New Reviewer Mr. Empty and Other Squeefinity News

That's a sad name, isn't it? Oh, Dear Readers, Shakespeare and I have invited Mr. Empty to join us in posting reviews of anime and manga to You'll find his first review, a "First Impressions" look at the Code Geass-esque Blood Blockade Battlefront, below. And we guarantee that although his name is Mr. Empty, his heart is not a bleak and sorrowful place (well, not all the time).

Why add someone at all? Well, to be honest we figured, why not? Shakespeare and I have our own review styles, and perspectives, so we thought it couldn't hurt to add another voice to the discussion on We look forward to more of Mr. Empty's reviews as he becomes part of the Squeefinity team. What he may not know is that he's on double-secret probation until the swearing in ceremony, where we honor the long, century-spanning history of The Super-Secret and Semi-Loyal Order of Squeefinite Squeedom. It begins with the ceremonial recitation of the secret pledge to watch one's html "so Shakespeare doesn't have to fix it later," and ends with an arm-wrestling competition with James (which everyone wins because he has surprisingly little upper body strength).

So, that's new, but we're also planning some other new things to keep Squeefinity on the pulse of...well, we're planning some things. Here's what's coming down the pipeline:

An academic/writerly discussion of translations by yours truly, Dr. M, in which I complain a lot about the poor translation jobs I've been seeing lately, and admit that translating ANYTHING is actually a very difficult process.

Another Winchester Wednesday post by the often absentee James Parker Lombard. This one on genre and genre-busting.

More stunning discussions by Shakespeare, including a review of Saori Mieno's Full Bloom. 

A review (or possibly even reviews...yes, plural) of the classic manga/anime series Fruits Basket in anticipation of the February British re-release by MVM.

Mr. Empty's rebuttal to my claims that FLCL is pointlessly annoying. Will he prove me wrong? Maybe.

Remember to follow us here on Blogger, elsewhere on Twitter, circle our page on G+ and add us to your RSS feed to keep on top of all the haps!

Join us, Dear Readers!
Together we will be victorious and win the all the internets!

First Impression: Blood Blockade Battlefront (monkeys, blood, and bug burgers)

"Blood booger battlebots monkey something" - Dr. M

This is the first review of a wave of newly published books from what I like to call the Old Masters, mangaka who have had a very successful series put out and are now doing a sort of victory lap with a new series. This series, Blood Blockade Battlefront, which has conveniently been to shortened to B3 for fans who know keyboard shortcuts, is from Yasuhiro Nightow, the man behind Trigun, which I always found pretty entertaining.

This series starts off with the briefest of brief introductions, right before jamming your head between the bars of a jail cell full to the brim of complete and total mayhem. There is a little bit of a sense (for me at least) that Nightow might have had a fuller introductory chapter that cut to the editing room floor, and it can leave you feeling a bit lost on first read. The introduction actually seems more like the introduction for the 52nd chapter of a serialized manga, where everyone already knows what the deal is, and the character bios are just a wink, wink for the fans.

The main character is a bit of an underwhelming underachiever, named Leo. Hilariously (to me), he writes and photographs a tourist guide for Lost Planet, which just cracks me up every time I read that line. As we learn more about Leo, he has a crippled sister (Nunally?) and he's busting his ass in the biiig ciiity to make some money to help her. However, because he's an underwhelming underachiever, he sucks at this, and doesn't even have money for a burger, which, by the way, is a burger made out of what looks like a giant grasshopper leg. This is due to the fact that the biiiig ciiiity he is in, is Jerusalem's Lot (no, Stephen King, not like yours). Jerusalem's Lot used to be New York City, rift opens, all sorts of aliens pop in and start chillin at the Holiday Inn, except for the giant grasshopper aliens, who are made into burgers, apparently.

Leo's job as a writer is cut a bit short, when he loses his meal, and his camera, to a "mechamonkey", which just looks like a cute-ass little monkey. This is where things get interesting, because Leo is the only one who can see what took his camera as mechamonkeys are too fast to see (LeLouche?). This leads into the bigger story arc for the volume, where Leo chases the monkey (LeLouche chasing Arthur?). Whilst chasing the robotic simian, Leo gets face-stomped by a chain-smoking badass dude, named Zap. Zap is part of Libra. Libra is a shadowy organization that seems to be some sort of vigilante group, operating outside the law. Zap thinks Leo is Libra's newest recruit. Pretty basic setup.

Things get interesting, when Zap drags Leo to Libra headquarters, only to realize in a hilarious, mix-up way that only manga can deliver (you have to read it, you really do), that Leo is not the newest member of Libra. Klaus, the big, square-jawed man on the cover, is the leader of Libra and realizes that Leo has special vision, which allows him to see things that are moving faster than the eye can see. Neat!

It gets even neater, when Femt, "King of Depravity", unleashes a scheme on Jerusalem's Lot. Femt doesn't seem to be the biggest bad guy for the series, but who knows, maybe Nightow likes to setup all the players from the get-go. Femt has a giant demon from that rift I mentioned, and he's set-up a portal that allows half of the demon to exist in Jerusalem's Lot for a couple of seconds at a time, every so many minutes, and the other half is stumbling around the city looking for it's arm. -_- This is actually more interesting than it sounds, because every time the arm comes out of the portal, it swings a sword and blows a bunch of shit up! :o Apparently it's Kenpachi Zaraki's arm! :p

In case you haven't yet guessed it, the portal is in the monkey! So, the wacky (not really) and wild (pretty wild) chase for the fast little guy is on. And Leo, backed by Libra, are the only ones who have both the ability to see the portal opening, and do something about it.

As far as the actual manga styling goes, this is pretty solid work. Occasionally the action might require a bit slower reading, it tends to be a lot of speedlines and that can be difficult to decipher when there's explosions and fighting going on, but in general, it's a very solid drawing style, easy to read. If you've read Trigun, this should be a familiar feeling, it's got a lot of the same style. Also, it's violent, but not gory. No entrails hanging out, just puffs of blood and the like, a good medium for this kind of story in my opinion.

The biggest complaint I have about the book is that it left me craving more, so badly. I wanted to know more about the characters, I wanted to know more about the powers, I wanted to know more about Nunally his sister back at home, and Libra looks to be an interesting bunch as well.

All said and done, this is a solid series from a mangaka who isn't likely to get his series cancelled anytime soon. If you're looking for a new series that has solid action and burgers made from big ol' cricket legs, give this one a shot. ;)

P.S. It doesn't really come across as anything like Code Geass, I just find it funny when story arcs match up like that. :P

Ata (Manga)

Title: Ata
Author/Illustrator: Tamaki Fuji
Publisher: DMG
Genre: Yaoi
Rating: 18+ Explicit Content...for some frank discussion, not for graphic sex.

Dear Readers, occasionally I come across a manga that I should not like, and yet...I do. Ata  is such a manga. And not because it's risky, or raunchy, or because it contains questionable aesthetic choices, because Ata doesn't really do any of those a lot of ways it's just another straight-forward, predictable, sloppy-love-triangle yaoi. But it's also less than that, in that it is really badly written. And it's also more than that, in that behind that bad writing and predictable scenarios there is something raw and powerful and heart-wrenching about the art and the genuine emotion that is expressed by these characters. To be honest, it surprised me. I mean it really surprised me. I said aloud to the computer screen, and the dog who happened to be listening in, "Holy crap, am I crying?" And, Dear Readers, I was.

Let's start with the bad:
  1. Straight away (no pun intended) I am annoyed at the protagonist, Kagerou, who is complaining that his troubled, middle-school drop-out, foster-brother and childhood friend has "decided" that he is gay. So, my hackles were raised. Raised! "Decided?" Grrrr. Thankfully this attitude is diverted quickly by a more reasonable discussion, almost so quickly that I thought, maybe they didn't mean "decided." I'm fairly sure the author didn't. Unfortunately, this manga is riddled with not only so much bad writing in general, but also so many blatantly obvious proofreading errors that it's hard to tell if "decided" was a mistake or intentional.
  3. Clunky translations might not bother every reader, but they make me want to throw things. If translation is an art (and it is), whomever translated this just handed you a placemat with a crayon drawing of a cat which wound up looking more like an eggplant with a deformity. And typos? Typos are unacceptable, and yet...

    Faught is not a word. 
    if the whole fought/faught thing were an isolated incident I might overlook it, but there are others. At one point Kagerou's name even shows up as Kagefou.
  5. Poor translations can do more than just sound clunky. Sometimes they can change the meaning of the passage. For example, rape is a serious word. Rape is violent, brutal and is NOT about the physical act of sex as much as it is about the concepts of power, control and viciousness made physical. It is not a word to be thrown about lightly. And it is not molestation. Molestation is bad too, but it isn't rape. Molestation is unwanted sexual advances and can lead to rape, but these two things, although related, are not the same things. Language is subtle, friends, and often things that seem like synonyms to the (kill it with fire) thesaurus, are not things that are synonyms in the real world. No one is raped, thankfully, in this manga. People are, however, molested. But even that seems like the wrong word at one point. Maybe the word was coerced?  Seduced doesn't seem right? Translations ARE hard, but words need to be used wisely, Dear Readers.
  7. Sometimes poor translations just make a mess of everything. At this point I don't know if it is the translators or the original author who should take the blame for one of the stupidest and most biologically improbable discussions of ejaculate ever. I'm assuming here, Dear Readers, because I don't read a lot of ejaculate discussions. If the translator is to blame then okay, status quo for this manga, I suppose. But if the author is to blame, then I have to ask that manga writers do a little research when dealing with the male anatomy and its functions.
  9. The plot is predictable in a lot of ways, boyhood friendships grow into unrecognized adult affections and it takes a love triangle for the characters to realize their true feelings. Nothing special or startling happens plotwise, but...I still wound up in tears.  Let's explore why.

Kagerou doesn't seem to understand Ata at all, but he still sets himself in the role of protector, a role he took on when he and Ata were very young. Ata was a foster-child in Kagerou's home, and had a troubled past. They formed a close brotherly bond and spent much of their time together.

Little Kagerou (dark hair) comforting a  little Ata (light hair) after a bad dream. 
 Kagerou takes his role as big-brother and protector very seriously even now. He calls the men Ata sleeps with "garbage" and he's right...they are. They're abusive, manipulative, cruel and selfish. But sadly, Ata can't seem to live long without falling from one bad relationship to another. At times Kagerou even has to step in physically to protect Ata from his choices in partners.

Adult Kagerou and adult Ata after one of Ata's nasty breakups.

Ata doesn't seem to understand Kagerou either. Ata wants to be with someone, but not just someone--someone who will care for him. He discovers, to his dismay, that he has been in love with Kagerou for a very long time. The string of lovers serve to occupy his passions, because he would rather keep Kagerou by his side than lose him completely. The lovers he has are ultimately unlovable, but that's fine with Ata, who feels as if he is unworthy of even the cruelest sort of partner, since, he believes, he is betraying them all with his love for Kagerou. Kagerou is Ata's home, and he is so afraid of poisoning that home with his desire, that he shuts himself off from any real feelings. He is used to men who use and mistreat him, so he becomes nervous when one of Kagerou's friends, archery Captain Sanuki, becomes interested in him. Ata falls into a secret relationship with him, and when their affair is revealed shit hit the fan for only a second before Kagerou backs down--he only wants the best for Ata, and Sanuki is a good guy for once, someone that Kagerou can approve of.

The problem is that Sanuki knows Ata's feelings for Kagerou, and eventually tires of playing second string, forcing Ata to admit his feelings to a broken and astonished Kagerou, who has been waiting for Ata all along.

Argh! Why am I crying when this is so badly written?
I am totally ashamed of myself right now.
And that, Dear Readers, is the moment I actually start to cry.

So, despite the bad grammar and the stupid assumptions about male physiology, there's something so painfully raw and beautiful beneath the surface of this otherwise cliched story that it moved cynical old Dr. M (who does not believe in things like true love, or soul mates, or unicorns, or tragic-pretty crying moments in the rain) to tears. And that, Dear Readers, is a pretty significant thing. I just really wish the writing were better. I can't approve of this manga, or recommend it as is...the writer/teacher/reader I am will not allow me to do that, but I can say that IF you can tolerate bad writing, then the story may be worth the effort it takes to slog through this train wreck. Better yet, just look at the pictures. The pictures are very nice.

Waiting in the Summer/Ano Natsu De Matteru (Anime Series)--First Impressions

I have a brand, spanking new one for you today, Dear Readers, Ano Natsu De Matteru, or Waiting in the Summer, first aired just a few weeks ago in Japan (on January 10th). Already sites like Crunchyroll are airing the first episodes.

Waiting in the Summer begins with the protagonist, Kaito, filming at night. As he records the night landscape around him, he has an internal monologue in which he discusses his theory of life after death, and its relationship to memory. He believes that the dead live on by entering our hearts, essentially making homes there, and only fading when they are forgotten. At this point, Dear Readers, I am hooked. In those opening scenes as Kai stands on an empty bridge at night looking down into the darkness (an old Super 8 clicking and whirring in his hands) he thinks of not only the mother and father he lost so tragically, but the end of the school year and the life-lessons and changes it implies, and as a result I sort of fall in love with this introspective and odd character.

Then BLAMMO--Alien ships, explosions, a shock wave that tosses Kai's shattered and bloody body from the bridge into the abyss below.

Good thing it was a dream...or was it? (DUN-dun-dunnnn! That's a dramatic bit of old timey music and I wish you could hear it, but you cannot...DUN!)

Kai is starting up his Junior year, and heading into summer break*--he's at a crossroads of sorts, not yet an adult, and certainly no longer a child.  He is a filmmaker, and as such records the dramas he claims to "already see in motion" around him.

This is drama I am familiar with.
My friends cockblock me all the time.
Shakespeare may be cockblocking me as you read this.
Many of these "dramas" take place between his group of friends and Ichika, the new Senior in school, who volunteers on her first day (and out of the blue) to star in Kai's recent film. Her inclusion into the group puts a strange spin on the group's dynamics as they begin their Summer film project.

One of my strongest first impressions of this series is that it is beautiful. I've never heard the illustrator's name, Pepako Dokuta, before in anime or manga, but wow, just WOW! And the writer, who goes only by Ichika (incidentally the same name as our female protagonist), seems unfamiliar as well, but WOW! So far, so good, Waiting on the Summer. Now, just keep it up.

Kai and Kanna (one of the group) walk home at night.
Look at that scenery? 
I like Kai, he seems like a lonely, artistic boy whose imagination and emotions often get the best of him. As viewers we often get ringside seats to his neurotic fantasies. His parents are deceased, and his sister is going abroad over the summer so, on an impulse, he invites the homeless, awkward and buxom Ichika to move in with him for the duration of the break.  
Ichika being filmed on the train platform.
SPOILER ALERT: She's an alien! 
In a wholly predictable plot twist (I'm not spoiling anything you couldn't figure out in like two seconds on your own, Dear Readers) it turns out Ichika is an alien. 
Agreed, friend of Kai's whose name I cannot remember at the moment!
Aliens ARE usually a huge plot twist.
Very M. Night Shalyman (except not at all)!
Takasuki Ichika accidentally crashed to earth with her friend/pilot named Rinon who looks like a peach/hamster hybrid thingamahoozit. Man, it just got silly, didn't it?

Magical Space Thingamahoozit, Rinon
is perhaps the unlikely product of an illicit hamster/peach love affair.
Ichika is hiding her identity and searching for someplace she's dreamed about, an imagined landscape she believes exists on earth. Kai wants to help her find it as they complete their film.

Despite the somewhat silliness of aliens and peachy/hamsters, this is a complex story about love, although it doesn't seem like a romance.  This story is instead about the sometimes fuzzy borders between love and affection and friendship and attraction.  As young adults at a crossroads of sort, these characters must navigate through these new and troublesome, and sometimes non-distinct, emotions. So, yes, on the surface the premise seems predictably silly, but the silliness should not dissuade you, Dear Readers. I'm looking forward to learning more about each of the group members as I watch their dramas unfold. And I'm hoping the silliness is kept to a minimum. I like silly too, but it seems unnecessary in such a beautifully illustrated and emotionally complex series.

*The traditional Japanese school system graduates students between grades in the Spring, before Summer break.

Un-Go (Anime - 2011) Season Overview

Designed by Yun Kouga, Un-Go's main characters: Shinjuurou and Inga

When it was announced last year that Bones would be producing an anime with character designs by Yun Kouga I nearly split a brain node. If you are a fan of anime, you'll know that Bones has brought us such classics as Full Metal Alchemist and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Ouran High School Host Club, and Soul Eater, to name a few. Last season, they produced No. 6, a thought provoking dystopian series that we covered on this blog.

And for those of you who know me, you might remember that I'm kind of in love with Yun Kouga. She's a great writer and an amazing artist. She's probably best known for the unfinished and thoroughly haunting, Loveless, as well as Earthian and Gestalt. Yun Kouga's characters are long and lean and whispy. They remind me of rebar. They look like they could just break, but by force of will, they can hold skyscrapers in place.

Inga in his child male form

The plot is not based on an existing manga. It comes from Ango Sakaguchi's novel Meiji Kaika Ango Torimono-chō  or is inspired by it. I don't know anything about Ango Sakaguchi except that he was born in the early 20th century and was an intellectual and novelist. I believe his novels center around themes of war.

Inga in her adult female form

The anime, Un-Go, takes place in current day but alternate-Japan. What we  know at the beginning is that there was a big war, something on the scale of a World War, and some Post Patriot Act and SOPA/PIPA-esque legislation has been enacted to protect the country. We know our history is the same at least until 2001, as the anime mentions the terror attacks of September 11. War and terrorism are big themes in this anime (and some of other of Bones' projects) as is information privacy, censorship and the internet in general. As a fan of dystopian themes, this should be right up my alley.

Within this setting, Un-Go is meant to be a detective story, which also very much suits my tastes. Main character, "The Defeated Detective," Shinjuurou Yuuki, and his strange looking assistants, clearly supernatural, Inga and artificially intelligent, Kazamori Sasa, find themselves pitted against the reclusive, beloved and suspiciously always right, JJ Systems Chairman and go-to detective, Rinroku Kaishou.

Rinroku has a daughter, Rie Kaishou, who plays heavily into the storyline. She, like Shinjuurou, cares deeply about the truth, which often causes a deep conflict within her because her father cares less for the truth than shaping a peaceful reality.

A post-war, dystopian mystery with supernatural elements, character designs by Yun Kouga and produced by Bones? Seriously, this should be my dream anime!

Kazamori in her stuffed bear form

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. The season was only 11 episodes, not long enough, in my opinion, to present such a complicated plot and connect the audience to the characters. This happened with last season's Bone's project, No. 6; the short season just afforded too little space to convey any real heart.

Kazamori in her android form

While I normally complain about "monster of the week" types of  shows, I think Un-Go would have benefited from a story ark that incorporated  something like this. First establish the bond between Shinjuurou and Inga and the audience, as well as cement their place as crack detectives with a series of "mysteries of the week." Later move into an over-arching plotline. 

I like Shinjuuro's design. He's nondescript especially next to Inga, but he has lovely eyes.

This show made me think about some other series with pairings between humans and supernaturals: Tactics, Death Note and Black Butler. All of these series benefited from allowing the audience to linger with that relationship for a while before introducing a complicated plot. Unfortunately, I didn't feel invested in Shinjuurou or Inga at all. In fact, I didn't really understand Shinjuurou's motivations. I think he was in the war. I think he loves people and "the truth," but I want to know why he and Inga are so bonded? Then I can care about what they are doing.

Beyond that, the mysteries were not that engrossing. The writing could have been greatly improved upon.

Un-Go's "Novelist" bears a striking resemblance to another Yun Kouga character.

Do I think this show is watchable? Sure. I got through all 11 episodes in one sitting. In a vacuum, I really like the characters. I love watching Yun Kouga's designs in movement. I just felt disappointed about the production as a whole. 

Hmm, Loveless' Soubi looks a bit like Un-Go's "Novelist"

One last thing, the music/score for this anime was great. The closing song, Fantasy by LAMA, is very catchy:

Why I Read Yaoi

Oh, Erioca With Love, I love you for your Bowie-esque-ed-ness

Yaoi, also known as boys love, shonen-ai, BL or whatever, here in the States, is a genre of story telling, specifically manga and anime, that focuses on male to male pairings involved in romantic and sexual relationships (though those two need not be mutually exclusive). Stories sometime only nod to romantic possibility and some get down right and dirty.

Yoai is written primarily for women by women. I've tried to share yaoi with gay men friends of mine, and they were just not interested. That's not to say there aren't men out there who love this stuff.

I'm just generalizing here.

Jazz's Doc and Naoki are desperately in love, but it takes them a long time to figure that out.
Why would a woman make a comic about two men getting it on for other women to read? Why would a fangirl get all squee seeing two boys kissing? I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm all that hetronormative, but I would like to, one day, marry a man and hold hands and have a stork bring us a baby. Reading stories about sloppy sex between two guys is not scoring me many points in that department, but I'm not about to put the manga down, at least not until I finish this next scene:

Fake's Dee and Ryo share a private kiss in their patrol car.

There's some speculation and research into why yaoi has become so popular. Some folks think it has to do with women gaining more power in society. Others think it has to do with sexuality. Some apply feminist or other theories to the phenomenon. It's all really interesting.

Because I'm always thinking about stories and how they're told, I think the reason I like yaoi is because if feel like it essentially sucks gender politics right out of the narrative and the characters' relationship with the reader.

What the heck does that mean? I'll tell you! To me, it means all of the characters in a story are on equal footing. The story may be full of sex, but free of sexual politics. There's no, this is how a woman should be in relationship to a man and this is how a man should be in relationship to a woman.

The reader isn't obligated to identify with the character of her sex/gender just because that's who it's natural to identify with. She can identify with any number of characters, and in the context of stories about sex and relationships, it becomes a safe space for her (the lady reader) to explore different roles and dynamics. The reader doesn't have to ally herself with female characters who might be weak or coy or strong even, or who fall into acceptable societal roles and have the same parts that she does. Nor does she need to feel uncomfortable in forsaking female characters (and thereby rejecting a part of herself) because she embraces and relates to qualities present in the male characters.

As a younger reader/consumer of media, I often identified more with male characters. Frankly, a lot of them were more active, fun, adventurous and stoic than the female characters I encountered. We don't have to go into the psychology of this right now, but as a little girl, I spent endless hours fantasizing about growing up to be GI Joe's Storm Shadow or Snake Eyes. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were way more capable and engaged than Leia in my mind and Indiana Jones was such a bad ass compared to any of his weaker female companions. Even my real life heroes, Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi (look, I was a weird little kid) were men, and the smart people, too, Einstein, Jung, Freud (Yes, weird, weird little kid.).

What would Storm Shadow vs Snake Eyes slash look like?

That's not to say I didn't encounter strong female characters who I absolutely loved. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Menolly from the Harper Hall stories (Oh yeah, that's one for the deep geeks out there) are a couple. It was their fortitude I admired, less than their "masculine" strength.

I'm in my mid-thirties and I'm sure the young women who were born after me had subtly different experiences. I was raised by a parent who grew up in the fifties and sixties and though she was a wild child, I'm sure she had a lot of values about male/female relationships present in her psyche. I observed that a lot growing up, and felt very resistant to it. I was always uncomfortable with being "a girl" or "girly" because I didn't feel it represented me or who I was inside. I do love being a woman, but sometimes, especially when I was younger, I found society's definition/shaping of that gender identity very chafing.

I found a lot of relief in identifying with the male characters I saw on the big screen and television and read about in my books, but I also felt uncomfortable. I wasn't a man, nor did I ever want to be a man, and I felt a slight self-disgust, like, am I a hater of women? All of these female characters aren't like me. Am I rejecting them because they are women or because I don't identify with them? Do other people ask these questions when they read? I really hope so.

Preach it, Fumi Yoshinaga!

In Yaoi, all of the couples are "male" and in some sense genderless. This gender-less-ness creates a space free of preconceptions about what a man or woman is or should be or what-have-you. There is an equality between the characters not present in a man/woman pairing, where each member of the couple comes already imbued with a preset notion of gender identity.

When she reads yaoi, a skinny teen girl can be the brawny, strong and silent type, the pushy type, the shy, quiet type; she can be any type. She can explore whether and from which side she likes unrequited love or if she believes in love at all. She can be the top or the bottom. She can think about sex outside of a the context of gender politics. She can, and so can any other woman: housewives, day traders, grocery baggers. There's something revolutionary in that, a freedom, albeit a little strange, but healthy and fun.

A sweet, public kiss between the two main characters of "Only the Ring Finger Knows"

For our yaoi readers, I'd be interested to hear about why you like the genre?

Attacked on a Tiger's Whim - Mario Yamada

Publisher: DMG
Rating: Mature/Explicit
Genre: Yaoi, Crime, Yakuza
Warning: Sexual Violence

Okay, new rules for Shakespeare. If it says Explicit Content on the cover and it is a one shot and it mentions encounters between two men as a "nightmare," it is probably too much for this bard's delicate sensibilities. But, this bard ventured forth. She read, and now she shall review.

Main character Tomoya works at a host club despite being a top university graduate of some kind. He has a couple of bad (aka rapey) experiences with Murase, a dark, big, mysterious guy who turns out to be in the Yakuza. Despite their disturbing past, when Murase shows up a third time for some hot loving, Tomoya realizes there might be more between them than violent, unprovoked sex attacks. There might actually be love there.

Because there are a lot of yaoi stories where rape/non-con is a precursor to true love / romance, I know there is a market for it. In fact, I'm pretty sure there is a big market for it, and because we all read yaoi for different reasons, I'm going to try something new and not judge the morals of this story too harshly.

In my experience, I can remember only two stories that I really love in which non-con sex happens between the two main characters early on, and they still manage to fall deeply in love.

There's "Jazz" by Tamotsu Takamure (of "Awaken Forest") and Kakae Maeda:

and "Passion" by Shinobu Gotoh and Shoko Takaku:

Both are published by DMP/June.

"Jazz" and "Passion" are sneaky about this, "I love you so much, I'm gonna rape you!" thing. In those stories, the victims turn out to not actually be victims but mostly willing participants in their partners' attacks.

In "Jazz," a difficult, uncomfortable but elegantly told narrative, Doctor Narusawa is taken by force by his much younger patient, Naoki. It turns out he was in love with Naoki just unable to overcome his own self hatred to be anything but terrified of him. Additionally, the story telling is deft enough that the reader gets that these are really messed up characters who somehow manage to fumble their way toward each other.

In "Passion," the teacher, Shima, knows his student, Hikaru, is in love with him. The idea of a real relationship is fraught with too many complications, so he creates a situation in which his student will have to take him by force, then he uses the guilt his student feels as instruments of power and control.

I highly recommend both of the above stories if you haven't read them. They're a bit older, and a bit disturbing, but very good.

But, back to the story at hand: "Attacked on a Tiger's Whim." There's a little bit of everything here: sex, a love story, a crime story, a twist, guns, action, adventure, possibly real estate. And, it's not bad for what it is. Did I say that? Yes, I did. Because, this story does have appeal for the right readers.

The writer does a smart job of getting the reader to kind of hate Murase from the beginning. There's no appeal to him. He's a dirty rapist who comes after this innocent barely legal guy. Later we learn, it's more complicated. Both times he seeks Tomoya out are because he's going away for a long time, and he feels compelled by some deep force (love) to seek out Tomoya. Maybe I'm just imagining it, but Murase seems to get more handsome as he becomes more sympathetic, and we begin to understand him better. Is this what Tomoya sees as well?

After the initial humps (literally) the story does take off, and we see both of the main characters softening. This isn't just an erotic love story. There's also all sorts of business about the Yakuza and family bonds and betrayal and so forth. That's a lot to do in a short space, and that may be why the narrative is a bit off. However, if you're in the mood for something short, engaging and fairly dirty, I would definitely recommend this story.

Stop SOPA and PIPA

Dear Readers,

Many sites are blacking out to protest SOPA and PIPA today. We're not blacking out, but we stand in solidarity. There won't be any new posts today. Please go learn more about SOPA and PIPA you might want to follow some of these links.

Learn Something:

Some basic facts about the proposed bills

Another blog's more eloquent take on SOPA/PIPA

Do Something:

Now, If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go not use Wikipedia for a while!

<3 William Shakespeare

For the love of Gravitation!

Dear Readers, I promised some Rock 'n' Roll around here! And, I mean to deliver! I've been thinking for ages about how to talk about Maki Murakami's classic many incarnated animanga-marketing extravaganza: Gravitation.

But, where do I start? Let's see, there's an anime, an OVA, a manga, a "remix" manga, light novels and oh, also dōjinshi, which Maki Murakami authored herself (and it is some really sick stuff, folks, sick.). I mean, who does that? So, meta. Actually, I think it was just so disturbing her publisher wouldn't touch it, but anyway.

At the heart of the blitz of materials that make up the Gravitation-verse, the story of a budding pop / rock star, Shuichi Shindou, and his love for a tortured romance novelist, Eri Yuki (sigh...). Shuichi, the lead singer of Bad Luck, is a little pink haired freak with too much energy, self-doubt, self-belief, passion and OCD. And, hrm, he is completely not like anyone I happen to know...

I've been thinking a lot about Shuichi lately, and why I even like him as a character? Point of truth: he can be a little annoying and abrasive, moving from the highest of heights to the lowest of lows, creatively and emotionally; he goes chibi too often for my tastes, and he is kind of pathetic. His band only has like two songs, and he wears the same outfit at every concert (oh, that's just the anime? Production value? Whatever.)

But, the thing is, I just love this character.

Shuichi is naively open to love. He sees what he wants, and he goes after it. He often agonizes and mopes, but he realizes that he shouldn't deny how he feels even if others don't approve. He's passionate about his creative life, and about the people he loves.

I'm going to go on record as saying: Shuichi Shindou inspires me!

In a forthcoming post, I will actually talk about one of the myriad associated comic type, moving picture what-have-you's that he appears in.

Squeefinity in the Haps!

Dear Readers, quiet though you may be (comment already, you guys...we see you lurking), Squeefinity is trying to make ourselves louder. We had a great 2011, because we began to take our role a little more seriously this year. For 2012, we want to step it up a notch with more reviews, another attempt at a give-a-way (no one wanted a copy of the worst manga Dr. M owns? Bizzare, right?), polls and queries, news and maybe a few guest bloggers.

This past year we began, in earnest, to post a few regularly scheduled theme days, and tried to bring you our unique (read that as: weird-old-academic-literary critic-fangirls) perspective in reviewing anime, manga and even a light novel or two. We write because we love. And we do love, Dear Readers, we love you, we love characters, we love complex plots, we love silliness, we love angst, we love triumph, we love frailty, we love good writing, and we love hot anime boys, because we are, admittedly, kind of pervy at times.

This next year we resolve to bring you more. So follow us on twitter @squeefinity, circle us on Google +, follow us here, put us on your RSS feed, drop us a note, a comment, an email, and in return we promise more good things on our end.


Manga News: SuBLime Manga

SuBLime Release Calendar

Hey, yaoi fans, you know you're out there, don't be shy, because we at certainly aren't. If we were would we admit to having read half the things we post about? No, no we wouldn't.

SuBLime Manga, seen below, releases its first digital yaoi at the end of this month.

Or above, if you're reading the captions.

The site is in beta, so you can be on the cutting edge of something...that's always nice, and it increases your cool points. SuBLime is partnered with VIS media, and appears to be along the lines of the old BeBeautiful publications, and might be continuing some of their old defunct titles...hooray! They will be producing downloadable manga soon, so sign up for their newsletter and support this new venture...especially if you like to see boys kissing other boys.

Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys (Vol. 1)

The truth is, I'd be hard pressed to not like a comic that begins with the protagonist hijacking the lunchtime music at his junior high to play T.Rex's 20th Century Boys:

"I wanted something to change, something...For the first time, rock music shook the halls of No. 4 Junior High," the protagonist says. "Nothing changed at all..."

Written by the master, Naoki Urasawa, the creator of "Monster" and "Pluto" among others, 20th Century Boys has won a ton of awards. Licensed by Viz, the manga is somewhere around #17 in the US. After reading the first volume, I just keep thinking 1) How do I get Naoki Urasawa to marry me? and 2) How can I afford to get my hands on the entire run? Because, this is a comic I do want to own. And, you'll want to own it, too.

Oddly enough, I'm reminded a bit of The Watchmen when I read this. There's no similarity, just a feeling, a kind of sadness that comes with being alive. 20th Century Boys is a science fiction mystery based around a group of kids who were school friends in 1969. They had a secret hangout and a symbol that signified their need to become heroes, to rise up and protect what's worth protecting. They're little boys, and they believe and feel with that naive childlike passion -- Then they grow up and become obscure, mediocre salary men, science teachers and convenience story clerks.

Kenji, the main protagonist always wanted to be a rock 'n' roll musician, but he doesn't have the luck or drive or ambition. He ends up running a convenience store and raising the child his sister has abandoned. When a mysterious disappearance occurs and a childhood buddy, Donkey, inexplicably kills himself, Kenji begins to notice a pattern. The symbol he and his friends created as kids keeps showing up, and he realizes there is something more going on than mere coincidence.

What I like about this manga is the depiction of the boys as children, a nostalgic, without being sappy, exploration of their memories. I like the contrast between their childhoods and their adult lives, the slightly bittersweet, but "this is how life is" motion of the work that feels very real. Even if it didn't evolve into a mystery or have any speculative elements, 20th Century Boys would make a great "slice of life" story. However, it's got more teeth than that.

There's something strange happening, a cult coming to power, allusions to giant robots, people meeting untimely fates, and I want to keep reading. So, I will.

Warning! Whispers of Love (Manga)

Title: Warning! Whispers of Love
Author/Illustrator: Puku Okuyama
Genre: Yaoi
Publisher: DMP
Rating: 16+ YA

After reading the super-adorable The Rule of Standing on Tiptoe by Puku Okuyama, I was thrilled to find another of this author/illustrator's work up for review on eManga. I am a big fan of Okuyama's style, which is expressive and almost watercolory in its shading. And the plot of The Rule of Standing on Tiptoe was so sweet and understated and genuine feeling that maybe, just maybe, Dear Readers, I got my hopes up too high?

This story is a compilation collection, with four separate stories about young love. It manages to deal with younger characters without being overly creepy (for the most part). But, something about the first story arc and title piece Warning! Whispers of Love turned me off. It's not that this story segment is bad, per's that it has at its heart an obsession with ear cleaning. Yeah, ear cleaning. Now before anyone attempts to instruct me on the fact that there is a very "sweet" sort of association with ear cleaning in Japan...I already know. Here's a video below of some very pretty ladies picking waxy whatnots out of the ears of paying gentlemen.

Precious! Except maybe to my admittedly western sensibilities...also, why is that guy yelling at the end? Anyone? I don't know what's going on! Ears!

If I had a quarter for every time a upper classman begged
to "only put the tip in," I would have no quarters.

So, main character Hajime is a first year high school student, and is being persued rather vigorously by highly ranked upperclassman Eiji. Eiji just wants to clean Hajime's ears. Eiji is a little scary, and sexual innuendos abound. Okay, it's kind of cute, but the ear thing...not my cup of fetish. The other stories are better.

The second story sequence, called "My Room/Our Room" is about a guitarist named Shino who, on a whim, takes a total stranger as a roommate. Sota is upbeat college kid who ran away from home to attend school, he needs a place to stay for two weeks, and Shino takes him in. This is yaoi, so obviously the two fall in a rather timid sort of love and Sota stays on after the two weeks. It's cute and sweet, and well-drawn, but nothing that makes my stomach flip, but this sequence certainly seemed the most well-considered of the four.

The next story sequence consists of two parts entitled "Lens," and "Beyond Friendship" and focuses on one of my favorite things...two childhood friends who realize that they really love each other once they are separated. It's a little predictable, but worth a read, I suppose. There isn't really enough room or development for it too move beyond plot into anything more complex.

The last story is a little weird and seems to be about a young man who is jealous of his boyfriend's dog. Eh. Meh. Bleh. I could take it or leave it.

Overall this collection isn't bad, it just feels rushed, perhaps to the point of incompletion at times. The stories are little more than brief plot sketches and as such don't seem to be very good at capturing or maintaining my attention, regardless of how much I admire Okuyama's illustrations. It's a fast read with not much meat on its bones--nothing I'd get obsessed over.