Fake 7

July 25, 2010

Sanami Matoh – Tokyopop – 2004 – 7 volumes

How is the climax to one of the most classic boys’ love stories we’ve seen in English? Well, pretty great. Especially considering how gag-heavy and tease-y the first couple volumes were. In fact, all that teasing has finally paid off in a big way, so this volume was quite satisfying as the last in a series I really grew fond of.

I was certainly caught up in the romance, but let’s not forget this series actually has a plot, too. The final case is pretty heavy, and involves watching over the wife of the man who killed Ryo’s parents. She’s informing and needs police protection, but keeps slipping out to meet with a lover (this involves some of the suspension-of-disbelief policework that we were conditioned to in the early volumes). Things build, murders happen, and souls are bared. It’s a good case, and I’m glad that Fake has come this far in terms of storytelling.

One of the other important things about the case is that it has an opportunity to be every bit as romantic as the Ryo and Dee parts. It makes you feel bad for one of the bad guys, and in one of his final scenes, he really wrings every drop of tragic romance out of the storyline. It goes nicely with what’s happening between the two main characters, especially when the spotlight is stolen by this serious stuff most of the volume.

Then there’s the Dee and Ryo parts. They were amazing. Having to wait ’til the end to get what I wanted definitely made it that much better. The consummation during the main storyline felt right, even though it happened at a time when Ryo was emotionally vulnerable. It is the norm for that type of character to get taken advantage of, but he’s the one who sought out Dee. Dee even had to ask the make sure. The aftermath was great too, not only the reactions from other characters (sadly, neither Bikky nor Carol gets to weigh in), but just seeing how both of them take it. Ryo takes it far better than I would have thought, but Dee will be Dee.

The main story ends, and there’s a short story at the end that is pure, undiluted fanservice. As much as I liked it (it did tie up some loose ends relationship-wise), it was almost too BL for Fake. Dee and Ryo are both older men, and they’re both police officers, but seeing them like that just turns them into 2-dimensional yaoi characters for me, even after everything they’ve been through. Also, I don’t know why, but seeing them naked really bothered me, too. It was like taking the mask off a superhero. You want to see it the whole time you’re reading, but then when you do, it takes all the magic out of it because he’s just a regular person underneath. Bah.

Having said that, I would not have had that short chapter any other way. It was the perfect note to end on, and the way the main story leaves off, Fake desperately needed some fanservice to send all us happy fangirls on our way. Plus… the Fake dialogue. I mean, it’s there through the whole series, but there’s something magical about that garbage being spewed in the bedroom. Magical and oh-so-right. That dialogue is terrible, but then again, so is Fake, and it just wouldn’t be the same without it. I would have enjoyed it far less if Dee had straighter lines.

In the end: two very happy fangirl thumbs up. I never in a million years thought that would be the case, because I loathed those first couple volumes. But I think I was just missing the joke. It took me a while, but I finally got it, and I’m much happier for it in the end.

Now, if we’re going to keep talking about classic BL, someone desperately needs to license Zetsuai/Bronze. Not a comedy. Not even close. But melodramatic to the point of being hilarious, and this is coming from someone who loves melodramatic BL. Also, super sexy and some of the most classic BL you can find.

Fake 6

July 21, 2010

Sanami Matoh – Tokyopop – 2004 – 7 volumes

I forgot to talk about the rest of this series! Incredible! I sped through it so fast, I think the pure sugary bad-for-me goodness burned fast and bright, leading me to believe I’d discussed all of it.

There are two cases in this volume. One is a very long case where Dee and Ryo investigate a serial killer targeting young girls that eventually endangers Carol, and the other is a long-ish story about Dee’s past, his foster father, and the reason he became a police officer.

The serial killer story was great, not only because it was an interesting and involved case (it’s one of those types where you are introduced to the killer almost immediately and have to watch as the characters struggle to put the pieces together as he gets closer and closer to Carol), but it also really helped build up all the characters and showed off all their strengths in just the right way. If nothing else, Matoh really knows how to utilize her characters well. Bikky, Carol, Dee, Ryo, all of them get to play the likable hero at some points, even poor Carol, and it’s impossible not to get caught up in things. Another interesting thing about this story is that it had some relatively serious commentary on racism, nearly unheard-of in manga, but it was interesting since it was racism in America in the 90s from an outside perspective, and more serious than you’d think.

The Dee story was appropriately sappy, with the tough cop as a role model and punk-ish young Dee getting involved on the wrong end of some bad business. The officer link doesn’t really go the way you think it would, however, and the way Dee is inspired by him is unusual, so I’ll give it that.

One other thing is that there are lots and lots of cute romantic scenes here. Less, since one story is a flashback and the other is relatively serious, but even with the few snatches of time Dee grabs, the moments are increasingly romantic from volume to volume. Very few authors can finesse the escalation like that, and it does pay off in Fake. And it is also very, very romantic.

Fake 5

July 16, 2010

Sanami Matoh – Tokyopop – 2004 – 7 volumes

You know, I was hooked on this series enough to power through the last three volumes without stopping, so that says something about… well, I don’t know. It’s addictive for sure, but I’m still a little embarrassed I fell for it so hard. It’s cheese in its purest form.

This volume mostly involves digging up Ryo’s past and investigating a case that shares many similarities with the death of Ryo’s parents. The story is several chapters long and takes a relatively serious path with all the usual twists: Ryo starts investigating on his own, he and Dee are taken off the case, Ryo refuses to share his feelings on things with Dee, and Ryo then ends up in a face-off with the man who killed his parents and left them with the reputation of being drug smugglers. It’s a solid story and a fun read, and Fake offers the additional twist of the torrid love affair between Ryo and Dee to keep it interesting for the ladies. There is an unexpected twist as far as that goes here, but Dee, being the gentleman that he is, refuses to step things up until Ryo is really ready. Until then, Bikky will keep showing up at inopportune times.

Another story is surprisingly JJ-centric, with JJ meeting up with one of his old partners and finding out that the man isn’t nearly as good a guy as JJ thought. This cop’s name: Max Fork.

It’s interesting that Ryo and Dee are both armed, and there’s evidence that they’ve both used their guns, but firing them is often skipped in the images themselves. That’s probably a Japanese censorship thing, but I didn’t really notice or think about it until I was reading this volume. Odd.

There’s also the usual Bikky & Carol chapter, set slightly ahead of the normal series’ storyline. Their friends Lai and Lass are also in this story. Bikky and Lai get kidnapped due to Lai’s family connections, so Lass and Carol have to find him before the kidnappers kill them in front of Lai’s older brother. It’s revealed that Lai and Lass have psychic powers, which is horribly out of character for this series (and apparently it was revealed in one of the other stories, too? I didn’t notice). But their story carries over into Ra-I, also published by Tokyopop. I don’t think I’m going to be reading it.

Anyway. The action is good, the romance is good, the jokes are now tolerable and expected. I never thought in a hundred years I would grow so addicted to this series, but here we are.

Fake 4

July 12, 2010

Sanami Matoh – Tokyopop – 2003 – 7 volumes

Okay. Any bad blood between me and Fake was completely resolved when the criminal of the moment planted a bomb in the police station, Dee triggered it, and Dee and Ryo had to flee the building ahead of the blast in one of the most Hollywood scenes I’ve ever seen in a manga. It would have been a lot better as a parody, but all the same, it was nice to see.

The majority of the volume is dedicated to this bomber case. A criminal is copying the style of bombing from an older case the chief remembers from years ago, but the suspect in that case has been dead for years. The bombings take place at Bikky’s school and the police station, and Dee and Ryo are drawn in more and more as they involve themselves in the case, escalating into a scene where the criminal traps Dee in the school while Ryo and Bikky are left outside.

There’s a cute Bikky story at the end of the volume (about a secret he keeps from Carol), and a very short story at the end about Dee getting sick and Ryo taking care of him.

I still don’t care much for the humor, but it helps that it’s totally self-aware, and it also helps that the dialogue is camped up to the nth degree to match it. And at this point, the character-based jokes are starting to get funny again, in that you can see the set-up starting and you know the inevitable will happen. I also like that Ryo, Dee, and the others are displaced out of their precinct and are now unwelcome guests in the Bronx, which carries over at least one more volume. We also get to see Ryo and Dee in their uniforms for the first time, doing traffic duty presumably as punishment for setting off the bomb that destroyed the precinct building.

The romance is still dialed down quite a bit, though Dee is persistent, and Ryo is beginning to respond to his advances. It hasn’t gotten much further than intense kisses and an admission from Ryo that he might be changing his mind, but the fact that anything has happened at all is pretty stunning for a series like this. I like that there’s at least a little romance development, even if it is miniscule. Unfortunately, Bikky still interrupts most of the time, though, even during the scenes at Dee’s apartment.

Fake 3

July 11, 2010

Sanami Matoh – Tokyopop – 2003 – 7 volumes

Reading this and Banana Fish together… it’s like a slap in the face. They’re… kind of the same thing, except to say that is a bit blasphemous. I don’t like Fake, where I love Banana Fish almost unconditionally, but I can respect Fake for the kind of story that it is. Normally I dismiss a series outright when I dislike it, but in the case of Fake, I can see what it is and what it’s doing, and it’s just not my thing.

This volume is almost entirely a story involving a gorgeous FBI agent, a kingpin dealing in human slavery and prostitution, and a serial killer that’s jumped from LA to New York. Dee and Ryo are split up as they work opposite ends of the case, but it soon becomes clear that both events are related. Later, there’s a cute Christmas story, and another all-Bikky story.

There are some things that make me laugh, both intentionally and unintentionally (the fact that the majority of the NYPD seems to prefer men amused me the most here, as did Dee’s rants whenever his amorous advances were cut off), but the near-constant gags just aren’t my thing. It’s also a little too campy and 90s for my taste. I never thought I’d say something was too 90s for me, but I wouldn’t be too worried if buddy cop comedies disappeared off of the face of the Earth without a trace, so there you go.

I was happy to see a more serious take on the job in this volume, and the serial murder plot was just what I needed to keep my interest. While I did like the Christmas story, I think I would have enjoyed it much less had it been proceeded by several comedic short stories instead of a very serious murder investigation. Bikky’s story… in general, I don’t like interrupting Bikky, and I was happy to see his role toned down in the main story, but it’s hard to hate him outside the context of Ryo’s apartment. He is a decent and likable character in his own chapters, it’s just a shame that his main role in the series is to beat up Dee when he gets too close to Ryo.

I’m going to go ahead and finish this series up. It’s not much of a romance, but I know it turns into one more and more as the series goes on, and who knows, maybe I’ll like the camp if I read the rest of the volumes together. Stranger things have happened, and it is very hard to get me to dislike something.

Fake 2

July 22, 2009

Sanami Matoh – Tokyopop – 2004 – 7 volumes

The cases were a bit better in this volume, though I still had some weird logic issues with what was going on sometimes.  In the first story, this was the way all the characters joined Ryo and Dee in England for their vacation somehow, including a 10-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl.  Dee and Ryo wind up stumbling into a murder case, and conveniently, all the victims are Japanese people, and conveniently again, someone lets it slip to the killer that Ryo is part Japanese.  Everyone randomly showing up in England to interrupt any romantic moments was more aggravating that it was wrong, like the stuff was in the first volume, but the aggravation of having the romance interrupted brings up the questions of how two children managed to fly trans-Atlantic by themselves, and questioning logic like that is never a good idea.

To be fair, as frequently as Bikky (yeah, I don’t know about that name) and Carol break in and interrupt Ryo and Dee, sometimes the jokes are pretty funny.  In the England murder case, I liked that the two of them were betting money on how far Dee would get with Ryo.

Mysteriously, Ryo and Dee still have no problems platonically sharing a bed with each other and Bikky.  I’m not sure why this amuses me so much, but it really, really does.

In general, I still don’t really like the humor.  It does seem to get toned down a little in every story though, and it’s easier to take the actual crimes that Ryo and Dee are trying to investigate more seriously this way.

The second major case in the volume was quite serious.  It spotlighted Dee’s past, and involved a terrorist that hit Dee a little too close to home.  Dee winds up chasing the man through the streets, with Ryo lagging just behind to stop him from becoming a murderer.  When I said I prefer drama, this is exactly what I was looking for, though the pacing and writing in general could use a little tightening up.

I forgot to mention this last time, but it’s worth noting that the character designs in this series are of the more manly broad-shouldered variety favored by early 90’s artists.  The best and most accessible examples I can think of are CLAMP’s character designs in RG Veda, Tokyo Babylon, and to a lesser extent in X.  These designs help distinguish adult male characters from those that are still in high school, a serious flaw in a lot of yaoi series… though to be fair, I’m pretty sure neither Dee nor Ryo look anything like their actual ages.

But… meh.  I’ll keep reading.  It’s only 7 volumes long, and a lot of the stuff I didn’t like in the first volume is already gone, so maybe it’ll keep getting better.  It’ll be a bit before I pick up the rest, though.

Fake 1

July 21, 2009

Sanami Matoh – Tokyopop – 2004 – 7 volumes

This series is often mentioned as a BL manga classic, and… that’s all the reason I need to read it, I guess.  It was also on sale, so I picked up the first two volumes.

I was extremely disappointed with what I saw in the first volume, though.  This is mostly a matter of personal taste, since I tend to like drama in my BL stories, and Fake so far is heavy on the gags.  Case in point, I just wasted an hour re-reading my favorite sections of Bronze.  But anyway.  The other big problem I had with the series was that it made numerous nonsensical plot points to advance the story.  Dee and Ryo are police officers.  When they first meet, they are interrupted by a young boy running through the station that happens to be connected to their case.  For some reason, the care of this kid is left to the two of them, and even more mysteriously, this leads the three of them to Ryo’s apartment where they all wind up sleeping (innocently) in the king-size bed.  Later, Dee and the kid are captured by people connected to the case, and instead of getting police help, Ryo concocts a homemade bomb and infiltrates the kidnapper’s house.  In order to get a police presence on the street to notice the explosion, he calls into headquarters and pretends to be a terrorist threatening a bombing.  At the end of the story, Ryo adopts the kid.

WHAT?!  Why!  Why is any of that okay?!  It’s really, really not.  Those aren’t even minor quibbles with police protocol, like Clarice Starling walking around questioning people by herself and getting caught by Buffalo Bill.  Those are just… insane things that I can’t even pretend are going on.  The first story is the worst about it, but faux pas like that continue throughout the book.  Sometimes they’re easy to pass off.  For instance, in a later story, a police sniper and former “friend” of Dee is partnered with Dee and Ryo, and consequently the three of them end up on a stakeout with Ryo also acting as a backup sniper since he’s also an excellent marksman… that’s impossible, but something I can overlook.  The real problem is that, despite the gags, the crimes that Dee and Ryo work on are taken very seriously, which is why I find it harder to overlook these things.

The BL themes run through most everything, though I wouldn’t exactly call them the focus in volume one.  Dee is apparently bi and enjoys making passes and tormenting Ryo, who maintains that he is straight.  There are more and more encounters and hints as the volume goes on, but it’s not really a big part of the story at the moment.

Really, it reads like a kind of comedy sitcom with a police focus… like Police Squad or Naked Gun, except those didn’t take themselves serious enough that I questioned their methods.  Also, Naked Gun would have made a hilarious joke about Leslie Nielsen and O.J. Simpson having to share the same king-size bed, whereas Dee and Ryo do it a couple times without comments either to the comedic or the serious here.