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?
May 16, 2015
Rize Shinba – DMP/June – 2010 – 1 volume
I bought this after liking Shinba’s Mister Mistress so much. Then I read it and let it sit on a pile of BL I had read and hadn’t reviewed for, like, three years. So I read it again last night.
I liked Shinba’s sense of humor in Mister Mistress, though admittedly, that book wasn’t very good. I liked this one less, mostly because it was a collection of lukewarm short stories. But there’s something to be said about Shinba’s oddball sense of humor. The first story features an underwear thief that eventually gets together with his victim. Another features a student that falls in love with a cheery train operator. Yet another is about a man that likes his cheery delivery man so much that he sends registered mail to himself so that the delivery man can bring it. The fourth is about two students whose fathers are on opposite, combative political parties, and they are meant to be at odds as Student Council President and Vice-President, but they are actually engaged in a secret and embarrassingly sappy love affair.
All are cute, in their way, and Shinba has a gift for upbeat characters, something that can be rare in BL. These stories contain surprisingly little drama, save for the crisis at the end of each that unites the couple. The one I thought was the most serious (the train one), was apparently the one that people found the most irreverent, judging by the author notes. So whatever. The Student Council story at the end is a lot of silliness, and just plain cute. But the jokes never rise much above amusing. I’m sure re-reading a bunch of Yugi Yamada before I picked this up didn’t do it much of a service, either (Yugi Yamada is very funny, and one of my favorite BL authors).
I’d read more Rize Shinba, because I still like her. In fact, I’ve got Intriguing Secrets in my to read pile right now. But this wasn’t one of the better ones. Or maybe it was, and like I said, it just suffered because I read Close the Last Door before I picked this back up. I remember liking My Bad the first time I read it, so there’s that.
And there’s my contradictory, completely pointless thoughts.
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.
April 12, 2015
Ayano Yamane – DMP/June – 2014 – 7+ volumes
Ah, more Finder. And even more than this, as all the volumes of the series recently got funded for a reprint via Kickstarter (holy crap, I can’t believe that raised $60,000). Again, my links aren’t working in WordPress, so you’re going to have to take my word for that. But that’s wonderful, as someone who knows the pain of trying to track down an OOP BL book. I hate you, All You Need is Love Volume 1!
Anyway. This is the start of a new storyline. After Akihito takes a photo of a politician with a hostess, the politician is embroiled in a scandal, the hostess disappears, and the club they are at is in danger. Said club is owned by Asami, of course. Asami doesn’t seem to care what Akihito does to the club’s reputation, but Akihito is hit by a wave of jealousy when he sees Asami with the weeping manager. Ai, the idol from last volume, is friends with the disappeared girl, and asks Akihito to find her. Along the way, Akihito runs into some rather unpleasant associates of Asami’s, and begins to wonder why Asami hangs out with a low class guy like him.
But of course Akihito doesn’t ask Asami about this, because this is a BL series. Their relationship is rather stilted throughout, and the normally distant Asami is completely unapproachable here, so Akihito can’t ask for reassurance. At one point, after crossing the club owner wrong, the club owner spells it out for him: Asami doesn’t love Akihito, and Akihito can choose his career or Asami. And, of course, though he would never admit it out loud, he wants both. And he wants Asami to be a more normal guy.
It’s cute (if you read between the lines), when it’s not frustratingly distant. But there is a ton of sex, even with the distance, which is what Ayano Yamane kind of does. It’s also disturbing, which is what Finder does, but that’s par for the course.
I probably don’t mention this a lot, but I do like Yamane’s art quite a bit. Her dark eyes, gritty style, and sharp faces suit this series well. She’s got a bit of an annoying size discrepancy going on between Akihito and Asami, but it’s more rare for that not to be a thing.
The bonus story is worth the price of admission. It starts off a little weird and confusing, with a fake scenario where Akihito is manager of a company staffed by Asami, Fei Long, and a few of the other dangerous men from the series. Only Asami will go with him for a difficult meeting, where the client makes fun of Akihito, and makes him tie up and abuse Asami. I was so relieved when Akihito woke up, and this turned out to be a dream, because it was far too corny for Ayano Yamane. Not only was it a dream, it was a dream he had while passed out from having too much sex. He then tricks Asami into being tied up and abused. Asami breaks free, and there is hell to pay.
What can I say. It’s the little things.
I was also deeply touched by the essay Yamane wrote in the back about writing this volume. Apparently her father died during a rather intense part of the story, and she wrote the rest of it while horribly depressed and unmotivated. I have to say, I imagine that being exquisite torture. Your beloved parent dies, and when you don’t want to do anything from grief, you are forced to write porn. I felt really bad about that.
March 18, 2015
Makoto Tateno – DMP/June – 2014 – 1 volume
Another new-ish one! I grabbed this one because I liked Tateno’s Yellow quite a bit. But this one didn’t really do it for me. It was okay, but not spectacular. Looking back through the other books by her, I see I apparently didn’t like most of the other books, either. A shame.
The story is about two doctors. One is a surgeon ladies’ man, and the other is a physician with a crush on him. An intern notices the physician’s crush, coerces him into sex in the break room one day, and the surgeon walks in. The Physician is devastated, but begins kind-of dating the intern while the Surgeon kind of simmers in the background. Turns out, the Surgeon liked the Physician all along! There’s lots of doctor stuff liberally spread throughout, including a little girl with a bad heart whose condition kind of holds the story together.
It is unusual for these books not to have both main characters pining after each other the whole time, or at least unsure. The Surgeon literally flips a switch and hops into bed with the Physician at the end, though. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it kind of didn’t read right.
Meh. It was okay, a quick read, but there are better books out there. It didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of romance here, and I didn’t wind up liking any of the characters.
March 18, 2015
SPRAY / You Higuri – Blu – 2010 – 1 volume
I was disappointed when I realized that this was a spinoff of the original Gakuen Heaven series. The “series” is actually a BL game, but I was expecting this to be a manga version of the story. Instead, it’s kind of a sequel-spinoff focusing on one of the characters. Endo. Who isn’t actually in it that much. But really, I bought it because I really like You Higuri.
After the events of the first series (Keita was almost expelled from school), Bell Liberty seems like a happier place for Keita. He’s hooked up with his childhood friend/secret rich dude head of school, and the festival where everyone gets to show off what they’re best at is coming up. Exciting! But it turns out Keita’s boyfriend, Endo, is being forced to leave the school by his rich father, and is being replaced with a jerk VP that spreads rumors about him. Also, Keita is in charge of the huge festival, which is actually enormously stressful, but even more so when people realize they have to excel or be expelled when the VP spreads rumors to wreck the mood of the school.
There are a LOT of characters here, but they are easy to ignore, and most of them don’t really have more than a few lines. Those who do… aren’t really introduced. Surprisingly, the story isn’t that hard to follow, and Keita makes for a cute protagonist. It’s a pretty standard “save the school and my boyfriend!” storyline, so if you’re looking for a fun read, this will do the trick. There’s definitely better out there.
And while Keita and Endo are adorable, they are almost never together. There’s a couple scenes of them kissing that cut away with heavily implied sex (they live together), and one slightly more graphic scene at the end. I was a little shocked since I’d read part of a different Gakuen Heaven series in Princess Gold magazine, and there’s a suggestion of a rimjob in one panel, which is very un-Princess-like behavior. Apparently this was a Libre series, though. There’s a single panel where you can kind of make that out, but the rest of the scene is them naked and hugging each other, and it lasts two pages. Nothing graphic.
Higuri points out my favorite part of this story in the author’s notes. Endo is a student, but also the chairman of the school. His father wants him to move on to head their banking division, which implies that this guy is probably not high-school age (the flashbacks also make him look a bit older than Keita, but Keita is drawn to look young anyway). Higuri wants to know how old Endo is, as do I.
Higuri’s art is good, as always. With all the male characters, her art makes them easy to tell apart, which isn’t always the case in BL stories with a big cast like this. I read this because I am woefully low on Higuri books in English now. You can read her other stories though, and they are better than this. Try Ludwig II.
Also, in case the Bell Liberty Academy joke sailed over your head as it did mine, the characters refer to it as BL Academy after the first page.
February 13, 2015
Ayano Yamane – SuBLime – 2014 – 5+ volumes
Surprisingly, Vald and Havi spend most of this volume apart. I love that the schism occurs because Havi kisses Vald while he’s not a demon. But it’s not really because of the kiss that they wind up apart. They go to a town thanks to a thief that steals Havi’s books, and the town is infested by demons, there’s some big baddies after Vald and Havi, blah blah blah. It’s pretty good though, and better because Amane is not forcing the characters to have sex. Actually, they pretty much don’t in this volume, which is a little shocking for an Ayano Yamane story. I still liked it a lot, though.
The big baddies are mainly aiming for Havi, to use him as a source of power/take him over to get to Vald. The bad guys have a really hard time taking Havi over completely (they need to try, like, three times after capturing him), and Vald feels bad since it’s supposed to be his job to defend Havi, since the latter isn’t a fighter.
I don’t have that much else to say here. I was still delighted, despite most of the content flying under the radar, so to speak. But I’m tickled that Amane is taking the time to build up the story like this, since I’m all about well-done smutty fantasy like this. And again, I binge-bought the rest of the available volumes, so I’m having myself a little marathon. On to the next!