Japanese publisher: Oakla Shuppan, 2011
Licensed in English? No
Volumes: 1 (complete)
Warnings: coercion, non-con, dub-con
N.B. This review is based on the complex Chinese translation of the manga, 咖啡店男孩, published by 菁點工作室 in 2011.
A collection of multi-chaptered stories. In the first story, cute café owner Miyagi is hounded to close his establishment in the wake of a proposed area redevelopment, but is saved at the last moment with funds provided by café patron and handsome company CEO, Kashiwabara. Of course, nothing in life is free, and any regular readers of BL will have no trouble guessing what Kashiwabara wants in exchange for his ‘generosity’.
From the very beginning it’s clear this manga is founded on a clichéd premise, but the more I read the more I realised that its author had no two original ideas to rub together. The art is competent enough, but unremarkable, and during the frequent sex scenes the backgrounds devolved into nothing more than straight lines ― which I took to indicate the direction of the seme’s, er, thrusting motions as opposed to a wormhole in the space-time continuum. The manga-ka also subscribes to the school of censoring penises with strange shiny halos. Both of these stylistic features are not unusual for this genre of manga, but they annoyed me particularly in this tankoubon, probably because I expected better sex scenes from what is essentially a collection of porn-without-plot.
Neither of the main characters were likeable, either. Miyagi had no sense of self-preservation: he immediately decides to close his beloved café (handed down to him by his late parents, no less) at the first hint that Kashiwabara, an experienced businessman, is encountering some minor troubles in the process of saving the café from redevelopment. Kashiwabara is equally unlikeable despite conforming to many seme tropes, as he waxes romantic one moment and ruthlessly coerces Miyagi into unwanted sex the next. If you’re going to create a bastard of a character, fine, but one who flip-flops between cruelty and gooey sentiment is not the way to do it. The final nail in this story’s self-made coffin was the love confession between Kashiwabara and Miyagi at the second chapter’s conclusion, which was rushed and completely unbelievable ― as was Miyagi’s consequent welcoming of Kashiwabara’s sexual advances, which he’d shown no indication of enjoying at all before.
The next story in the manga is about the relationship between a poor student and his besotted classmate in a weird boys’ school that emphasises home economics over academia. Unfortunately, the very situation is completely hypocritical: the poor student is coerced by his predatory teacher into giving the man blow jobs for better marks so he can retain his scholarship. The teacher is presented as the villain in this tale, and rightly so, but the manga-ka seems to have forgotten that Kashiwabara of the previous story, the hero and ‘goody’, also blackmailed his younger lover into sex. This double standard did nothing to endear me to the second story, nor did the later mini-chapter about the teacher, who it turns out only preys on his students when his colleague lover is out of town. Which makes it so much more palatable.
The final story in this manga is a classic cops and robbers scenario with a determined but bumbling policeman and his target, a bishounen cat burglar.
I admit to liking a set-up where the very occupations of the protagonists create conflict, but any potential intrigue in this story is nothing more than feeble wallpaper for yet more unappetising sex. This story also boasts one of the worst analogies I’ve ever read: at one point the thief declaims something along the lines of “just like during ejaculation, my spirits rise up like fire”. And despite my partiality for well-intentioned cops in untenable situations, our protagonist in uniform was just too dumb to sympathise with. The ‘twist’ at the end of the story was also negligible, although I admit to almost enjoying the short last chapter where we get a peek at our present-day cop and robber’s predecessors. Though for a leagues better cat burglar x policeman manga, you should be reading Minase Masara’s Missing Code in the first place.
I guess in the end I should have known immediately from the cover that I was buying a volume of near-plotless smut, but handsome CEOs are a weakness of mine, and I held out hope. Silly me.
The fact that this manga is a pile of clichés in the first place indicates that there is an audience for this kind of manga, but even the porn component is sub-standard. Avoid.