>> Friday, March 22, 2013
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.
The graphic and no holds barred nature of the yaoi in the Antique Bakery dj is in keeping with the graphic and gory details of the sex in her yaoi in general. So that you know.
But wait, there's more. The yaoi selections, like the non-yaoi selections, frequently involve dark stuff. Cases in point include some of the stories in Don't Say Any More, Darling, Truly Kindly and Gerard and Jacques, all but the last of which can be readily purchased. In all cases, there are some sweet stories mixed in with bittersweet or even dark stories. Truly Kindly is a mix of dark modern stories with two that manage to have happy endings and a handful of historical stories (some dark, some not) set in ancient Japan and pre-revolutionary France (the latter precursors to Lovers in the Night). The dark aspects of "Chinoiserie", for instance, are completely in keeping with the historical setting and, in my opinion, were more poignant as a result. Don't Say Any More, Darling is another set of one-shot stories (not all are yaoi) that run from sweet (the first one) to downright depressing. Yoshinaga-sensie has a real gift for infusing life into short stories, by the way. Not everyone has it.
Gerard and Jacques, which is about an erotic novelist during revolutionary France who meets the son of an aristocrat in a boy's brothel. The start is about as dark a beginning as you can get for what turns out to be a very satisfying and sweet story. Once again, Yohinaga-sensei weaves such intricate and compelling backstories and paints (realistically) the environment so clearly that what seems like a heinous set of actions turn out to make a lot of sense, even be understandable. I'm frequently amazed how she pulls that off. Of the three darker works, Gerard and Jacques, which is one story set in two volumes, is probably my favorite of these three, and I never would have thought so if I'd read just the first chapter or two. Yoshinaga-sensei is sneaky like that. The only reason I don't own Gerard and Jacques is that I can't find them in English.
Moving from the darkest toward happier shores is Solfege, which has still a sizeable modicum of dark with a music teacher who gets involved with his earnest singing student (at least somewhat selfishly) only to send him away far more selflessly and eventually fall to ruin...only to be searched out again by his now world-acclaimed student. The happy ending is clear but the extent (did they get back together or not) is left to the reader to decide.
Lovers In the Night takes off after the French shorts at the end of Truly Kindly and is a single story of a spoiled but devoted gay French aristocrat (who becomes an emigre during the French Revolution) and his equally devoted and dominating butler. Normally, I'm not fond of the master-servant stories, but Yoshinaga-sensei does seem to delight in oversetting my personal prejudices with effective story telling. I do love happy endings.
But, I've found happy endings more frequently (and at least as satisfying) in the yaoi than her non-yaoi. I've also found as much if not more humor, which is always a plus for me (and Yoshinaga is really good at the kind of humor that tickles me no end). And the yaoi, which often deal with very realistic concerns of gay partnerships, don't seem to need to delve as frequently into the dark depths as the very real issues are compelling enough for interest. Of this ilk there's Moon and Sandals, a nice story of an adult romance and a student romance, with the crush of the student for the gay teacher nicely handled (as well as the romance the teacher has with a chef) and the subsequent romance the student has with another student. The student, particularly, is charming with his forthright earnestness and determination. The characters, as usual, are the strong element and quite appealing.
Then, there's Ichigenme, the First Class is Civil Law (which I've only found complete in published form, but, good news, it's published and readily available), which follows the charming but unexpected pairing of a serious law student (and eventual law professor) and his laid back and charming gay companion of the computer genius variety. That the computer genius' brother (also a law student) has his own affair with a professor, a story I also found charming. My description does not do the story justice nor touch on the profound but engaging humor spread all through this book nor the masterful characterizations often done with what seems a couple of lines of dialog and a few panels. I love them all but I have a soft spot for the long curly-haired computer freak. (There's a surprise).
All of these books I found interesting, most of them charming (with the occasional story I could have done without). Like most of Yoshinaga-sensei's work, even the most depressing stuff, it's amazingly rereadable, I think because the world is so real. They're great stories and it's almost a pity that those who would be squeamish about the portrayal of sex (gay and/or otherwise) would miss out on these because they are so interesting. If, however, you like effective sex scenes, these also include some of the best. And I think I'm becoming nearly expert on it. Good books, worth owning (which is good because they are almost all licensed and hard to find otherwise, at least complete) and, yes, I own every thing described here except the Antique Bakery dj and Gerard and Jacques. And I'd own them if they became available.
Update: I just found out there's an anime for Antique Bakery as well, strictly based on the books and not yaoi, but managing, in twelve episodes, the capture the gist of the four books. Clean enough for a teenage audience (children would not get the many subtleties) and well worth $30. I liked it (noting that Chikage provided the bulk of the humor, bless his simple heart - he's a favorite. How can anyone hate Chikage?) It's subtitled, but worth the trouble, at least to a fan like me. Comes in a nice little case with a booklet of Antique Bakery factoids and stuff.
Update: I got the first volume of Gerard and Jacques! Squee!