In this part I take a look into some digital anthologies for e-manga.
Mangaka: Isino Aya
Love? Family? Belonging? Takata tells himself he doesn’t need them; a gay man like him can’t have them.
Seno despises shameless Takata. Whenever Takata enters the coffee shop, Seno grits his teeth, barely manages to greet him, and tries not to think about how Takata destroyed his boss’s marriage. But Seno makes a horrible assumption: he pins the cruel heart on the wrong man. His strong feelings morph into something more complicated than disgust. Can Seno convince Takata that creating a family doesn’t rely on being “gay” or “straight”?
With her stark, dramatic line art, isino aya strips humanity to its basic needs. Men break into pieces on their way to wholeness in the intelligent, interconnected stories of SINK INTO YOU.
Reading a book begins from the title. Sink into you is a very appropriate title for a series who centers around people not expected to stay and yet they leave a lasting impression; perhaps talking about a person making roots into another’s heart would be more accurate.
As the summary informs us, this manga is an anthology of interconnected stories and the couple mentioned in it occupies only the first three chapters: Drip – Les Feuilles Mortes – Seed. This story along with the second (Sweet Baby, Heavy Baby – Lollipop) touch a lot the notion of the family. Family is really what we make it to be. We see that gay people don’t have the best relationship with theirs yet that doesn’t mean that they don’t long to have one themselves. Family can be something one might want to escape from when feelings wither or everything is just typical; but family can also be something someone creates with their beloved and honestly reproduction isn’t even a requirement. Things get really sad when you have chosen to follow societal rules and keep away the only one whom your heart helds dear.
The third story consists from Larghetto – Left Behind – Spark – Winning Streak – Ending and Beginning and focuses on the theme of prostitution. The character on the front cover is the one common point of these chapters. Infatuation, tension and dissatisfaction in working and sexual relationships are very prominent here. There’s an obsessed customer, a sadistic sex partner and later a co-worker who played the substitute for his ex, but all of these shards of his pasts always leave a bitter taste of an unfulfilled life.
The last two stories are The Soloist; about a pianist who talks with his lover’s ghost, and Happy Man; about a man who practices about being in relationship with someone with a teddy bear. This last one is said to be continued in Weekends of Dreams.
Generally, the stories feel very real, and that has to do both with the situations the characters are found in and the practical aspects of things (eg. a marriage just for social status, mutual masturbation due to the lack of condom). That’s something that I appreciate greatly in my BL. Unfortunately, I couldn’t feel much for the characters due to the fact that the development of feelings wasn’t shown at all -probably because the limited space and time.
Isino Aya’s art is minimalistic and a bit wiggly without many shades. Her style is something between est em and Natsume Ono, and if you like that or not is quite subjective. She does a lot of ‘talking’ through pictures alone and the grimaces she draws are great. On the other hand, the dotted screentone she used in the first story was a pain for my eyes, and her character designs were very similar to each other, which combined with the very sparce appearance of names made processing through the manga not very easy.
Sink Into You is a good manga to pick up, if you aren’t in a lovey-dovey or horny mode (we are given only a few implied sex scenes) and seek the bittersweetness of life. I hope that Weekends of Dreams will help deepen the understanding and bonding with the characters we already know.
Mangaka: Isino Aya
It started out as a way to prepare for a future lover. Too long denied a flesh and blood companion, his substitute—a teddy bear—is now his love object. What happens when a persistent, excessively cheerful neighbor consumes his serious, carefully ordered life? An explosion of hurtful, panicked words.
Stepping back into his quiet life, he can’t avoid what his insufferable neighbor left behind: cracks that expose his festering loneliness. Only one person can fill those cracks, but he’s disappeared.
Weekend of Dreams is random like dreams are- not sure though if that was the intention. In contrast with Sink Into You that did have a good idea behind it, binding together all the stories, its continuation doesn’t maintain a single mood. It starts off great with three playful, very likeable stories but the other four are weird or rough. The art also starts with distinguishable character designs only to end up confusing again, especially in Hothouse and Electro, where I’m not sure if the black-haired guy is the same in both stories.
My Dear and Weekend of Dreams are the sequel to Happy Man from Sink Into You. It’s the sweetest and best story out of the whole anthology. The teddy bear ‘lover’ adds a more unrealistic note, but the couple is for hugs! The blond is a bit tsundere -and I’d say that at some point he was right- and he makes a perfect couple with his jovial neighbor, who is also a very patient and caring partner despite imposing himself at th beginning. And there’s something to look forward about the teddy bear’s story which is helplessly romantic!
Your Table, My Table is about teenagers messing around; one of them loves candy awfully lot and the other helps him with studying (when they don’t do nasty stuff). The latter doesn’t know what to do in his life, but his friend/sex buddy-lover gives him the inspiration to become chef. It’s a simple story but it definitely brought a smile to my face: cooking so that your loved one starts eating healthy is a very honest and attentive gesture. The only thing that I couldn’t unsee was a blowjob scene in the toilet. After one of them pissed. Yes, you’ve read right.
Burning Sun is set in a school, as well. Rumors about two friends spread and what better than, you know, actually kiss in front of the school, to make the rumors die? The megane didn’t like the idea much or so it seemed. I’m not sure why I liked this, but I did. In spite the non-con kisses. And how the megane’s pushing away each time was played as tsundereness in the end.
Get Out and Fairy Tale has to do with a relationship is negotiated. It sounds cool, but apart from the realistic dialogue in Get Out, everything else is either weird or just dull. The blond wants sex but the other part has feelings for him thus isn’t very willing to be played with. They agree to give it a try and see if the blond falls for him, which judging from the bizarre Fairy Tale he does. The atmosphere takes a big turn starting from this story.
Sweet Heart includes adultery, which isn’t fine at all in my books. On top of that, I dislike greatly the idea of painful sex to the point of bleeding. The uke seems to disagree with me. He must be a masochist and he’s seme appears to be disappointed when he doesn’t resist… and things are messed up as I see them at least. Is it so hard to have an explicitly consensual S&M relationship? Then again that’s what many fujoshi like.
Hothouse put a lot of questionmarks on top of my head. There’s something going on on a rainy day, some implied sex and that’s pretty much it.
Electro has a cute curly-haired man who’s obviously cheated on, but fortunately for him his boyfriend’s mistress dumbed him. Pretty lame situation to be found in.
And the last story is kind of a psychological drama (thriller?). I don’t have to say anything about it. It left me indifferent.
I’d recommend to read and judge for yourself. I hope my review will give you enough info to decide, if Weekend of Dreams works for you.
Mangaka: Marry Maiko
“A child who wasn’t loved while small, when he becomes an adult remains a child.”
A timid art teacher, over forty but still confused by love, despairs of ever finding a companion. A love-starved boy watches the kindness of families all around him, but insists he doesn’t need anything like that. A college student living with his long-term partner purposely tantalizes a neighbor by loudly making love. A bassist fears “weirding out” his bandmates, so he keeps his life with his male lover under wraps. A contrary professor gives himself to a self-assured colleague one night, but it’s not what either of them expect.
Marry Maiko debuts with this quiet bombshell of emotional stories!
First of all, I was very content that when I read the blurb, it reflected the contents clearly: all the stories were mentioned and the reader understands that what (s)he’s going to buy is an anthology. This isn’t always the case, which causes me to feel tricked that I buy something else than what I seek.
As you can read there are 5 pairs and 8 chapters. The first pair is encountered in The Scent of Spring Unter the Winter Soil, Your Scent Right Here With Me and A Woman’s Intuition. A gay businessman, Murata, is attracted to an art class on his way home, where he meets the 42-year-old art teacher, Yoshioka, a very sensitive soul with bad experiences with women. Thankfully, the mangaka opted to make clear that not all women were like that to Yoshioka, avoiding the usual bad case of misogyny. It cleverly also bypassed the ‘gay for you’ cliche by having him talk with an old friend, Mochizuki, who had pointed out years ago that his sexual orientation wasn’t what he presumed it to be. What sounded wrong, was the fact that Mochizuki appeared pressuring Yoshioka into having sex while he didn’t feel ready yet.
The 1st chapter is about the couple getting to know each other; it’s a bit poetic and sappy, but it’s not unrealistic and Murata is very tentative towards his object of affection, always worrying about screwing up. This uncertainty continues to the5th chapter where they consumate their relationship and Murata tries to deal with Yoshioka’s feelings carefully, not wanting ever to force himself on him. And the final chapter is about how a female student notices how their relationship seems deeper. It’s meant as a comic relief, I guess, as Yoshioka gets very very embarassed. It’s useful in that it brings the relationship in contact to the rest of the world, though kinda superficially.
Mochizuki is the character who along with Morisama will create the B-side couple to the previous main one, and they appear in the 6th chapter, What do you call it?. It’s your casual oyaji teacher relationship. Morisama is divorced and has a one night stand with Mochizuki. The latter doesn’t make a direct move for awhile but plays a weird game to finally get Morisama be with him. There is some nice sexual tension between them. They end up in a weird kind of relationship. I am not sure I feel much about them.
For whom I feel strongly? For the other 3 couples. Nezou -> Anzou x Kishi is a lighthearted story and a good first attempt at BL comedy. In Lalalalala Nezou is a student studying for college and he was temporarily staying at a shared appartment building in order to concentrate with his studies; life has other plans for him as he gets distructed by the loud moans of his gay neighbor during the nights. Said neighbor offers to tutor him as a price for his naughty nuctural behavior and he seems to have a plan in mind with the intention of checking his boyfriend’s feelings for him. There’s a small extra, Midnight creaks and Moans, which is a sex scene between Anzou x Kishi. What I liked a lot here was that Nezou’s perception of his homosexual neighbors changed for the better. I am not very sure, but I also believe that the whole ridiculous setting mocks the idiotic type of jealousy Anzou displays; which is positive if that is the case.
In the homonymous chapter, Miike, a young adult slowly discovers his sexuality and gives himself to a stranger. He keeps being in denial about not needing love, despite the fact he misses human touch ever since his parents divorced and his father has always neglected him. Fortunately, the partner with whom he has casual sex cares deeply for him and Miike finds a safe haven. This sounds simple, yet the story, the way it is executed, touched me.
The little treasure in this anthology is Diamond and, judging by the title, the mangaka must have known this is the best story she has written for us. Kazu is in a music band and at the same time is in relationship with a guy 5 years his older. And although his friends know, he doesn’t talk much about it, and goes as far as spending most time with them not to make too obvious his love life. His insecurities though are ungrounded since he doesn’t only get support in good times but also in bad ones, when he’s bullied for his sexuality. The whole scene where their friendship shines is amazing. I am more than charmed with this story.
Generally, this was a very pleasant read. The art was clean and for the most part one could recognise the characters in each story. Nevertheless, I wasn’t very pleased with the layout and storytelling at certain parts, because I felt confused as to what was happening. Also, I noticed that in the story of Yoshioka x Murata, Murata referred to Yoshioka as ‘Mr’ while in the other stories the Japanese suffixes were kept. Other than that though, this is a great manga out of a newbie mangaka and whoever loves slice-of-life lgbt narratives should try it.