Publisher/Year: Gentousha, 2009 (Licensed in English by Blu).
Warnings: Street violence, some dub-con.
Timid salaryman Hinamura Kazuaki is taking his usual route home from work one night when he stumbles on a couple doing the horizontal tango behind some bushes. In the resulting embarrassed scuffle, Kazuaki drops his groceries and the male half of the amorous couple steps on his tofu* (*not, in fact, a euphemism). Kazuaki flees and resolves never to walk past those bushes again — but then the tofu-stepper appears before him the next day, claiming to be a porn actor who’s fallen in love with Kazuaki at first sight(!?)
Otsuki Miu’s unusual art style with her characters’ giant eyes and long, lippy mouths might take a little while to get used to, but her characters are nonetheless expressive and vibrant. Our protagonist, Kazuaki, is mild-mannered and a bit of a wuss, but he is also courageous and good-hearted when it comes to the crunch. He is, of course, the perfect balance for Calling’s other main character, Aratani Kira. Kira is a porn actor and self-identified sexual savant, with a passionate and aggressively optimistic personality — none of which helps him figure out what to do when he falls head over heels for Kazuaki. Both characters are at sea when it comes to muddling through their new relationship, which makes their courtship and their friends’ attempts at ‘helping’ all the funnier.
Calling, while riddled with many yaoi tropes, manages to still subvert the reader’s expectations: Natsumi, for example, appears to be nothing but a ditzy, big-breasted porn actress, but soon proves herself to be a lovely person, a loyal friend and someone of surprising depth. It’s unfortunately very unusual to see positive female characters in BL manga (many stories don’t have any, let alone ones that don’t exist for the purpose of screwing up the mens’ relationships), and calling has not one, but two great female supporting characters.
This manga is also an interesting depiction of a character whose job is frowned upon by society, and yet who nonetheless enjoys and is serious about his work. Instead, it’s the salaryman who’s unhappy in his mainstream, monotonous career. The conflict with Kira and his conservative parents over his job (and Kazuaki’s own doubts) makes for poignant family drama.
Despite the porn aspect of the story, this is a romance manga with satisfyingly gradual relationship development — it’s actually quite sentimental and soppy at points, which is perfect if you’re in the mood. I appreciated that Kazuaki and Kira also made frequent faux pas as they grew to know each other, and the depiction of Kazuaki as more than tentative about having sex with a man for the first time was realistic. Basically, this manga is about as realistic as a porn actor/salaryman romance written by someone with a sheep avatar could be.
Calling strikes an excellent balance between humour and romance without succumbing to ridiculousness. Perfect comfort reading.