Friday, July 30, 2010

Calling by Miu Otsuki review


Author/Artist: Mio Otsuki

Publisher: BLU

Rating: M – for ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Grade: B+

Kazuaki Hinamura leads a rather boring life. He works in the General Affairs division of his company, he lives alone, has no love life, and no ambition. Every day is lived in a rut. That is until his life is turned around by his encounter with Kira Aratani. One day while Kazuaki was headed home he decided to cut through the park. He accidentally came across a couple getting it on in the bushes. In an attempt to try to make a hasty retreat he accidentally trips on a can and spills his groceries all over the ground. While gathering up his scattered goods a rough looking young man with a beauty on his arm emerges from the foliage. Truly embarrassed Kazuaki apologizes and heads for the hills fearing for his life.
Thinking that he made it out safely Kazuaki tries to go on with life but he has no idea what’s in store for him. Waiting for him at the train station is the man from the park. It turns out that Kira is a porn star and they had just wrapped up filming when he ran into Kazuaki and it seems that Kira has fallen in love with Kazuaki. Kazuaki tries to ditch Kira but all Kira wants to do is hang out as friends with the hope that more will develop later on. Kazuaki has no idea what to do but he eventually agrees to it. Will Kazuaki fall for Kira like Kira wants?

I really didn’t know much about this story and I don’t know much about the artist but because I read a lot of yaoi I decided to order it. I am so glad that I did. I immediately fell in love with it after the first chapter. The story spans the entire book but it is written well enough that it leaves you feeling satisfied. One thing I appreciated about this title is that both characters are adults and behave as such. Another thing that’s great about this manga is that it even though its yaoi it doesn’t seem to follow the usual stereotypical plot devices. Kira waits patiently for Kazuaki to come around and doesn’t force anything on him (with the exception of his declaration of love - which is the typical love at first sight scenario, and a very passionate kiss). There is one female character that has a recurring role. Natsumi is a porn actress who often works with Kira and happened to witness the very first encounter between these two (she was the beauty on Kira’s arm.) Often in yaoi when women are portrayed they are generally used as set dressing or play the villainous roles. In the case of Natsumi she’s the opposite. She supports the relationship from the moment that Kira steps on Kazuaki’s tofu (hence Kazuaki gaining the moniker "Mr. Tofu, just read it, it makes more sense in the book.) The characters are charming and immediately latch onto your heart. I loved this manga!

The art is simply adorable. Because this is a comedy Otsuki-sensei utilizes chibis regularly and they are so cute, but I’ve always been a sucker for cute chibis. Something that I’ve noticed in yaoi is the artists will draw the seme with smaller, narrower eyes while the ukes are drawn with big, bright shojo heroine type eyes. In the case of the leads in Calling there are no distinctions between the seme’s eyes and uke’s. It’s a really fresh change and I liked it. Also you are able to distinguish between all of the characters. They are unique in their looks so there is never any confusion. I have been so impressed by this single volume that I hope we’ll get a chance to see more from Miu Otsuki-sensei.

Now I know it seems strange that I’m giving a title that I loved so much a B+. Honestly I normally would have given this an A but my issues stem with production quality of this title. I have a love/hate relationship with Blu. For the price one pays for one of their titles (the cover price is $14.99) you would expect a higher quality product than what you actually get. Yes, they include a full color cover page but the quality of paper that the rest of the manga is printed on leaves much to be desired as well as ink on your fingertips. Also there could be some improvements on the placement of text inside the bubbles. Finally the way that the sound effects are dealt with could be done better. Instead of translating the sound effects they generally leave them alone and not translate them or completely remove traces of the Japanese and replace it with the translation. I really wish they would make up their mind, translate them or not but don’t do it half way.

Even though I have issues with the actual physical product I love the story contained within. For someone looking for a fun, sweet yaoi featuring something other than schoolboys Calling is definitely for you.

***Review Copy purchased through***

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Il Gatto Sul G vol. 3 by Tooko Miyagi review

Il Gatto Sul G vol. 3

Author/Artist: Tooko Miyagi

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – 16 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

Riya’s life is spinning out of control. When we last left off Atsushi and Black Riya had attended Saki’s concert (for all info you need feel free to check out my reviews of volumes one and two) so Saki could witness for himself the dual personality. While at the concert Riya runs into Kousaka. Every time Riya has been around Kousaka he’s been in White mode but today he’s Black. He tries to pretend to be the White personality with disastrous results. Riya blows his own cover and then Kousaka gets angry and strikes Riya when Atsushi shows up. Atsushi and Riya head back home. Riya comes on to Atsushi to help dull the pain and initially Atsushi goes along with it until he truly discovers he loves Riya in a romantic way not familial way he initially started off with. Atsushi confesses his feelings and tells Riya that he doesn’t want to hurt him. Due to this shock Riya again reverts to White.

Atsushi has made the decision that he’s going to continue as a housekeeper but no longer wants to live with Riya. Riya on the other hand remembers nothing for the past 10 days and it really freaks him out to find out everything that’s happened. He escapes to school where he now has to face Kousaka. Kousaka offers himself up as a refuge because he feels that Riya has no one to support him and also spills it about the other personality. Riya’s emotions reel out of control and he skips school. While Riya is supposedly at school Saki arrives to spend some time with Riya before he heads back to New York. Sadly the only person there to greet him is Atsushi. Saki wants to know why Atsushi wants to move out and Atsushi tells Saki that he’s fallen in love with Riya. Saki accepts this news but insists that Atsushi know more about Riya’s past. Riya has definitely had it tough and I’ll leave it to you read about it. But Riya’s not out of the woods yet. Can he get things together or will he spiral out of control to complete destruction and who will he choose, Atsushi or Kousaka?

The final volume definitely dials up the drama to 11 (sorry for the lame Spinal Tap reference). We find out all about Riya’s childhood and how he developed his multiple personalities. It’s really rather sad and tough to read through but it definitely is an important part of the story. I’m still trying to figure things out with that section of the book and I’ve read through it many, many times and still pick up new information. Child abuse and mental illness are subjects that you don’t see much in manga (or at least the manga that I’ve come across) but it is handled well and I will inform you that it does have a happy ending and in the authors notes she states that her publishers have given her the go ahead to continue on with the story. According to (the link is to Tooko Miyagi’s page not the two titles) they have a couple titles listed as sequels to Il Gatto Sul G. I would love to read them but they don’t look like they’ve been gathered into tankobon form and one of them is brand spanking new. If the opportunity arises to have them eventually be available for license here in the States that would be absolutely fantastic.

As a series this is definitely a worthwhile and emotional read. It does follow some of the stereotypes that are prevalent in yaoi but it’s nice to see that Atsushi doesn’t follow them, it’s mainly Kousaka. It’s that attitude that I like to bully you and that’s how I show you my love. It can be true in real life (you know when you like to tease the one you like) but it’s taken to extremes which again are in typical yaoi. This would be a good introductory yaoi title because it’s not really graphic but definitely packs a heavy emotional punch.

Juné published this title after they made the move to remove the dust jacket, which makes me sad with this particular title. Also the paper isn’t as high quality as it used to be but compared to other publishers it’s definitely better. The cover has a shiny finish which doesn’t quite go with the matte finish of the first two, but I’d rather get the final volume in its current state instead of never getting the title.

Pick it up, it’s definitely worth your while!

***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Monday, July 26, 2010

Il Gatto Sul G vol. 2 by Tooko Miyagi review

Il Gatto Sul G vol. 2
Author/Artist: Tooko Miyagi

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – ages 16 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A

Life is getting more complicated for Atsushi Ikeda, Riya Narukawa, and Haruto Kousaka (Riya’s sempai.) When we last left off Kirimine High was preparing for their big concert featuring some of their most talented musicians. Riya was one of the featured violinists but some of his upperclassmen were not OK with him being chosen. After competing against Kousaka Riya is officially chosen as the representative but because of his mental instability Kousaka has taken on the role of understudy. Riya both admires and despises Kousaka. It seems that Kousaka is rather talented yet unmotivated but after witnessing one of Riya’s masterful performances it seems he’s found his muse. Kousaka enjoys teasing and bullying Riya (which is why Riya despises him). Things progress with Kousaka faster than one would like. Riya loses Atsushi’s apartment key and it turns out that Kousaka is the one who finds it. Using the key to lure Riya over to his apartment Kousaka then forces himself on Riya.

In the meantime Atsushi waits around for his cat (Riya with his Black personality) to show up. When Riya does appear he’s beyond ticked off at Atsushi. He admits that he is aware at what’s going on while the White personality is in charge but White, on the other hand, is completely unaware that Black exists. Plus Black Riya hates that everyone seems to prefer White Riya, including Atsushi. Atsushi tries to calm him down by stating that he makes no weird distinctions between the two personalities. Unfortunately that doesn’t appease Riya at all and he returns the key while confessing that White Riya slept with an upperclassman.

Atsushi hates that things left off the way they did so he blows off school to attend the Kirimine concert. Luckily Riya has reverted back to the White personality but things aren’t smooth sailing yet, nor are they likely to get better with the introduction of Riya’s cousin Saki Narukawa, famed pianist. After the concert Atsushi and Saki are introduced and to Saki’s surprise Riya seems to be rather attached to Atsushi. Another reason Saki is surprised with Atsushi is because of the fact that Atsushi knows the Black personality. Saki arranges for Atsushi to move in with Riya to work as a housekeeper and to keep Saki up to date on what is going on with Riya’s mental health. Will things work out for the better, or will Riya’s fragility cause him to break?

I still really like the story. It’s definitely a love triangle tale that I’ve never encountered before. Writing compelling stories that are riveting and interesting is definitely a talent that I don’t have and sometimes can be a difficult for anyone. Plus trying to portray characters with flaws realistically can be tough as well but so far I think that Tooko Miyagi-sensei has done a bang up job. I don’t know much about Multiple Personality Disorder but I know that it can be brought on by abuse. Was Riya abused as a child? Does Saki really know what’s going on? I’m pretty sure that all of that will be answered in the third and final volume.

The only real struggle I have with the story is Kousaka. He’s jealous of Atsushi, which can be expected when you have a crush on someone, but for some reason he feels the need to be violent at times. He claims to have feelings for Riya but doesn’t show them well. You often see this characteristic in semes in yaoi and I’ve never understood it. I can understand the whole "I want to tease them" behavior but I don’t get the "I want to mess them up" attitude. But it’s something that I have to deal with because this is an often a plot device that is used often in yaoi.
Juné has again done a beautiful job with this release. It has a matte dust jacket (it was released before Juné dropped the dust jackets) and brilliant white paper. I also love that on the inner flap of the dust jacket has a picture featuring a chibi Black Riya and Atsushi. What can I say, I’m a sucker for chibi’s. The book is a bit stiff but you don’t have to wrestle with it to stay open.

I’m looking forward to how this is going to turn out. It seems that Atsushi’s feelings for Riya go deeper than he originally thought and he has to deal with the fact that White Riya seems to be somewhat attracted to Kousaka. And Kousaka is struggling with the discovery that Riya does indeed have multiple personalities. The third volume is definitely a title that I’m excited to read!
If you’re interested feel free to check out my review of the first volume of Il Gatto Sul G.

***Review Copy purchased through Akadot Retail***