August 1, 2015
Kou Yoneda – DMP/June – 2015 – 3+ volumes
The first review was so long, I don’t have as much to say about the second volume. It’s still really, really good. Among the best BL books I’ve read.
This is still mostly because Yashiro is a very interesting character. He’s a powerful man who loves to be sexually debased by basically anyone and everyone. But one of his superiors marks him as misanthropic, and Yashiro realizes he’s right. He enjoys masochistic sex best, and got into the Yakuza because he preferred the beatings the members gave him while they had sex with him, presumably because they hated him and he only liked them for their hatred.
There’s a long flashback in the second half of the volume that shows Yashiro’s entrance to the Yakuza through the eyes of Misumi, one of his superiors. Misumi adopted him after he found him getting gang-banged, beat up, and begging for more in a Mah Jong parlor. He basically fabricated a debt to keep Yashiro around and semi-working for him, and after Yashiro gets in trouble with one of the other homophobic bosses, Misumi officially inducts him into the Yakuza and takes him on as a partner, both sex and professional.
Yashiro has a lot of sex, and it is very brutal and frequent. But one of the things I like about Yoneda’s writing is that it isn’t romanticized. Most sex scenes with Yashiro are only shown for 1 panel, for the purposes of proving it’s going on and that it’s graphic. There’s no pages-long sex scene of Yashiro getting tied up and burned by an anonymous partner. Yashiro’s habits and fetishes are meant to be repellant and disturbing, and aren’t fetishized for the reader as you would expect. The only romanticized sex scene was a rather intense one where Doumeki describes an encounter he had while Yashiro masturbates. There’s a difference, and I love that Yoneda is a subtle enough writer to convey it.
Also lovely is that Doumeki and Yashiro seem to have hit a wall here. Yashiro has only ever loved one person in his life, and seems to be falling for Doumeki. Doumeki knows he is falling for Yashiro, but refuses to let Yashiro know, for fear that Yashiro will send him away in an attempt to keep a coworker from falling for him. Yashiro begins to seem ashamed of having Doumeki know (or at least watch) his sexual habits. Doumeki begins to pull away from the physical sexual encounters they have, as sexual attraction to Yashiro is beginning to cure him of his impotence. And there’s one subtle scene where it’s implied that Yashiro may have kissed Doumeki in his sleep. I didn’t pick up on that until the second time through.
A lot of the story is about the situation in the Yakuza, but the snippets of the developing relationship between Yashiro and Doumeki are tantalizing. It’s not going quickly, or smoothly, and I’m not sure how long it will stall like this. But I will enjoy every page until the end.
Doumeki also fails Yashiro professionally as a yakuza, and while there’s plenty of feedback here surrounding the incident, I suspect we’ll see the meat of the situation in the next volume.
And now, the wait.
August 1, 2015
Kou Yoneda – DMP/June – 2015 – 3+ volumes
Ahh, I was so excited that a new Kou Yoneda series was coming out! I’ve loved the other books I’ve read by her (No Touching at All and Nights), and I wanted to wait for the sequel volume to come out before I dug into this one.
This was fantastic. It has the making of a BL classic. It’s thoughtful, has great art, interesting characters, and Yoneda is taking her time to develop both the plot and characters. I was a little worried it was going to be a generic yakuza-themed book, but it’s fairly obvious from the first that there’s more going on. DMP releases so few books that I’m worried volume 3 might not come out unless this sells really well, so pick it up if you are at all inclined.
The intro is a little sad and a bit deceiving. A doctor that works for the yakuza begins treating and offering hospitality to a young punk the boss picks up. The two appear somewhat drawn to one another, but the doctor doesn’t seem to know how to connect with the young man (he’s 22, so I was happy he was actually a young man). They wind up together after the boss makes some remarks that at first seem appalling, but are actually meant to drive them into each other’s arms. It was a cute ending.
The rest of the book is about the boss, Yashiro. And when I said that the intro was a little sad and a bit deceiving, I meant that the rest of the book is about a different couple, and is one of the most depressing BL stories I’ve read. And I’ve read a lot of sad BL. Don’t get me wrong though, this was great. I’m used to ridiculous over-the-top drama in series like Kizuna and Embracing Love, but this series is on a different level.
Yashiro is a sex addict and a masochist. He’s well-respected, and good at his job, but doesn’t seem to love himself that much. He has an endless parade of men coming through his office to bend him over, bind him up, and have rough sex with him. He had a years-long crush on the doctor from the intro, and was heartbroken when the doctor found a lover (though, as a symptom of his nymphomania, he mounted cameras so he could watch the doctor and his lover have sex). Soon after this, he’s introduced to a new recruit named Doumeki. Fresh out of prison, Doumeki doesn’t really have the brains to do a lot of the regular jobs, but he’s a big guy and can do bodyguard work. Yashiro is drawn to him right away, and though he has a strict policy to keep his hands off employees, he finds himself giving a blowjob to Doumeki almost immediately. Doumeki’s only opinion of this is to offer the fact he’s impotent after he’s opened his pants and let Yashiro go to town for a bit. This turns Yashiro on more, and the two have several more liasons at Yashiro’s request. Doumeki doesn’t offer an opinion either way on these exchanges, though he does admit that Yashiro is good-looking.
If Yashiro’s blatant self-loathing wasn’t obvious in that description, it is in the story. It was pretty sad, until it got to the explanation of why Yashiro acts like this, and then it became devastating and hard to read. He survived sexual abuse at the hands of someone who was never caught or punished, and he found that once his abuser moved on, his body and mind craved the horrible deprecation constantly. He accepts this, and simply indulges himself constantly. The story does not romantacize this, and Yoneda does a fairly good job of making it disturbing (though yes, I get what kind of book this is).
On one hand, I’m not sure if this is exactly a sensitive portrayal of an abuse survivor, but on the other hand, Yoneda is putting a lot more thought into it than other writers. Yashiro doesn’t shy away from the experience, and uses it in a matter-of-fact way to relate to others. He relates to someone who feels ostracized for their dark, sexual taste and makes the only friend he has that way. In another scene, he talks about his past to a female survivor of abuse. This scene was quite touching, and Yashiro later goes on to help her and her family live on.
The fact he is so up front about his sexual tastes is also fairly unique. He has enemies that try to shame and demean him with his sexual escapades, but they can’t because he’s too willing to discuss, give details, and basically flaunt himself. He was an interesting character, and actually kind of a good guy. His reputation makes it easy for him to manipulate people into thinking he’s the scum of the earth and getting them to act, only to find out he was actually just helping them to act.
Doumeki’s trauma is different from Yashiro’s. Less stereotypically BL. Still pretty awful.
Doumeki doesn’t say much. He sometimes acts in such a way to make you think he’s sharper than he seems, but other times he makes boneheaded mistakes. Again, he doesn’t offer much of an opinion on Yashiro or what he does until almost the end of the book. His wordless compliance with what’s going on is interesting in and of itself. He always allows the blowjobs when Yashiro asks, but with no feedback as to why. It’s more strange than uncomfortable, and Domeki is in control strictly because Yashiro is the one that needs dominated and abused. So it’s never going to go the other way.
And if the main story didn’t depress you, the side story at the end of the volume, about the doctor and Yashiro as students, will make you want to seek the comfort of loved ones immediately. Good God. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good read. Just depressing.
Incongruously, the story does get off one good joke. At one point, after waking up from a bender, Yashiro tells Doumeki he wants “a giant, limp sausage without the skin for breakfast.” Doumeki stares at him, and turns around and says “I’ll go buy one.” To which Yashiro tells him “Sorry, I was being too vague. I want to suck your dick.” It’s pretty much the only light moment in the book, and I did laugh aloud.
If you’re not into depressing BL, or like to avoid rape trauma (though the couples are all good to each other, the romantic relationships aren’t traumatic), you’re going to want to stay far away from this one. But it’s a fantastic and fairly well-written read. It’s not often we get such a quality book in BL, so if you want a more substantial read, or like older couples, or are tired of the same sorts of light romance-y stories, please check this out.
Keep reading through the intro. I had a hard time starting this book because it’s not clear who’s talking until you get used to Yoneda’s dialogue flow, so just a head’s up about that.