Adult Swim: Into the Pool

>> Wednesday, February 1, 2012

So, if I want to write about adult manga, particularly yaoi, the stuff that got to me, as it were, I can't, off-hand, think of a better place to start than with ISHIHARA Satoru's Afuresou na Pool which is saying something. Like, unfortunately, the bulk of the yaoi I've enjoyed, I can't find it licensed in English, but there are several manga scanlation sites that have the whole six volume series. Well worth the time, in my opinion.

Now, before you leap off to check it out, thinking you'll be inundated with short satisfying stories filled to the brim with graphic sex, let me tell you, that's not what you'll find. Not to say that's not what a significant proportion, if not most, yaoi is, I found this an atypical yaoi. So, if you read this and loved this, that doesn't mean the rest of yaoi will be your cup of tea. Nor does it mean that if you read this and wondered where all the naked sweaty guys were from chapter to chapter, that you won't like yaoi, even if this isn't your cup of tea.

It's a long story, very much a character study involving several young men, two sets of friends, and one set of lovers. I like starting with this for the uninitiated because this story has in spades what I look for (often in much smaller doses) in yaoi - people that care about each other. It also is a masterful example, in my opinion, about what makes a homosexual romantic relationship different from a heterosexual romantic relationship, those things that make it much harder and not just the lack of understanding from the outside world.
I appreciate that there's a great deal of what I think must be authentic male view point because, at first, it tended to leave me confused. But as I delved more into the various minds involved, it started to make it's own twisted (i.e. male) sense. It involved a passionate seme (I hate semes that seem untouched or are cold to their partners). It involved a strong uke, and I appreciate that just like I appreciate a strong female protagonist. (For those unfamiliar with the terms, a seme is the one penetrating. I presume you can deduce what a uke is.) There are no love interests here that look like grade schoolers. No blushing ineffective ukes ready to cry at a moments notice. Everyone has their own personality and their own strengths, without any of them being perfect or making optimum choices. And that fits in pretty well with kids about to graduate high school as well.

And, despite the relative dearth of graphic sexual scenes (I think there might be a couple of shots, but not the unending screw-fest many yaoi are), it is loaded to bear with sensual scenes, sexy scenes, scenes that get the blood flowing nicely, thank you very much. Attraction, friendship, love and lust are all portrayed very effectively, very movingly here and the artwork, particularly with faces and eyes, is quite compelling. It has a modicum of humor without being a comedy. It has a serving of dark without being maudlin or tragic. A dose of drama of becoming unbearably sappy or, if you'll excuse the expression, stupidly dramatic.Note that it does start with some pretty forceful moves by Kizu that would seem to brush against my severe anti-rape bias. When I read further, and noted Iriya's own efforts, pursuits, drives, I realized there was another way to look at it. Particularly given how well Iriya can defend himself. But you can decide for yourself.

I've read it several times now and would buy it if it were licensed and available. It's an investment in time and less pure enjoyment than thought-provoking. Which makes it a pretty remarkable manga whatever the genre.

And favorite character? Yeah, it's Iriya Tetsuo. Not just because he's a hottie, though that doesn't hurt, but because it's easiest for me to identify with his struggles. While everyone's trying to find their place, he does the best, I think, at keeping his feet on the ground despite the fact his role is the hardest.  And he never turns his back on the people he cares about.

There are a couple of side stories and, to warn you, rape is not precluded, sex is more graphic and violence is front and center far more than in the rest of the story. Just a heads up. I still read them and find them good, but they're a darker set so be forewarned. None of the stuff in adult swim is really suitable for children.

Update: I also really liked this mangaka's Shounen wa Asu wo Korosu and Yarouze!, neither of which get really naughty. They were interesting, had their own appeal and some lovely drawing, but neither made quite the impression on me of the first. Kimi Shiruya is also good and clean and has the advantage of being available in book form in English (and, yes, I own it). I really like this mangaka.


  • SilverMuse603

    Interesting. I think I'll look into this one. It sounds promising.

    I'd also like to report in on the yaoi series my friend loaned me, Only the Ring Finger Knows. Love it! I highly recommend it. A manga adaptation was done of the first half of the novel, and it was released in the States. However, the true highlight would be the novels, the first four of which (out of five) are licensed in NA. For some reason, they stopped before the fifth could be released. :(

    Given what you had to say about the seme and uke roles in Afuresou no Pool, I think you would like OtRFK. It shares traits in that the seme is caring and passionate, and the uke is strong and smart, not prone to fits of tears and/or neediness. The scenes cover the spectrum from sweet deredere to steamy lust. The characters are great, and the story is beautiful, yet realistic.

    I've added so many titles to my reading list from perusing your reviews. Hopefully, I can return the favor and send a few recs your way. ;) (Don't forget my Library Wars mention! I'm up to volume 5 now, with the 6th on its way and the 7th out next week. I'm head over heels for that series!)

  • Stephanie Barr

    Library Wars is in my queue to try next time I have a few spare pennies for books. Really!
    I'll check out Only the Ring Finger Knows and put it on my list.

    I love good characters.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Wait, first four and then it ends unfinished? Waah!

    What torture! Why do they do crap like that?

  • Stephanie Barr

    Here's irony. The same artist who did the yaoi you mentioned is the same artist doing Betrayal Knows My Name, that got me nineteen kajillion yaoi recommendations.

  • Stephanie Barr

    The aloof upper classmen looks just like Takashima Kei from Special A.

  • SilverMuse603

    Yay! I hope you like both LW and OtRFK. :D

    I'm in the fourth book now. I devoured the first three, but I'm taking my time on this one because I know there will be no more. It's so frustrating that they never released volume five! It's available in German. My friend who loaned them to me has been teaching herself German so she can get it, haha.

    I absolutely loved the artwork for the OtRFK manga. The novels have art scattered throughout them as well. The fact that Betrayal Knows My Name has the same artist is enough for me to check it out!

    Special A is another series on my monstrously long To Read list...

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