Challengers 3

July 31, 2011

Hinako Takanaga – DramaQueen – 2006 – 4 volumes

I won’t lie. There’s something addictive about this series. When I finished volume two, I wrote it up right away so that I could read volume three. And then I went on to volume four. Then I surprised myself by re-reading the first volume of Tyrant Falls in Love. Re-reading is something I almost never do, and I kind of hated Tyrant. Then I went on to read the rest of Tyrant. This all happened in the same night. Then, I got stuck, and in the last three days, I’ve read Challengers two more times and Tyrant about five times.

Challengers is cute, and I like that it can discuss issues without being explicit. For instance, the first chapter in this volume discusses “problems” Tatsumi and Kurokawa have when they begin to explore the physical aspects of their relationship. Nothing is shown, but the problems are still very real. It’s mostly a gag chapter, with Isogai enthusiastically recommending a trip to a sex shop for advice and Tatsumi consulting Rick for similar advice. The gags bother me less now, since most of them are character-centric and I can appreciate humor that goes above the level of cheap gags. The second chapter is a little worse about the cheap gags, but it has Souichi in it, and that always makes for more fun than necessary. Reiko decides to throw a party to celebrate Kurokawa and Tatsumi’s mutual relationship, and Souichi walks in at the wrong time. Madcap hijinx ensue, along with a whole lot of Souichi yelling and beating up Kurokawa, Tomoe, and almost a group of old ladies.

Souichi’s a fun character here. He’s mostly a one-trick pony (a very dangerous, angry homophobic man with power over Tatsumi), but the fact he shows up and asserts himself in the most violent way possible again and again is strangely endearing, as is the fact he absolutely refuses to change his views on homosexuality and has no problem insulting as many strangers as possible that cross him on this idea. He’s basically a terrible person, but it’s hard not to stare.

It seems he must’ve been very popular, enough to steal the spotlight, since he’s been getting a lot of story time since his appearance. The second half of the volume is almost all about Souichi and his lab assistant, Morinaga (both are ambiguous scientists of some sort). Morinaga is gay, and is in fact in love with Souichi, which is the only reason anyone would ever consent to being anywhere near Souichi on a regular basis. He’s been in love with him for years, but knows better than to let on, because it would literally be a death sentence. Of course, like any good BL book, Morinaga can’t hold it in any more, and the two-part story is about how Souichi has to deal with his only friend being gay. There’s still a lot of yelling, but his reactions are not nearly as comedic as you’d think in this series, and the story made Souichi an even more likable character. I also liked that Souichi didn’t do the typical raging tsundere thing of suddenly breaking down and becoming all adorable and soft towards Morinaga. He’s still a bastard, and probably always will be.

While I do like the characters more and more with every volume, I disliked the fact that there still seems to be absolutely no chemistry between Kurokawa and Tatsumi. Mostly this is Tatsumi’s fault, since he’s such an airhead that he seems mostly to go along with anything Kurokawa says, and there’s not a whole lot of love reciprocation on his part. Even so, I like this series a lot for the fact that it seems to honestly explore the characters more than typical BL series bother to. It does commit several BL logical sins (Kurokawa and Tatsumi were both straight before meeting, for instance), but has the characters walking themselves through what it’s actually like to fall in love and work at a relationship, rather than just taking everything for granted. Still, I do hate that Tatsumi doesn’t… well, he doesn’t have much of a personality at all, really. I did fall in love with Kurokawa, though.

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