Under Grand Hotel 2

May 6, 2011

Mika Sadahiro – 801 Media – 2010 – 2 volumes

I’ve got a huge backlog of books to write about, and this is one of the oldest. I read it months ago, and really liked it. It’s one of those deeply passionate and romantic BL books that I’m fond of, though even I am embarrassed at the premise (prison lovers, and the relationship is tinged with violence). I talked about the characters last time, so I’ll talk about the plot this time.

There are… uh, several different places the story goes in this 2-volume bunko edition (love the 350+ page format!). I’m not sure if there’s meant to be an overarching plot aside from character drama, but it’s interesting watching all the small jealousies and interactions and seeing where they lead. Some are slightly unrealistic, but all are juicy. One of the ones that’s harder to swallow is the warden’s interest in Sen, but all the same, it makes for some wonderful drama and misunderstandings between Swordfish and Sen, especially given the Warden’s talent for meddling and misdirection. There’s also Norman, who loves Swordfish so much that he’s willing to kill and do anything to split up the main couple. These two plot elements come to bear off and on throughout most of the two volumes, but it’s interesting how Sen and Swordfish resolve both of them. Again, I have a hard time swallowing the “reality” of the plot, since neither Sen nor Swordfish is in any position to negotiate or manipulate, but all the same, it sounds good within the context of the story regardless of how realistic it is.

But if you don’t like unrealistic, don’t read the ending. I’m still having trouble wrapping my brain around that, and it’s been months since I’ve read it. It’s exactly the point of this type of story, a complete romantic fantasy with no basis in reality, and particularly relevant for Sen and Swordfish. Since it is a prison manga, it’s not giving too much away to say that it involves escape, but it doesn’t have the expected conclusion. Not at all. Except… in some ways, it also does, and I liked that about it. I liked that I could choose which I preferred.

I also liked that Sen wasn’t really a criminal, and that it was a theme throughout the series. What was Sen doing in the prison? Why didn’t he speak up? I know it was to make him more of a martyr and sympathetic, I suppose, but it was still an interesting plot element. Or maybe not. I guess there’s always an innocent man in prison.

This was more musing on my part, since it’s been so long since I’ve read it, but read the first volume review to get more of a sense of why I loved this. Namely, because it’s ridiculously romantic. Violent and unrealistic, yes, and it turned my stomach more than once, but it’s still good stuff if you don’t mind, and it’s still less reprehensible than some BL books I’ve read. It’s eared all its rave reviews.

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