Hero Heel--Manga

Okay, Hero Heel, by Yellow writer/illustrator (favorite of mine) Makoto Tateno, completely deserves it's adult themed rating...because it has VERY adult themes. I'm not just talking about the sex, because there is sex (graphic sex, actually), but the complexities of the plot, character interactions, and emotions are anything but easy to process. I like angst. I like, as Ms. Shakespeare likes to point out, suffering and insecurity and long-standing secret loves. So, I like Hero Heel. This three volume manga series is brutal at points, so if you are an empathetic person this might not be for you...unless you want (like me) to feel that sort of extended tension and pain. Tateno is fantastic at extended tension and pain. Stunning at it, actually! The dialog is loaded with it, the illustrations are taut with it. OH, and it's about actors on a kid's superhero program.

Don't shake your head just yet, us ladies of a certain age remember the hotness of Power Rangers...this is something similar, and yet possibly hotter. Although, man, a few of those Power Rangers...daaaammmnn!
Hero Heel is the story of first time television actor, Minami, who lands the lead role of Oreas in a special effects, fighting program called Air Guard. His co-star, Sawada, is a veteran of these programs and takes an immediate dislike to Minami's attitude. Sawada is a consummate professional, and is playing Gadriel, Oreas's rival in the program. Minami and Sawada are both proud and stubborn on and off the camera. Their rivalry heats up, but Minami learns from Sawada as well, and comes to realize that his feelings of deep admiration for Sawada's acting and fighting skills may be hiding true affection for the man.

Okay, tame enough, a little co-worker love interest, but then it gets really, really uncomfortable. Sawada claims to have no interest in Minami at all, in fact he treats him with scorn which only seems to make Minami want him more. Desperate for any scrap of affection, and drowning in unrequited love, Minami blackmails Sawada into sleeping with him. In one of the most painful, regret-laden scenes of any manga I've ever read (and I read a lot of painful, regret-laden manga) Minami breaks down. The intensity of the sorrow in the final chapter of volume one nearly crosses the line to intolerable for me. I'll admit it...I may have cried a little. And, as I keep saying, that's not my M.O. Something has to be very powerful to move me to tears, and yet the last silent panels of Hero Heel volume one did just that.

In trying to forget Sawada, Minami smothers his feelings with a new relationship with yet another co-worker. And Sawada rekindles an old relationship with a former co-star in an earlier program, who looks remarkably like an older Minami. Could Sawada be hiding the truth about his feelings for Minami? Let's ask him.

Sawada, are you hiding your attraction to Minami behind a facade of scorn in order to save yourself from potential heartbreak?

Oh, Sawada-san, you make me so sad in my heart.
You are absolutely the kind of cruel and passionate character that makes me want to squee!

Um...yeah, I guess he is...oh, right, spoiler or whatnot! So, once we know this, as readers, the plot gets even more complex, and painful, and bitter, and...all those things I love to read about. Each of the characters deals with their own insecurities, and any hope for a relationship seems defeated by a combination of insecurity and defensive pride. When the characters do break down, succumbing to their emotions in sometimes drastic ways, it is poignant and heart-wrenching because we as readers are privy to the whole story rather than just the one-sided suppositions the characters make about one another's motivations and intentions. This is heavy stuff. As such, it isn't for everyone. There are certainly points where each of the characters crosses into uncomfortable (and sometimes even dislikable) territory. There are moments of assertiveness that do border on violence, and reactions that seem at the time completely this one:

"Eh?" Indeed! (Also.."Aw, yeah!")

It looks sweet and passionate, but it turns out in the very next panel Minami (blond) punches Sawada in the face, tells him to quit messing with him, and then runs off into the night to sob in his bedroom until he passes out while Sawada avoids his boyfriend and drinks himself into a stupor. Hooray! What a light-hearted romp through candy-canes and gumdrops! Or, did I mean what a painfully (three bonus chapters are actually entitled "Pain") drawn-out, spiral into despair that seems to have no hopes of redemption? Maybe I meant the second one. Oh, delicious pain! Oh, Sawada! (Seriously, I may be madly in love with Sawada myself...maybe I'll steal him from Minami?) Oh, Minami!

The good news is there is (sort of) a happy ending to this one--the payoff is worth it once these two idiots realize that they can't deny their disturbing love for one another. Plus, the show is a hit, so everyone wins (except the people who were dragged into the bizarre love-conflict and ultimately dumped in cruel ways...they lost, completely).

All My Darling Daughters

Welcome, once again, to the Fumi Yoshinaga Blog!

Oh, my what a powerful book. I probably say this a lot. I wish I could have one nth of the talent this woman has.

All My Darling Daughters is a set of interconnected stories, the first of which is about a woman in her thirties who lives with her mother who is in her fifties. The mother gets sick with cancer, recovers and ends up marrying a 27 year old former host / aspiring actor. Needless to say, there is some drama in the household.

I don't want to summarize the stories in this book, because it is so worth the read. I do like a lot of ninja-y, highschool drama-y, gay-y stuff, but man, sometimes I really just like to read about salary women in their thirties trying to negotiate the business of their lives.

If I were to recommend a manga to someone who didn't read manga but wanted to try, I'd probably have them start with this one. It's not manga-y; it's literary; it's American Comic-y (not of the super-hero-y variety, but more the independent-y ilk). I will stop with they -ys now.

This is an incredibly tender, smart, elegant, amazing book. GO READ IT!

It Stands the Test of Time -- Mysterious Cities of Gold Revisited

Yesterday, I was just plain anxious. Sometimes it's hard to be an adult, thinking about Monday being just a day away and all that stupid unfinished business you didn't get to over the weekend.

Why didn't I work on my novel? How much freelance work do I need to do to buy a new mattress? How am I ever going to pay off these damn student loans? Does my desire for matching throw pillows indicate a deep attachment to the bourgeois ideals I claim to reject? I mean any pillow should do...

First world problems. I'm lucky to have them, right? Still, they can pose some existential angst in one Ms. William Shakespeare at times, especially when she knows there is something beyond them, something amazing to behold; she can feel it.

After a day of struggling against this angstiness and not succeeding, I decided the best solution was to draw the curtains (which I can proudly say I made by hand. Take that Capitalist Oppressors!), turn off the lights, hide under a blanket and watch Mysterious Cities of Gold.

And I'm glad I did. I first watched this anime when I was very young, so young I can't remember anything about it, except that it evoked a feeling, a kind of sad longing, like being on the edge of something -- probably the first time I banged my little kid head up against anything like existential angst at all.

I remember feeling it in the pit of my eight-year-old belly every time the theme song came on, and as a thirty-something woman, I felt that same kind of sad longing when I began revisiting the series today.

Some day we'll find them...the Mysterious Cities of Gold.


I wonder if the new series will be just as good?


Kissing by Teiko Sasaki and Shoko Takaku centers on the friendship of college seniors Haru and Kazushi. And it is another angst-fest. These two childhood friends are often mistaken as a couple by the people around them as a result of their comfort and affection with one another. Already I am a smitten kitten at this point. I love stories about close friendships that blur boundaries between amorous, philial and fraternal love, so even if there were not the later element of a hidden amorous/erotic love thrown in I would still be drawn to the story. Haru and Kazushi rely on one another's friendship so it is no surprise that Kazushi holds back his feelings from Haru for fear of risking what they already have together. It isn't until Haru pushes Kazushi for answers about his secret love interest that the truth is revealed. Haru's response is shock and dismay...followed by avoidance and an angry confrontation about how Kazushi should have just kept quiet. Behind the surface, though, readers are made aware of how much Haru relies on Kazushi and how oblivous he has been to the effort Kazushi has put into their friendship over the years. It is time for Haru to grow up.

As graduating seniors each friend is plagued with concerns over their future, and what it might hold. When Haru learns of Kazushi's goal to move to America for an MBA, he considers the loss that that entails and subsequently the important role Kazushi has played in his life. What is the difference between friendship and love? At times it is quite clear, but for these two characters whose lives have been so intertwined the distinction is almost irrelevant. They belong to one another in so many ways that the shift from platonic to romantic love seems inevitable in some ways.

The manga centers on that shift, and the fear that if "things go wrong" their longstanding friendship will be destroyed. It is also sprinkled with nostalgic moments that show us how their relationship has developed over the years. Scenes of Kazushi sneaking through Haru's window mean much more in the context of his now-public confession. Very Romeo and Tybalt! The genuine affection between the two characters is beyond sweet, and their fear of losing one another motivates each to reimagine their connection to one another. All in all, this is a really sweet and tender story about not only the crossroads between different types of love, but the uncertainties these students face regarding their future together and apart.

The manga rates itself as 16+ (for one little scene at the end).

A Love Song for the Miserable--Manga

Hooray, another yaoi involving a bakery and older characters! Although, I'm not sure this angsty-yearn-fest is Ms. Shakespeare's cup of tea (too much tension and tortured emotion), it is CERTAINLY mine.

Yukimura's A Love Song for the Miserable has a great title, doesn't it. And it's pretty appropos of what to expect from the single volume work. The main character, Itsuki Asada, is a miserable guy who hates his job, his life and...well, he's a little bitter. The story starts with Asada drunkenly ranting about his position at a Tokyo department store to a co-worker. The co-worker, annoyed by his pity-party, leaves him half-passed out in some shrubbery (I love the word shrubbery) where a runner by the name of Iwasaki Nao runs, quite literally, across him.

Nao has a dilemma of his own. His father owns a bakery and wants Nao to take over, but Nao is unsure of himself and his abilities. He is an avid runner (with a very poor sense of direction), who uses running to sort out his problems and lost in thought finds himself in an unfamiliar area. They "rescue" one another: Nao pulls the drunken, sobbing Asada from the bushes and Asada gives Nao directions home. The ever-exhuberant Nao scribbles his own directions on a scrap of paper. The directions are to Nao's bakery "The Star," where he asks Asada to come by for a pastry as thanks. Uncharacteristically, Asada does come by and discovers that Nao is a very talented, yet untrained pastry chef. Nao discovers that Asada may be helpful in developing his skills, as a critic and a taster. The two form a quick friendship which temporarily lifts Asada from his slump. He finds himself feeling useful and relied upon for once and relishes the opportunity to be a part of something successful.

It is not until Nao decides to begin training in France that Asada realizes that his friendly feelings for Nao might be something more. Rather than confess his feelings to his friend Asada does the exact opposite, he snaps at Nao, plays down the importance of their friendship and snubs Nao's ambitions. The two part on terrible terms and Asada once again falls into his misery.

Asada is miserable. He's pretty much always miserable. Look at that anguish!

Three years later the two are thrust into a business situation and hurt feelings on both sides cause even more tension between the two. Finally the stand-off breaks, but unfortunately Asada realizes that not only is he still the same miserable person in an unsatisfying career that he was three years ago, he's also still in love with Nao who is now a world-reknowned patissier. As Asada himself says, he loves Nao but hates him at the same time. Nao, who is open and honest and almost puppy-ish in his devotion, has things that Asada wants (not just his body). Asada is jealous, bitter and heartbroken when he's around Nao, but he longs for Nao when they are parted. Asada is one tortured soul...and kind of a puss. Finally Nao reveals that he thinks he has figured out Asada, and that he wants to make him happy because "No one wants to see such a (sad) face on the person they love." Despite the love confession, Asada bolts just after this painful scene:

Seriously, Asada, you have got to quit beating yourself really isn't that bad.
All in all, this is the kind of crappy manga I adore. It has long-standing secretive emotions, defensiveness to conceal heartbreak and some awesome looking desserts.  It doesn't hurt that Yukimura, whom I have grumbled about before, seems to have solved some of her problems with foreshortening and perspective in the artwork. I really love the sort of stark anguish on Asada's face, and the way his posture and body language conveys his mood. She's improved by leaps and bounds over the years.

A Love Song for the Miserable  may not be for everyone. It is (I keep saying it) a fairly miserable story.  Thankfully it all turns around (a bit) in the end. Maybe nothing will put a smile on the beautiful Asada's face? Maybe some people wear tragic quite well?

NC-17 or whatever, not a lot of graphic sex in this book. What's there is sweet and fairly modest, but I warn you anyway.

Supernatural Anime Series -- 2 days to DVD release! Squee...

In live things turned into anime news:

Supernatural The Anime

It's supposed to be darn good, my friends, at least according to folks who've had a sneak peak at the San Diego Comicon.

Man, I remember a long ago time when I used to get go to things like that, get all fanboyish in a fangirl way before geek was chic. Oh, man, I sound like an old lady, but in Geekdom, I think I might be.

In anime turned into live action news:

Avatar: The Last Airbender should have remained an anime.

Speaking of adaptations, I'm currently watching the live action adaptation of my beloved, beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's very white-peopley, ugg, and the narrative is a mess.

But, if you are a fan of the animated series, you already know the live action film is a complete stinking pile of crap. :( Why am I watching it, you ask? Because it is streaming on Netflix, and I find I will watch things so much crappier than my sensibilities would normally allow because I can.

Oh, wow, exposition. Want to learn how not to write? Watch this movie!

No.6, Episode 3

Okay, I don't plan on doing episodic breakdowns of every show I watch, but seriously, any anime that quotes Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde gets a little extra attention.

In Episode 3, Nezumi, with the help of his robotic rats, having saved Shion from the fate of a deviant within the walls of No. 6, introduces his charge to life outside them.

Shion is suffering a kind of innocent Shion-esque culture shock, not fear really, curiosity, maybe. When it starts to sink in that he won't see his mother again, he starts to have some doubts. Shion begins to exhibit signs of the scary "virus" that took down his co-worker in No. 6; he feels an infection at the back of his neck and tells Nezumi to cut it out. Nezumi does so without any anesthetic, and Shion begs to die. Nezumi convinces him he wants to live, reminding him of his mother and this girl that has been a lifelong friend.

He cuts out the infection to discover it is a pupa of some kind. Shion sleeps for three days. When he wakes up, his hair has turned white, and he has a strange spiraling scar that runs up and down the length of his body, but he is alive.

He and Nezumi discuss the killer bees, which are born from the pupa and bound to infect the inhabitants of No. 6. Nezumi wants them all to die. Shion is perplexed. This goes on a while, then Shion says he wants to know the secrets of the city. They go together to see a woman called the Dog Keeper.

Wow, well that is the breakdown. Killer bees, huh? We shall see. I like the interplay between Nezumi and Shion, and like I said before, I won't be surprised if fangirls get all fanfic up in their biz.

There is definitely an intimacy between them. Nezumi/Rat feels a deep affection for Shion. He says it's because he saved his life, but I think he's moved by the fact that Shion is different. He's not a fully submissive No. 6 citizen, nor is he jaded by life outside its walls. Shion is his own special something.

Nezumi is pretty rad, though I hope he doesn't spend the entirety of the series being all disaffected and emo like so many characters of his ilk before him.

The series feels like something new, so I really, really hope it can and does deliver something new.

Squeefinity Stir!

Hey, people are starting to notice our little blog. Sure, half of them are here searching for pictures of Ciel Phantomhive, but some of them might stay to read our rambling reviews about crappy (and fantastic) anime and manga.

Here are some places we've been listed/shared/linked to recently:

People have been reposting/linking us from other countries and have even been tweeting/retweeting links to our posts. Cool!

We started this blog a few years ago as a way to share our love of good and bad anime and manga, and we were (maybe) a little lax for a while, but we've picked up the pace and would like to keep going.  We've got plenty of posts, reviews and even a few theoretical discussions slated for the coming months. If any of you dear readers would like to make a suggestion for a review or discussion, or reading/viewing recommendations please comment and let us know. I think I can speak for Ms. Shakespeare when I say we are both excited that people are interested in anime and manga, and that we love that people are coming by to read our comments on new and existant titles in the genres.

I'm super geeked about the whole thing. How geeked?

Ryo is surprised and slightly embarassed. Awww...Ryo!

That's a pretty good illustration of it.
Ryo is sooooo cute!

Constellations in my Palm--Manga

I've decided that I'd like to review some of my absolute favorite mangas. Be warned, most of them are yaoi (boy/boy) and most of them have at least one graphic-ish scene.

Among the manga I find myself re-reading the most is a single volume work (a one-shot) called Constellations in my Palm. The story is by Chisako Sakuragi and the art by (one of my favorites) Yukine Honami. For a single volume work it is rather hefty 246 pages...of some of the most angst-filled, tension-riddled, sweetly painful writing/art that I've encountered in a manga. I am not particularly prone to weeping at manga, unlike a certain Lady-Bard I know, so when I say that this manga has the ability to bring me to tears, it's no insignificant thing.

The story is told from the point of view of college student Mizuho Odaima. When Mizuho was a child his best friend was his younger cousin Enji, they spent every family function together, and all summer joined at the hip...they dreamed about their future lives and followed their interests in astronomy and the universe. Enji looked up to Mizuho with something akin to hero worship, but eight years ago in the aftermath of a childhood accident an embarassed Mizuho pulled away from Enji entirely. Mizuho reflects on the incident and decides that after the accident all traces of admiration Enji once had for him had been replaced with a new and upsetting awkwardness, "I somehow sensed that this change came from his disillusionment with me. The realization was so heartbreaking--and so embarassing--and because at the time I was mired in a morass of self-conciousness I began to avoid Enji." Although Enji tried to contact him several times after that, Mizuho, trying to save face and avoid that "disillusionment," ignored him.

The story begins with the arrival of Enji to the Odaima household. Enji is starting his first year at a college nearby to can guess...astronomy, while Mizuho has given up on his dreams to become what he believes is a more ordinary path, as a business major. When Enji arrives Mizuho is confronted by someone who seems a stranger to him in many ways, but someone he desires to become close to again. The cold awkwardness between the two cousins is well-written and effective. They try to find some common ground in their lives, to become friends again, but both are bitter and regretful of their separation, and each fails to understand the other's feelings as they struggle with their own. They are each so painfully nostalgic and uncertain that it is heartbreaking. Mid-story line it is clear to the reader, although not to Mizuho who is still struggling to make sense of things, that Enji's awkwardness comes from an overwhelming mixture of love and feelings of abandonment rather than disappointment and disillusionment. Mizuho whose lack of self-confidence has lead him to give up on every one of his grander dreams cannot accept the truth of Enji's love for him and sees it as another form of ridicule rather than a confession. Their misunderstandings and trepidation of the characters is ridiculous in many ways (each suspects the other of harboring feelings for a third party), but makes sense when framed in their long-standing, shared history and the true feelings they have for one another.

ARGH! This shit is painful! It's sweet and tender and clueless and angsty and just...awesome! Each of these characters is so broken and oblivous that it kills me. And scenes like the one below are gut-wrenching in context.

Mizuho (blonde) currently cannot speak because he knows he will cry
and believes that if he does Enji (dark-hair)
will be further dissapointed in him for being weak.

Why are those boys torturing themselves?

Thankfully, in the end, one of Mizuho's friends helps him pull his head out of his ass and convinces that sometimes things are actually worth trying for, and that his love for Enji is the one thing he shouldn't give up on. And Enji, who gets defensive when he's emotionally vulnerable, backs down when Mizuho bravely confronts him about his feelings while (finally) admitting his own.

Oh, it's so awkward on so many levels. But, then again, what wouldn't be slightly awkward about two male cousins harboring almost decade long infatuations with one another? Yeah, despite the (or perhaps even "because of the") skeeve-worthy taboo-ness of their relationship this is a manga that deals with some complex emotions and is well worth reading. I am impressed by the way it makes an art of awkwardness. The confusion and longing is palpable in these characters, and their breaking points (like the one pictured above) are tenderly squeeworthy. They're so fragile despite their defenses...le sigh. Star-crossed lovers...le sigh. For real.


Tokko makes me mad. Not because it is bad, mind you, but because the end of this 13 episode series doesn't seem like an ending at all. The series itself, up to the abrupt conclusion (which concludes very little) is rather interesting. Tokko is a psychic cop-drama...of course I like it! But it has one of the most incomplete feeling endings of any series I've ever watched.

Now, I know what you're thinking, Dear Readers, and no, they didn't just discontinue the series--they did actually plan a complete story arc...and what we see is the result. There is no part two. There is no resolution. There's just a whole lot of nothing (I mean beyond the unanswered questions and annoyance at being sucked into an anime that just fizzles out).

Watch Tokko Trailer in Entertainment | View More Free Videos Online at

The series follows new recruit (and orphan!) Ranmaru Shindo as he begins work with the fictive Special Mobile Investigation Troops First Division. Driven to both solve and avenge the death of his parents, Ranmaru in his investigations stumbles upon the members of Tokko, or Special Mobile Investigation Troops Second Division. Members of Tokko are shrouded in occult rumors, conspiracy theories and mystery.  Ranmaru keeps having run-ins with the members and eventually is taken into their unit.  Tokko unit members are "marked" by demonic power, and adopt a symbiant who protects and strenthens them in their primary mission--to destroy all 108 of the demons and phantoms brought into this world by the mystical "Box of Dirge." The destruction of these demons and phantoms will destroy the box, and close the pathway between the demonic and human worlds. During his time with Tokko Ranmaru discovers that it is this box and the demons it contained which were responsible for the death of his parents.  In fact, he discovers that he is among a handful of survivors of what has come to be called the "Machida Massacre" a disaster which claimed the lives of nearly everyone in a large apartment complex in Machida.

Then there's some stuff with a doctor who mutates, and all of a sudden it just ends. Boom. Done. No resolution. No finale. No final battle between good versus evil. Bleh. Done.

BOO! (If you are the type that can tolerate unfinished business, then this anime is well worth a watch, but those of you who need closure should look elsewhere).

Durarara! First Impressions--Anime

Durarara! is a little strange, but I'm already looking forward to the next episodes. My first impression is that the series is made up of fragmented, multiple plot lines that overlap to create some larger more cohesive story arc as the disparate plot lines interweave. This makes sense as the anime is based on a series of nine "light" novels (an english-derived japanese word that defines shorter novels that are roughly equivalent to what we call novellas, although they are often released serially in magazines and journals). The characters all live/work/study in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. And as their lives intersect with the Ikebukuro underworld, turf-wars between rival gangs and even Irish folklore, the characters meet and interact with one another.

The series begins with, high-school student, Mikado Ryūgamine moving to Ikebukuro. Unbeknownst to most of the characters around him, shy-seeming class-representative Mikado has a very dark side. He is actually the only remaining founding member of the infamous "Dollars," a mysterious and highly-feared gang in the area. Rumors fly online in chatrooms about the mysterious Dollars who, unlike other gangs who wear "colors" to denote membership, prefer to remain incognito. Even members of the Dollars may not be aware of one another's true identities.

One mysterious member of the Dollars worth note is Celty Sturluson, a Dullahan who has "lost" her head. A Dullahan is an unseelie fairy in Irish folklore who manifests carrying its head in its arms. Dullahans ride through the night to call people to their deaths, and may at times coach the cóiste bodhar, or death coach that takes the deceased into the afterlife (the headless horseman was inspired by this myth). Celty has actually lost her head. Yes, it wasn't attached to start with, but it is currently AWOL. She tracked it to Japan and has been searching ever sense. Her current (headless) manifestation is called "the headless/black rider" by locals. She rides a black motorcycle (her horse in disguise) and works as an underground courier (keeping her helmet on and her visor down to avoid detection).

Below: the very odd group of people who make up the characters in Durarara!

Other strange characters also populate the Dollars. They count among their members a parkour/knife master, a black, Russian sushi chef with ridiculous strength, a big-boobed swordmaster who lacks the ability to love, an obsessed underground doctor, and a bartender with a serious agression problem.

I know these stories add up to something, so I plan on sticking with it. I just want that lady to find her head.

Little Butterfly--Manga

The three volume Little Butterfly series by Hinako Takanaga is the kind of manga I read over and over again because of the complex emotional bonds that develop between the two main characters and the general beauty of the artwork and sentiment. Be warned, this is not for everyone: it is yaoi (boy/boy), it is about high-school seniors (kind of icky), and it does have a few scenes that border on graphic towards the end of the book. I would agree with the publisher's rating of 18+ for audiences, but want to stress that this is not (like many less mature or sophisticated yaoi manga) a story about trying to get someone into bed. There may be a sexual aspect to this book, but it takes a back seat to the (sometimes literally) painful sweetness of what I think is Takanaga's best work.

The story begins with a school trip during which the adorably airheaded Kojima takes it upon himself to befriend class outcast Nakahara. Kojima, after much effort, is able to crack through Nakahara's rather heavy defenses and the two begin a tenative friendship. As their friendship develops Kojima learns more about Nakahara's past and personality. Nakahara is both neglected and abused by his constantly fighting parents and has retreated inwardly because of his feelings of resentment and inadequecy. He has blocked off his heart, and it is not until he begins his friendship with Kojima that he allows himself to risk bonding with anyone at all.

Nakahara breaks my heart. He is a tragic and thoughtful character who finds in Kojima the kindness, sympathy and love that the world has denied him for so long. Kojima is a sweet ding-bat who sees the world and Nakahara as full of possibility. It is the belief that Kojima has in Nakahara that pulls him from darkness and gives him hope for some future. The relationship that develops between the two is one sided at first, with Nakahara revealing his feelings for Kojima during an intensely vulnerable moment (as he seeks comfort after an even more intense family fight). Kojima is slower to respond, taking time to consider his feelings and response before coming to the realization that he does, in fact, love Nakahara.

The tensions and emotional openness of the characters seem perhaps a bit more perfect than natural, but that does not detract from the genuine feeling these characters exude. A few stilted soliloquies and apt metaphors reveal interesting psychological and sociological views on love and friendship, self-respect and self-denial, and emotional risks.

This character-driven, semi-tragic manga is among my favorites of all time. And since I find myself re-reading it a few times a year it has been worth the purchase price for me. Honestly, moments like the one below have made it worth the purchase price for me. Now, the omnibus edition (all three volumes in one) is available for a ridiculously low price. It makes me want to buy it for other people.

Aw,'re killing me. Seriously. How painful is this panel? He's bruised and vulnerable and still so intensely honest that he can't keep from telling startled Kojima the truth. I just want to squee-ze them both. Good luck kids!

Blue Exorcist -- Through Episode 13

That moon up there. It kind of resembles a breast.

Woohoo! Have I mentioned I like this show?

Episode 11 = Adorable sea creature adventures.
Episode 12 = Adorable amusement park adventures.
Episode 13 = Hubba, Hubba, new mentor for Rin:

I'm Shura. I have giant breasts!

Who carries a demon sword and don't wear no clothes? Shura!

Who is she? A senior exorcist who used to study with Rin's earthly daddy Shiro. She's on a mission from the Vatican, but she isn't a nun! She wields a demon sword, which she draws directly from the spot between her voluminous breasts, and she pretty much kicks ass.

Is this becoming a pervy show. Hmm? In episode 12, innocent Shiemi turns in her traditional kimono for a school girl uniform. All the guys go gaga, and a pint size ghosty gets fresh with her ample bosoms. Who knew?

I'm Shiemi. My breasts are also quite large!

Even sanctified Shiro gets to talking about tatas in a flashback scene where little Rin breaks his ribs during a tantrum. Upset he busted his father's bones, Rin stands at the curb as his dad is loaded into an ambulance. To calm his son, Shiro tells Rin he looks forward to going to the hospital so he can be surrounded by hot, big breasted nurses.

I'm Shiro Fujimoto, and I love breasts.

Dragon Ball Z Kai--Anime


Here is my inital reaction to last week's attempted viewing of Dragon Ball Z Kai: Um, what the heck just happened? Does the bad man’s head suspiciously look like an angry purple scrotum with horns? Is that the good guy? Is it always this much yelling and posing? That dude is angry! Why is this animation so 1982?

I thought I should do a quick review of Dragon Ball Z Kai because I have attempted to watch a few episodes, and because Tivo believes, very strongly, that I like Dragon Ball Z Kai—Tivo is mistaken. I do not like OR understand Dragon Balls of any sort. I have tried, really, to understand it, but I always wind up staring at the screen thinking…why am I watching this?

Don't take my crummy word for it though, Dear Readers,  if you would like to watch it for yourself, you can find most of the episodes on nicktoons, here. Then please respond and explain it to me.

The many Dragon Ball series of manga, anime and (anime and live action) films are sort of overwhelming. They are loosly (LOOSELY) based on Journey to the West with the main character Goku being the equivalent, I think, of the monkey?

To be honest, I get confused and I have no idea what is going on. I do know that this is the, yes THE, highest watched anime in the history of animes ever animated. But I couldn’t tell you why. I can tell you there is a lot of yelling and “power up” scenes that could be omitted (although that would make the serires about 2/3 shorter). And I can tell you that one of the major bad guys is orange, and the other has a purple scrotum for a head. And there’s fighting. But mostly there’s spikey hair, posturing, power-ups and victory poses. Even having read Journey to the West, I have no idea what’s going on.But why should this anime, given all the lovely things anime has to offer, be granted place numero uno in popularity?

I thought, at first, that maybe it was just out of my age range (maybe it is for little kids), but despite its NickToons syndication, I don't think it is for kids. I just think it is confusing. And its association with  Journey to the West just makes it weird and disappointing. I can think of many more interesting, dynamic and comprehensible animes. I can think of  more interesting, dynamic and comprehensible animes/mangas centering on Journey to the West...most notably the series Saiyuki (anime and manga), which I plan to discuss in a later post. 

I guess, congratulations, Dragon Ball, for being the highest rated, watched, whatevered, anime ever in the history of ever? I still don't know what the heck just happened.

No. 6 -- First Impressions

No. 6

First Ep. "Drowned Rat"

First Impression: I really like it.

Produced by Bones, the anime studio that produced such classics as RahXephon, Wolf's Rain, Scrapped Princess, Eureka Seven, Angelic Layer, Darker than Black, Soul Eater, Ouran High School Host Club and two adaptions of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga along with Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto and GosickNo.6 began airing in Japan for the Summer 11 season.

Based on a 9 part manga, the story is clearly dystopian, instantly making my sensibilities perk up. Shion, raised in a city state called "No. 6" is an atypical, smart twelve year old with some real soul. He wants to be an ecologist when he grows up. He loves the wind and the rain. His curiosity overrides his fear.

When another boy his age, a fugitive, Nezumi, breaks into his home during a typhoon, Shion doesn't freak out. Instead, he tends to the boy and feeds him some of his mom's home cooking, even though this will land him in a deep pit of trouble.

So, when they're alive, humans are warm.
Episode one is all characters and setting and elegant animation. I think this is going to be a beautiful anime.

I also have a feeling that rabid fangirls are probably going to subject poor Nezumi and Shion to a lot of off plot fanfiction and art. Let's hope this pair can make it through the exquisite torture.

Next up: a fanfiction rant? Possibly.

Yellow and Yellow 2 --Manga

Now, normally I give you, dear readers, a link to Amazon where you could, potentially, purchase a copy of the manga/anime we are discussing. However, it appears that Makoto Tateno's Yellow is partially out of print. So, I feel bad talking about a series whose first volume is difficult to obtain. The good news is that volumes 2-4 of Yellow and volume one of the sequel Yellow 2 are still in print. And, if you look, and trust me you don't need to look very hard, you can find fan translations of volume one online. I will not guide you there, you can find it yourself, trust me! In fact, just scroll down the right side of the screen to where we mention sites we like and one of those sites might be FOXy enough to provide you with the MANGA scans (see what I did there? I know you did, because you are brilliant and insightful).

But, Amander, you say, fan translations can sometimes be very bad. Yes, friends, I know, but trust me, they're no worse than the actual translation in this case. Yellow volume one has the notorious distinction of being the one manga so poorly translated (by the publisher, mind you) that Ms. Shakespeare attacked my copy with a glue stick and some paper. Allow me to demonstrate with an actual scan of my favorite of her "alterations."

(Remember, this is manga in the original Japanese formatting, so read Right to Left and then Down the pages.)

That is Ms. Shakespeare's actual handwriting which you see so eloquently "correcting" my first chapter. They may have hired a translator/editor for subsequent chapters because they did get better, MUCH better. The first chapter of volume one is nigh unreadable. And that, friends, is why when Ms. Shakespeare borrowed my copy she could not help but improve upon the choppy translation. Thank goodness. (Incidentally, as a thank you, I altered a copy of one of her more, ahem, provocative manga purchases to include, um...junk. Yes, I drew in "parts" where parts had been pixelated or removed due to censorship in Japan. I'm a good friend! Such a good friend!!)

But, I digress...a lot!

Here's the gist of Yellow: Taki and Goh are what they call "snatchers" who live their life in the metaphorical "yellow"/caution zone both professional and personally. They are hired by anonymous entites to "snatch" things like drugs, guns, evidence, etc. Taki is heterosexual and Goh is gay. They live together and most people assume they are a couple. Despite being only partners, they love one another very dearly and rely on one another in life or death situations which has formed a strong bond between the two. Each of them is willing to sacrifice themselves to save the other. Eventually Goh develops some rather strong feelings for Taki, and despite Taki's resistance (sometimes violent resistance) to Goh's advances, it is clear that it is only a matter of time before Taki succumbs to his intense love for (and of) Goh and their chaste partnership turns into a physical relationship. So, DRUGS! GUNS! ULTRAVIOLENCE! DIRTY SEX! I like it.

One interesting aspect to the relationship that develops between the characters stems from the fact that they know little to nothing about one another previous to their first meeting (a little over a year before the plot begins). Their former lives and identities (for the most part) are kept secret even from one another. On the surface this seems like this omission might insinuate a deep mistrust on the characters, but it doesn't seem to be the case. Each of them is trying to reinvent themselves, and feels so much trust in the other that pasts don't seem to matter. Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way and Taki's past catches up to him with a vengeance. The boys must negotiate their pasts with their future as both partners and lovers while both the good guys and bad guys are out to get them. The first series ends with a fairly solid conclusion, and feels complete (if not a little saccharine). The sequel series Yellow 2 is being released as we speak from June' Manga...and it is certainly good, but isn't great. I wish they had opted out of a continuation. I mean I like spending more time with the characters, but the sweet tension between the characters has abated as they are drawn back into the life of snatchers.

On the surface the Yellow series is a angst filled story with some light-hearted moments, and will appeal to both the yaoi crowd and detective story fans. Below the surface, for you analytical readers, there are some fairly interesting, although sometimes quite subtle discussions of the role of trust in a relationship, the definition of love (in all its incarnations), and whether abiding romantic love needs a physical aspect to be powerful and permanent.

Warning: Some very intense sexual scenes so, NC-17. Despite the rating I'd give it, I would not consider this manga series to be pornographic in nature, it is erotic at points, but is more character driven than it is a plotless vehicle for hot manga-guys doin' it.    

Geekend Round-up!

Alas, Dear Readers, I did not catch up on Blue Exorcist this weekend, but I did not neglect my many geekly duties (as I am afraid our wayward M has)!

Get back here and watch my exorcism antics, Ms. Shakespeare!

While our wily M is off drinking hooch and channeling fanfiction, I'm slaving away over one of the most fantastic books I've read in a while: The Passage by Justin Cronin. I'm half way through, and I guess I would call it Dystopian Vampire Apocalypse Fiction. You should read it. Seriously.

The book is epic, and well-written, which is a big complement coming from me.

Additionally, I saw the second part of the sixth addition of the Harry Potter franchise. Alas, it is over. Lone tear. The movie was passable, pretty good even, except for the directorial tendency toward slowness. Seriously, guys, you know you need to destroy the Horcrux. Why are you spending so much time staring at it before hand?

It's the diadem of Ravenclaw. Let us admire it while Voldemort's power grows.

Anyway, it was a movie. I wanted to see more of the Hogwart's defense scenes. It would have been rad to see all of the professors kicking the bad guys butts, but it is what it is. I can live with it.

And finally, news our besotted M can surely get behind. I have been watching that beloved show of hers: Supernatural.

We are the Winchesters. Everything we say or do will be the basis for steamy fanfiction.

This show is okay as well. M says there are Sam people, and there are Dean people. I guess I am not one of either of those people. Don't get me wrong, I totally like the show. I can even suspend my "consequences" problem -- these boys never seem to get in trouble for breaking every law know to God and Man. I'm just not fully invested yet.  We shall see how it pans out.

This week, I intend to catch up on my many neglected anime. I'm also looking for a new manga series to read. Suggestions welcome.

Miracle Train -- Anime -- First Impressions

Riding Down the Rails On a Crazy Train

What is it with anime and trains?

You may remember my previous post on Galaxy Railways, in which I explored the terrible concept of a fighting force that protects trains as they make their way through space.

Well, who knew trains could be so popular? In Miracle Train, the physical embodiment of six Oedo Line stations help young ladies make their dreams come true on a mystery train.

First Impressions:

1) C'mon, people!
2) Male Harem...Okay.

I'm not sure I will make it through a whole episode, but I will report back if I do.

One thing this anime had me thinking about was, what if the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) stations took on a human form?

Well, here is my artist's rendition:

Hey, Pretty Lady, I'm Berkeley BART. Care to spare some coinage?

One can only hope that we will one day be treated to a Bay Area spinoff of Miracle Train!

Is that Ennui?

Nope! I'm just tired!

Sleep! Who needs it?

Can someone please invent me a time machine or give me a Hermioniesque time turner? Where the heck did the day go? I really am burning the midnight oil.

Maybe if I keep a little vengeance in my heart, like this kid, I'll have the strength to go on.

Your soul is in no way as delicious as mine!

Except I have nothing to avenge. I just felt like gratuitously posting a picture of Ciel Phantomhive whose very mention drives traffic to our little blog!

One day, maybe I will be as cool as him and drive some traffic of my own.

Guess Who's Back?

Yes, Dear Readers! It is I, Shakespeare!

This isn't me.

I'm back from the desert with a strong foundation and direction for the novel I'm working on. It will one day win the National Book Award or the Pulitzer Prize or something. Such delusions of grandeur! Actually, I'll be happy to finish it and start getting it out in the world.

Now, I'm back in the Bay, working two jobs, fighting for every minute of solid good creative time I can get, and feeling like I just cannot get it all done. Sigh. I'm a little tired, Dear Readers! But, I vow to keep up with Squeefinity, because it brings me happiness.

It looks like M brought you a lot of steamy boys on boys action. Nice, M.

Some Random BL Pic

And, in the coming weeks I plan on delving a little more deeply and intellectually into common themes and metaphors in anime and manga. I've been an avid fan for years, but I can't say I always understand it. Yaoi and Yuri and common genres of the medium will be a part of it, but there will be plenty of other stuff.

And, as always, reviews, reviews, reviews.

Oi. I have missed so many episodes of Blue Exorcist. What is a girl to do?

Invisible Love--Manga

Title: Invisible Love
Author/Artist: Rie Honjou
Publisher: DMP (Digital Manga Publishing)

Invisible Love, like most of Rie Honjou's work both as author and animator, is kind of squeeworthy. I'm most familiar with her as an illustrator, but she has branched out into writing as well. Invisible Love is a collection of unrelated (mostly) vingnettes centering on hidden crushes.

The title story, about college students Inori and Senou, is really sweet and, of course I love it. Inori is an easy-going guy who has a tendency to get dumped by girls who claim he's not serious about them. His most recent girlfriend told him that she couldn't be with him knowing that someone else held his heart. (Awwww! Seriously, awww!) Every time he's dumped he goes to best friend Senou for support and guidance, and finds himself thinking--ah, if only Senou were a woman. One night, while drinking their troubles away Senou passes out cold and "dreams" about Inori. Mostly-sober Inori succumbs to Senou's sweetness and devotion and learns how much his friend really loves him. The next day Senou believes it is all a dream, and Inori keeps his secret hoping that someday Senou will have enough courage to confess his love aloud. Hijinks ensue, and...Squee! For course there is a happy ending.

The other stories in the collection center on similar "hidden" or "invisible" feelings between characters. In one a host club manager accidentally runs into a childhood crush. In another a department store worker befriends a new employee and learns about his past indiscretions. In another a new couple reveals their hidden desires. The mandatory school-boy story has an interesting sweetness to it, despite And in the last story a set of young lovers discovers they share a tragic past that has left both of them shaken. The interesting part of this thematic collection is the sweetness that tempers the obvious desire (and smut-itude) between the characters. Each story reveals some invisible connection that could end in agony or ecstasy.

As far as illustration goes characters are cute without being too girly. She has a knack for capturing subtle emotions in her drawings that a lot of manga artists lack; often a small gesture will surprise me during rereadings, and I like that. Although sometimes her illustrations are quite, ahem, graphic (with the getting-it-on), they're never gross or crude. Although, I just discovered she has a collection of S&M stories...huh. Her drawings and gestures border so closely to precious that I wonder how she pulls that off?

She is one of my favorite illustrators, but she has some odd habits. For one, she loves to draw people eating or smoking...even she has pointed out this odd quirk. She thinks people look "cute" drinking a soda, eating donuts or with a chopstick in their mouth. One big glaring quirk, which annoys not only me, but the author (enough so that she bothered to mention it in a post-script) is that she often has characters from different stories who look IDENTICAL! In the collection two of the stories featured side by side have confusingly identical protagonists. So, there isn't a ton of variation in her characters as far as illustration goes, but that's the case in a lot of manga, it seems. I swear in one of my favorite manga it took me two reads before I could differentiate between the best friend and love interest. I kept getting confused, and thought I'd eventually have to label them. So, it's a problem, but not one particular to Invisible Love , but manga in general. Just remember that the stories are, for the most part,'ll be fine.

Let's end with some squeeworthy sweetness, shall we?


Exotic and Delicous Fate--Manga

Title: Exotic and Delicious Fate
Author/Artist: Ryoku Tsunoda
Publisher: June’

Look, a trailer, who knew mangas had trailers? (I feel similarly confused about book trailers...I mean really? A trailer for a book? Jeesh!) Anyway, enjoy!

Ms. Shakespeare might like this one as it is about an overtly-affectionate and attractive, albeit, sloppy, chef who harasses the timid and uptight manager of a traditional Japanese restaurant. It’s kind of sweet and naughty. June’ publishing LOVES the love triangle. I think just about every one-shot they put out centers around a love triangle. This one is a bit less traditional than their normal fare (get it, a food word) though in that the characters seem older, more established and less clumsy/flighty than their high-school or college equivalents. I like when characters are older than 18, and one of the "interests" in this manga is well over 18 (someone has daddy issues!). As an old-ish person, it pleases me to no end when we’re considered at the last bit interesting or desirable. I happen to find myself very interesting and desirable, thank you very much!

There are a few things interesting about this manga. To start, it has a good blend of comedy and drama. The characters play off of each other quite well. If I were going to be chou-chou about this I'd say that the characters are quite like Ms. Shakespeare and I. She is the strict disciplinarian obsessed with running things efficiently, and I like to make messes (literally and metaphorically) and flirt with people (in that order). I may also be a spy for Ms. Shakespeare's evil half-brother who is intent on destroying Ms. Shakespeare and exposing her as the middle-school drop-out she is...wait, that's the manga...crap. My life is boring.

Anyway, make of this what you will: restaurant, orphaned and illicit love child, pushy employee, timid boss, daddy issues, corporate espionage, last minute dinner reservations, onigiri with ginger, cherry-blossom viewing party, scary head chef, chain-smoking, premature ejaculation, frenching in the storageroom, hand-holding squee, utilities notices, use of first names, middle-school drop-outs and lots of frottage before the big bang.

Nc-17, please!

"In Love" series by Hinako Takanaga--Manga

Titles: You Will Fall in Love, You Will Drown in Love (1, 2, 3)
Author/Artist: Hinako Takanaga

You will Fall in Love is a one-shot (single issue) manga, that has morphed into the first in a spin-off series of yaoi (gay romance manga) centering around (can you guess?) love triangles!


I suppose since I am discussing yaoi (yah-o-ee/yah-oi) I should explain a bit what it means. I know Ms. Shakespeare has a full academic explanation on her docket for the coming weeks, so I don't want to step on her toes, but I do want to provide some background for readers (all two of you) who might be unfamiliar with the term.

Yaoi is a genre of literature (both manga and novels) or anime (I have never seen it used in relation to live-action film, but I suppose it could be applied there as well) that centers on male-male relationships. What is surprising about the genre is that it is written primarily by women and absolutely FOR women. Ms. Shakespeare and I have had some fantastic discussions about the appeal of yaoi, so I will leave the heavier work to her, but boiled down here's why it "works:" most romances (yes, these are romances) have set gender roles, and require female readers to identify with the female protagonist of the story in order to connect with characters and the book/whatever itself. Now, I run into some problems with this. I actually hate romance novels, romantic comedies and, well, romance in general. I have a few gender issues (well, the world does, I'm fine) and haven't been able to identify with a female lead in like...well...have I ever? Holy, whatzit, I may have never identified with a female lead! No wonder I hate romance novels, huh? In yaoi, I don't have to identify with one gender over another, I just have to identify. And I do, with whomever I like most. So, in yaoi I am not expected to identify with the female in the story (there is a suspicious and significant lack of female characters in yaoi in general); I get to identify with whomever I wish. Hooray! Another appeal may have to do with the resistance of traditional Japanese culture to such's all very Romeo and Tybalt (which would be kind of appealing, IMHO). A truly compelling love story requires resistance. All of my favorite romances (there are some) center on an ill-advised or taboo relationship which is met with resistance/disdain from either society or, at least, the characters surrounding them. This is something Ms. Meyer seems to have forgotten in Twilight, especially when comparing the vanilla pudding of the central relationship between Sparklesuck and Snore-ella to the torturous and forbidden relationship of Heathcliff and Catherine of Wuthering Heights...ARGH! That's another story though, back to falling and drowning in love, right?

We need a chart!

Yeah, don't say I never did anything useful...because that there is some proof positive.

Triangles everywhere! So many triangles (depicted as circles...I blew your mind)! Tied up in the triangleness of these love stories are some other factors that threaten the relationships. For one, there are a lot of power dichotomies here that are tested by the dynamics of power within the relationships themselves. There's a student teacher relationship (which always feels icky to me since I am a teacher with some rationality...ewh! Skeeve!), subverted by the fact that the student is the aggressor. And there are a few power plays that center on the corporate hierarchy of kimono shops (which are apparently more cuthroat than I ever expected). There's also the fact that Reiichiro and Tsukasa are wealthy, privileged and gay (both of them? Yes, I know. Unlikely!) and have high familial, career and social expectations incongruous with their sexuality in a male-dominated and androcentric cross section of modern Japan that is concerned more with propriety and outward signifiers of success and stoicism than emotional connection. Wow, that sounded smart, I better reign it in a little, huh? No worries, in the next paragraph I squee my brains out.

It is totally cute. SQUEE! Tsukasa is totally sexy. Haru is sweet and shy. Reiichiro is a pretty idiot (I am unsure why everyone seems to fall instantly in love with him). And Jinnai is a dick, which I kinda love (I identify with him). And the author/illustrator Hinako Takanaga does beautiful work. She started as an illustrator for novels and other manga authors, but has branched out into her own writing. To date she has written and illustrated some of my favorite works. Although my favorite of her collections is a short series called Little Butterfly (That series freaking kills me every time! EVERY TIME!) the "You will ____ in Love" series is strong, and it does use older characters (something I love, remember).

I've posted the links to the series below for interested readers, and am anxiously awaiting the release of You Will Drown in Love 3, which releases in early August. I'm hoping that the love triangles will be resolved in pleasing (and angsty) ways.

Available August 9th:

Time Lag--Manga

Mama Shakespeare is gone to writer's camp, so I'm going (mostly) yaoi all up in this blog until she gets back. That's a lot of responsibility on a little Ponyo like me.

Incidentally, I do not believe I look like Ponyo. I look like this:

Okay, maybe a little chubbier and more Ponyo...but I don't like it. Hence the badass buckle boots that attempt to thwart my ponyo-esque nature. Hence also my constant sneer/smirk which fails to make me look especially badass either. In fact, it might just make me cuter. Oh, the woes of the one ever takes us seriously.

So, speaking of cute:

Title: Time Lag
Author: Shinobu Gothoh
Artist: Hotru Odagiri
Publisher: June’

Time Lag is a sweet and long-suffering comedy of errors. And like many other yaoi manga the plot is almost Shakespearean in how it centers on an accident of fate to both move the plot along and keep young lovers apart. In this case the accident of fate can be attributed to the postal service. "DAMN YOU POSTAL SERVICE!!!!"

Here's the basics (spoil city):
At the end of middle school Shirou Sawaguchi writes a letter to his best friend Satoru Tendou which confesses his love and asks him, if he accepts his love, to meet him under the tallest sakura tree after graduation. And guess what? It's never delivered. (Cue "dunh-dunh" music!) So, Satoru, also in love with Shirou, never meets him. Shirou believes he has been denied. A year later Satoru decides to confess his love, and is shut down by Shirou who believes he is being cruelly teased by Satoru. Satoru confesses again the following year with the same results. Our story begins in year three, when Satoru, still pining away for the bitter Shirou, debates laying his heart on the line again. His friend, Seiichi, tries to disuade him because he not only wants to help Satoru avoid more heartache, he is harboring his own feelings for Satoru!

Chaos of the cutest variety insues as a result of a misunderstood "love triangle." Just when everything is going wrong, the letter, three years lost in the mail, arrives on Satoru's doorstep. More chaos! Lucky for readers, and poor Satoru and Shirou (too many S names in this one), everyone ends up happy all around...well, I guess not Seiichi...hmm. But that's okay, he hasn't given up either, he vows to sweep Satoru from Shirou's arms and into his own. Huzzah!

I don't know why I'm not more smitten-kitten with this manga, it has everything I love: angst, schoolboy crushes, misunderstandings, clutsy morons, scowling, windblown hair. It falls flat, though. Again, I think this might be a situation in which character development takes a back seat to plot. I love a good plot, but I don't fall in love with plots. Plots don't break my heart or make me fall in love. Characters do that. So, Time Lag leaves me wanting more. The plot is interesting, that missing letter leads to some complex misunderstandings, but the characters are undeveloped, simplistic and pretty uninteresting as a result. So, another meh. At least this one has a happy ending?

Sighing Kiss--Manga

Title: Sighing Kiss
Author/Artist: Riyu Yamakami
Publisher: June’

Sighing Kiss boys school love triangle manga with a sort of unexpected twist (not a major blow-you-away twist, mind you, just a slightly unexpected one). I will try not to give it away entirely.

Here’s the basic:

Boy (Akira) loves best friend (naturally) who is not gay (Tatsuya), gay and cynical dorm mate (Tanabe) overhears boy um…getting friendly with himself? Yes, that sounds classy-ish. So, amid getting friendly with himself, boy calls out best friend’s name. Now, gay and cynical dorm mate knows about his crush. Gay and cynical dorm mate warns him that falling in love with straight boys is stupid. Boy confesses his love anyway and runs away before he is rejected. Boy hides sorrow and winds up, somehow, on the prowl for some man-booty where he runs into trouble. Gay and cynical dorm mate rescues him and they get it on. Best friend notices boy spending more time with gay and cynical dorm mate. He is confused and troubled, and realizes he may, in fact, love boy. Best friend confronts gay and cynical dorm mate. Gay and cynical dorm mate calls him a fool and tells him that he’s totally already tapped that. Best friend confesses to boy, and kisses him. Boy is confused. He should be happy, right? But he is thinking also of gay and cynical roommate, who may have hidden feelings for him. WHO WILL HE CHOOSE?

This is a strange manga, the love triangle set up is pretty much par for the course in school-crush yaoi, but the attitude towards sex is much more unattached and matter of fact than many yaoi manga who adopt a more feminine (I’m not even sure if that’s the right word) and emotionally based, rather than physically based sexual relationship. In this twist boy A is in love with boy B but ends up in bed (seeking physical comfort) from boy C. The sex comes first and the emotions second. It does bring up a familiar trop in yaoi that bothers me (it has implications that I’m not cool with) ; it can best be summed up as “the body knows first what the mind/emotions do not.” So, there are a lot of scenes in which someone rather forcefully (implications I’m not cool with) asserts themselves on a beloved in order to convince them that their desire is real. Or, that their body understands perfectly what their mind/emotions may not yet have realized or come to terms with. This manga takes that trope and flips it about a bit, and because of that it becomes (at least slightly) interesting. It isn’t perhaps as emotionally charged as some of my favorite manga…I do like me some angst…but it is still emotionally complex and psychologically interesting. Looking at Sighing Kiss with a critical eye reveals a lot of below the surface discussion of what love is, and why we are attracted to other people. The gay and cynical dorm mate, Tanabe, is an interesting, blunt and insightfully mature (most of the time) character, although he’s not always likable. Oh, let's be honest, he's a dick. A total and complete jerkwad. The lead Akira is a little oblivious at times, but he’s fully aware of his sexual orientation, the problems of his crush on straight, best-friend Tatsuya, and he’s actively trying to figure out what attracts him to the wrong guy every time. The only boring character is Tatsuya (the love interest), but this is less a result of his personality than his lack of attention. Even by the end of the manga we know very little about him or the reasons Akira may be attracted to him. It’s hard for me to root for the love interest when he isn’t given enough charactarization to make him interesting. His struggle with sexuality upon realizing he might actually be able to accept Akira’s feelings should be part of the story, and yet that important complication is relegated to the background, receiving almost no attention at all in the story. Boo. I might like Tatsuya more if I were able to see a little angst and passion on his behalf. Without it I'm left feeling rather detached from the situation.

Although the story is occasionally suprising, the art for this manga among my least favorite of the manga I own. Yamakami seems to have trouble with perspective and foreshortening, especially in relation to the human body. As a result, sex scenes become very strange looking—people lose their necks, and they twist in odd ways that should leave them with sprained ankles, hips and spines. She may need a life drawing class or two.

Overall, a good read, not great. I wouldn’t classify it as completely crappy manga. It doesn’t break my heart and I am left with the feeling that someone wishes this had. I don’t get that gush-pain feeling from this story perhaps because it is so matter-of-fact? Although the manga-ka is certainly trying to complicate what is otherwise a basic yaoi plot, it falls short and lacks emotional poignancy. And that results in a perfectly OKAY, and not perfectly stunning story. Meh.