>> Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Just wanted to share.
Many of you have likely noted my large repertoire of self-published
novels and anthologies. I had a good reason for doing it, namely, I
couldn't seem to connect with a publisher who appreciated my writing
like, let's face it, I do.
And there's no merit in a story that sits forever in a virtual drawer. So I put them out there, where, they were mostly ignored, but nowhere near as ignored as they were on my computer alone. And, I maintain, that was largely because my marketing skills are not impressive. But the books...
This past year, I've dallied in a field I haven't dallied in in decades, short stories. Prompted first by contests, then a great friend, Chuck Larlham, who enjoyed reading my work and kept finding new opportunities to check out and, ultimately, write a story for. So, after a year, I've got more than a dozen new stories, mostly fantasy science fiction and fantasy, but several that are also in different genres I haven't tried before or, at least, not in a long time.
As I've been rediscovering my writing talent, Chuck's also been key to my sending it out there. I got in JAMM magazine (as I noted previously), have a story accepted in an anthology meant for book club type parties, and another short story in charity anthology to support a charity that works with domestic abuse (Dove).
The publisher for the Dove anthology specializes in science fiction and fantasy and the name could not have been more perfect for me: The Dragon's Rocketship Publishing. They're relatively new and small, which is fine with me, and also accept short stories. So, a story that didn't make any waves in a contest (I seem to do more poorly in those than straight marketing) seemed like something to try because I *liked* it. So did they. They in fact gushed in the way I've been dreaming of a publisher gushing since time immemorial and wanted to know if I could make it into a novel. Well, no, I hadn't intended to make it into a novel, but, oddly enough, I'd written two side short stories that were related to a novel I'd already written (Curse of the Jenri) and was weeks away from self-publishing.
|Not the final cover, just my own concept|
I know, I know, I've been so neglectful. Nothing about anime and manga for months even though I do keep reading it.
Busy busy. Today Right Stuff Anime (who has sold me a tome or six and several movies/shows) sent me an email linked to an article about the history of Anime.
Fascinating stuff so I'm sharing it with you.
The History of Anime
That's independent to an unusual degree. But, you know, I'm pretty avant
garde myself. Looks like I'll be in the first issue of Just A Minor
Malfunction along with my good writing buddy, R. C. Larlham. So, fun
will be had for everyone.
I'm actually rather excited as it's set in a science fiction setting I'd been planning (and am still planning) to write a novel in, only this is more a prequel. Thing is, I'm so in love with my characters in this new short story, Second Life, I may have to make room for them in the novel.
But then, I do love a challenge. If you're interested in reading my story, Chuck's or any of the other stories gathered, check it out.
I have another book, Nine Lives, available for preorder that will become available September 15. Right now, you can order it for $2.99 (price will go to $4.99 after it's released). You can preorder it now from Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Apple as well as Smashwords, which has available in all formats including Kindle. (It will be in on Amazon.com sometime on September 15).
That's three books already out, Conjuring Dreams (short stories), Tarot Queen (adult novel), and Beast Within (YA novel).
"Trapped on a planet across the universe from their homeworld, more than a thousand youngsters, teachers and crew must make a new home for themselves in this beautiful and dangerous world. Some, however, are shapechangers, Bete, that many look on as demons, so they have more to fear than their new environment. At the same time, their powers have also saved all the refugees more than once. To protect themselves from the humans that fear or hate them, the Bete have started a separate colony from the rest.
With their little Bete colony going well with his foster brother, the intolerably perfect Xander, in charge, Laren, was feeling a trifle unnecessary, which didn't sit well with his pride. Or his temper. But when his arrogance nearly got himself and his best friend Rem killed, he decided to reign back his anger and deal with things with a little more thought.
He did so just in time because Xander became dangerously ill, hurting his mate, the healer, in his delirium. And, at nearly the same moment, the other colony was overrun with those that feared the Bete as demon-spawn. With an unknown disease in the camp and potential attack from outside, a level head was definitely needed. Who would have guessed that Laren would be the one to provide it?
Who knew this being in charge business was so troublesome?
Sequel to Beast Within. Contains some language and violence."
So, two books all the way out, Conjuring Dreams and Tarot Queen, and now another book available at bargain prices for preorder: Beast Within
Update: Now it's been released, it's still available at the bargain price of $4.99
"When a ship of youthful refugees maroons on a strange and dangerous new planet, Xander had no choice but to take charge of his shapeshifting clan, the Bete, to protect the strange foreign healer, K'Ti, from humans as well as his own suspicious clan. Among humans, shapeshifting and magic were frequently equated with evil. The lives of the Bete and K'Ti would readily be forfeit if certain fanatical factions discovered their gifts.
After Xander convinced the captain to let them be the first to set up camp outside, the healer's extensive magical skills quickly became key to survival. When K'Ti discovered the Bete's shapeshifting abilities, Xander defied his clan to let her live.
To defend themselves, and the humans, from the vicious predators like the man-sized Klixit, of the new planet, the Bete will need every skill, shred of knowledge and capability they possess. Xander will have to weigh the needs of his clan with his trust of humans, the risk from the dangers all around them, and those that lie within his fellow refugees. "
Unlike Tarot Queen, Beast Within is a SF/Fantasy Adventure YA with an ensemble cast, so it's not as racy, not quite as violent and a bit more teen friendly. But, I do think it's quite interesting for adults as well. I make a point of not dumbing down language but letting context clues expand the vocabulary.
I know what you're thinking: "I haven't even finished the first one (which was free)." True, but, if you do finish Conjuring Dreams
and are jonesing for something else from my talented brain, you're in
luck because you can get a deal on the next novel that takes up where
the short stories stop.
Update: It's now out and $4.99.
This one's not free, but you can get a deal on it since you can preorder it for $2.99 - it and will go to $4.99 after it's published on May 15 (which coincidentally is my 25th anniversary as a Rocket Scientist since I started working at Johnson Space Center in May of 1989). This novel is a grown up story, but fun and hopefully thought-provoking.
Announcing Tarot Queen.
At long last with a self-crafted book cover, I have self-published my first e-book: Conjuring Dreams And it's FREE!
I love, just love, Yoshinaga Fumi. She's one of the best story tellers
I've ever read and I can't help reading her books over and over,
voraciously, even when she has characters do things I despise. They're
Unfortunately, because of the format (manga) many of the readers I know would never even try these which is a great pity because the artwork is a key part of the effectiveness of the story. Even for those people willing to read manga (like my sister, Cheryl Beck Carvajal), I can't recommend the stuff I like best because yaoi (particularly Yoshinaga's yaoi) is not for the faint-hearted. Of the non-yaoi stuff, Garden of Dreams and Antique Bakery are great. Ooku, the Inner Chamber is also fantastic but horrible at the same time, but I can't stop reading it once I pick it up and can't sleep for two days afterwards because I can't stop thinking about it.
Sorry, I'm giddy because I haven't been able to track down the first volume for Gerard and Jacques (definitely yaoi) for ages, couldn't find any copy, even though I had the second one, until just recently and I even got it for less than a fortune. Don't mind me. Though I've written about Yoshinaga Fumi's work before:
I've written about her here and here on this blog, too. The more often I read her (and she's among the most rereadable authors I've ever stumbled across), the more I find myself entranced.
I liked manga and even yaoi, even before my husband left me, but I've
been pretty consumed by it the past two years or so since he's been
gone. I'm open-minded and all but even I was a little stumped as to why
it (Boy's Love manga) was so fascinating to me, why I've all but ignored
my regular novels and the like, why even the shoujo mangas (I'm stilling
buying new volumes of to finish the series) were languishing while I
read and reread my favorite yaoi.
What is it?
(For those of you who think this is better suited to my Rocket Scientist blog because this is all about me rather than the manga, fear not, I'm cross-posting it).
Today, as I'm wiping away tears reading a manga I've read before (single volume: Dekichatta Danshi by Mikagi Tsubaki), I think I finally figured it out, not just why I'm focused on manga, but focused on yaoi in particular. The tears, by the way, were only slightly because the story was touching (though it was) - mostly I was jealous because the touchy hard-case main character had someone who loved him desperately, unequivocally, with everything he had. I just loved Yu and I'd love to have him for myself.
Not Yu specifically (since he's way too young for me and I'm not doing that again, not to mention he's in love with someone else, oh, and fictional), but someone who loved me, treasured me. I used to believe I'd have someone like that in my life.
Now, of course, not so much; I'm pretty much sure that ain't gonna happen. But, for a long time after Lee left, I was starting to question if it EVER happens, if it's ever real. I mean, I love my children with everything. I cherish and treasure them (yes, not the same, but that notion that someone means more to you than yourself, that is the same) so I know that kind of love exists. And, intellectually, I know couples for whom that kind of thinking is part and parcel of their relationship, even if there are little strifes here and there. That devotion to one another remains at the core of their lives.
But I'd lost my faith in that magic. My faith in people who lay it all on the line (as I once did), who strive and struggle because there is someone in their lives they just can't lose no matter what. My faith in the happy ending.
And that was a serious concern for me. Not so much for how I live my life - I can survive the rest of my years as a bitter cynic, probably still even be a good mother if a little extra sarcastic, which probably won't bother my remaining children (the ones that live at home) until/if they start talking.
But it kept me from writing anything new fiction-wise and that was becoming a serious concern. When I write, I have to feel it or it won't come across genuine, won't come across real. It's not enough to tell myself it's true intellectually - I have to believe it.
Now, of course, I could write novels without any hint of romance, but I don't want to. I've almost always had some sort of romantic mush in my novels because I like it, I like reading it, I want to write it. I want to write novels that still believe in magic and romance and overcoming the nigh impossible. I don't want to be a cynical writer.
(For those of you who think I should publish this on Rockets and Dragons, since that's about my writing, fear not, I'll be cross posting it there).
So, Stephanie (the person) had to recapture her belief in the wonder of romance in a life deprived of same (and an argument could be made it always was) or she could never be Stephanie (the writer) again. Hence, mangas, where words and characters have more power because, hey, pictures. And yaoi because, hey, most are only a volume or two, the diversity in stories and scenarios is staggering, and the romance (in the good ones) is in your face - immediate and urgent because, on the whole, the romantic partners have a great deal more on the line, and stand a greater chance in losing everything just by mentioning their interest.
There are many other things in yaoi that are rather in your face (so be warned), but that's not why I read it (and the really smutty ones that are all sex/violence and nothing else don't interest me at all). I need that romance, I need to believe in it again.
I've read Dekichatta Danshi before and I didn't cry, I didn't feel it the same way. But this time, I did. I think that means I'm getting it back.
Also, I know which manga I should review next.
If someone were ever truly curious why in the world someone like me would read yaoi, I would be tempted, nay compelled, to direct them to the work of Junko. I have read everything I can find that she(?) has written and I love them all. I'm not calling her the most compelling or most powerful, most original or cleverest of the yaoi authors - though there are certainly brilliant yaoi mangaka and I've written about several of them - or saying she has the finest artistry, though I find her drawing quite appealing.
But - but - what Junko brings to the party are exactly those elements I find most appealing about yaoi, what I read it for: sweet, decent, misunderstood, imperfect characters struggling to come to terms with themselves, their feelings and their relationships in a world that isn't always understanding. There's a minimum of adventure or crazy setups or action or drama in general. These are quiet and compelling character studies, exactly what I like best. Powerful because it's all about the people. Oh, and like most of my favorite mangaka, she's often hilarious. And she manages to do that with little or no rape which is a rarity in the yaoi world (unfortunately).
There is sex. Sometimes a lot of it. (The stories, however, are all about love, which is my own litmus test to separate the yaoi I like from the yaoi that isn't my bag).
Take for instance Mr. Mini Mart (which was just published in English) also called Konbini-Kun. Here's a teenager (Nakaba) who, in his last year of middle school, had his unspoken crush for a friend outed publically and was so traumatized by the experience that he all but became a shut-in, unable to return to school or hardly talk to anyone. His uncle offers him (now sixteen) a job at a convenience store and Nakaba takes it in an attempt to recover and get past his trauma. At first, he's not sure it will work as he rubs one of his coworkers (a rather delinquent-looking forthright individual) the wrong way but the fellow (Yamai) turns out to be a decent guy and they become friends (over a cat Yamai saves in the rain). Nakaba is starting to find his niche when former classmates come in and start to needle him. Yamai shoos them away and then demands the story. Nakaba tells him, fearfully, but Yamai accepts it all casually and is adamant Nakaba did nothing wrong.
Kamisama Kiss by Suzuki Julietta started out on my list as "Has a Certain Appeal". Then I ignored my list for a long time, meanwhile I found myself captivated by the series so it moves up in rank to "Gotta Have 'Em All." I'll be updating my list shortly.
Like many shoujo, it moves on the slow side, but it had aspects that appealed from the very beginning. I wasn't entranced but I was intrigued enough to keep reading. Before I knew it, I loved it. It isn't just the charm and appeal of our outwardly cold main protagonist, Tomoe, though who wouldn't love a fox demon that's good-looking and capable? It isn't just the quirky premise or the mystique of an unfamiliar mythology (though I've always loved mythology and Japanese mythology is new to me). What really appeals is the relationship between Tomoe and the main character, Momozono Nanami, a charming "normal" girl sucked into a surreal world, laden with heavy responsibilities and very very limited power. Her charm is augmented by the fact that she repeatedly fixes her own problems, not just through the intervention of her powerful familiar, not just due to her efforts to grow into her "god" powers, but due to her intelligence and her bright honest personality that snags her followers and allies along the way.
Stories that empower women without just making them rescue-able eye candy and without trying to turn them into men appeal to me deeply. That she's such a fine person, honest but not without flaws, that her judgement isn't always true, but her heart is, that Tomoe (desperate never to fall for a human girl again) is inescapably drawn to her, all these things I find positively endearing.
Anime? Yes (subtitled) Volumes of manga: 18 (13 Eng) Status: Ongoing (but nearly complete in Japan, I think)
My rating: Gotta have 'em all
Age range: I wouldn't have a problem letting any teenager read this, but we all know I'm progressive.
Taboos and "warnings": Some sexual innuendo, some minor violence. If magic and the occult bother you, you won't like this, but I doubt you'd be frequenting my blog given my own tastes.
Premise: Nanami's no-account father has bolted, leaving her penniless and left with no place to live and unlikely to be able to stay in high school. As she contemplates her bleak future in the park, she rescues a terrified "man" from a stray dog and ends up telling the man her story. He (Mikage) tells her that he has a place nearby that he hasn't been using (had abandoned) and that she was welcome to take it over. Then he kisses her forehead, passing, unbeknownst to Nanami, his tochigami powers (tochigami is a "land-god" responsible for an area of land). Mikage had indeed abandoned his shrine for twenty years, leaving his familiar, a powerful yokai (a type of demon), to fulfill Mikage's duties as well as he could. The yokai, Tomoe, is somewhat irate already that he'd been abandoned so long. Finding a human girl of no particular distinction suddenly in charge adds insult to injury and he takes off to go back to his former wastrel ways, but is tricked and kissed by Nanami (who needs his helps on several different levels), thus become her familiar sort of against his will.
What works: Tomoe's apparent amorality and indifference to Nanami's plight (and to the master who abandoned him), make it pretty easy to accept him being effectively shanghaied in the beginning. By the time we find out he's a tsundere character (much nicer/responsible/caring than he wants anyone to know), it is already apparent that he needs purpose or he'll destroy himself. Her stealing him put the breaks on a self-destructive breakdown. He complains but is actually very responsible and quite protective and, very shortly, it becomes very clear that he genuinely cares about and even respects Nanami.
Yokai: A mere human, a shabby girl becoming a tochigami. This shrine has sunk so low.
Tomoe: No, no, Nanami may not look it, but she's strong inside. Someday, she will be able to make the flowers bloom.
Nanami: (mentally) I couldn't help barging in and Tomoe told me not to. I couldn't stop myself when I saw the sword pointed at Tomoe. But, right now, I'm really scared . . . of Tomoe.
Himemiko: We met only once at Tatara Swamp ten years ago. He was an 8-year-old who looked very cute when he was crying.
Nanami: (mentally) Are all yokai sadists?
Thing is, I don't just write blogs (in fact, one could make an argument I don't even write those given how I've let my blogs go fallow) or fan fiction or reviews of various manga.
I have and have always written fiction and I'm pleased to make note that one of my short stories was recently published in SQ's anthology Star Quake 1, available as both a paperback book and an ebook format. I don't know everywhere it's available, but I know it's available at both Barnes & Noble and at Amazon.
It's not a big thing, as real writing goes, but it's big for me.
More news, I'm gearing up to take my rather large backlog of novels and short stories and self-publish in ebook form (some of many different flavors of electronic book at once). Not because I don't believe in it, but because I do. I don't want to get rich. I want to tell stories.
One way or another, that's just what I'm going to do.
(Oh, and I'm still reading manga, one reason I've been so lax with work on the blog). I'll share more of what I've found charming later. No, really!
One of the things I personally like about manga is that "anything goes." Insane or ridiculous premises are embraced, made the central theme of a manga and everything works as if that's perfectly normal, kind of like they managed to do with Edward Scissorhands. Many genres of manga have far out premises, so yaoi's not unique in that, but there do seem to be an unusual number of truly I've-never-read-anything-like-it stories.
Standing out, even among that level of insanity are Sex Pistols aka Love Pistols by Kotobuki Tarako. Pick a taboo or issue associated with homosexuality or people in general and you're likely to see it turned on its ear in this manga, everything like guys linking up sexually for breeding purposes, androgyny (the real kind) to extreme reverse mysogyny (aka misandry). Nothing is sacred, and that includes science along with the cultural taboos. Fortunately for people like me, it's also insanely funny. I forgive a great deal for funny.
The premise could not be much more ridiculous. The notion is that, while most people are descended from monkeys, a small segment is descended from other major animal orders described as "snake eyes" (Serpentes), "dragon" (Crocodilia), "Mermaid" (Cetecea), and various carnivora families like "dog god" (Canidae), "Catamount" (Felidae) and "Bruin" (Ursidae). But variations on those, including other mammals like mongoose or bat and even a hawk, also show up. These "zoomans" (as opposed to primate-based humans) not only share some traits with their various animal ancestors but can also recognize each other on sight, which is good because they don't breed as effectively or as true as the monkey folk, which is one reason why there are so many more monkeys. Big powerful predators (heavyweights like grizzlies or pythons or jaguars) have "powers" above and beyond regular zoomen, but find breeding true inversely difficult and often breed with "lightweights" (poodles or kitties or garter snakes) to increase their chances of any offspring and hopes to accidentally breed a heavyweight. Attractiveness tends to go with the heavier weight of the more powerful zoomen, so finding partners isn't difficult.
Perhaps the most humorous part of this silly concept is that all this goes on under the very noses of the monkey majority who, in true monkey fashion, ignore or forget everything that is outside their understanding so they just don't notice it. It's hilarious but sadly feels profound as well.
So, last time, I talked about Yoshinaga Fumi's non-yaoi work, some of which is really excellent (like Oooku) if not necessarily enjoyable and some of which is both (like Antique Bakery). I like and reread many of these books, but I don't like any of them as much as I like her yaoi with the possible exception of Antique Bakery, but I can't read Antique Bakery without reading the associated doujinshi which I actually read first. And the doujinshi is hard hard core yaoi. You can read the Antique Bakery manga without the doujinshi and it's well worth it, but, in my opinion, the doujinshi really completes it (at least the thirteen chapters I've seen) with considerably backstory including Ono's immediate reaction when he's rejected so cruelly by Tachibana and the reason he became the gay playboy he did.
You may have all noticed that my posts often talk about a particular mangaka's body of work rather than just a single work. This may be more true in yaoi than other fields since yaoi is frequently (though not always) a one or two volume endeavor per story (if not a one-shot). Plus, it's been my experience that, when I stumble across a really good mangaka, it's worth my time to check our her (or his) other work. I frequently find other gems...and not always just in yaoi.
Which is how I stumbled across Yoshinaga Fumi. Actually, I'd read (but didn't consider a keeper at the time) a period yaoi set in Europe called Gerard & Jacques as it started pretty dark and I almost didn't continue. Even so, I was a bit intrigued (I love history) and, when I stumbled across something else later, I started to explore and then became entranced. I've since reread Gerard & Jacques many times and it's now one of my favorites. She still isn't my favorite yaoi author (probably), though she's on my short list of real favorites. She is, however, something really special in more than one way, first and foremost because she's one of the most superlative storytellers I've ever come across in any medium. When I say medium, I mean music, movies, anime, novels, short stories, manga, you name it. I read a single chapter (all that's available) on-line from Garden of Dreams and was struck speechless. It was a masterful example of evocative story telling and character building, as well having all the pathos of the best poetry. It was, in fact, much like a poem in manga form.
If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you've probably noticed a trend (that goes beyond manga, I might add, with my library of regular fiction comprising hundreds of books, but dozens of writers) of reading everything by an author/mangaka I like exhaustively. I might only mention the ones I like, but you can bet I read them all if they make the list of worth writing about it.
Many of the mangakas I favor like Naono Bohra and Kano Shiuku (who I haven't written about yet) are very prolific and have oodles and scoodles of titles. Actually, all those of that ilk I can think of are of the particularly raunchy variety - I wonder if there's a connection? Well, I'll worry about that on a different post because this time I want to talk about a mangaka, Nagato Saichi, who has, to the best of my knowledge, just one on-going manga. But it's utterly charming.
Now for those of you who think yaoi=pornography (and, yes, it frequently is), that might sound contradictory, but I could list (and intend to eventually) dozens of sweet stories that happen to include same sex couples who may or may not have overt sex on the page. Kou'un no Rihatsushi by Nagato Saichi is one of them.
The story starts with an overgrown teenager (Tsukasa) known as the "moody pillar" who gets a haircut as a result of rejection from unrequited love. Fortunately, he gets this haircut from a talented and gay barber (Nachi) who also gives him some overdue confidence and support. The haircut and advice transform Tsukasa into a hottie on the outside (mostly by revealing his face), so much so that he ends up a model/actor/all around idol. But this big beautiful guy (drawn marvelously) doesn't change one iota from the sweet shy self-conscious guy he was in the beginning, who manages to overcome his previous crush and tumble selflessly into love with Nachi right off the bat.
Once again, I'm way overdue for a post. Last Adult Swim segment, I noted that there were some "greats" in the yaoi world. I'm not sure how much longer I can go, therefore, without mentioning Kodaka Kazuma, who, in Kizuna, which, fortunately for fans, is now available in English reprinted in double volume format so it's 6 volumes instead of 11 (and all are out). I could write a whole post easily on just Kizuna, but she has several other excellent works as well.
What you should know, though, before jumping in is that much of it is dark. Violent. Rape happens frequently, sometimes even involving protagonists (which is something that generally turns me off at once). People are killed or beaten up and left for dead. Nor is she shy at portraying sex at length and with detail. Also, her drawing style is not, I think for everyone. Fortunately, I came in with Border which is recent and has a bit more polished style, but I was taken aback when I read some of her earlier works including the seminal Kizuna (similarly to my reaction to Naono Bohra).
Even so, and even though there are books so violent/rape filled I won't read them and others I will read are really at the edge of my tolerance level, the ones I love I absolutely adore. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is the real devotion, the real and unequivocal devotion, her main characters frequently have for each other. I am a sucker for romance. The second reason is that she's fond of making truly kick-ass take-charge ukes (a role that, in yaoi, is often populated with tearful, girlish, baby-faced weaklings). Just like I like strong female protagonists, seeing men playing the "female role" who can kick serious butt and don't get pushed around by anyone (including their partners) makes me all warm and fuzzy. Included in our retinue of nobody's pushover ukes are two kendo champions, an assassin, an ex-special forces detective, and, of course, an immortal vampire. Oh, and dark and serious as they are, they're also very very funny.
If some of the characters are annoying as hell, like the bratty and spoiled yakuza heir, Kai (no, really, he's in college though he looks fourteen), his half-brother, Kei, I love without restraint. Almost a pity they're in the same book. If the early drawings are frequently out of proportion with weird things going on with their noses, some of the depicts, particularly of Ranmaru and Masayoshi, are breathtaking. I can give you several reasons why I shouldn't like most if not all of her work, but they're the most read of all my yaoi physical books. And I'll have to restrain myself from rereading the whole damn set again when I'm finished this post even though I just finished Kusatta Kyoushi No Houteishiki (Bad Teacher Equation) last week (last book, also of double volumes, came out).
Now, in my own personal order:
Kizuna: Bonds of Love - which for all its challenges I've reread more than any other yaoi story. Six volumes are all out, that's the whole set, with the first five double length (Yes, I have them). The focus of the undoubtedly love story is Enjouji Kei, illegitimate son of a yakuza boss, and Samejima Ranmaru, the badass beautiful former National Kendo champion (high school level). It isn't about how boy meets boy and falls in love, though we see that in flashbacks, but really about how two young men who fell in love in high school build a life together despite a number of challenges that face them. To a lesser extent, there's the romance between Kei's half brother, Kai (heir to the yakuza boss) and Kai's father's right hand man, which is a David/Goliath pairing despite Kai being another Kendo champion. To an even lesser extent there are forays into another pairing of two assassins, an old fart and the young man who insisted on being corrupted. Spin off of characters from a shonen ai work, called Sessa Tekuma! (Ranmaru's reaction to the protagonist from Sessa Tekuma! is hilarious). I own all these.