Manga Friday: The Old In-Out In-Out
I haven’t reviewed books about sex in close to a month, so it must be time again, right? (As always, I’m reviewing what I have on hand, so, if you publish manga and want me to
cover it, contact me at the e-mail address far below.If you don’t publish manga, but want me to review something in particular, just leave a comment with a suggestion. If you don’t publish manga, and have no suggestions…then I think you’re good the way you are.)
Sundome, Vol. 3
By Kazuto Okada
Yen Press, September 2008, $12.99
I liked the first volume of Sundome, but wasn’t entirely comfortable with how focused on leering at teenage girls it was. (I have no problems with teenage boys leering at teenage girls – in any case, they’ll do it no matter what I think – but I don’t think it’s really appropriate for me to do so. And that can bother me, even in fictional form.) The second volume made me even more uneasy, because the “games” that teenage cutie Kurumi played on utterly-gaga-about-her Hideo were getting dangerous and cruel.
Their relationship is still shifting in this third volume; Hideo’s devotion to Kurumi is showing some positive results (he’s gotten stronger from all of his bike riding-cum-sublimation, and Kurumi’s teasing is turning more girlfriend-ish than purely mean), and the more dangerous or kinky moments are part of obvious sex-play between the two. Oh, she’s still insisting that she’ll never have sex with him…but she isn’t acting as if that’s true.
Even given the cultural differences, Sundome is one of the most raw and realistic depictions of adolescent sexuality I’ve ever seen. Sure, it’s exaggerated for fictional effect, with the usual manga shorthand, but these kids are both horny and confused in a way that fiction rarely shows. And, of course, since there’s some moderately explicit sexuality in this book – more that the previous books, I think – it’s rated “M” for adults only, and teenagers are officially not supposed to read it. That’s irony for you: because it’s so true about teenagers, teenagers aren’t supposed to read it.
Make Love & Peace
By Takane Yonetani
Aurora/Luv Luv, September 2008, $10.95
And here’s column B: a single-volume redikomi story about college girl Ayame and her detective boyfriend Koichi. Because it’s a redikomi (sexy stories for young women), they have a lot of sex, and, for the same reason, it’s multi-orgasmic, very female-satisfying sex.
I’d gotten the impression that redikomi were mostly problem-with-the-relationship stories – mostly about girls who met dark, brooding men and tamed them with their good cheer, love, and cute outfits – but Make Love & Peace doesn’t follow that pattern. Ayame and Koichi don’t have a perfect relationship – who does? – but it’s quite solid, given who they are, and they’re never in any serious danger of breaking up in this story.
So Make Love & Peace is more episodic, with a few mildly thriller-esque stories in which Koichi has to save Ayame from nasty men and would-be rapists. And then there’s some tension with Koichi’s ne’er-do-well younger brother Ruka – Ayame likes hanging out with him, since he’s less serious than her boyfriend, but Koichi is very mildly jealous, and wants Ruka to buckle down in school and work hard.
Make Love & Peace has five chapters, which are all pretty separate, like different stories about the same people. Despite the near-rape, it’s all pretty lightweight – a happy story about happy people having a lot of happy sex. It’s both sweet and sexy, so I expect it does just what it wants to do.
Future Lovers, Vol. 1
By Saika Kunieda
Aurora/Deux, September 2008, $12.95
And last we have a little yaoi, a gay love story by and for women. Like at least one of the other stories I’ve seen in this genre – which could mean it’s a common trope, or just a coincidence – Future Lovers has a 100% hetero guy, the strapping, masculine Kento, who falls into bed with a gay man, Akira, after drinking far too much. (As alcohol has been the excuse for a lot of bad behavior by a lot of people all over the world for many, many years.)
Kento wants to get back together with his fiancée, Yukie – who dumped him because he told her he liked her because she was “stable” and “fertile” – but he’s actually obsessed with Akira. Oh, and all three of them are teachers at the same school – Akira starting work there the day after the night Yukie dumped Kento and the two men had their first night of passion.
Yukie clearly doesn’t care about Kento, and she disappears into the background very quickly – she’s just there as Kento’s beard, to show to the audience that he really was straight, honest and for true, until he met his One Gay Love. So the story quickly turns into a study of Kento’s conflicted emotions – he’s jealous and possessive of Akira, but doesn’t want to care about him.
The stereotyped “uke-seme” roles of the lovers in yaoi gets a bit too obviously programmatic here – Kento is the straight guy, so he’s big and dark-haired and muscular. Akira, as the femme half of the duo, is drawn pretty much like a woman without breasts. (Naughty bits, as always, must stay off-page due to Japanese censorship.) They do make a good couple, though, and interact realistically, so I won’t complain too much.
This book also contains a shorter story – I’m not sure why, since this is explicitly “Volume One,” so there’s presumably more pages of Future Lovers stories that could have filled up the pages – called “Winter Rabbit.” (It’s about two young men who have been friends since childhood, and…do I need to spell it out? They eventually realize they are True Soulmates and have been forever.)
As I’ve said before, I’m really not the audience for stories like this, and the genre conventions – which can be very obvious in many manga genres – get quite confining and annoying. But Future Lovers does a good job of presenting reasonably rounded characters…even if they’re very much in the vein of the characters in every other yaoi story.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.