Challengers 2

July 27, 2011

Hinako Takanaga – DramaQueen – 2006 – 4 volumes

This volume was more interesting, but still not nearly as good as Little Butterfly. Things get more serious as Tatsumi begins to seriously evaluate his feelings and decide if the promise that Kurokawa made to him (basically, that his feelings wouldn’t make Tatsumi feel awkward) is really worth keeping. I also like that Kurokawa’s just a nice, earnest guy. He’s not predatory or creepy, nor is he forcing himself on Tatsumi. He’s letting Tatsumi be himself, and Tatsumi’s figuring out that his feelings are similar to Kurokawa’s. Granted, this still isn’t a very realistic scenario, but it’s less forceful that what you’d find in most BL books, and I like the gentleness. This pace also helps me forgive the age difference. Even though Tatsumi is a college student, he’s a very immature college student, so it still bothers me.

One of the subplots in this volume is that Rick’s old American boyfriend, Phil, shows up unexpectedly. Rick wants nothing to do with him, so he lies about Tatsumi being his boyfriend and takes Tatsumi on a date in order to fool Phil. Phil, Kurokawa, and Kurokawa’s co-worker all follow them, and things don’t go well at all when Rick decides to put the moves on Tatsumi. I don’t care for Rick, and I’m hoping that Phil will run interference so that he doesn’t keep randomly showing up to wreck things. Other than that, though, I have no opinion on those two.

Kurokawa’s co-worker, on the other hand, is awesome. He’s a great gossip, and loves hearing all of Kurokawa’s problems. He also offers decent advice, and is pretty much there for Kurokawa in every way he can be. I’m sorry I can’t remember his name, but I love that Kurokawa has a best friend like him to take his troubles to. Such characters are rare, especially when they’re just a regular straight guy like this.

Another story involved Kurokawa’s mother showing up out of the blue to re-claim her room in Kurokawa’s apartment. She decides that she likes Tatsumi, but doesn’t realize her son has a crush on him. She accidentally overhears a “serious conversation” the two were having in a coffee shop, and… doesn’t take the news of her son’s previously-unrevealed homosexuality very well. The scene is unfortunately more comedic than it is serious, but still. Scenes like this are so rare in BL, that I thought it was interesting that the story bothered with it at all. That’s just one more thing to like about it.

But while there’s good things like that, there’s also a story in the back that deals specifically with Souichi, Tatsumi’s brother, and a character named Morinaga. This story sets out to explain why Souichi hates homosexuals so much, and does so by conflating homosexuality and rape. To be fair, it’s Souichi that does this. Souichi is an angry guy anyway, and it’s not that much of a stretch to say that, yes, if someone attempted to rape him, he would probably hate all homosexuals. I just… wish there were less of this sort of thing in these books. It does balance this ugliness out with Morinaga, who is a sympathetic homosexual character that saves Souichi from actually being assaulted. But still. It made me a little angry.

Immediately after this story, however, there was a short epilogue/author’s notes-type short story about all the ideas that got rejected. It’s wonderful and very funny, and shows off quite a bit of the creative process behind a manga like this. I loved all the different story directions that were considered, and it is interesting to see just how different the story could’ve been with a different writer/editor working on it.

Overall, I did enjoy this book quite a bit, though it still has a little too much humor for my taste. There’s a few more kinks in the storytelling I didn’t like, but I am slowly warming up to it. At the moment, I still don’t feel like there’s a lot of chemistry between Kurokawa and Tatsumi, which is a problem in a romance series like this, but the pace is slow here, and I’m hoping things will get more romantic next time. It’s pretty good so far though, and again, I would recommend picking up the volumes directly from DramaQueen. They have 2-4 in stock, and buying from them instead of a middleman helps them out a lot. They’ve been struggling lately, and I think every little bit helps.

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