S 4

October 3, 2011

Saki Aida – June – 2009 – 4 volumes
this is a novel

I put off writing about this, but the truth is I read this immediately after it arrived at my house a month ago. I could not wait to finish this. Again, it’s nothing spectacular, but it’s everything I want from it. Dramatic, tragic romance written just right, with lots of action and stuff to get caught up in. It scratches my itch for this type of read nicely, and odds are if you pick up these novels, it’s probably going to do the same for you.

The last volume ends with what appears to be Shiiba going off to a last stand, and the beginning of this volume doesn’t disappoint. I was a little shocked it jumped in right away, with no preamble, into a situation which was literally going against everything Shiiba had been working for to that point. It was surprisingly intense, and a great way to get me hooked.

I feel like I shouldn’t spoil too much of what is going on in this volume. I liked that Kiri and Motoaki are more heavily involved in the plot this time, too. Kiri is an especially interesting character. Her lack of speech makes her a tough nut to crack, and I love that Aida wrote her as a relatively strong female character. You never see such things in BL stories, and it’s especially hard to do when you imply that Kiri is basically a kept woman. But she holds her own, and her story is a sad one.

The romance is great, too. Without saying too much, there’s plenty of Munechika and Shiiba for the reader to enjoy, and the scenes are just as good as they’ve been throughout the whole series.

But in the end, the volume has just about everything the reader needs to feel satisfied. I was very happy with the story, even with an ending that was a little too obviously open for my taste (I hate endings that are obvious attempts to leave the door open for sequels with the same villain). I’m not the biggest fan of action-oriented BL stories, especially yakuza-centric ones, but I loved this one. Couldn’t put it down. I think I read this entire novel in one sitting. It only makes me wanna pick up more of these June novels.

S 3

August 31, 2011

Saki Aida – June – 2008 – 4 volumes
this is a novel

More of exactly what I want, more or less. This time around, there are some well-made counterfeit guns being circulated, and Shiiba does what he can to track down first the dealers, then the source. One of his informants this time around is a dangerous young man named Kuro, who keeps insisting that he has information, then basically meeting Shiiba for dates. Shiiba allows himself to be jerked around by this young man out of a desire to find the source of the guns, but it’s clear after awhile that Kuro’s leads aren’t going anywhere. More dangerous is the leader of the Godou Group, who is somehow tied up in Shiiba’s recent business. The Godou Group looks to be behind some recent big moves in the Yakuza community too, and of course Shiiba comes face-to-face with him before the end of the volume.

This volume was quite a bit more dramatic than the others. While there’s still plenty of Munechika/Shiiba scenes, most of the focus is on how ridiculously dangerous Shiiba’s current investigation is, and some impending trouble in the police force. The work-related drama is quite effective this time around, in a way that it wasn’t in the last volume.

And when things go bad, they go really, really bad. I feel a little silly for admitting that I didn’t see the twist coming until it was nearly on top of me, and because of that I was left guessing for much of the volume.

After the main story is taken care of, there’s some additional drama between Munechika and Shiiba. There’s a wonderful romantic scene between the two of them towards the end of the book, and a terrible cliffhanger that looks like it will start volume four off on the completely wrong foot. I’m dying to read the conclusion.

One thing that’s beginning to worry me is Shinozuka. From the first volume, I liked him as an older character that Shiiba looked up to and sought for advice. I liked that they had a shared grief, and I liked that the grief put space between them that started to heal. And maybe this is just because it’s a BL novel, but… I’m beginning to worry that there will be some romantic entanglements with Shinozuka. And that would really not be okay.

One final observation… you know, the song Moon River comes up an awful lot in manga. It happens to be Shiiba’s sister’s favorite song in a memory here, but I believe it had a lot of strong memories in Honey and Clover as well, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s may have come up in Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. And these are just the ones I remember. I think it’s come up a grand total of zero times elsewhere. Perhaps this is just a sign that I should watch that movie.

But before that, volume four will come in the mail. I will read it and enjoy every page, because I am easy to please.

S 2

August 25, 2011

Saki Aida – June – 2008 – 4 volumes
this is a novel

Again, I am ridiculously fond of these June BL novels. I’ve had pretty good luck with them so far, and I’ve read quite a few at this point. They always meet my expectations. Romance, drama, passion, et cetera. As long as the characters go well together, I’m happy. Whoever picks the novels seems to hit the nail on the head every time.

S is particularly surprising, since I don’t normally like police-themed novels or comics (I looove police procedural TV shows, though). The police terminology that was my main problem with the last volume was scaled way back here, and it left more room for romantic entanglements.

Shiiba is still resistant to letting himself fall in love with Munechika, unable to separate work and pleasure. Sadly, this book is an object lesson in why that’s such a bad idea. There’s a handful of suspicious murders at the beginning of the book, and Shiiba is paired up with another detective who is in the process of infiltrating the yakuza and needs a contact for his S. His S is in the process of digging up information about one particular yakuza boss and his stash of guns. The S, a young boy, gets a series of bad breaks, and Shiiba takes a lot of pity on him. But then the case takes a turn for the strange when the boy reveals his true feelings, and the murders from the beginning of the story begin to look as if they have an unlikely culprit…

The romance between Munechika and Shiiba was downplayed a bit in this volume, which was a shame, but another pair stands up to take its place. I didn’t like it quite as much, but with both couples getting development through the whole novel, it was enough to satisfy me. Really, that’s all I care about.

And for good reason. Some of the police work still doesn’t quite make sense to me. At one point, a character is persecuted and hunted down after falling under suspicion. To be fair, he fled and was evading the police, but his actual crime? I’m pretty sure no judge in the US would have convicted him. Again, there’s some culture shock for me in this series, since it’s still difficult for me to wrap my brain around the specifics of the gun laws in Japan. But even so, the ending to this book struck me as extremely unlikely.

Even with a weak logical ending, as I said, the romance was the important part, and that was just fine. Lots of emotional porn in here, and plenty of steamy scenes as well. Nothing ever quite goes the way I think it will too, and while it’s not exactly reinventing the romance novel or anything, even slight variations are appreciated in novels like this. Again, if you read the summary and it sounds like it’s up your alley, odds are if you like romance novels, you’ll want to give these a try. I read all three of the ones I have in a day, and I’m dying for the fourth volume conclusion now. What can I say, I’m a sucker for this stuff.

S 1

August 20, 2011

Saki Aida – June – 2008 – 4 volumes
this is a novel

So, I think it’s a well-established fact that I love these June novels almost unconditionally. Occasionally they fall flat, and sometimes they’re not quite what I want, and sometimes they don’t take their plots far enough (for obvious reasons). But as disposable romance entertainment, there’s nothing like them. And they seem to cater to all tastes. This particular series is for people who like their BL with action mixed in. Fans of Kizuna and Yellow, for instance.

Shiiba is a detective working deep undercover in Kabuki-cho district of Shinjuku. In other words, a seedy section of town. His specialty is sniffing out intelligence on how firearms enter the country and are distributed. Helping him is a mostly-legitimate businessman with his finger in a lot of pies and some ties to one of the area yakuza families. Andou finds tips on the guns and feeds them to Shiiba, who investigates further and reports with enough evidence to the police so that the criminals can be busted. Much detail goes into describing what Shiiba’s undercover policework entails, and the elaborate social networks and protocols he has to observe as a detective working undercover are fascinating.

This being a BL novel, it becomes clear fairly early on that Andou has a crush on Shiiba, but Shiiba has no interest whatsoever, and in fact exploits this for information. I was confused, because the occasional illustration of Shiiba showed him as light-haired, but he was definitely the dominant one in the business relationship between himself and Andou. The submissive partner has light hair. This is one of the ironclad rules of BL comics, and one that is rarely broken. Sadly, I can’t think of a single book that bucks this trend, and I’ve been reading a lot of BL lately. Let Dai, maybe?

Anyway, what happens between Shiiba and Andou is an early twist I won’t spoil. The ironclad rule of BL was not broken, but other, equally obvious plot points did not. I was surprised, and these BL novels are not known for their shocking plot twists.

On that note, I can’t really talk about the rest of the novel. The work that the writer puts into describing Shiiba’s detective work is much appreciated though, and doesn’t get any less detailed as the romance develops. And the romance is a slow, gradual thing that doesn’t happen until almost the end of the book. And when it does, it’s clear that the relationship is a healthy one, which is good news since it has to carry through three more novels.

One downside, however, is that Aida gets a little too detailed about the gun laws. Gun laws in Japan, and how guns enter the country, are discussed ad nauseam, and in the second half of the book, we begin to get a taste of China, too. As an American, this was probably completely necessary since, sadly, it’s difficult for me to picture a world where you aren’t allowed to own whatever gun you want. I got more than a few surprises along those lines. And yes, I probably did need the near-constant reminder that having a gun in Japan is really, really not legal. But still. They talk about gun laws a lot. There’s more gun law porn in there than real porn.

But it scratched the necessary romance itch, that’s for sure. Shiiba is a fun character that holds out against the romance for a long time, and Aida does a good job of showing just what it takes to get him to change his mind about having sex with men. It doesn’t just happen, which is always a nice touch. If you like romance or BL novels, read the plot description, and think you may like it, chances are it’s probably going to be up your alley. Even I liked it, and these action-oriented BL series usually aren’t my flavor. I’m curious to see how the rest of the series goes now.