If you’ve been reading manga long enough, then you’ve almost certainly come across the phenomenon of Japanese host clubs. Just in terms of setting, placing your story in the middle of the host club scene makes sense: lots of hot guys (and/or girls) in close quarters, a hierarchical structure perfect for the formation of rivalries–both professional and romantic–and plenty of new clientele coming in all the time to provide new characters and narrative fodder.
Of course, host clubs in fiction are far from a realistic depiction of reality, and even though I’ve enjoyed reading manga like Heart Strings by Akira Norikazu in the past, I’ve never believed hers and other manga-kas’ implication that these clubs are altruistic places that actually “help” women. Though my skepticism never lessened my fascination with the idea of maybe, one day, going into one–just to see what it would be like. Continue reading
Heart Strings (ハート・ストリングス) by Akira Norikazu (亜樹良のりかず)
Publisher/Year: Libre Shuppan, 2007
Warnings: drugging, crossdressing in kimonos, and giant floating flowers where giant floating flowers have no right to be.
Shinohara Yukinari is a male escort at the host club ‘For Princess’. One night, while attempting to break up a fight between a colleague and hosts from a rival club, he attracts the attention of the intimidating yakuza boss, Sakaki. When Yukinari stands up to Sakaki, he impresses the older man with his courage, and a romance soon blossoms between them. But how can their taboo relationship survive when everyone around them is hell bent on breaking them apart?
One of the first things readers are likely to notice about Heart Strings is that Sakaki bears more than a passing resemblance to the underworld leader Asami Ryuuichi from the Finder series, right down to the slick backed hair and insouciantly-cocked cigarette. And Sakaki definitely conforms to the ‘criminal romantic lead’ archetype that seems to have developed in manga over recent years: classically handsome alpha male, reticent but suave, and just dangerous enough to send a chill up readers’ spines. Oh, and considerate enough not to jump Yukinari even when he’s laid out like a (concussed) man-meat buffet in his bed. Continue reading