Shungiku Nakamura – SuBLime – 2015 – 9+ volumes

So, let’s see if I’ve got my Junjo Romantica lineage straight.

There’s the main Junjo Romantica series, which is 19+ volumes, and includes Junjo Romantica, Junjo Egoist, Junjo Terrorist, and Junjo Minimum.

There’s a one-volume spin-off manga called Junjo Mistake.

There’s World’s Greatest First Love, which is 9+ volumes and includes “Cases of” Ritsu Onodera, Kou Yukina, and Shouta Kisa (separate chapters for the latter two?  They are the same couple, I think).

There’s a 6+ volume World’s Greatest First Love novel series for Takafumi Yokozawa.

There’s a World’s Greatest First Love novel series for Chiaki Yoshino, which is 4+ volumes long.

There’s… apparently, a compiled Junjo Minimist manga.

There’s three volumes of an Egoist novel series, 8+ volumes of a Romantica novel series (these two might technically be novelizations of what Usagi is working on).

And that might be it, aside from the drama CDs and various adaptations?

That’s a lot of stuff.

Anyway, here’s hoping we can see the main series soon.  I have hope, despite its length, since apparently the last couple Tokyopop volumes wound up on the New York Times Bestseller list, and as I said, the early volumes got 6+ reprints.  I suppose it depends how well The World’s Greatest First Love does.  Then I can start hoping for the novels, which are far less likely to happen.

Anyway anyway, I’m talking about the second volume of The World’s Greatest First Love, which is still just Ritsu Onodera.  I liked it much better this time.  Each volume only has two chapters, the end of which tells us how long it will be before Ritsu falls in love with Masamune.  He’s got a long way to go, considering the sex they have here.

Masamune does seem to be rather smitten with Ritsu, but Yokozawa fills us on on what may have happened.  Ritsu has blocked out his relationship with Masamune, so he doesn’t remember the details.  Yokozawa tells him to stay away, as he’s the guy that threw Masamune to the curb, had a fiancee he was cheating on with Masamune, and later, went back to dating women.  Yokozawa says that Ritsu’s heartlessness really set Masamune back, and made a complete mess of him.  Ritsu doesn’t remember any of this.  I’m not sure what to believe here.  Masamune would know best, and his vote is for banging Ritsu.

Yokozawa (edit: when I wrote this months ago I kept calling him Yoshizawa, my apologies if that’s actually his name) is a little annoying.  He’s one of those characters who’s not really dating the love interest, but wishes he was, and won’t let others near him.  He’s constantly giving Ritsu grief, despite the fact that Ritsu adamantly refuses to have anything to do with Masamune.

Mmm… sometimes, Nakamura’s art bothers me.  She’s got the big hands thing going on, which is more pronounced in Junjo Romantica.  She also has a tendency to make even her ukes tiny, hilariously disproportionate to the huge semes.   And sometimes, there are small things that bother me.  Here, there’s a fantastic dramatic kissing scene, but the way the mouths are lined up isn’t quite right.  I couldn’t figure out if Ritsu was biting Masamune’s neck, and in the next panel, a weird part of their faces is kinda smashed together.  But I’m horribly addicted to her stories, and her art works most of the time.  I like it much better here than in Junjo Romantica, but I’m not sure how far along that series was when this started coming out, so she may have improved a lot since then.

Let’s see, what else… Isaka appears as a CEO-type guy in this volume, and seems to be comically laid-back.  At one point, he realizes Ritsu is the son of the owner of Onodera publishing, and is in a similar scion position to him.  He yells down a crowded hallway “from one coattail rider to another, good luck!”  Ritsu is mortified.

And there are a ton of other Ritsu and Masamune scenes here.  Ritsu is slowly getting better at his job, and when Masamune is not yelling at him, he’s giving good advice and trying to get into his pants.  And when Ritsu isn’t thinking about work (there’s much less of that in this volume), he’s thinking about Masamune.  The romance is great, except for the fact we know Ritsu isn’t going to give in until the deadline at the end of the chapters lapses.  The wait is terrible.  And now I know that other characters are going to start sneaking into the volumes, too.

Man of Tango

November 27, 2015

Tetuzoh Okadaya – SuBLime – 2013 – 1 volume

I am so, so sorry it took me forever to read this.  For some reason, I thought this was a volume of short stories instead of a one-shot, and I usually have to be in the mood for those.  But the burly men on the cover have been begging me for a read, and I succumbed.  It’s definitely a one-shot.

Seriously, this is everything I love in BL manga.  The men are older (one is at least 40), and they are very manly-looking.  Their relationship isn’t forced, and I loved how Hiro fell for Angie.

Plus, tango.  Angie is a tango instructor that drifts from relationship to relationship without feeling anything.  While performing one night, he meets Hiro.  His dance partner Bene invites Hiro out for drinks, and after over-imbibing and pouring out the details of his sad relationship with his recently deceased grandfather, Hiro winds up spending the night with Angie.  Hiro is too drunk to remember much, but Angie, madly attracted to him, presses his advantage.  Hiro is confused at first, but goes back to Angie when he can’t stop thinking about him.  Angie convinces him that he can love for himself, and can do what feels good without worrying about what others think about it.  And Hiro falls hard.

Okadaya explains that this is part of a much longer work, and it feels that way.  We get snippets of info about the three main characters (Bene is Angie’s roommate as well as his dance partner), and they seem much more developed than what we’d normally see in a one-shot.  The magazine this ran in folded, and Okadaya drew an extra story for this English edition (which was also published in Japan) that let her show Hiro and Angie dancing, and what happened with their lives.

The dance scenes are beautiful.  Okadaya also gives a lot of background about how much she enjoys Argentine Tango, and how the story first came to her when she went to a gay Argentine Tango lesson and saw how much the men (of all orientations) enjoyed dancing with one another.  Dance is a huge part of the volume, too, and Okadaya does a great job communicating with it.

Seriously, everything I love is in here.

Okadaya has a lengthy essay about the work.  I think my favorite detail is that she didn’t really draw BL until asked by an editor, and had to have it explained to her.  When she learned, she thought BL might be what Gengoroh Tegame draws.  He does not, he draws big buff men having sex for the enjoyment of gay men, not like the female-centric BL stories she was asked to draw.  Apparently she was a little off-message at first.  But I love that her confusion led to the excellent character designs here.

My only regret is that I only got a peek into what Angie and Hiro are like.  There was obviously so much more to them, and I felt like I didn’t get to know them quite enough (as opposed to other BL one-shots, which will usually have very shallow characters).  But that’s such a minor quibble.  I loved this volume dearly, and would read anything else by this artist.  Or anything else about men in grown-up relationships.  Or anything else about dance.

Junjo Romantica 10

November 22, 2015

Shungiku Nakamura – Blu – 2009 – 19+ volumes

Okay, I’m consuming these last few pretty fast.  I’m going to be bummed when I run out.  Kind of.  I mean, not a lot happens in this volume.  There’s not even a really great emotional scene.  But somehow, I am pretty addicted to Usagi and Misaki.

Misaki and Usagi take a trip to a hot spring in mid-January, after Usagi sorts out some family inheritance stuff.  Part of this story is that Usagi’s father is sort-of harassing Misaki.  I think he’s supposed to be somewhat nefarious, but I can’t bring myself to dislike him.  He has an ardent love of wooden bear carving, and goes out of his way to be nice to Misaki.  Even his talks where he kind of warns Misaki away from Akihiko tend to be pretty good-natured and not really threatening.  He’s threatening in that he makes Misaki doubt whether he’s right for Akihiko, and most of the conflict in this chapter is about that.  But he’s really only guilty of being a snob.  He doesn’t even mind that Misaki is Akihiko’s male lover, and he does seem quite fond of him.  His only objection seems to be that Misaki isn’t from a wealthy family, and that “marrying into” a family like the Usamis might be too difficult for Misaki, based on Fuyuhiko’s own personal experience.  Honestly, since he is a dad who blows his nose on $100 bills, so to speak, I don’t really mind that he’s a snob.  Akihiko confronts him, but not even in an antagonistic way.  He just tells him that he appreciates his fatherly concern, but that he’s going to keep living with Misaki.

I just really like the guy, what can I say.  So far, he’s the least creepy and annoying of the Usami clan, Akihiko included.  Well, apparently that’s because he wasn’t raised as an Usami.

I liked the second Romantica story a bit better.  Misaki goes to Usagi’s publisher and runs into a handful of people there, including elder brother Haruhiko Usami.  There’s an awkward scene where Misaki turns him down firmly, and it goes much better than it usually does.  Isaka is a major player in this chapter, and I’m… still not sure about this guy.  But he uses Misaki to encourage a popular mangaka to finish his chapter, and I loved that Usami got horribly jealous over Misaki’s ardent love for that manga.  Also, that Misaki’s reason for reading that manga instead of Usami’s books was that manga had pictures and was easier to read.

Also also, I loved that Nakamura used Usagi’s Junai Romantica series to announce the anime for Junjo Romantica, and that Misaki was horribly offended.  It was a cute detail.

There’s a cute, very short Valentine’s Day Egoist chapter, where Nowaki wants chocolate just because it would be a gift from Hiro.  Hiro has to hide in the bathroom out of embarrassment when he gives it to Nowaki.

I think I’m going to inhale the last two volumes of this series and regret it terribly.  I may have to watch the anime.  I’ve heard the sex is toned way down… so if the rape scenes are gone from the early stories, and if the other awkward borderline non-con parts are gone, I might really like the anime.  I vowed never to watch BL anime again, but this may be an exception.

Affair

November 15, 2015

Shiuko Kano – DMP/801 Media – 2007 – 1 volume

This is from the depths of my read-but-not-reviewed pile.  I’ve been fiending for good BL one-shots lately.  This was not it, unfortunately, though I did like that it contained adult couples.

Affair contains four short stories.  The first is about two young men who met on their high school baseball team, but haven’t seen each other in several years.  One is a surly playboy, formerly a star pitcher who had a shot at being a professional player until he got a girl pregnant and quit school.  The other is a fairly average guy.  The playboy begins to mooch off the average guy when they meet on the street one day, though everything the playboy does is pretty aggravating.  He steals food, he doesn’t appear to contribute anything, and he seems to constantly make Mr. Average feel terrible.  They aren’t even really a couple, as Playboy is still seeing a number of women.  Mr. Average and Playboy had some trysts in high school, but ultimately Playboy had more of them.  He also didn’t really take practice or anything else about baseball seriously, and admits in the present he likes Mr. Average because he looks after Playboy like a mother.  Eventually this all works out, of course, and there’s reasons for what Playboy does (?) but this relationship wasn’t very functional, and I didn’t enjoy it.  The only amusing twist was that Mr. Average is the seme in the end.

The next story had a similarly abusive couple, and an incestuous one to boot.  The Spoiled Son of a mob boss treats his half-brother terribly.  Noble Son does everything for him, including self-mutilation, to save the spoiled son from terrible retribution at the hands of a rival family.  Spoiled Son also, inexplicably, asks Noble Son for sexual favors, and seems to enjoy analyzing the performance, rather than actually getting off on it.  Spoiled Son begins sleeping around with some sleazeballs to get back at Noble Son and others in the family, which causes this big story about Noble Son and Spoiled Son to come out that humbles Spoiled Son and makes Noble Son look even more noble.  I didn’t like this one at all.  Once again, the characters weren’t likable, the relationship was dysfunctional, and… you know, incest.

The third story was better, though shorter.  A man with all the luck in the world accidentally wins at company mahjong, which gets him fired.  The man who asked him to play covers for him and begs the punishment in his place, but Mr. Lucky says he can pay him back by letting him crash at his place while he finds another job.  Mr. Lucky treats self-proclaimed Mr. Unlucky very well.  There’s more mahjong, they hook up, it’s all very cute.  Most importantly, they are decent people that treat each other well.

The last couple is in college, and one is the driving instructor for the other (I don’t know how this works in Japan).  They hook up after complications.  I didn’t like it quite as well as the mahjong story, but it was cute.

Hmm… there are a few other Shiuko Kano books in English.  I tried the first volume of Punch Up! and it wasn’t my thing.  Apparently Play Boy Blues is good, but it was published by the long-dead Be Beautiful.  I also seriously considered Kiss All the Boys by Deux some time ago, but I think there was an age thing that creeped me out a little.  But… they sound good, and I’d probably try her again (maybe the rest of Punch Up!?).  I always like older couples, but this just wasn’t for me.

Junjo Romantica 9

November 10, 2015

Shungiku Nakamura – Blu – 2009 – 19+ volumes

Okay, Junjo Romantica.  You win.  I like Akihiko and Misaki.  A LOT.  These stories keep getting better and better.  Rather than being comedy-centric and about how Misaki does not want but stays around anyway and Akihiko does want, now the relationship between the two keeps getting deeper.  Even Misaki talks about how much he loves Akihiko.  Aww.

Here, we meet Usagi’s cousin Kaoruko.  For some reason, Usagi’s father has arranged a marriage between her and Haruhiko, and neither wants much to do with it.  Misaki winds up encouraging both of them to pursue their dreams rather than listen to what people tell them to do.  It’s kind of sweet, and even Haruhiko is less creepy than usual.

There’s also a fantastic scene where Kaoruko walks in on Usagi going down on Misaki and doesn’t bat an eye.  Nor does Usagi.  His stoicism is fantastic in scenes like that.

The first chapter is mostly a cute Christmas Eve chapter, where plans don’t work out but Misaki and Usagi are good to each other.  So sweet.

There’s also a brief Junjo Minimum chapter (a cute summer camp scene between Akihiko and Kamijo when they were young) and a brief Terrorist chapter.  I still don’t like those two.

Three volumes left until I reach the end of the Blu supply!  I’ll be sad to finish it!

Gravitation 11

November 8, 2015

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2005 – 12 volumes

I need to finish this series up.  It’s still very charming, and has its funny moments, but I’m basically done with it.  The honeymoon is over.  It even tried to win me back this time by letting Yuki (!!!) get a little sappy, and the story went back to Shuichi writing lyrics, which is how the two of them met.

…Actually, that’s almost all I have to say about this volume.  Ryuichi and Shuichi have a clandestine restroom encounter that results in Shuichi writing lyrics for 10 singles in something like 5 weeks.  He is horribly depressed by this, because it’s how he met Yuki – Yuki trashed his lyrics and stole his confidence to the point that Shuichi became obsessed with him.

As it turns out, Shuichi’s confidence is still gone, so after some false starts, the other members of Bad Luck decide that the problem himself, award-winning writer Eiri Yuki, can write their lyrics for them.  There’s a huge positive response… until Shuichi decides that he’s the only person who’s not growing and changing, and that writing the lyrics will be a good first step for him.

Uncharacteristically, Yuki agrees to write the lyrics, and gets extremely upset when Shuichi decides to do it himself (his methods of revenge for this are pretty funny, I’m glad Gravitation can still make me laugh).  He’s not sure why this is… unless he actually does like Shuichi and wants to be involved.

I don’t know… none of it really grabbed me?  I liked everything that was going on, but not even the romance between Shuichi and Yuki felt right here.  Perhaps Yuki has been spoiled by many chapters worth of strange, cold feelings, or maybe this isn’t genuine, I don’t know.  Shuichi writing lyrics wasn’t as funny as it should have been.  The last song has yet to come out, so I’m waiting for the lyrics to that song to be the plot point for the last story arc.

That, or the weird harassment subplot at the end of the story.  For some reason, three people decide to carry out a plan to make it seem like Sakuma’s fans are sending death threats to Shuichi.  I’m not sure why, or where that’s going, either.  Maybe they are really upset that he writes bad lyrics.

Junjo Romantica 8

October 25, 2015

Shungiku Nakamura – Blu – 2009 – 19+ volumes

THIS VOLUME WAS THE BEST.  We did get to meet Usagi’s dad!  We only see him for a brief scene.  He was everything I could have hoped for.  Though neither Usagi brother seems kindly disposed toward him.  He sends Misaki a big, eccentric present, so I was immediately smitten with him.  I’m sure he’ll turn into a huge jerk next time around, but for now, I’ll enjoy him.

Usagi starts clamming up around Misaki again, and Misaki finally gets fed up and asks him why.  But in the course of asking, he realizes… that Usagi doesn’t really know how Misaki feels.  Misaki figures he doesn’t have to say anything, but after it was pointed out last volume, they both seem uncomfortably aware that Usagi is the only one pursuing a relationship.  So Misaki has to do something about that.  He does it twice.  The look of expectation on Usagi’s face in the first chapter is the best.

The second time around, though, actually led to a legitimately steamy scene.  I hate the sex scenes in this series because one of the partners is always shouting to stop, but not in this one.  Finally.

The second story was adorable.  Misaki takes Usagi on a regular college student date, because he’s having trouble writing one for his current novel.  Usagi finds the family restaurant/aquarium/shopping lineup boring, but goes anyway, because Misaki obviously made up the list of activities with him in mind.  The big, cute scene happens in a Ferris Wheel car.  Aww.  I love manga.

There’s also an Egoist chapter.  Nowaki is out of character, to the point that Hiro is completely shocked.  Hiro thinks Nowaki might be breaking up with him, because… all the signs are there.  And they never see each other any more.

Hiro is also completely adorable in this chapter.  I really do like this couple.  I like both the Romantica and Egoist stories a lot now, so that’s good.  I still have four volumes left of them to read.