Crimson Snow

Rating: ♦♦♦♦

I haven’t been reviewing much manga lately because there hasn’t been much that has caught my interest. Oh, Kizuna has been coming out, and I’ve been loving it, but we already have reviews for it. Same with the Finder Series. I just don’t want to force myself to read a manga, then come here and spew out a few paragraphs about how much it bored me to tears – which only makes you all bored while reading it.

Thankfully, I found this release, which helped to remind me that this genre does have a few gems.

I was having an e-mail conversation with a friend of mine a week or so ago after we had traded some US released gay comics. Comics written for gay men, by gay men. He was telling me how much he enjoyed them, and asked me if I had any other recommendations. I had to tell him that aside from some great GLoBL by writers like Tina Anderson, my only other recommendations were for translated Japanese BL.

His main complaint with the genre was the oft complained about ‘chicks-with-dicks’ phenomenon. And, I have to kind of agree with him. It’s part of what got me so burnt out on the genre. I like men. I like men together. If I want to read about a guy and a girl together, I’ll go and hit some of my extensive het smut collection.

Thankfully, this release has two fully male characters. While the characters are not afraid to show emotion, they are MEN. Now, I don’t equate tears with the girlification of men in my manga, I equate shojou flowers and simpering looks with the girlification of men in my manga.

Feh. Enough ranting. Okay, back to reviewing. There’s Yakuza gangster, Kazuma, who is rescued by a young tea ceremony master, Yukihiro. Despite the two men coming from completely different backgrounds, they find they are much more alike than they would have ever thought, and find a kind of peace with each other.

It’s gorgeously drawn, pulls at the few remaining heartstrings I have, and made me smile. What else could one ask for in a manga?

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦♦♦, Crimson Snow, Tomoki, Hori | 1 Comment »

Pen & Ink

Rating: ♦♦♦

I always kind of scoffed at the “How To” artbooks that get released. I have an art degree, I know how to draw. The only thing that improves your ability to draw is practice. You have to draw day in and day out, and draw everything you see. Then, eventually, you will start to get better at it. Yes, some people have an innate ability, but even people who profess that they can’t draw really can, once they practice and learn the connection between what your eyes see and how your hand moves.

What I really liked about this release is that it did stress the importance of practice. It had a week long list of exercises for getting used to using a pen, and a list of goals you were supposed to have achieved at the end of each exercise. Using pen and ink requires a completely different set of skills than sketching with a pencil or a marker.

The other nice thing this release covered was the use of tones. I’m lazy. If I’m going to use tones on something, I’m going to throw it in PhotoShop, and do it digitally – but this release gave instructions for using them from a pre-printed sheet. Also part of their weekly exercises was using cross-hatching to create your own gradient shading, instead of using tones. It’s nice to know all the different options that are available to artists.

I also appreciated the interviews with manga artists on how they use different materials to achieve different effects. While I don’t see myself running out to by a lot of the “How-To” books, this release has made me look at them in a bit more favorable light.

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦♦, Miscellaneous, Various | 1 Comment »

Stay Close To Me

Rating: ♦♦♦

I knew I was familiar with this artist, I just wasn’t sure where I knew her from. Because I’m too lazy to get up and search through my bookshelves when I’m reading a release, I didn’t realize that this was the artist behind Tea for Two until I sat down to write the review.

While this release has all of the charm of Tea for Two, it is a little lacking in the smut department. Don’t get me wrong, it’s disgustingly cute, but after reading Under Grand Hotel, Kizuna and Finder this week, being presented with a release with all sex being done with a fade to black, I’m just a bit jaded.

Yuzu has always looked up to Icchan, starting back in elementary school when Icchan stuck up for Yuzu. Now that they’re in high school, the problem is that Yuzu still wants to look up to Icchan, and be his princess, but that’s kind of hard to do when you’re much taller than the object of your affections.

It’s cute. It’s fluffy. It’s really well done with some great comedic twists – just don’t go into this one expecting porn.

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦♦, Sakuragi, Yaya, Stay Close To Me | Comments Off on Stay Close To Me

Under Grand Hotel 2

Rating: ♦♦♦♦

It’s here. I’m holding it in my hot little hands. The conclusion of Sadahiro Mika’s prison sexploitation epic. Through dangers untold and rapes un-numbered, Sword and Sen have fought their way through the penal system, beyond the watch of the warden. All so they can kiss in the sun.

You know, if it wasn’t for the brutal violence, the murders and the drug trafficking, this would be epitome of a fantasy romance.

But, you know, I think I like it all the better for being so utterly violent and filthy. Let’s hope to see more of her work coming over here in the future. I know that I would love to see some of her other releases. I can’t be the only one who has most of her work in the original Japanese just waiting for a translation!

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦♦♦, Sadahiro, Mika, Under Grand Hotel | 1 Comment »

Kizuna Deluxe Edition 1 / Finder 1: Target in the Finder

Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

I’m not going to re-hash reviews that we’ve already written. For the most part, the content of these releases are the same as when they first came out in the US. No, I’m going to try and justify me purchasing a THIRD volume of each of these releases to have in my collection.

You see, I never thought these series would get released in the US. So, I went and imported the original Japanese versions. I couldn’t read them, but I could look at the purdy pictures. And, at least when it comes to the smut scenes, how much translation do you really need?

Then Be-Beautiful brought the series over. YAY. Aside from the fact that the censored Kizuna, and I found some of the translations to be slightly stilted. I was still happy to have them in my collection.

After Be-Beautiful went under, I (like most of you) was hoping that another company would pick up the series and release them. Well, June has, and did a fantastic job with it. All of the problems that I had with the original US releases have been taken care of. THEY LEFT THE MASA AND KAI KISS IN. The bit that we were all scratching our heads over when it first came out as to just why anyone would censor something so sweetly innocent. A childish peck does not shota make, my darlings, and I think we all realize that.

The other nice thing that June did, was to combine volumes one and two of Kizuna in the same release. So, if you haven’t picked up this series yet, here’s a great way of doing it and possibly saving yourself some space/money.

So, now I have three versions of the same series hanging out in my apartment. And, I’m finding it very hard to let go of any of them. There’s got to be some kind of twelve step program for this. Anyone got the number for Dr. Drew?

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦♦♦♦, Finder Series, Kizuna, Kodaka, Kazuma, Yamane, Ayano | 4 Comments »

How to Control a Sidecar

Rating: ♦♦♦

Tateno is the perfect example of a manga artist taking a BL trope that I should be exhausted with, and managing to keep my interest all the way through.

In this release, we have the straight bartender, Kousaka, fending off seduction from the cute Fumi and bold Kanashiro. But, after Kousaka reads the two incorrectly, he ends up sending Fumi off, heartbroken, and ends up being raped by Kanashiro. Then after threatening Kanashiro with the police, finds that he misses the two of them, and ends up falling of Kanashiro.

Ahh, the wonders of BL, where rape leads to true love. You know, if this wasn’t done so well, I would be getting on my little feminist soap-box and ranting about how brutal rape is and how this is a trigger for so many people, and how we should never be using it as an element in fantasy… Yet, it is just a fantasy, and it’s something that Tateno handles deftly enough to make me look past it, and accept it as part of the BL fantasy.

This isn’t a great release. This is not going to end up on my list of top-ten manga that’s been released this year, but it was a fun read, and it was nice to get back to some of the characters that we were introduced to in How to Capture a Martini. I got a half an hour of happy, escapist fluff. Most of the time, that’s all I really want in a manga.

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦♦, How To Control a Sidecar, Tateno, Makoto | 1 Comment »

Cute Devil

Rating: ♦♦

Sadly, this is another case of a pretty cover, and great illustrations letting me down. I really wanted to like this one, as the art was so damn pretty, but I just couldn’t get into it. I kept flipping through it to get to the smut, drooling for a bit, then flipping through to find more smut. I didn’t care about the plot because it was so damned boring.

There’s Tohru Akiyoshi, who’s top in his class and in the student council. The prettiest boy in school, Fuuta Naruse, wants him to be his boyfriend, and won’t take no for an answer. See, Naruse has a savage streak, so he’s willing to do just about anything to get what he wants, including taking poor Tohru by force.

It’s your typical school boy scenario, and it bored me to tears. It really is very pretty, though. This is the kind of art where I would like to admire from afar, perhaps pick up an artbook if the artist ever releases one, but stay far away from having to suffer through their narrative.

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦, Cute Devil, Madarame, Hiro | 1 Comment »

Cake

Rating: ♦♦♦

I really, really wanted to like this book more than I did. I mean, what’s there not to like about pretty boy vampires, screwing madly? Believe me, the book had quite a bit of that – I guess I was just expecting more from it, knowing how pleased I was with SL Publishings first release, Cethe.

Cake was just a little too over the top for me. Things were resolved too neatly. The main character was too pretty. I think part of this stems from the book being written in first person narrative. I always feel that writing in the first person lends itself to edging into Mary-Sue territory, even if the author has no intention of going there.

Cake revolves around a legally blind, fat, nasty, computer programmer who is kidnapped by a vampire and turned into the perfect submissive, after he is caught preforming some industrial sabotage. After the vampire, Marcus, whittles our programmer into the perfect submissive (looks and all) he is given the choice of becoming a vampire, or staying a human and staying a sex toy.

Programmer-boy chooses to be a vamp, but instead of becoming Marcus’ equal. We find that he’s the last of the lost Blue Bloodline of a Royal House of vampires.

See what I mean about taking it a step too far.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this book, and won’t be buying the next one when it comes out in print – it’s just not going to be on my list of all time favorite books. Snake has an amazing imagination, and while her books are an enjoying read, they could benefit from paring down of all the ideas that she’s trying to cram into one novel.

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦♦, Cake, Snake, Derekica | 3 Comments »

The Tyrant Falls in Love 1

Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

I have been waiting for this one! I had adored these characters when we were introduced to them in the Challengers series, and was very disappointed when I learned that DQ wasn’t going to be able to publish the sequel, The Tyrant Falls in Love. Then DMP came to the rescue, and bought the license, so we have the wonder and absurdity that makes this series so damn great. And, by damn great, I mean morally reprehensible and fantastically pervy.

Tatsumi is the older brother of the sweet Tomoe Tatsumi, whom we met in Challengers, and ran off with the ‘gay’ Kurokawa. Tatsumi has never forgiven Kurokawa for corrupting his sweet and innocent younger brother, and this manafests in him hating all ‘gays’, including his assistant, Morinaga. Now, Morinaga, has confessed his love for Tatsumi, to his face – and survived it.

So, for five years, Morinaga has been in love with this homicidal, fanatical, lunatic, and appears to be happy to suffer in silence, until one of his friends gives him an aphrodisiac to try on Tatsumi. Morinaga is horrified by the thought, and hides the bottle away, never planning on using it.

Of course, this being a BL manga, a night of drinking (set off by the news that Tomoe is going to marry his beloved Kurokawa, and Morinaga’s refusal to let Tatsumi blow the USA to smithereens) leads to Tatsumi downing the whole bottle, and Morinaga having to sleep with him – for purely medical reasons, of course.

Now, as you might have guessed, this does not endear Morinaga to Tatsumi the next morning. Yet, Tatsmui can’t quite bring himself to hate Morinaga. He even finds himself worrying about Morinaga when he drops off the face of the earth for a few weeks.

It’s a manga that I have far too much fun reading, and if the release of the second volume gets delayed, I am going to be a very cranky Cyn, indeed.

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦♦♦♦, Takanaga, Hinako, Tyrant Falls in Love, The | 2 Comments »

ZE 5

Rating: ♦♦♦♦

There’s something gorgeously over the top about Yuki Shimizu’s works. They go right to the edge of being over-blown and over-dramatic without crossing that very fine line. I end up falling in love with all of her couples, even the ones that I’m convinced I’m going to hate.

So, in case you couldn’t figure it out, I didn’t think I was going to like the new couple that she introduced in this volume. Moriya, a kami, was supposed to return to hakushi, after his master died – but, instead he asked to be able to continue to serve. All other kotodamashi have a kami serving them, except for the exile, Ryuusei, who refuses to use his kotodama powers.

Of course, this causes drama and a boatload of sexual tension. Which in turn makes me salivate at the thought of the next volume coming out, so I can read the rest of this couples story. It’s all a plot to get me to fork over most of my paycheck to booksellers.

Sadly, it’s working. I’m right on board, drinking the kool-aid. As long as the releases that 801 keeps putting out are of this high quality, I see no rescue in site. Is there a 12 step program for those of us who have a book addiction?

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦♦♦, Shimizu, Yuki, ZE | Comments Off on ZE 5

Junjo Romantica 12

Rating: ♦♦♦

As much as I enjoy this series, it is starting to wear a bit thin on me. Yes it’s cute, yes Misaki is unbelievably adorable, yes it’s fun to see his lover molest the hell out of him. But, it’s the same thing we’ve seen for the past 11 volumes. They just don’t seem to get past the stumbling block of Misaki being able to commit to Usagi, and while this leads to comedic gold, it doesn’t lend itself to much plot development. Which, is why I’ve been slightly cranky with this series for the past few volumes.

Not cranky enough to stop buying it, mind you, but cranky enough that I do stop and think about how much money I want to invest in this series before it either jumps the shark, or I lose interest. The cute factor is a big part of why I do keep investing in this series. As cranky as I can get with it, it always does make me laugh.

So, this time, Misaki’s getting ready to graduate from college, and is getting pressure from all around him as to what he’s going to do with his life after college. Usagi would like nothing better than to have him continue as he as been. Cleaning and cooking for him, and having lots of wildly hot sex. But, this being BL and Junjo Romantica, things aren’t quite that simple.

Unfortunately, we have to wait until the next volume, to see if there will be any resolution. The only thing we get out of this volume is some lovely pervy sex, and a promise of a trip to meet Misaki’s favorite manga artist.

I’m going to keep reading and enjoying this series, but it does get hard when every single volume seems to re-tread over the same circumstances and problems.

At least it’s still cute as hell.

Posted by Cynthia | ♦♦♦, Junjo Romantica, Nakamura, Shungiku | 2 Comments »