[REVIEW] 10 Dance by Inoue Satou

10 dance 110 Dance (テンダンス) Volume 1 by Inoue Satou (井上佐藤) · Not currently licensed in English. Check out 10 Dance’s Baka Manga page for scanlation and publisher information.

From the Blurb

Sugiki, a standard ballroom dancer, offers to teach Suzuki, a Latin American dancer, ballroom in exchange for Suzuki to teach him in return. Their names are similar, but their personalities are totally opposite, just like their dance. When the two meet, something’s bound to happen!

 Commentary

I was immediately drawn to 10 Dance when it started appearing in Tokyo bookstores because of its mature art style and somewhat unusual subject matter. (Admittedly, it was less the idea of ballroom dancing that had me intrigued, and more the potential for a Blades of Glory-style rivalry-turned-unlikely partnership). (Probably without the sibling incest though). Continue reading

[REVIEW] Secretary’s Job? by Miki Araya

secretary's job coverSecretary’s Job? (秘書のお仕事?) by Miki Araya (新也美樹) · Licensed in English by Juné

From the Blurb

Adorable and super-talented Takase is the star secretary of his company! His reputation’s been built on his amazing ability to make anyone he works with a success…but what will happen when he’s assigned to the lazy son of the big boss? Can a prodigy improve the reputation of a handsome slacker?

Secretary’s Job works overtime to prove that good-looks and charisma go a long way in the workplace! It’s lots of fun to tackle meetings with the company’s best employee, but will a professional relationship cross the line once sweet, surprising feelings come to light? Continue reading

[REVIEW] Honto Yajuu Volume 5 by Yamamoto Kotetsuko

honto yajuu 5 coverMy first introduction to the wonderful and prolific BL manga-ka Yamamoto Kotetsuko was through her series Honto Yajuu (‘Like the Beast’), detailing the romantic adventures of Aki (the young scion of a yakuza family) and Tomoharu, a good-natured neighbourhood cop. Volume 6 has started appearing in bookshops in recent weeks, but until I get around to picking it up, here are some brief thoughts on Volume 5. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Shisei Gokumon by Kuku Hayate

I quite enjoyed the only other manga I’d read by relative newcomer Kuku Hayate (琥狗ハヤテ), 2010’s Joujin, so even though I’m not a big fan of oneshot tankoubon, I picked up Shisei Gokumon (死生獄門) on my recent trip to Taiwan.

It’s a compilation of her work over a span of several years, though the manga-ka’s interest in mythological/fantasy elements is apparent in three of the stories. Also, the Chinese language edition I bought came with a promotional card with the volume’s cover art on it — a gimmick, but a shiny one. Continue reading

[“Review”] Corsair by Minami Fuuko and Misono Erii

I have a bulletproof kink for pirate stories, so a few years ago I picked up the three volumes comprising Corsair. But rather than go into the failings and perverse pleasures of Minami Fuuko and Misono Erii’s BL manga, this time I’ve decided to let the protagonist’s incredible variety of facial expressions do the typing for me. Continue reading

Ikoku Irokoi Romantan Special Book by Yamane Ayano

By a stroke of fate, today is both International Read Comics in Public Day and the release date of a bunch of new Yamane Ayano works, including the novel Finder no Rakuin. So in honour of Yamane-sensei and graphic novels in general, I’ve decided to do a recap of the special book released in 2007 for her lesser-known manga, Ikoku Irokoi Romantan (published in English as ‘A Foreign Love Affair’). My copy of the book is a Chinese translation I bought in a Taipei manga store specialising in BL. The book contains one page of character profiles, a recap of the tankoubon’s story, a 24-page comic and an atogaki.

 Plot Summary

Starting immediately where the manga left off, Ranmaru wakes up in Val’s Italian mansion to find a strange man leaning over him, apparently infatuated by his appearance. The besotted stranger turns out to be Val’s father, Carlo — who is even more of a Japanophile than Val! Carlo has also brought Kaoru, Ranmaru’s wife, along with him. (I love Kaoru, and I really wish Yamane Ayano would write more kick-ass female characters like her in this male-dominated genre).

It seems Ranmaru has once again deserted his entourage in order to be with Val. Now that he’s been tracked down, his crying underlings demand to know if the rumours are true — that Ranmaru plans to desert his position as the heir to the Ohmi yakuza clan in order to be with a man! Continue reading

[REVIEW] In These Words by Guilt/Pleasure

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In These Words by Guilt|Pleasure (TogaQ & KichikuNeko)

Publisher/Year: 801 Media, 2012

Warnings: We’ve got the full gamut here: rape, drugging, violence, torture, murder, gore and imprisonment. So pretty much like every episode of [insert crime procedural of choice here].

Premise

Asano Katsuya is a noted psychiatrist hired to profile and extract a confession from serial killer Shinohara Keiji — at Shinohara’s own request. Plagued by headaches and strange gaps in his memory, Katsuya is forced to interview the disturbingly nonchalant Shinohara at a creepy safehouse provided by the Tokyo police. But soon Katsuya’s frequent, highly graphic nightmares about his own capture and sadistic rape at the hands of an unseen man bear more and more parallels with what Shinohara did, or promised to do, with his real-life victims. Are these nightmares memories, fantasies, or premonitions? Or is Katsuya just going crazy?

Commentary

The superb and mature art style of In These Words reminds me of Takashina Yuu’s (高階佑) work for BL novels, particularly Simplex Deadlock Gaiden, which is also about a criminal psychologist. And an unusual bonus with this first volume of In These Words is the luscious series of colour illustrations included before the story begins, which serve to both titillate and deepen the mystery surrounding the manga’s premise.

Then, unfortunately, we get to the prologue. It’s text-only, and there are myriad issues with both the writing and the layout. The text pages look like computer screen printouts and the manga’s spine all but engulfs the first few letters of each sentence. There are also several copyediting errors and the writing itself, while not bad per se, contains several noticeable slips in grammar. The dialogue also comes across as stilted because of the writer’s sparing use of contractions. Basically, even though it’s brief, the prologue comes across like online amateur fiction, which wouldn’t bother me except this is a professional publication that people are paying money for. Thankfully, the rest of In These Words is up to a much higher standard, but that just begs the question: why include a novelised prologue at all? Reading it just made me impatient to get to the manga proper. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Calling by Otsuki Miu

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Calling (コーリング) by Otsuki Miu (大槻ミゥ)

Publisher/Year: Gentousha, 2009 (Licensed in English by Blu).

Warnings: Street violence, some dub-con.

Premise

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(!?)

Commentary

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. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Keep Out by Kisaragi Hirotaka and Hichiwa Yuka

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Keep Out by Kisaragi Hirotaka (如月弘鷹) and Hichiwa Yuka (ひちわゆか)

Publisher/Year: Gentousha, 2007

Warnings: sexual harassment, coercion, dub-con and a protagonist whose hair, canonically, curls in exact proportion to his level of annoyance. Hm.

Premise

Fuyuki Toranosuke, a specialist in anti-terrorism, is on the most stressful assignment of his life as the personal bodyguard of the New York-based CEO, Kagami. A shrewd businessman and handsome blue blood, Kagami would much rather spend his time wooing Fuyuki than running his company. Soon Fuyuki begins to realise there is more to Kagami’s feelings for him than simple infatuation  — but how can they overcome the restrictions of their bodyguard-client relationship?

Commentary

The first chapter of Keep Out explodes off the page: the art is gorgeous and vibrant, the characters are engaging, and the story hits the right note between funny and romantic. Although Fuyuki is undeniably pretty, the writer Hichiwa Yuka does a great job keeping his personality masculine, which makes Fuyuki’s banter with Kagami sparkle — especially when he refuses to submit to the stereotypical ‘wife’ role . Continue reading

[REVIEW] Tsumasaki ni Kiss by Fuwa Shinri

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Tsumasaki ni Kiss Volumes 1-2 (爪先にキス) by Fuwa Shinri (不破慎理)

Publisher/Year: Tokuma Shoten, 2005 (Licensed in English by DMP’s June imprint)

Warnings: violence, bullying, infidelity and sex after multliple gunshot wounds.

Premise

Homura and Touji are both night club owners involved in a 4-year secret relationship. Touji, though, is growing tired of sneaking around and wants to make it public. But Homura refuses, knowing this would bring disaster. Why? Because Touji is the successor to the Karasuma yakuza group —  the rivals of Homura’s own organisation. How long can their romance survive under the pressure of silence and family rivalry, especially when one of Homura’s employees begins stalking him?

Commentary

For most of the two volumes comprising Tsumasaki ni Kiss, it’s a ‘bloodless’ yakuza story centred more around Homura and Touji’s business interests and romance, rather than the criminal activities of their rival groups. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the yakuza element was just a label, because it might as well be a normal corporate BL story. And for all that the premise seems rather Romeo & Juliet-ish, even the manga’s political/business intrigue is quickly subsumed by an angsty (and extremely annoying) love triangle.

Homura, despite his usual cold composure, has a mean strike a mile wide. This comes back to bite him in the proverbial when one of the hosts at his club, Kyouya, demands he fulfil his promise of a date for reaching the club’s #1 spot. Continue reading