book log: Hyouta Fujiyama — Freefall Romance

38) Hyouta Fujiyama — Freefall Romance

Yaoi manga, and a Did Not Finish for me, mostly because I was half way through when I found some torn pages with large sections of the page missing, and when I was filling out the Amazon returns form I realised I wasn’t sufficiently interested in finishing it to request a replacement copy and wait a couple of weeks for it rather than just getting my money back. That I can no longer remember anything about the plot a couple of weeks later tells you how much impact it had on me, whether for good or bad. But I think this was a case of it simply not being a good match to my taste rather than it being a poor quality story — I’d have been perfectly happy to finish it without the returns issue. I did like the artwork, I remember that much.

LibraryThing entry

Book review — Reiko Momochi: Confidential Confessions

When I bought some second-hand copies of Fake off eBay, the same seller had a copy of Confidential Confessions 1 for a dollar, so I thought I might as well get it to try. This is a shoujo manga series and thus aimed at teenage girls, but rather than being the stereotypically light and fluffy, this one is fairly dark and tackles some serious issues. The first volume has a long story about bullying at school and teenage suicide; there’s also a shorter story about teenage prostitution.

I couldn’t get into it at all, but I think mostly because it’s not my sort of thing, and as a middle-aged Brit I’m not the target audience anyway. Skimming through it, I can see why it has great reviews on Amazon — it’s neither soap opera nor preachy, but takes a realistic look at problems that a lot of Japanese teens face in real life. That also means that it doesn’t have a guaranteed happy ending. This may be depressing for some people; for others it will be helpful, as when you’re depressed yourself it can make things worse to be reading fiction that tells you that everyone else gets a happy ending. This manga appears to be aimed at providing fiction that comforts by saying “You’re not alone in feeling this way.” As it says on the cover, “because real life doesn’t always have a happy ending.”

This particular volume is also very, very blunt about what attempted suicide actually means, and what goes through the minds of people considering suicide. It’s going to be an emotionally tough read, and there is the possibility that it could be a trigger for someone, although I think it’s much more likely to help than to harm.

Not my thing, and I suspect that it’s not going to be one for most of the people I know, but I’ll provide the Amazon links for volume 1 anyway. There seem to be six volumes.

Confidential Confessions, Book 1 at Amazon US
Confidential Confessions at Amazon UK

Book review: Sanami Matoh — Fake

This is a yaoi manga series about a pair of New York cops, mostly UST over the course of the seven volumes, but consummated in the final volume. But there’s more than the sexual tension to sustain interest, as there’s a good chunk of plot in there as well.

Randy Maclean arrives for his first day at his new assignment to the 27th Precint, and is promptly teamed with Dee Laytner, mostly because their Captain wants both of them out of his office right now. Dee is loud, casual, and over-friendly — starting with noticing that Randy has black eyes even though he’s blond, asking if he’s part-Japanese, and then insisting on knowing Randy’s Japanese name. And from then on it’s Ryo, not Randy. Dee’s not someone the quiet, reserved Ryo would have expected to like, but there’s something about Dee that makes Ryo feel comfortable. And the feeling’s mutual. They may have been partnered purely on whim, but they make a good team.

Dee is openly bisexual, and openly interested in Ryo — mostly as a joke to begin with, but gradually becoming a lot more serious. By the end of the second volume Ryo’s realised that Dee’s interest in him isn’t a joke any more, but he’s not quite sure how he feels about it. He likes Dee, a lot, but he’s also always thought of himself as straight. As the romance plotline develops, Ryo’s no easy conquest; more or less tolerating Dee pouncing on him but pushing him away if he goes further than Ryo’s comfortable with. And for a long period he’s not even comfortable with Dee kissing him. But there’s a strong bond of friendship between them, and rather than simply freaking out about Dee’s passes, Ryo actually thinks about how he feels about Dee. For several volumes…

If that was all there was to the series it would be too thin to sustain seven volumes, but there are also strong storylines about their jobs as cops, and about their personal lives apart from the potential sexual relationship. These storylines interact with each other, and one of the notable things about this series is that while the early volumes appear to be mostly independent stories, there are details and characters which are later shown to be part of an overall story arc. This means that each volume is a satisfying read in its own right, with closure for the two to four stories included in the volume; but the series as a whole is more than just a string of unconnected episodes, and forms a complete story overall.

The series does require a lot of willing suspension of disbelief, given a setup with a New York police station full of openly gay cops, and a writer whose knowledge of New York police procedure is somewhat scatty. But it’s well worth putting aside a desire for realism, as this series has humour, interesting stories, solid plot development, and rounded characters.

As for the sexual content, the guys are hot, and the UST is played very well, with Sanami Matoh doing more with a kiss than some manage with full-on sex. When it does finally get to the sex, it’s plausible, and very hot. I was also pleased to find that while Dee can be very pushy, he accepts that no means no — unlike much yaoi manga, there’s no rape for titillation in this series. And there’s a satisfyingly romantic ending. It’s sweet, and maybe even soppy, but the guys have worked for it rather than being handed it on a plate.

The art is good, although there’s a fair bit of heavily stylised art which isn’t to my personal taste. What *is* to my personal taste is that the men are pretty, but they’re still depicted as adult men, both physically and emotionally.

If you’re looking for a yaoi manga that has both romance and action plot, you could do a lot worse than try a volume of this series to see if it’s to your taste. Ideally you should read it in order, but the first few volumes can each be read as a standalone if necessary.

Fake series from Amazon US:

Fake (Fake), Vol. 1 (Fake) | Fake Vol. 2 | Fake Vol. 3 | Fake Vol. 4 | Fake, Vol. 5 | Fake 6 (Fake) (Fake) | Fake, Vol. 7

Fake series at Amazon UK:

Fake: v. 1 (Fake) | Fake: Volume 2: v. 2 (Fake) | Fake: Volume 3: v. 3 (Fake) | Fake: Volume 4: v. 4 (Fake) | Fake: Volume 5 (Fake): v. 5 (Fake) | Fake: v. 6 (Fake) | Fake: Volume 7: v. 7 (Fake)

Book review: Aoike Yasuko — From Eroica with Love – Volume 2

The second volume of the long-running manga series sees it settle down into the general series theme, with flamboyant art thief Eroica and uptight NATO intelligence agent Iron Klaus finding their paths repeatedly crossing, sometimes as opponents, sometimes having to work together. Set in the Cold War Europe of the 1970s, it shows a pair of characters who are on opposite sides of the law and very different in personality, but with some surprising things in common. Alas, one of those things is not sexual orientation, and Eroica’s romantic interest in Klaus is destined to remain unrequited, providing the source of much fun during the series.

And there’s plenty of fun to be had. The stories are completely over the top, in the same way that the Bond films are over the top — camp, very funny, and with plenty of action. In this one, Eroica and Klaus have a shared interest in a Greek shipping tycoon. Eroica wants to steal an art treasure, and Klaus wants to stop a KGB agent’s honeytrap operation. This leads on to a second adventure in which Klaus is trying to protect world leaders at a meeting which just happens to be just down the road from Eroica’s castle — and for perfectly rational reasons, Klaus ends up ordering Eroica to strip and hand over his underpants… But when they’re forced by circumstances to work together, they make a very good team.

Flawed but likeable people, they’re enormously entertaining to watch, as are the secondary characters. Both men have a team of minions, not all of whom are quite what their masters would wish for. This volume introduces Agent G, Klaus’ gay cross-dressing agent who has a crush on Eroica.

There’s also an independent story to fill out the page count, about a strait-laced young German man sent on a cultural exchange visit to a tiny island nation with a very strange navy. There’s not much plot, and there’s an awful lot of froth, but it’s a quick fun read with a serious point underneath the fluff.

From Eroica with Love – Volume 2 (From Eroica With Love (Graphic Novels)) at Amazon US
From Eroica with Love: Volume 2 (From Eroica with Love) at Amazon UK
at Powell’s

Book review: Satosumi Takaguchi — Shout Out Loud 3

Third in a five part series about a long-separated father and son getting to know each other while trying to deal with new relationships.

Nakaya’s got a bad crush on the ice hockey coach, and tries to do something about it. He ends up asking his father’s advice on what happens if you find yourself attracted to another man — but Shino’s struggling with the same question himself. Shino’s colleague Tenryu has made his own feelings clear, and Shino’s found himself responding.

After finishing the first half of their current anime series the voice actors go for a weekend break at a spa resort, giving ample opportunity for squabbling and seduction attempts — none of which go according to plan. By the end of the book Shino faces the fact that he might finally be falling in love again, for the first time since he lost Nakaya’s mother.

As with the first two books in the series, it’s more about the story than the sex — this volume does ramp up the steaminess, but the men and the book don’t go all the way. There’s some nice foreplay and kissing, but the real joy is in the humour and the way the various relationships develop. It’s gentle but it’s not pure fluff — for example, Tenyru’s dealing with a nasty divorce and faces losing contact with his daughter — which makes it all the better.

It’s possible to follow the plot in this one with just a synopsis of the previous volumes, but I’d strongly recommend reading the first two volumes first — you’ll get a lot more out of it if you’ve already got to know the characters.

Shout Out Loud! Volume 3: (Yaoi) at Amazon US
Shout Out Loud! (Yaoi) at Amazon UK
Shout out Loud!, Volume 3 at Barnes & Noble
at Powells

Book Review: Satsumi Takaguchi — Shout Out Loud! volume 2

Second of a five part yaoi manga series about a long-separated father and son trying to build a relationship while dealing with other upheavals in their lives. Shino’s an anime voice actor. Now he has a son to support, he’s started taking on any roles he’s offered — including yaoi audio dramas. Nakaya’s a teenager not quite old enough to be independent, but old enough to be initially very uncomfortable with his father’s job. It doesn’t really help that he’s noticed the interest some of Shino’s colleagues are showing in him, even if the unworldly Shino hasn’t.

This volume sees some development in the various plotlines set up in volume 1. Shino may be innocent, but even he can’t help noticing when his colleague Mizusawa invites him home and then kisses him very thoroughly. And passing it off as a bad case of bringing the job home stops working when Mizusawa and Tenryu start squabbling over him on a live radio show. Especially when Tenryu mentions having kissed Shino when Shino got drunk and passed out one night… Nakaya is trying to protect his father’s virtue, but he’s distracted by his own problems, not least of which is getting a crush on one of the ice hockey coachs.

As with the first volume, the focus is on story and character development rather than sex, although the UST gets a bit less U in this one. There are several well-developed characters here and a number of potential relationships hinted at for both Shino and Nakaya. It’s a sweet and often very funny story that kept me reading, guessing at how things might play out. The sex is limited to kissing, but is none the worse for that. The artwork is beautiful, and includes quite a selection of hot guys. Once again this series scores highly on both the eye candy and brain candy.

It’s possible to pick up the story with this volume, but I’d strongly recommend starting with the first volume in the series (reviewed here).

Shout Out Loud! Vol. 2 at Amazon US
Shout Out Loud!: Volume 2 at Amazon UK

Shout Out Loud!, Volume 2
at Barnes & Noble
at Powell’s

Book Review: Satsumi Takaguchi — Shout Out Loud! volume 1

First of what is apparently a five volume series. The first three parts are now available in English translation; the remaining two parts are scheduled for release in April and August.

Orphaned 17-year-old Nakaya goes looking for long-last father, expecting to find a burnt-out salaryman, and instead gets a baby-faced 33-year-old who makes a living as an anime voice actor. Finding himself with an unexpected son to support just as his current series is finishing, Shino tells his agency he’ll take any job. What he gets offered is roles in boys love audio dramas — and as becomes clear to the reader and eventually Nakaya, but not (yet) Shino, two of Shino’s co-workers are gay and have the hots for Shino.

There’s a good story in this book; the primary focus in the first volume is father and son getting to know each other (no, not in that way). Nakaya’s mother fell pregnant when she and Shino were teenagers, and she chose to leave Shino to stop him sacrificing his education to look after them. Now they have to build a relationship, at a time when both are grieving, and Nakaya is having to make decisions about his own education. It doesn’t help that Nakaya’s grandmother has never forgiven Shino for getting her daughter pregnant, and doesn’t want Nakaya living with Shino.

Along with this, there’s a look at the voice acting industry, and Shino’s developing relationships with two of his fellow actors — platonic on Shino’s side, but not on theirs. And then there’s Nakaya’s teacher, who is also gay and has a thing for nice voices…

The erotic content in this volume is mostly in the scripts Shino and his colleagues are working on, though there’s one very nice kiss. If you’re looking for hardcore you’ll be disappointed, but fans of UST should enjoy this one.

The cover’s a bit disappointing, but don’t let that put you off, as the interior art is much more attractive. Note that it’s a lot less bishounen in style than many (which matches my own preferences).

I liked this a lot. There’s an interesting story with relationships that develop over time, there’s a lot of gentle humour, it’s nicely drawn, and the guys are hot.

Shout out Loud!, Volume 1
Shout Out Loud! Vol. 1 at
Shout Out Loud!, Volume 1 at
at Powells

Book review: Aoike Yasuko — From Eroica With Love: volume 1

I first encountered “From Eroica With Love” in a fan-produced English translation published in fanzine format some years back. I was bowled over by the series, which I can only describe as a wonderfully loopy and self-aware micky-take of its own genre. I was delighted to hear that CMX have taken on the job of providing an official English translation for the series. They’ve done a very nice job of it, with excellent reproduction of the original artwork, and what I’m told is a faithful translation from the original Japanese text.

This first volume serves mainly to introduce the various characters, but it contains some very entertaining stories. It isn’t quite typical of the series as a whole, as it initially appears that three superpowered teenagers are amongst the main characters. In fact, they exist mostly to introduce Dorian Red Gloria, Earl of Gloria. He’s a very, very wealthy aristocrat who collects beautiful things, and his hobby is stealing art treasures. He’s also very beautiful himself, very, very queer, very, very flamboyant, and has an entourage of equally beautiful and gay young men.

The three teenagers disappear by the end of volume 1 and never return, which is good because they’re a lot less interesting than the other primary ongoing character, who doesn’t appear until part way through the book. Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach is also a wealthy aristocrat. However, if he’s queer, he’s so far back in the closet he’s in danger of running into a lamppost, he’s a top Nato agent, he has no sense of humour, and he has no time for degenerates. Pity his path keeps crossing with Dorian, who is all the things he despises. Unfortunately for Klaus, Dorian is also brave, clever, resourceful, and a number of other things he admires and didn’t expect to find in a degenerate. The feeling’s mutual – Klaus is a good many things that Dorian despises, but he’s brave, clever, resourceful… and decidedly pretty…

However loopy the plots may get, they’re believable while you’re reading them, and there’s some fine and very funny story-telling. The characters are flawed but always sympathetic. The art is utterly gorgeous. The first story in this book is a bit tedious in places, but it’s the setup story and worth going through so that you have the background. Even if you’re not really into the “pretty young men” genre of manga, this one’s worth a look.

From Eroica with Love – Volume 1 (From Eroica With Love (Graphic Novels)) at
From Eroica with Love: Volume 1 (From Eroica with Love) at
From Eroica with Love, Volume 1 from Barnes & Noble
From Eroica with Love, Volume 1 from Powell’s