I did feel a little bad for Hiroki in that way, because it wasn’t true.
Hiroki pushes him away, then tries to resume his normal life, but can’t sleep with other men. Yasuyuki finds him, and Hiroki keeps saying the worst things to him to get him to stay away from him. So he isn’t very heroic, and rather self-serving.
Still, it was a cute book. Worth a read if you stumble across it. I liked Classmate by Ueda as well (which was high school romance, something I usually avoid), and I think I’ll pick up her other book, The Color of Love, very soon.
June 28, 2015
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!
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).
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.