Yaoi Reviews By Us

Yaoi reviews by our resident writers.

09/04/2016

Love Stage!!, Volume 5

LOVE STAGE!! Volume 5 ©Eiki EIKI 2014 ©Taishi ZAOU 2014 / KADOKAWA CORPORATION

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Year series launched: 2010

Mangaka: Eiki Eiki (story), Taishi Zaou (art)

Published by: SuBLime

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Material length: 186

Rating: Mature

English release date: 11th April 2016

Review by Ian Wolf

Please note that the reviewer comes from England and thus this review is written in British-English.

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When I reviewed the previous volume (which was my first review for this website, scroll down to the bottom of the page to see it), I said that I was really looking forward to seeing what would happen in Volume 5. This edition is one of the best manga I can remember reading, and has one of the funniest scenes I can remember in a manga for a long time.

At the end of the fourth volume, our leads Izumi Sena and Ryoma Ichijo, have started work on acting on a TV show. However, they have a massive falling out. Izumi’s agent Rei knows that his tantrums often takes weeks to go away, so he needs to try and think of a way to solve the problem.

During the actual filming, Ryoma suddenly breaks down when he discovers that Izumi is a brilliant actor despite having so little experience. In order to help Ryoma get over his troubles, the show’s troublesome director, Jin Kisaragi, performs some mock hypnotism on him, a trick he previously did on Izumi in order to help him. Jin’s tries his trick to make Ryoma forget his problems. However, when Jin does his trick this time, he is horrified to discover that his hypnotism actually works, and that Ryoma really has forgot his problems – which are Izumi. Thus Ryoma has no memory of who Izumi is at all.

Izumi is distraught about what has happened to Ryoma, and to make things worse the hypnotism shows no signs of clearing up as the day pass by. Kisaragi does not want to get rid of the hypnosis anyway, for fearing that the two stars will fall out again. After feeling all gloomy, and masturbating in his own room, Izumi decides to uses his otaku knowledge to solve the problem himself. Izumi believes that if Ryoma won’t come to him, Izumi must go to him, by becoming, “the seme to end all semes – a super seme that will rock the entire BL world!”

What makes this volume of Love Stage!! so great this what happens directly after this quote. At the beginning of Act 22 we see Ryoma, lying on a bed, in the bedroom of some hunky blonde guy, who then comes onto Ryoma. On the next page, we then discover what this is all about: it was a dream in which the hunky blonde is Izumi’s own vision of what he would look like as a seme. He is dreaming while in the middle of a traffic jam, and talking in his sleep, so he is saying out aloud that Ryoma should feel his love. This is funny on its own, to see Izumi unwittingly talk about his sexual fantasies. The best thing however is that he is in the back seat of the car being driven by a horrified Rei, who is thinking to himself: “Somebody is having a dream I’d really not think about.”

This is a brilliant four pages: the dream providing the set-up, complete with some sexual excitement, followed by the gag of Izumi’s sleep-talking, and finally Rei’s wonderful reaction to it all. Every time I go back to that fourth page I cannot stop myself from laughing, in particular at Rei’s reaction. It is hilarious. It is the four best pages in a manga that I can remember for some time.

There is more comedy to follow, as Rei tries to help Izumi at a party, namely by getting Ryoma and everyone else drunk so that the two guys can be alone together. However, it goes horribly wrong. Then there is some drama while Izumi and Ryoma film their show, when Ryoma has an accident and Izumi has to save him.

This is one of the best yaoi manga volumes I have ever come across, and one of my personal manga highlights of the year so far. I really hope that there is a second anime series gets commissioned just to see this scene being acted out.

15/03/2016

 

The World’s Greatest First Love, Volume 4

Image copyright: SEKAIICHI HATSUKOI –ONODERA RITSU NO BAAI- Volume 4 ©Shungiku NAKAMURA 2010

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Year series launched: 2006

Mangaka: Shungiku Nakamura

Published by: SuBLime

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Material length: 178

Rating: Mature

English release date: 8th March 2016

Review by Ian Wolf

Please note that the reviewer comes from England and thus this review is written in British-English.

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Continuing on from the previous volume (a review of which is below, posted 14/12/2015), once again we witness the comic struggles of shojo manga editor Ritsu Onodera as he tried to put up with the advances of his boss, next-door neighbour and former boyfriend Masamune Takano, who is determined to make Ritsu love him again.

This volume is set over Christmas, but the big celebration is not so much Jesus’s birthday, but with Masamune’s birthday, which is on Christmas Eve. This in turn leads to more problems with Takafumi Yokozawa from the sales department, who admits that he dates Masamune after he split up from Ritsu. Things take a more romantic turn however when Masamune drives Ritsu out to a romantic spot during a snow storm, where Masamune still declares his love for Ritsu, and then the two of them make love in Masamune’s car, because if there is one thing Christmas is about, it’s dogging.

Later on with deadlines moved forward because of Christmas and New Year, Ratsu has problems not just with the manga artists working for him and how to deal with him, but a friend of his has just come back from a trip abroad. After he and Masamune return to their homes (during which the train breaks down allowing Masamune to have a quick kiss with the one he loves), they bump into Ritsu’s friend, An Kohinata, who he reveals is actually his fiancé via an arranged marriage, although he is not that way inclined towards her.

This volume ends with another chapter devoted to a different couple in the story, namely between editor Shota Kisa and manga-selling shop assistant Kou Yukina. This chapter opens up Shota overworked, before moving to him giving Kou oral sex, before moving on again with Shota worried that Kou doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that Shota is so overworked. Shota eventually gets to the point that he is annoyed by the fact that Kou is not annoyed at him, losing his temper. The next time he sees Kou, he is talking to a woman.

In Volume 4, there is a sense of worry, mainly at how all of a sudden two of the central relationships in the story have new obstacles, and both of them are women. There is plenty of discussion about the role of female characters in yaoi, and how the mainly women readers deal with such characters, with a surprising amount of what can be argued to be sexist retaliation. While it is difficult to gain all the reactions, it is worrying that readers might act in a hostile way towards characters like An, who may be seen as trying to break up the lead characters. While the story will probably end well, the way women are used can still be seen as some as problematic, especially given that yaoi is a genre of manga controlled by women.

There are certainly a lot of sex scenes in this volume, mostly seeming to involve some form of transport in Ritsu and Masamune’s case, although there is also a scene where they make love back in Masamune’s flat. However, the main feeling when reading this particular volume is one of worry: worry about how both relationships will cope, how these new problems will be treated, and how new characters will be tolerated by the readership.

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08/02/2016

Awkward Silence

Awkward Silence: Volume 5

Image copyright: Bukiyou na Silent 5 ©2015 Hinako Takanaga

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Year series launched: 2006

Mangaka: Hinako Takanaga

Published by: SuBLime

Genre: Comedy

Material length: 178

Rating: Mature (18+)

English release date: 9th February 2016

Review by Ian Wolf

Please note that the reviewer comes from England and thus this review is written in British-English.

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Hinako Takanaga maybe most famous for her long-running series The Tyrant Falls in Love, published in English by Digital Manga Publishing, but this series brought out by SuBLime also has its charms too, even if it is a long time between volumes. A quick look in the afterword will show there was roughly a two-year gap between volumes 4 and 5.

Awkward Silence features as its lead character Satoru Tono, an introverted art student whose face is totally expressionless. Thus he often has trouble describing his feelings to other people, although he does make his problems clear to the reader, which he does at the start of each chapter. Indeed, he does this so often, that he knows that it is becoming something of a cliché. Satoru is in love with Keigo Tamiya, the star of the school’s baseball team, and the pair do fall for each other.

The fifth volume begins with Tamiya and Satoru being able to go away for a summer holiday in the holiday home belonging to a friend, Takahito Kagami, the school council president, who himself is in a relationship with another male pupil Yuji “Yu” Sagara. Tamiya and Satoru enjoy their time aware, both in art museums and the bedroom, but things become problematic when Kagami and Yu bust in on their love-making. However, if you think that this is a problem, it is nothing when compared to them kissing each other outside Satoru’s home when Satoru’s equally expressionless mother catches them in the act.

Later on, Satoru starts studying at an art prep school, where at first he has problems using charcoal, a material he is not used to working with, but he is helped out by an older student named Shimon Sasayama. However, when Tamiya spots them both outside of the school, he becomes jealous, to the point he starts studying at the same school. Tamiya in turn becomes friends with another student, Izumi Fujimoto, and when all four meet other, problems ensue.

The best bit about Awkward Silence is Satoru. It is interesting to see a title character that is so emotionless on the surface. The joy in seeing him is the fact that you know that in his head is either deeply excited, worried etc., but he never expresses it verbally or physically to anyone else but to you the reader. Because of this Satoru has this particular style to him, where he looks rather blank or dull to the casual observer, but to anyone who has read the manga who will know there is more depth to him. It says something rather nice about the character, and that you can have a lead in which you need to understand them by their internal thoughts rather than what they actually say or do.

Concerning the sexual aspect, there is nothing really that exciting. Yes you see them making love in the bed, or washing each other in the shower, but it does feel a bit plain. Thus the main appeal of this particular volume is not the physical, but the emotional content, especially when it comes to the age old problem of coming out to your parents, which is rather wonderfully and comically done.

14/01/2016

His Favorite 8

His Favorite, Volume 8

Image copyright: Aitsu no Daihonmei 8 ©2015 Suzuki Tanaka

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Year series launched: 2008

Mangaka: Suzuki Tanaka

Published by: SuBLime

Genre: Comedy, Shonen-ai

Material length: 186

Rating: Older Teen (16+)

English release date: 10th January 2016

Review by Ian Wolf

Please note that the reviewer comes from England and thus this review is written in British-English (much to his difficulty. He has to keep remembering to remove the “u” form “favourite” in the title).

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His Favorite is one of my favourite boys’ love manga, which is odd because this is not an erotic title. This is a more romantic, shonen-ai series. However, what it lacks in terms of sexual content it makes up for when it comes to comedy.

The series revolves around two boys at an unnamed school. The central figure, and seme, Takahiko Sato, is loved by all the girls in the school, but he is not interested in them at all. He only cares for “his most favourite” Yoshio Yoshida, the uke in their relationship. Yoshida does not look like the most attractive person: he is short and has a scar on his face, but his scar is evidence of why Sato loves him. Sato used to be fat and Yoshida used to protect him from bullies, and he got the scar in a fight protecting Sato.

The two were separated for years, with Sato moved to a specialist school in England which turned out to be a fat camp, whose methods of getting everyone to lose weight included fighting wild animals. As a result of his dramatic weight loss Sato became the hunk he now is. Now Sato likes to spend most of his time sadistically teasing Yoshida. Meanwhile most of the people there are either trying to break up the relationship or in some way interfering. Even coming out in previously volumes doesn’t stop people.

The eighth volume begins with Yoshida and his classmates studying for their exams before Christmas, but Sato is gloomy because his family wants him to spend Christmas with them rather than Yoshida. Later there is more chaos created by Arima Machiko, the female president of the school council who is absolutely determined to spend time with Sato, who decides to create a New Year’s Resolution contest. There is also another relationship in school, between openly gay student Seijuro Nishida and transfer student Takeru Azuma, with Azuma constantly trying to express his feelings while Nishida pines for Yoshida. Lastly Sato and Yoshida go on a school trip where there is the possibility of more romantic opportunities.

One reason I really enjoy this series is because of the humour and the characters. The teasing relationship between Sato and Yoshida is fun to enjoy, plus there are all the other side characters too, who form love rivals for both of them.

It has been fun to read this series, over these past eighth volumes, as the series has been developing. While we see a lot of one-off yaoi manga published, I personally feel that it is better to see a longer running manga where you can get to feel for the people in it.

The series is being adapted as a live-action TV series. Whether it will become an anime too is unknown.

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14/12/2015

The World's Greatest First Love 3

The World’s Greatest First Love, Volume 3

Image copyright: SEKAIICHI HATSUKOI –ONODERA RITSU NO BAAI- Volume 3 ©Shungiku NAKAMURA 2009

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Year series launched: 2006

Mangaka: Shungiku Nakamura

Published by: SuBLime

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Material length: 186

Rating: Mature

English release date: 13th October 2015

Review by Ian Wolf

Please note that the reviewer comes from England and thus this review is written in British-English.

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Shungiku Nakamura is one of the most famous writers of yaoi manga around, famous for her long-running titles such as Junjo Romantica and The World’s Greatest First Love, both of which have also gone on to be adapted as anime series.

The World’s Greatest First Love, subtitled The Case of Ritsu Onodera, for those unfamiliar with the series, follows Ritsu Onodera, a editor with a fashion of literature who left his old company because his father was boss and Ritsu was worried about accusations of nepotism. However, when he moves companies he is shocked to find himself working in the shojo manga department named Emerald, nicknamed the “Maiden Club”, which at the start of month is very relaxed and sweet, but come nearer any deadlines becomes horrifyingly chaotic.

Ritsu’s boss, Masamune Takano, seems to irritate Ritsu in just about every way with his demands and attitude. Things become even worse when Ritsu moves into his new accommodation and finds Masamune is his next-door neighbour. But worst of all, when Ritsu learns of Masamune’s full name he remembers that they have met before. They were at school together, and loved each other, but Ritsu turned him down. Masamune however still loves Ritsu and is determined to make Ritsu fall in love with them again. There is however another problem, which is Takafumi Yokozawa of the sales department who wants to make sure that Ritsu does not hurt Masamune again.

This third volume Ritsu is made the magazine co-ordinator, overseeing the schedule for that month, but the problem is no-one is taking him seriously. Ritsu finds himself being bossed about by Masamune and Yokozawa, the rest of the Maiden Club refuse to do what they are told, and worst of all Masamune is still as relentless as ever in terms of trying to get Ritsu to love him.

However, this forms just one chapter of the story, albeit a large chapter. Volumes of this manga normally only consist of just two chapters each. The rest of this manga, split into two smaller chapters, deals with a different character, and is entitled The Case of Shota Kisa. For anyone who is slightly worried by the use of the name “Shota”, don’t worry, there is nothing underage in this chapter. Shota is a 30-year-old who also works as an editor in the Maiden Club. He visits the shojo manga department of a large bookshop and starts to fall in love with the shop assistant who runs the shojo area, arty Kou Yukina. However, Shota still has his fair share of problems, including a former lover who refuses to acknowledge that his relationship with Shota is over.

In terms of plus points the main one would be the plot. This has always been Shungiku Nakamura’s best area, which is why her titles have been able to run on for so long, in comparison to other yaoi titles which are often just collections of short stories. It is why this manga has been turned into two anime TV series, an OVA and an anime film.

Admittedly the art is not as great as it could be. It feels a bit too blocky for my licking. However, if you are only familiar with the anime then the manga does have at least one advantage over the anime which is that the sex scenes are more intense. We do see a lot more action, and more graphic at that, including anal, oral, and a comic confession from Kou saying that he once fantasied about Shota while masturbating.

Interesting to see the side characters develop in this volume, but I would prefer to see more of the main couple.

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11/10/2015

Love Stage!! Volume 4

Love Stage!! Volume 4

Image copyright: LOVE STAGE!! Volume 4 ©Eiki EIKI 2014 ©Taishi ZAOU 2014 / KADOKAWA CORPORATION

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Year series launched: 2010

Mangaka: Eiki Eiki (story), Taishi Zaou (art)

Published by: SuBLime

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Material length: 178

Rating: Mature

English release date: 9th November 2015

Review by Ian Wolf

Please note that the reviewer comes from England and thus this review is written in British-English.

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The anime adaptation of Love Stage!! was certainly one of the yaoi highlights of last year. Now the original manga, as released in English by Viz Media’s SuBLime label, has finally reached the point beyond the anime ended. We are now into unexplored territory for we English-language fudanshi and fujoshi.

For those not familiar with the series, the story follows the relationship between Izumi Sena, who comes from a family of celebrities but wants to be a manga artist; and Ryoma Ichijo, an actor who first met and fell in love with Izumi when filming an advert as a child. However, Izumi was dressed as a girl and he had no idea he was a boy. Ryoma did not find out until recently when they made another advert together, but he still loved Izumi and by the end of the third volume, they finally came together – both romantically and physically.

The opening chapter covers the plot that was later adapted as an OVA episode, Love Stage!! OAD. Ryoma has just finished filming his latest show, leaving him with two weeks off which plans to spend with his Izumi, who has now taken up his family’s celebrity mantle. However, Izumi does not want to spend time with Ryoma because Ryoma was so rough with him when they first made love. They eventually make-up though, apologise to each other and they embrace each other again.

The story then rolls on to a new phrase. Izumi is starting to become successful as a celebrity, appearing in a selection of popular ads. He becomes so popular that he is picked up for a major part in a TV drama by top producer Jin Kisaragi, the man responsible for Ryoma’s first successful TV role. A fan of Jin’s work, Izumi accepts the part. What Izumi does not know is that Ryoma hates Jin, because he makes constant sexual advances on all his actors, male and female. Izumi experiences this behaviour first hand, but Ryoma manages to stop Jin before he manages to actually have sex with him. In order to protect Izumi, Ryoma reluctantly agrees to star in the same show.

However, things become problematic. While Izumi’s agent Rei helps to protect Izumi while Ryoma is not on set, Izumi faces major problems. First he discovers his character has three different personalities; secondly he has very little experience as an actor anyway; and thirdly Ryoma’s jealousy gets to the point that it eventually damages their relationship. Whether the two can eventually make up is to be seen.

I am very keen on Love Stage!! for numerous reasons. Firstly is the quality of Taishi Zaou’s art. The way she brings the characters to life is brilliant. I must also confess that I do happen to have a thing for the more cute guys like Izumi. I want to say “cute boys” but I can’t help but feel a tad uncomfortable do so in that context.

Secondly is the story, and in particular the humour from Eiki Eiki. The funniest part of the book occurs in the opening chapter when Izumi finally tells Ryoma the reason why he has been avoiding him, when he suddenly bellows out that the sex they had, “made my butt hurt really bad!” The phrase, “Yamete, oshiri ga itai!” springs to mind.

This leads onto the sex scenes themselves. This fourth volume of the story has a lot of action: kissing, fingering, doggy style and nipple play. Some readers may be uncomfortable however when Jin makes his advance on Izumi. While there is no full-on sex, Jin’s hand does slip down Izumi’s pants and it certainly isn’t consensual. This whole problem however is what causes the main drama in this volume and tension in what becomes a love triangle between Izumi, Ryoma and Jin. Looking forward to seeing what happens in Volume 5.

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