Sunday, October 31, 2004
Manga Bonbons has closed. BL/yaoi manga fandom has lost a vital resource.

Thursday, May 20, 2004
Biblos has launched a new original drama cd label, Cool Voice Label. Their first project is Shinjuku Guardian. There are mysterious disappearances, a shady businessman who manages a couple of dens of iniqui...nightclubs, a straitlaced police officer (yum!), a private eye who looks more like a hustler, a doctor, and ... um ... a vampire? Oh, well. Nobody's perfect.

Friday, August 01, 2003
Etranger I don't know what to make of Kodaka's lastest manga title, Ihoujin ~Etranger~. It's different from anything she's done before, though the parts are played by mostly familiar character designs. For instance, slut!Kai is paired with young Elvis!Masa. The chapters seem disjointed, the characters oddly detached, the premise a mystery to me. I get that at least two of these characters are eternally youthful incubi, Uncommitted, non-monogamous demons playing house? The story might be pure genius if I could only understand why some people who have sex with pointy-haired Kai die, and some people don't.

There's such a hodge-podge of elements here -- new romance lost to the vengeance of a rejected lover, the pain and boredom of immortality, comic jealousy, goofy lecherousness, chibi cuteness and potty humor -- that the narrative never gels. At first, I thought this was because the story was divided in two sections, but the "tragical-comical-historical-pastoral" genre-mixing is found throughout.

Devil x Devil Plot would just get in the way of the wings in Sachiyo Sawauchi's Devil x Devil. Demons and fallen angels walk among us for the express purpose of ... well ... making out with each other. You would think they would at least want to corrupt humans, but we don't have the wings. Although I had seen the first chapter serialized in Gold, I had forgotten how rough the art was. Some elements -- the lank hair? the spindly limbs? the huge shoes!-- remind me of a much less skillful Ai Yazawa (Gokinjo Monogatari). I liked the stories, but I wouldn't recommend this volume to anyone who wasn't a fan of Kou Fujisaki. Copious crabby ukes paired with smugly superior semes. (Sorry for the alliteration. Blame the BL cliche, not me.) Did I mention the wings?

Juuni Kokki 9 Juuni Kokki 9 - I think I liked the idea of Taiki and his emperor more than the reality of Taiki and his emperor (a little arrogance goes a long way), but I'll reserve judgment until I've seen the animated version. It still disturbs me that the novels don't resolve the mystery of where Tai-ou is and the recovery of Taiki's unicorn powers. I hope the dj-ka address this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Tonight, I was poking into AAR's columns on romance and feminism -- it makes me sad that so many of the more interesting columns on the site are "stale," having been published 5+ years ago -- when I ran into this opinion from Catherine Asaro:
Romance acknowledges the "female gaze." We hear a lot about the male gaze in literature. An author may extol the aesthetic value of the heroine to such length that female readers are tempted to say, "all right, already. Get on with the story." Romance is the only genre I know where it is perfectly fine to extol male beauty.
Meet Boys Love, a troubled feminist genre? I include the question mark because Asaro sandwiches that comment between two other observations about the "feminism" in romance:
  1. "What the heroine values is given priority."

  2. There are no heroines in BL. Can we substitue "what the (female) reader values is given priority"?
  3. "The main character of many romance novels is 'everywoman.' She may be of noble birth, or have other qualities we don't associate with our everyday lives, but she doesn't have to be a male-identifed heroine to be considered interesting or worthwhile as a character."

  4. I don't mean to repeat myself, but there are no heroines in BL. However, Asaro continues, "In so much fiction, female characters fade into the background unless they have qualities deemed 'important,' where too often the definition of importance ignores aspects of life traditionally in the female sphere, for example, child rearing, homemaking, or simply a female outlook on the world." BL does this in spades. Relationship-building instead of world-building.
I've been discouraged from politicizing yaoi/BL, and I can't say hushing me on this subject is inappropriate. After all, I really don't know the culture that produces the genre except through manga, and I would be the first to admit that an illiterate Western reader will bring her own world to the text. For a politically-incorrect instance, look at the way some gay men (LJ rant) have tried to "own" this imported genre. Still, if yaoi is not self-consciously, militantly political in the way that slash can so often be, BL does prioritize female values and celebrate the female gaze.

Saturday, July 12, 2003
AMLA is talking about this probable bit of manga plagiarism. The "borrowing" artist has assembled a patchwork of panels from Youka Nitta's "When a Man Loves a Man" and constructed a new story from them. Some of the panels had to be modified, because she took Urushizaki (the submissive seme) for the seme, and he doesn't have the dominating sex scenes with Ryo Takaaki that the new story required. In "When a Man Loves a Man," Urushizaki is a concerned older brother who comes to a host club to demand that the #1 host Takaaki stop seeing his sister. He doesn't realize that there are two Takaaki's at the club, and he's been matched with the wrong one, who seduces Urushizaki and uncovers his need to be dominated. In contrast, "Kyouken" ("mad dog") from Zettai Reido 4 is about the spoiled late-teen son of a corporate president who provokes his "keeper" (a 20-something man in his father's employ) into taming him through sex. The son-uke is Takaaki's character design, the keeper-seme is Urushizaki's character design.

It's an interesting reinterpretation of Nitta's visuals which hints at the hazards of picture-reading. Okay, maybe not so much, since the new story could only be created from cherry-picked scenes from different chapters in the original. The original is perfectly clear. What it does demonstrate is how easily more than one interpretation, more than one text, can be applied to the same image.

Saturday, June 14, 2003
SPOILERS - Naisho de Hallelujah - SPOILERS

cover of Naisho de Hallelujah Nabako Kamo's Naisho de Hallelujah opens with Shuu Ohga throwing 100,000 yen at a naked young man lying in bed before storming out of a hotel. The angry man's internal narrative informs us that he's a composer and is frequently approached by aspiring idols, actresses, and reporters. Since the dark-haired man he left behind was certainly no actress and a bit old to be an idol singer, I suspect Shuu thinks his pick-up is a scandal-mongering journalist about to reveal that the number-one hitmaker sleeps with men. He muses that he's always been a romantic fool and flashes back to some hospital scene from his youth...then it's the next morning in the Ohga house and we meet the cutest 5-year-old boy, Shuu's son Botan. Botan is all big eyes and starfish hands and "anone, anone, Papa-chan."

Botan has a friend whose cat has had six kittens, and Botan thinks it would be great if Papa-chan would let him have one. This question has clearly been asked many times before, and Botan, deflated by his father's refusal, trudges sadly off to school. But he who meows last meows best: that afternoon, Botan brings a stray home. Botan is convinced that "Umechan" is a cat...even though he looks exactly like the young man his father slept with the night before. Apparently, having the sexy young man lick him on the nose and rub up against him "nyaaing" was enough to throw Shuu off his game. He allows Botan to keep the new "pet" for now, which also gives Papa-chan a willing -- albeit untrusted -- sex partner. Chara Comics are definitely getting "sexier" in terms of their content, but the heart of this story is the little boy. Although Shuu is a dedicated parent, he's too busy to recognize that his son is missing a mother's touch, which the new pet provides by picking Botan up from nursery school and nudging Shuu into going through the little courtesies of hugging the boy and welcoming him home. Umechan (whose real name we eventually discover is Shizuka) is the touching, cuddling parent Botan yearns for. At the end of the first chapter, Botan reacts with shock and horror when "Umechan" reveals that he isn't a cat. When Shuu comments that they would have preferred Shizuka as a pet, Shizuka's hackles rise and Botan points with delight, convinced that he's really a cat after all. And then there's the cute omake at the end of the volume, showing what Botan and his kitten-owning friend "Torachan" will look like in 7-8 years. They're wearing Chinese garb and Tora's clearly going to be a seme someday...lucky Botan.

For people who aren't swept away by adorable little kids and heartwarming family dynamics, the lovers spice up the mix with mistrust and angst...although it's pretty heartwarming angst. While Botan brings out all of Shizuka's nurturing tendencies, Shizuka proves to be an enigmatic and sensual uke. He and Shuu are bound together by a childhood incident in which Shuu was injured by a falling structure while pushing Shizuka to safety. Shuu still bears the scars on his torso and arms, and Shizuka still bears the guilt and fear. (I'm developing a fetish for "hatsukoi" stories -- there's one in Piyoko Chitose's S<><> Friend that rescues the volume for me.)

(Shizuka turns out to be a freelance illustrator, incidentally. One more for the kitchen sink of BL cliches in this volume. This mix still doesn't compare to Reiichi Hiiro's Passion Fruits no Kaoritsuki for its sheer outrageous mix of yakuza and host club characters meeting and mingling over children who are not their own but who transform lovers into a family.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2003
  1. Juuni Kokki 8 by Fuyumi Ono (yippee!)
  2. Kimi wa Pet by Yayoi Ogawa
  3. Tsuki no Shippo by Rinko Ueda
  4. Hikaru no Go 22 by Yumi Hotta
  5. Virtual Lovers by Kaoruko Maya
  6. Samishii yoru no himitsu by Youko Mizuno
  7. Bespoke by Tsukasa Matsuzaki
  8. Tantei Aoneko by Modoru Motoni
  9. Tsuki no Hana by An Mihashi
  10. Kamen Teacher by Atsuki Kyouyama
  11. Anata no kiss mo kokoro mo zenbu by Ai Hasugawa
  12. Yoru ga aketara by Kazuho Kaguyama
  1. Pheromone Mania Syndrome by Ichiha
  2. Juuni Kokki 2 by Fuyumi Ono
  3. Juuni Kokki 3 by Fuyumi Ono
  4. Juuni Kokki 4 by Fuyumi Ono
  5. Juuni Kokki 5 by Fuyumi Ono
  6. Moonlight Sonata by Nachi Yasuhara
  7. Yononaka wa bokura ni amai by Satosumi Takaguchi
  8. Kimi ni CHU oshi 7 (Hikago anthology) I have a bad feeling I own this already.
  9. Taboo no Ori by Harumi Benisako

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