>> Sunday, October 14, 2012
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.
Kusatta Kyoushi No Houteishiki (Bad Teacher Equation) - all five double volumes of this is out. Far less sex than either of the other two series mentioned so far, it involves a young high schooler and his crush for one of a pair of brothers that, through a mix-up becomes a lifelong love for the other (who happens to be a school nurse and run a transvestite bar without necessarily being gay). I'm not a big advocate for the student teacher pairings (that are prevalent in yaoi, I'm afraid), but those that pull it off get fairly high marks. In this case, the pursuing is 100% done by the student who doesn't get "satisfaction" as it were until he is graduated and a teacher himself. Throw in a slow-moving romance involving the other brother, a best friend who would prefer to be our protagonists romantic partner, and the whole things is quite convoluted, very funny and a sweet. Still, a lot of book if you're just looking for sex (though Masayoshi is VERY hot when he finally succumbs, just saying). I own all of these, too.
Ren ai Hōteishiki's a follow-on to this book, with protagonists in the "too young" category, but they don't actually have sex (though one does spy on our Kusatta protagonists en flagrante, so a bonus there). All the potential partners, however, are in the same age group.
Sex Therapist - Okay not exactly romantic and mostly (in my opinion) an excuse to come of up with unusual (and impractical) pairings and show a LOT of sex, but it is not without appeal. The premise is that lovelorn homosexuals (who may or may not know they're homosexual) get directed to this underground sex therapist who, through methods unknown, become's the doppelganger of their heart's desire. After breaking the ice this way, our freshly sated "patients" go out and pair up with the real partner. Weird I know, and I'm not telling you all of it.
Ihoujin Etrange - about vampires who suck the souls out of lovers via sex. One is reluctant to do so (too easily falls in love) and the other who is a horndog with humans but totally devoted to the first vampire, eventually sharing his bounty of spirit or whatever. Eventually, some of his bevy of half-vampire offspring also join the story.
Sessa Tekuma! - precursor to Kizuna and everything else, it involves the romance between an insanely strong hick from Hokkaido and Ranmaru's sister Yuki. Not the best story or artwork, but the extra at the end where Ranmaru and Kei retrieve Ranmaru's nephew from their hanging laundry is nearly worth the rest of the read.