30 Day Yaoi Challenge, Day 17: Sword Euphemisms Everywhere

I did it. I dropped the ball and took a one day break from the 30 Day Yaoi Challenge. I’m disappointed with myself. Though, if I may forgive myself here, there wasn’t much of a chance for me to read manga. Too much face time with my mom. Whelp, now I’m back. I may try to do two posts in today if I can manage it.

Kimi Shiruya-Dost Thou Know? by Satoru Ishihara

Two rivals meet during the final match of a kendo competition. As one, Katsuomi Hanamori, walks away with the trophy, it sends him and Tsurugi Yaegashi down a spiral of frienship, love and really blatant kendo euphemisms.

Yaegashi and his younger brother move into Hanamori and his younger brother’s town, which means the two elder brothers run into each other more often.  Hanamori wants to see Yaegashi as a serious rival that he’d like to “cross swords with,” but he just can’t help falling in love with Yaegashi.

Hanamori finally makes his intentions known after a passionate kiss late one night while they’re looking for their missing younger brothers, but that doesn’t mean that Yaegashi wants to be “defeated” by him. The two keep competing and getting “stronger” in order to better face their opponents in the next “match,” until Hanamori confronts Yaegashi with more passionate kisses during the summer festival.

It is there that Yaegashi rejects Hanamori, declaring that he won’t “lose everything” to Hanamori. This makes Hanamori decide that he’s going to make Yaegashi “submit by force.” They both strive towards their goals during a joint summer training camp between their dojo, which culminates in the two of them having an epic kendo battle with an excellent “making the penises kiss” visual metaphor when the two of them cross swords at the climax.

With this, the two clear up their rivalry and head their separate ways as they go to college. It isn’t until months later that Yaegashi “surrenders” and lets Hanamori be with him, just as their two younger brothers start to get involved with each other…

I almost want to blame a gay friend of mine who has been reading my yaoi challenge reviews for making me think everything is a euphemism, but in Dost Thou Know? everything really is a euphemism.

That being said, this is a solid love story. Hanamori questions his feelings and whether or not they can face each other in a match, but doesn’t really question his sexuality (a bit of a relief after all those “I’M FALLING FOR A MAN? THIS IS SO WRONG! But I can’t help it…” characters.) Neither does Yaegashi (he just doesn’t want to be “defeated.”)

The two are much more intertwined than I implied in my description. Rather than the common trope of throwing two characters until they finally get together, Satoru Ishihara has one of the younger brothers study at the same dojo as the opposite elder brother since the younger brothers are also kendo rivals. This means that Hanamori mentors and looks out for Yaegashi’s younger brother, which is a major component of the overall plot, and vice versa with Yaegashi and Hanamori’s younger brother. They come together first as rivals who are both concerned about Yaegashi the younger, but become friends in the process.

Also noteworthy is the character’s devotion to the ethics of kendo, which I found to be much more educational than other manga with kendo elements like Kizuna. Even though everyone’s really focused on kendo, to the point where it’s a surprise when Yaegashi the elder gets into medical school, these seem like fully-fleshed out characters that are not written without thought. It’s just that so much focus is put on either kendo or their relationships with each other, that there’s hardly room for anything else. (Except the younger brothers, we get to see a bit more of their lives outside of kendo.)

The art is a typical BL style from the early Aughts, but rather appropriate at the same time. The older boys are tall and muscular, but also pretty and not drawn in an overly masculine fashion. The younger boys are cute-looking in comparison, but still have defined muscles when they show a bit of skin.

Overall, I think the best part of this manga is reading for the euphemisms. It turns what would be an otherwise forgettable manga into something more memorable and witty. It’s hard not to smirk or giggle when another euphemism pops up.

Aside from that, I don’t have anything to talk about except that I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone use iaido as a euphemism for showing someone your dick.

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30 Day Yaoi Challenge, Day 16: Mr. Convenience

Passover begins tonight, and so the most difficult period of my 30 Day Yaoi Challenge begins! (First there’s tonight’s Passover seder cutting into my reading time, then there’s Wondercon this weekend, then I’m going on a trip to the Bay area next week…) Can I manage to keep posting daily until the end? We’ll see!

Mr. Convenience by Nase Yamato

Kyaaah! I loved this manga! It’s premise was pretty original, it’s characters had motivation, it was even funny and the art was so cute!

Takashi is a jack of all trades at his brother’s staffing company, getting all sorts of odd jobs every day. Despite the fact that he doesn’t rake in a lot of cash, Takashi finds his work rewarding. That’s why, when a strange e-mail is sent to his company asking for a friend, Takashi takes the job seriously.

The e-mail was sent by a young, but lonely businessman named Aki who has a lot to get off his chest. At first, Aki only wants Takashi to come by once, but Takashi finds that he can’t in good faith let Aki handle all of his stress alone. The two spend more time together and Takashi starts to fall in love. Unfortunately, Aki begins to think it’s because Takashi needs the money and tries to distance himself. (And, of course, fails to because this is a yaoi manga and there’s always a sex scene.)

The second half of the book focuses on another jack of all trades at Takashi’s company, named Miya. One day, a strange client asks for Miya and then propositions him. Miya tells him off because he doesn’t do that kind of work, but the man belittles Miya’s job in the process. Regardless, Miya keeps accepting this client’s job because he pays well and winds up falling for him a little. The two wind up having sex during one of Miya’s scheduled jobs for him, but Miya can’t think of a better way to get intimate with him except to ask for more money. (The guy had been consistently asking about “that” kind of work, after all.)

But then the man reveals that he’s an investigator named Tateishi who has been sent there by Miya’s rich family, who are very concerned that Miya is putting himself in danger. Miya, who left home because he felt too pampered there, feels extremely betrayed and is pressured to go back home. Tateishi begins to feel like he misjudged Miya, and the two talk it out. Of course, they wind up confirming their feelings for each other and Miya gets to go back to work for the staffing company (although he has to live at home for the time being.)

There wasn’t an non-consensual stuff in this volume. (But the sex is still hot, in case anyone is looking for that kind of thing!) In fact, I don’t think I can find anything to complain about! I actually thought this volume *might* be about prostitution, in which case I would have something or another to talk about.

It was actually quite funny, lots of little quips and jokes were fit into asides and places like that. The art is cute too, although everyone’s a bit too pretty and/or cute. I just figured out that Yamato is the creator of Cigarette Kisses, so I’m going to check that out sometime. A few of her other works have been picked up by Jmanga and Deux, and some of those were even rescued by SuBLime. (Which is good, because I used up my old points on Jmanga, but also bad because not everything was rescued and I used my old points before I realized…)

I wholeheartedly suggest you read Mr. Convenience! More Nase Yamato please! (But not any of her shota-con stuff…Please.)

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30 Day Yaoi Challenge, Day 15: Sleepless Nights

Sleepless Nights by Sachi Murakami

Sleepless Nights is about a high school boy named Miyabi who works in a convenience store in a heavily gay area of town. He’s very used to gay men cruising in the store, even harassing him and his coworkers. But one night he notices a cute boy in the store and winds up going to a love hotel with him.

Miyabi thinks that the boy will be just a one-night stand, he’s straight after all, but then the kid, named Shuuhei Nakatani, winds up transferring to his all-boys high school and becoming his roommate! Talk about awkward.

Things immediately become uncomfortable for Miyabi. Not only is he trying to deal with leftover feelings from his little fling, but he and Nakatani don’t see eye to eye about love and sex, complicating all the attempts they make to patch things up between them.

All the arguing makes Nakatani start spending most of his nights outside their room, which Miyabi hates because he assumes that Nakatani spends them cruising for gay sex. He finally confronts Nakatani about it, and they reveal their true feelings to each other.

The final story in the book is about Miyabi and Nakatani’s neighbors: the flamboyant Shinoi and the reserved dorm coordinator Kouno. Shinoi winds up rooming with Kouno to protect him from overly-zealous attackers, but also falls for the shy student.

Kouno also has a problem sleeping with others in the room, so he is constantly forcing Shinoi out of their room, causing a bit of tension. After accidentally revealing his feelings for Kouno in a very public manner, Shinoi figures out that they both like each other.

Oh man, this manga’s cover totally deceived me. There were ties and what looked like business suits, but they were high school uniforms! Agggghhhhhhh!

I don’t have any inherent problems with romances between high school boys as long as things are consensual and there are no may-december relationships involving teachers, but often times they’re full of the kind of melodrama that puts me off of BL/yaoi. Either that or I feel like all the tropes that I usually find to be acceptable in shoujo manga are just too forced when applied to young gay boys. I also get a bit bothered by the general idea that these are underaged kids being depicted in an erotic manga. Sure, they’re teenagers, but does that make it okay?

Luckily, Sleepless Nights is all consensual, there are no student-teacher romances and the sex scenes are kind of drawn “from the waist up.” (Meaning that the mangaka purposefully avoids showing the graphic parts. You see hands, limbs and torsos, but you don’t see any genitalia, fluids, etc.)

Happily, this continues a small streak of consensual BL/yaoi that I’m enjoying. It’ll probably all end when I pick up the next volume of Kizuna in a few days, but what can you do?

One thing that I did like about this manga was how Miyabi was shown to be exploring his sexuality in spite of what he thought it was. This makes his switch from “straight” to gay a little bit more believable. (Although I do wish his character was fleshed out enough to tell us why he’s so intent on being straight at first.) Likewise, I liked how Shinoi and Kouno didn’t play the “am I straight or gay” game at all. It was more of a “by the way, I’m also gay” reveal.

The art style isn’t really special in my opinion, but still serviceable. I enjoyed this one, but I can’t say I’m super-fond of it in general. It was still kind of moody and melodramatic in that same way that I don’t like. There’s hardly any story outside of the two main protagonists and the supporting characters who get a side story. But even with all that attention, everything’s almost always about the romance.

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30 Day Yaoi Challenge, Day 14: A Love Song for the Miserable

No, fair readers, I did not forget you today. I just found myself busier than usual today!

A Love Song for the Miserable by Yukimura

 

Asada, a hopeful young businessman, has gotten depressed because he feels like his ideas haven’t been acknowledged at work. After getting drunk one day, he collapses into a bush until another man named Nao, who is lost and looking for directions, finds him there. As a thank you, Nao offers to treat Asada to a cake at his family’s shop.

A few days later, Asada shows up to find the shop closed, but Nao lets him in and treats him to cake anyway. This strikes up a friendship between the two as Asada’s taste tests help Nao to improve his baking skills. Asada even begins to fall in love with Nao, but suddenly Nao announces that he’s moving to France to become a true pâtissier, and Asada freaks out and ends their relationship on a sour note.

Three years later and Asada is finally where he wants to be at work. During the planning stages of an event he’s working on, he runs into Nao again, who is now an up-and-coming pastry chef in Japan. The situation between the two is tense, however Asada not only needs Nao for his event, but he wants to rectify things with his old friend.

Unfortunately, Asada finds out his division is about to be outsourced right as he patches things up with Nao, which sends him spiraling back into a depression. Nao tries to console him and confesses his feelings for Asada at the same time, but as he tries to get more intimate with Asada (read: jack him off without paying attention to the fact Asada is saying no,) Asada pushes him away and decides he cannot stand to be with Nao.

Asada then tries to quit his job before he’s outsourced and run back to his parents’ house in the country. His plan is foiled, but since he won’t speak to Nao, Nao thinks that he’s already gone away. Asada gets in contact with him before Nao makes it out to the boonies, and that’s when Nao convinces Asada that he loves him despite any faults or failures. The two reconcile and Asada goes on to discover that he can pursue his passion at other companies instead. D’aww.

This was actually a REALLY GOOD MANGA. Perhaps I feel that way because there are pastries involved. I’m part-Austrian and I’m convinced there’s a genetic disposition that Austrians have that results in a manic of good sweets.

But more importantly, I like how this manga treats depression. I suffer from it myself and while the first depiction of Asada’s depression is a little dramatic, the way Asada comes out of it and the second depiction of his depression feels much more spot on. Basically, Asada falls prey to his own mind when he sees Nao being so easily successful when Asada feels like such a worthless failure. It completely incapacitates him to the point where he cannot feel happy about Nao’s feelings for him, something that would instantly perk up someone who isn’t feeling depressed. I can tell you from experience that depression can really mess up things that should otherwise make you feel happy, and that even someone’s passionate love for you can’t bring you out of it.

I also like Nao as a character. He is wonderfully supportive of Asada, even when Asada is depressed. Despite the fact that he ignores Asada’s protests about getting intimate, it’s clear that he just wasn’t paying enough attention when he does realize what Asada wants. (More on consent later.) He also persists in trying to help Asada through his depression and expressing his love as a means of support. All in all, I just really like that Nao doesn’t ever give up on Asada after confessing to him. Not everyone sticks around when they realize you’re depressed, so having someone who is a true support pillar no matter what makes all the difference.

As for the situation where Nao accidentally… I’m willing to not let it affect my judgment of this manga. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that a) Asada was sending out mixed signals like pulling Nao closer despite not wanting to get intimate, b) Nao was under the impression that Asada was saying the opposite of what he truly meant out of shyness (meaning Nao would think that “stop” meant “go,” and c) Nao immediately stopped when he realized that Asada was crying. In fact, I really like the fact that the creator allowed Asada to break down and cry, giving Nao a chance to realize what he did was wrong and that he should stop.

A lot of yaoi mangaka would try to smooth things over with slick, romantic dialogue here or ignore it completely. But both Nao and Asada are true to life here: if a person was having an emotional breakdown as they were being sexed against their will, they would start crying; and if the other person truly loved them, they would stop what they were doing and try to honestly comfort them.

That being said, this is why it’s important to get clear consent from anyone and everyone you’re hoping to sleep with. Even in a relationship where feelings are supposed to be mutual, people can be on different pages sexually. It’s best to check in with partners in a manner that doesn’t pressure them, even if just to be extra careful.

Back to the review: The art toed the line between kind of sketchy here and there, and somewhat clean. For example: there are a lot of suits in this manga, so the suits would be drawn carefully and turn out clean, but the faces and other body parts would be more sketchy and stylistic.

I am quite sad to find out that the only other Yukimura manga published in English is a short story in a multi-artist collection that’s probably long out-of-print. I think this mangaka has lots of potential, as evidenced by crossovers into the mainstream manga world, so I’d love to see more from them.

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30 Day Yaoi Challenge, Day 13: Kiss Blue vol 1-2

My first two whole volumes other than Kizuna!

Kiss Blue Volumes 1 and 2 by Keiko Kinoshita

Okay, so Kiss Blue is a bit more BL with touches of yaoi, but that’s fine. (I kind of just lump them both together in my head because they use a lot of the same tropes and plots.)

Tomosaka and Noda are now in college, but they’ve been good friends since middle school. Noda is a bit of a player, while Tomosaka’s never been in love and can’t understand why Noda bothers.

As Tomosaka struggles with sexual harassment at work and people taking advantage of him, he begins to realize that his feelings for Noda are more than just friendship. He tries to keep it from Noda, he becomes very depressed at the thought of losing his friendship. Of course, Noda notices and tries to get to the bottom of Tomosaka’s issues. In the process, Noda discovers Tomosaka’s feelings and winds up offering to sleep with him to help ease his pain.

This, unfortunately, only hurts Tomosaka more as he realizes that even sleeping with Noda won’t give him what he really wants: Noda’s love. Even his manager at work (the one who had been sexually harassing him) tries to give Tomosaka some support. Noda tries his best to rekindle their friendship and be there for Tomosaka, but in the middle of it all, Noda discovers that one of their female friends has a crush on Tomosaka. He lets Tomosaka know, but in turn, he gets a little jealous of the woman and begins to question his own feelings for Tomosaka.

Meanwhile Noda and Tomosaka’s friendship wavers, Tomosaka begins hanging out with his manager and even goes on a date with the gal who has a crush on him. He finally realizes that he has to full confess his feelings to Noda before he can move on. As he moves to do so, Noda breaks up with a girl he had been seeing, allowing him to be with Tomosaka. They get together and everyone’s happy. (Except the manager, who’d be secretly hoping that Tomosaka would get over Noda and date him.)

The second volume ends with a short story about Tomosaka’s manager and the unrequited love he has for a friend who is married with kids. Even though the two never get together, it becomes clear to the manager that his friend cares for him very deeply on a level that he doesn’t even care for his pregnant wife. It’s a little sad, but touching at the same time.

Yay! More BL/yaoi with no rape or sexual assault! :D Yes, there’s the harassment from the manager, but it’s more come ons and slaps on the ass than anything rape-y.

I really enjoyed Kiss Blue (as sad as it was.) It was the kind of slow burn, but with serious character development that I think yaoi and BL could use more often. I thought the art style was really familiar and it turns out that I’ve read Kinoshita’s Honey Colored Pancakes too! Plus she has a lot of stuff on DMG and a few more from June. There was one manga of her’s on Jmanga, so I’ve purchased it so I can read it before they go down. I’m glad. If a lot of Kinoshita’s manga is like Kiss Blue and Honey Colored Pancakes, then there’s more BL/yaoi out there that isn’t awful and rape-y.

This manga actually brings me back to the “totally straight, but turned gay by a friend” trope. With Tomosaka, it’s a matter of him not realizing his true sexuality earlier. He might not even be gay (I’m debating whether or not he was asexual originally,) but only interested in Noda. There should be (or might already be) a word for when you’re only with someone opposite your usual sexuality because your love for them is that intense. I’ve heard stories from a few people who have gone through this in real life, so it may seem implausible for those who are less fluid with their sexuality, but I believe it to exist. Noda however…

Normally I would have problems with Noda becoming gay for Tomosaka, but the way his dramatic change of sexuality comes about is done well. You see him take extra special interest in Tomosaka, wanting to help him out of his depression, to the point of sleeping with Tomosaka. (Which, I think is the only way Noda knew how to comfort Tomosaka at the time.) Then he thinks about how he feels Tomosaka, but doesn’t immediately come to the conclusion that he’s also in love with Tomosaka. It takes him time to realize it and I feel it’s way more believable because Kinoshita gave him time to develop these feelings.

Perhaps this all was only possible thanks to Kinoshita getting two volumes for this series. It seems like she’s popular enough to go beyond the usual one-shot or short story collection, which is nice.

Kinoshita’s art is solid, but readers who dislike artists with sketchy styles should steer clear.

As you can already tell, I’m interested in keeping Kiss Blue and definitely interested in pursuing more of Kinoshita’s work.

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30 Day Yaoi Challenge, Day 12: Finder vol 2

Volume two?

Yeah, I’ve read the first volume already.

Oh, did you like it? Doesn’t seem like your type of thing.

I hated it.

Huh? Why’d you buy volume two then?

It was cheap? I don’t know!

Finder: Cage in the Viewfinder by Ayano Yamane

As much as I hated volume one ofFinder, I found myself picking up volume two. I almost picked up more volumes because it was almost worth it at that price, but I made myself put them down. (So glad I did too.)

The first chapter of this manga is about Akihito running into Asami again, quite on purpose.  A detective gets in contact with Akihito and uses him to get in touch with Asami by taking Akihito to one of Asami’s exclusive clubs. There, Asami corners him and rapes him before freeing him.

The story then turns to Fei Long, and how he first meets Asami. Fei Long comes from a prestigious Hong Kong mafia family, but plays second fiddle to his older brother. They hit a major snag trying to secure smuggling routes to Japan, which is where Asami comes in. The two become a bit entangled as Asami tries to show Fei Long his worth as a person. Fei Long winds up running away from home and trying to prove himself on his own. In the process Asami jacks him off, sort of against Fei Long’s will, to try and keep Fei Long out of trouble for a bit. It doesn’t really work, and Fei Long’s father ends up dying in the ensuing. But before he does, he acknowledges and praises Fei Long, something he had been longing to hear from his father for a long time. Asami and Fei Long then find themselves at odds and don’t meet again until the events of volume one.

The last chapter is another reoccurring story about two classmates who find out that their fathers are having an affair with each other. As a result, they kind of get sexually involved. One of the boys gets sick, and his father uses it as an excuse to see his lover while the wife is out of town. Unsurprisingly, the two boys wind up jacking each other off again.

I don’t know if I liked Finder volume 2 any better. There was some better storytelling going on in Fei Long’s arc, but it doesn’t really set up much except Fei Long’s character and his past with Asami. Akihito and Asami get zero character development. This volume just really drives home that Asami’s a scruple-less rapist.

The short story is just as bad. One boy pressures the other into doing something sexual. Sure, it might actually happen to some folks because there are some seriously sex-crazy high school boys out there, but to see it as erotic art is kind of weird.

One thing I will note about Finder volume one is that Asami used some bondage paraphernalia and sex toys on Akihito, and I sort of wish we saw that more often in yaoi. A lot of yaoi is so vanilla, it gets boring. Sex can be so much more interesting than just the usual vanilla stuff, surely there must be more interesting (and hopefully consensual) yaoi out there that take advantage of the full spectrum of sex toys/accessories/what have you.

I mean, there’s always some character out there going on about how his partner’s a perv… I just refuse to believe it when all that’s happening is no-frills, plain ol’ sex. That’s not pervy-ness, that’s just his sex drive being higher than the complainer’s.

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30 Day Yaoi Challenge, Day 11: Kizuna volume 2

Kizuna volume 2 by Kazuma Kodaka

In this volume of Kizuna, we see a lot more of Ranmaru and Kei’s current relationship dynamic. Kei is rather confident in his love for Ranmaru, but Ranmaru is more anxious than that.

This all comes to a head when Ranmaru thinks Kei is cheating on him with a woman. It turns out to be a transvestite friend that Kei was drinking with, but it brings out other subconscious issues to the battleground like: Wouldn’t it be easier for them both to just get girlfriends and not come out to their families? Is Ranmaru only a replacement for a woman?

Unfortunately, Kei’s reaction to all this is to get so mad that he violently rapes Ranmaru to teach him the difference between Kei mindlessly banging him and Kei making love to him. It was pretty cringe-worthy. Thankfully it was the only actual assault in the book. (There was an attempted assault on a female character, but it was stopped before it got anywhere.)

Then the story shifts back in time to how and when Masa got his scar (protecting Kai during a fight with a rival gang) and how Kai reacted to it. The two *almost* have sex. I actually find it quite funny how much the two deny their super-obvious feelings for each other. The current story then becomes about Kai, Masa and their yakuza clan as they become embroiled in some serious trouble with a rival group. Kai gets arrested by police who think that he attacked a woman with a knife, but it turns out she was looking for someone who was impersonating him. Kai then goes into hiding, but Kei winds up getting dragged into the fray by accident before the volume ends.

There was a big change of art style in this book. Volume one was old-school, almost more like Fist of the North Star than boy’s love. But volume two was much more modern, and reminded me of a more polished Banana Fish at times. (Also, if you like Kizuna, you should definitely read Banana Fish. Do it.) I do like the change, but I’m beginning to wonder if the artist redrew a lot of the manga later on. Either way both Ranmaru and Kei are supposed to be very handsome, and the second volume convinced me of that whereas the first volume failed to do so. There is still a problem with facial proportions, but perhaps that will change with time too.

So back to the rape. On the one hand, I’m glad there was less rape in this volume. On the other, holy shit, that was not the rape I was expecting. I figured I’d be in for more “someone getting kidnapped by yakuza and getting raped,” not domestic abuse! I’m very disappointed in Kei, as a character for this, and for some things he did in volume one. I’m also starting to get disappointed in Ranmaru for putting up with this bullshit, then turning around and allowing Kei to make love to him afterward. (C’mon! If your ass hurt as bad as you said it did, you wouldn’t be able to have anal sex again that quickly!) And Kodaka for writing this bullshit! Swear to goodness, sometimes I wonder if these creators just don’t know any better or just don’t care.

There’s also a conversation where Kai proclaims himself to be a gentleman who would never force someone to have sex with him. LIES! You totally did that in volume one, Kai! It’s just that no one in the story is going to argue otherwise because what you did moved the story along and you’re a main protagonist! Arrrrggggh!

You know, every day of this challenge, I’ve been thanking my lucky stars that I fell in love with manga via shoujo manga. It may have its own problems, but it’s far less rape-tastic…

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