July 29, 2015
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2014 – 8+ volumes
ARGH. I’ve been begging for more Norio/Kunimasa for volumes now, and now that I got it… I don’t want it. I can’t believe that happened. It’s a not-uncommon plot twist, but I wish Love Pistols hadn’t gone there. I can’t spoil it, but I would like to see this resolved ASAP. Here’s hoping we see movement in this story next time, rather than another split side story with minor characters.
The main story is largely told through interaction with most of the main side characters. But paramount are Shinobu and Vulnera, whose story gets a little bit of a continuation here. Vulnera’s powers are still maddeningly vague, but this volume makes him seem mostly not predatory (though there’s still a bit of niggling doubt for me). It’s Vulnera that finds Norio after what is apparently a rather powerful breakdown, and Shinobu that takes care of him and hangs out with Vulnera for… maybe a minute? Then we are told the end of their story from the past, although it’s not clear whether Vulnera was actually having sex with Shinobu in spectral form after both of them were hurt, or if Shinobu was imagining it. It’s strongly implied to be the former, though you don’t learn that until after the scene is over. Again, this is annoying. I… like the two of them better. I hope Vulnera is a good guy.
I was quite tickled by the side story in this volume, despite my stated lack of interest in them. It’s about how Karen and Makio met, and it is ADORABLE. Makio is a terrible person, but I loved that they bonded immediately, and that Karen is the right kind of stubborn for her. It’s told amid a Christmas story, with most of the other characters. There’s some heavy Shiro/Yonekuni action too, which is nice… but again, I could do with less characters.
Then again, if the volumes come out regularly, I’d be okay with a slow pace. Here’s hoping we’ll see 9 this year.
July 21, 2015
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2013 – 8+ volumes
This is the first time the whole volume was dedicated to one couple. Shinobu and Vulnera. Not even Kunimasa and Norio have had the honor, and they’re the main characters. In the middle of a life-changing decision!
Most of this is about Vulnera’s nature as a Mer. This was… hm. He’s locked in a mansion behind some barriers. It’s not clear to me… he might actually be a building (at one point, Shinobu stabs a door with a sword and there’s a silhouette flinching back), or he might be the whole property? He also manifests a building at one point to demonstrate all the knowledge contained within his being, and how difficult it would be to stuff that into a human body. So I don’t know how that works.
Similarly, he can’t pass outside the barriers, but he can… see anywhere there’s water? At one point, he’s spying on Shinobu in a hotel room. This hotel is probably not on the grounds of his estate, and definitely outside his barrier. But that’s not really explained? Similarly, he says he can spy wherever there’s water, and Canario tells Shinobu to close his eyes so Vulnera can’t see (presumably because we’re 80% water, though that isn’t explained either), but Vulnera sees anyway. He… doesn’t see through, like, a full coffee cup or something, he’s hovering in the room.
So I don’t know what’s up with Vulnera.
He’s creepy creepy creepy, though. He falls in love with Shinobu at first sight, but super-awkwardly straddles the line between controlling and dependent. He wants Shinobu to be his teacher, but also seems to contain more knowledge than Shinobu has. He doesn’t fall for Shinobu’s intimidation strategies. But he does love him.
I read this volume twice. The first time through, the love read as selfish, and I thought Vulnera was just using Shinobu as a new toy. The second time, it seemed sincere. Vulnera gets very protective at the end, and it’s implied he’s very protective in the present, despite the pair not speaking for some time. Mysteriously, when Shinobu’s family decides he can’t be Vulnera’s teacher anymore… the two suddenly… uh… fight. Brutally. Vulnera seems to accept this? I hope this gets explained better, we’re only shown this confrontation for a page or two.
Presumably, we’ll learn more about that when we learn about the Madarame family. But man. That means that this series will probably be 3 more volumes, minimum. There’s a lot of stuff going on.
I… still kind of liked this volume, but it was confusing, and there wasn’t a whole lot of romance. And there was no Norio/Kunimasa. But I guess this had to happen? I’ll be patient and wait for the parts I want.
July 5, 2015
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2013 – 8+ volumes
This volume was… a change of pace. We actually did get a Kunimasa/Norio-centric story for the first half, which was nice. Kunimasa has come of age, and is being presented as a heavyweight in zooman society. Both he and Norio are angsting while he’s off being presented, so Kunimasa comes back and… makes a rather large step in their relationship. This sets Norio off, but after consulting with several people, he decides to accept it.
IT’S ADORABLE. A little weird… something about it didn’t feel quite right. Possibly because all the side characters were involved and offering their opinions. Possibly because the set-up for the next story was going on at the same time. Possibly because Kunimasa and Norio still don’t spend that much time together. But still, it was the sweet stuff, the kind of thing this series does so well.
The next story is about Shinobu and his destined love, Vulnera. Vulnera is also called “Pride First,” and is a lion/mer hybrid, a chimera. We learn that Mer are super-powerful, and aren’t really part of the same plane of existence as other humans/zoomans. Vulnera is acting as mer interpreter at the heavyweight debut ceremony that Kunimasa is attending. Meanwhile, a mer visits Norio and his school. This mer can swap faces and clothes with others with a gesture, make magic happen, and make water taste bad.
Admittedly, I’ve read ahead before I wrote this volume up. It’s not clear to me whether the mer at the school is Vulnera or not. He wants to “see society,” and the story later implies that Vulnera does have the power to do some of the things shown (the weird water is him spying). But I’m not sure why he’d be spying on Norio and company? He already appears to be out and functioning in the world at this point. He also has a nasty scar on his face. Maybe he keeps it because Shinobu gave it to him? If he can change his face, seems like he could wipe out the scar. But if it were another mer, it’s implied that they can’t speak to humans, and function on another plane of existence that makes it hard/impossible to take a physical form? I don’t know. This was really confusing.
Vulnera is also confusing. We see the start of a flashback, where a young Shinobu is teaching a young Vulnera to take a physical form (apparently he’s good at this, since he’s also teacher for Norio and Shiro). It’s implied that Shinobu is an unwanted son, and we also learn that… zooman babies apparently don’t grow in the womb, but manifest spiritually outside the body? I don’t know?
Anyway. All signs point to Shinobu not being up to the task of teaching Vulnera. He gets deathly ill at the barriers that keep Vulnera caged, when it’s implied that his father and sister find the barrier trivial. Meeting Vulnera for the first time causes him to pass out. But Vulnera really likes him. Present-Vulnera appears to be stalking him, and his intentions appear to be very sinister. Past and present Vulnera are both kind of creepy and evil. There are also text balloons about loving someone that aren’t clear whether they’re meant to be for Norio or Vulnera. Maybe both. Maybe Vulnera loves Shinobu so much he would kill him.
There are a couple short side stories in the back. One is about the snake and mongoose again, and the other, longer story is about Kunimasa and Yonekuni’s fathers. Apparently Kunimasa and Yonekuni are twins (???). Makio had sex with both fathers without the other knowing, and bore them each a son simultaneously? Hilariously, David is really pissed at Maximilian for it, while offering no defense for himself. Maximilian stays with Makio and Karen for a little bit. Makio and Karen are the best, though this later characterization of Makio (lazy, kind of take-things-as-they-come, a bit childish) doesn’t match with her initial story. But her and Karen are still great, as are David and Maximilian. Again, it’s these kinds of stories that the series does well, though I wish Kotobuki wasn’t trying so hard to make having kids weird.
Also, Kunimasa and Yonekuni are, like, the third set of twins we’ve met in the series. Another weird strike against the initial point of zoomans having trouble making kids.
June 28, 2015
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 8+ volumes
This volume is a lot about having kids. I wasn’t particularly fond of the featured couple… one of whom is a friend of the mongoose guy from a few volumes back, who is somehow related to Karen (I think). Mongoose’s husband, snake, is also the brother to the guy who has a crush on Shiro.
Again, for being so infertile that they had to invent a way for guys to have kids, the zooman families are huge.
Apparently some zooman babies are born fist size, especially if you are a “heavyweight?” So… I don’t know what to think about that. I prefer not to.
ANYWAY. The couple here is a new type of Zooman that doesn’t belong to one of the six categories, flying types. There’s a guy who’s French/Saudi, and also a rare hawk zooman, one of the last. His boyfriend here is a fruit bat guy, also a rare flying type, but apparently bats are the more common of the flying types. Fruit bat has led a hard, awful life, and is currently dating a rich friend, the same rich friend who pulled him out of his hard living. He likes the rich friend, but the rich friend doesn’t really make much time for him, and loves hanging out with other “rare” types of zooman. Their relationship isn’t portrayed particularly affectionately. So he starts hooking up with the hawk, who he keeps running into at parties and winds up saving while he’s on the brink of death one time.
Things get pretty hot and heavy with the hawk, but bat eventually pushes him away because he feels he has to be loyal to his distant boyfriend. Hawk kidnaps him to Saudi Arabia, because he’s impregnated bat and it turns out he needs that kid to be the heir to his rich, murderous, and contentious family. Bat has actually taken a bunch of experimental drugs that turn him into a woman, because when he lived hard, he wanted to be anything else but himself.
The end of this story isn’t even that romantic. The hawk keeps a harem, and wants bat as a second wife. Eventually, this is apparently okay. He sends bat away, because it is too dangerous for bat in Saudi Arabia. When he comes to get bat, it looks like he’s trying to kidnap their kid. He then invites him to be a second wife, and this is apparently incredibly romantic.
Characters that are only tangentially related to the main ones, a terrible love story, and more creepy pregnancy logistics. This wasn’t my volume. Volume 7’s cover appears to have a mermaid on it, so I’m hoping volume 6 is better (the covers tend to feature the prominent character from the last volume… this one has David, next volume has Seth Hawk, et cetera).
June 7, 2015
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 8+ volumes
Annoyingly, the rather in-depth fight Norio and Kunimasa were having last volume isn’t resolved here. I thought it was kind of nice that the series was calling out Kunimasa, who’s the stereotypical overpowering seme who takes what he wants and treats his partner horribly, who clings to him because he’s weak and he loves him, blah blah blah. Norio tells Kunimasa if Kunimasa can’t treat him equally, or even well, he’ll leave him. But then they wake up in bed together here (sleeping, Norio and Kunimasa don’t have sex), without having resolved the argument. I was more than a little disappointed.
Anyway, it goes downhill from there. Kunimasa and Yonekuni’s mother is introduced. She’s a caricature, a witchy woman who runs a high-end brothel and abuses her sons. Norio saves Kunimasa, Kunimasa gets all weepy and apologetic, blah blah blah. I was a little disappointed by Makio, who everyone made out to be a truly frightening character. She’s a little scary, but gets defeated… kind of easily? But she’s married to Karen, the matron/mother/parent of Kunimasa and his siblings (of which there are a TON… what happened to the Zooman infertility?). Her and Karen make a cute couple. And it’s not often you find badass lesbians in your BL books.
The second half is about Kunimasa and Yonekuni’s fathers, who are also married (Kunimasa and Yonekuni are their sons with Makio). Not only is this pair attractive and powerful older men in the present, they were good-looking artists types in their youth, and their love story is freaking adorable.
On one hand, I do like Norio and Kunimasa (I complain about their relationship here a little, but Kunimasa is normally pretty affectionate, he was weirdly a jerk last volume… I suppose to make this storyline more dramatic). I kinda wish we’d see more of them, and part of me doesn’t like it when the main narrative is diverted by side characters.
On the other hand, the side character stories are always SO CUTE. I liked the snake/mongoose story last volume, and I LOVED the fathers story here. I’m curious to see if this will continue to be balanced so well, or I’ll hate all the characters getting introduced constantly, or if I’ll want to see more of Norio and Kunimasa. We’ll see. I’m going to binge-read this entire thing.
April 12, 2015
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 8+ volumes
OH GOD THIS SERIES. I randomly picked up volume 3 after a two-year hiatus, since I hadn’t reviewed it here yet. I remember liking it, and I actually read the first four Tokyopop volumes before the SuBLime release. The books tend to cover different couples, and usually has all the notes about the “Zooman” system inside each volume, so I thought I’d be okay.
And it started off great! There’s a cute story about a surgeon and nurse. They were childhood friends, and the nurse’s twin brother dated the surgeon when they were all in high school. But it was the nurse that wound up having a connection, and the two fooled around casually in high school. But their families didn’t get along, so they were separated until the surgeon wound up at the same hospital as the nurse. The two start up another friendship, and become casual sex partners, no strings attached. But the twin still has a major crush, and the nurse runs away when the twin declares his feelings for the surgeon.
Cool BL story, right? It pretty much had me until the (male) nurse got knocked up, and then I remembered how weird and sorta freaky this series is. I forgot the zoomans were all about “fertility” and had special “womb worms” that aided homosexual couples in childbearing. Thankfully, they don’t go much past the mechanics of that, because it freaks me out a little bit.
If you’re curious about the zooman connection, the couple is a snake and a mongoose (some category of cat?). Also, the snake is one of those seme giants, the type that are, like, twice the size of the uke, that periodically show up in BL. Norio is pretty tiny compared to Kunimasa, but man. The surgeon’s huge.
But most of the book goes back to Norio and Kunimasa. Kunimasa is rather heartless, and while their relationship is passionate, it’s not very romantic, and Kunimasa is treating Norio badly here. Unusually for BL, this story explores that, and has Norio… kind of break up with Kunimasa after Kunimasa makes jokes about sharing Norio and comes right out and says he doesn’t love him. This is a cliffhanger ending, and I assume that Kunimasa will see the error of his ways and reform next time, because this is BL and that’s what happens. But again, that it bothered to call attention to the poor treatment is unusual.
If I recall, the woman that shows up on the last page is one of the reasons this series stuck with me for so many years, and why it’s worth a re-read. It is, again, batshit crazy in nearly every way, but it’s just so creative, and fairly easy to follow in its mechanics, that it’s worth the read for the brave souls that try.
Also, I love author notes in BL books that are super cheerful and innocent that come right on the heels of something absolutely filthy in the afterward. This book may have the best transition yet. The last sentence on one page is Kunimasa’s wish: “Penetrate him and come deep inside him. But first, just do him.” At the top of the next page is Kotobuki’s author note: “Thank you so much. This is Tarako Kotobuki. I’m so happy you’ve been reading my series. Please continue reading!” I… got whiplash.
May 31, 2012
Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 6+ volumes
Another from the SuBLime archives, I waited so long to review it that volume 3 came out.
As I’ve said before, I have… problems with this series. Very deep-rooted problems. But it’s hard for me to deny the fact that the author does a good job fleshing out her world and the rules within it. She uses animal magnetism as the relationship hook here, and it makes for some truly… bizarre storytelling. But fascinating. Also, wrong. And don’t get me started on the whole babies thing. Which is what the second half of this volume is about. But! Before that! Yonekuni!
The first half is about Kunimasa’s brother, Yonekuni. Yonekuni hates men. Hates them so much, in fact, that he makes Norio dress like a girl in front of him while he’s teaching him about being a zooman. So that he doesn’t look weird, he has one pretend male friend, the bookish class chairman. The two eat lunch together every day, and the chairman is the only man he’ll let get close to him.
So… Yonekuni is half snake, half dragon, and has body heat issues. If he gets too cold, he’ll die, more or less. Turns out, whenver he gets cold, he’s been unconsciously crawling into the bed of the chairman. Because this is a BL comic. When the chairman admits his feelings, Yonekuni rejects him and goes on an angry rampage about how wrong it is to be liked by a man… but you know where this is going.
I was really torn over this story. It’s easy to hate Yonekuni, because Yonekuni cares so little about what others think of him. He doesn’t care what the chairman thinks, or the chairman’s friends, or his fellow classmates… he does what he wants. This does not make for a sympathetic character. And part of me also hates the somewhat pathetic way the chairman is getting half of a relationship with Yonekuni while he is in need of body heat. On the other hand, their relationship works in the context of Love Pistols because of the whole animal magnetism thing. It’s really disappointing that Yonekuni gives in to it so easily, because if anyone is going to fight it, seems like it would be him. And it’s hard for me to believe that he goes from hating the Chairman’s guts to doting on him and being jealous of others. But I do like that it is so absolute that not even the obstinate Yonekuni can really fight against the zooman rules.
Hmm. I did like something about it, but I can’t say what. It’s a little addictive, and that might just be that I was dying to know more about how the zooman system works. It is a little classy that a series like this doesn’t take that to terribly dark places. But the relationship itself in the first half here… all signs point to no for me.
The second half is about Norio’s friend Kumakashi. Kumakashi is from one of the most prestigious bear zooman houses in Japan, and his family is looking for a suitable partner for him. They want it to be another upper-tier bear zooman. So they hire a stud. And Kumakashi has to do all the… procreating.
I hated this, honestly, and this was another semi-abusive relationship. There hasn’t really been a nice pair of partners yet, though I do like that every half-volume features a different couple.
On the other hand… the Kumakashi story. The partner was another big dude. I imagine that bara looks something like this.
So, yeah. While I am saying all these negative things… again, there’s something about this series that keeps me coming back. I may just be that big a fan of complex fantasy elements like this done right. Almost everything about this series freaks me out a little, but not as badly as, say, Ze. I think another part of the appeal is that it does switch couples so easily. Ze does that too, but it tends to sit on the couples a little longer, and nothing in Love Pistols has yet been as bad as the Himi story in Ze. I’m going to keep reading for now. Maybe next volume I’ll get a pairing I like.