August 9, 2011

Hinako Takanaga – Blu – 2010 – 1 volume

I’ve enjoyed all three of the longer Hinako Takanaga series that I’ve read lately. I’ve been obsessed with them, in fact. Little Butterfly is a wonderful, wonderful series, and I can’t get enough of The Tyrant Falls in Love. Even her debut work, Challengers, is all kinds of wonderful. So now I’m going back and trying out her various one-shots, of which there are several. This was the one I wanted to try the most, and luckily it wasn’t too expensive. I picked up a random selection of the cheapest ones I could find, so let’s see what kind of mileage I can get out of them.

Croquis was wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. It was one of the best BL one-shots I’ve ever read.

The first story, the titular Croquis, is about Nagi and Kaji. Nagi is a model at an art school, and Kaji is one of the students who draws him every week. Nagi feels like Kaji might be taking more of an interest in him than the other students, but he tells himself that it’s all in his head. Sadly, Nagi has not come to terms with his sexuality, and is actually working a couple jobs in order to save up enough money to get a sex change operation, so that he can be more comfortable about admitting his feelings to guys. This sounded outlandish to me at first (I’ve always thought of gender and sexuality as separate), but it made more sense the more I read the story and realized just how uncomfortable Nagi was with being homosexual. It’s interesting to me that he’s still trying to come to terms with it, yet works in a bar that caters to clients with tastes in transgender women. In theory, he’s surrounded by people just like himself every day, but I guess that still doesn’t mean he’s comfortable with his role in society.

Because this is a BL book, Nagi doesn’t have to worry, because Kaji really is looking at him in that way, and totally smitten. Nagi has a hard time believing this, and persists with wanting to change genders for a bit, but in the end, everything works out. There’s also some interesting discussion in his bar that changes his mind, when some of the girls talk about how they told their boyfriends about their gender status before they started dating, but the boyfriends still act shocked when it comes time to put out, so to speak. This actually has a negative effect on Nagi, since it makes him even more afraid that Kaji will reject him when he realizes that he’ll have to have sex with a man.

For as interesting a character as Nagi is, the trade-off is that not as much time is spent on Kaji. He’s always a little shocked at Nagi’s insecurities, but not much time is spent on reassurance, or really getting to know Kaji at all. He’s an artist, and there are some jokes made about how poor he is and how expensive his supplies are, but other than that, he’s in love with Nagi, and that’s all we know about him. Still, the romance is sweet, and I loved watching Nagi go through all the stages of falling in love. It was a wonderful story.

There’s another two-part story in this volume about two schoolmates, total opposites in every way, and how they were the first love for each of them. Unlike every other BL story, the relationship goes unfulfilled, and what’s most interesting is that we see the good moments between the two in two chapters, one from each of the boys’ point of view. It follows the two into adulthood, too, and looks at their thoughts ten years after high school and the missed chance. The depiction of the lost chances are bittersweet and very touching, and I think I liked it much better this way than I would have if the two had simply fallen in love. While I felt slightly empty after finishing the first chapter, I realized after the second run-through how thoroughly interesting the story was.

The other short story in the volume is a fairly standard love confession between two friends, one of whom is going off to college. It’s notable for having an astronomy theme, and I think the final scene, when they both confess, their knees buckle, and they kiss under the night sky while discussing their wishes on falling stars is a scene that will stay with me for quite some time.

Really. It’s just good. It covers unusual topics, unusual types of stories, and is still jam-packed with the type of emotional porn (and even a little bit of physical, if that’s what you’re into) that I get a kick out of in these books. I don’t know how Takanaga can pull off convincing relationships between likable characters so frequently, and how I love it every time. It’s really amazing, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.