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review 2018-08-07 04:30
Bodysuit Fetish
Bodysuit Fetish - Uni Yamasaki

When Yoji asks the cosplay club if they could create some costumes and model to advertise the video games his club will be selling at a convention, the cost they give for it is not something they can afford. But their main costume designer, Toma, offers to make the costumes for free if Yoji will model for him. Yoji accepts the deal, but the modeling ends up being a bit different from what he expected.

 

This book is just silly, but sexy, fun. Toma wants a model for inspiration, but not how one would expect. He has a clothing fetish and gets turned on touching guy's body's covered in fabric. He uses that to reward himself and inspire creativity. But he's also upfront about what he's doing and asks permission from Yoji before touching him. Toma's pretty good about checking in anytime he wants to try something new to make sure Yoji is fine with it, explicitly telling him early on that he won't do something if Yoji doesn't want him to do it. There is really only one point I can recall where Yoji pushes things and he is immediately apologetic. And part of the issue is mutual misunderstanding on both parts from a lack of communication when it comes to feelings that lead both to get upset because they think they've upset the other. This is where talking helps. It doesn't happen right away, but eventually they get there.

 

Yoji and Toma's relationship is cute. Obviously it starts off physically, but the two bond over mutual admiration for one another's design skills (fashion for Toma and character for Yoji) and their shared understanding of what it's like to get so focused on designing when inspiration hits that everything else just disappears. And eventually they realize they've developed feelings. Which take even longer to then express. Basically, the two of them do quite a bit together physically before they figure things out emotionally.

 

The extra story at the end is also a funny one where Yoji tries to surprise Toma by dressing up as his favorite hero who started his whole clothing fetish years ago. Only it's Yoji who ends up being surprised when he finds out just how many roleplaying fantasies Toma has for that hero and the two act out several of them.

 

Overall, I really love this book. The art is great. The relationship is sexy and charming. And it's just a fun read.

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review 2018-08-06 07:16
Go For It, Nakamura! (one-shot manga) story and art by Syundei, translation by Amber Tamosaitis
Go For It, Nakamura! - SYUNDEI

Go For It, Nakamura! is comedy with gay high school romance elements. I want to emphasize, however, that it isn't a romance. If the series ever gets another volume (maybe it already has, just not in English?), I could see it becoming a romance, but this particular volume is not.

Nakamura is an awkward, introverted, and occasionally uncomfortably intense 16-year old. He adores his pet octopus, Icchan. He has no friends and practises conversations in his head all the time but has difficulty actually having them in real life. He also happens to be gay. He has an enormous crush on his popular and outgoing classmate, Hirose, and his goal is to 1) actually talk to him and 2) become friends with him.

I picked this up on a whim. Happily, this turned out to be a good decision. For the most part, I loved this volume.

I don't handle secondhand embarrassment well and found myself having to take breaks several times while reading this. Nakamura was painfully awkward in ways that, yes, were played for humor but were also often realistic enough that awkward and/or introverted readers could probably find something to relate to. One particular horrible moment Nakamura remembered exactly matched a horrible memory from my own middle school years. Seeing it on-page was a bit horrifying.

I rooted for Nakamura, but I also had issues with him. I disliked how completely focused he was on Hirose. He had zero friends, and yet when his efforts to talk to and impress Hirose led to him meeting and talking to Hirose's friends, he never once considered them to be potential friends. Instead, he viewed anyone who was even vaguely close to Hirose as rivals and possible sources of information about Hirose. He also didn't seem to realize that a lot of the things he was doing to try to get to know Hirose better were kind of creepy, like eavesdropping on Hirose's conversations to find out what sorts of things he liked.

Chapter 2 contained one of my least favorite moments, a single panel in which Nakamura had a sudden tentacle rape fantasy about Hirose. And Chapter 4 was a little weird, introducing a fujoshi artist who developed a crush on Nakamura. I'm still not sure whether she was aware that Nakamura liked Hirose, although I don't see how she could've missed it considering the nature of Nakamura's request.

Aside from those things, however, I really enjoyed this volume. The artwork was well-done and reminded me a lot of Rumiko Takahashi. And the humor usually worked for me, despite my secondhand embarrassment issues. It was focused on Nakamura's awkwardness and his efforts to accomplish something where his secret crush was concerned, but it didn't feel, to me, like Syundei was being overly cruel to Nakamura or making fun of him for being gay. (Be warned, however, that there are a couple instances of homophobia. At one point, for example, Nakamura's teacher laughed at the idea of two boys dating.)

The last couple chapters had some surprisingly serious moments, as Nakamura began to lose hope that he'd ever truly connect with Hirose and become his friend. He compared himself to his effortlessly cool teacher, who Hirose certainly idolized and, Nakamura feared, possibly had a crush on, and found himself focusing on all the ways he fell short.

The ending was sweet. I considered it reasonably satisfying, although some readers might not feel the same. Syundei gave Nakamura a bit of happiness but left plenty of room for the story to be continued.

Although the romance fan in me might have liked something more, I think it would have felt rushed and weird - not to mention there'd still be the issue of Nakamura's potentially unhealthy level of focus on Hirose, and what that would mean for any sort of romantic relationship between them. One interesting thing: This may be the only work I've ever read where the closeted main character is still closeted by the end, but not unhappy.

(spoiler show)


Extras:

A couple full-color pages, character profiles for Nakamura and Hirose, and a 2-page comic-style afterword by the author. In the afterword, Syundei talks a little about each chapter's creation - I wonder if the "tentacle rape" panel would have made it in if Syundei had known the series was going to continue?

 

Rating Note:

 

I debated between 4.5 and 5 stars for this. I don't really know that it deserves 5 stars, considering its problems, but I've found myself going back and rereading parts of it several times since I finished it. I decided that's worth bumping my rating up.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-06 04:13
Powder Snow Melancholy Vol. 1+2 (Complete Series)
Powder Snow Melancholy Vol. 1 - Saki Tsukahara

When Kousuke injures his arm while saving Ryouto in a snowboarding incident during a trip, Ryouto feels guilty and helps take care of him. Ryouto typically avoids Kousuke out of jealousy because the girls Ryouto likes always like Kousuke instead, but this interaction reveals a new side to Kousuke that Ryouto's never seen and forces him to reconsider his feelings toward him.

 

The BL (boys' love) genre is one plagued with consent issues, unfortunately. Starting a new BL manga always has me wondering if I'm going to run into something, and the answer is usually yes. Such is the case here. Kousuke is aggressive, forcing himself on Ryouto early on in the story. He eventually backs off completely once he realizes he's scared Ryouto, only making contact again when Ryouto reaches out. They enter into a trial relationship at Ryouto's request where Kousuke precedes to push boundaries by trying to move things faster than Ryouto wants or by smalls displays of PDA that Ryouto's not ready for yet. But these issues end once Ryouto ends the trial relationship and asks to start a real relationship. It is at that point the story also gets much more enjoyable.

 

Watching Ryouto and Kousuke navigate their new relationship when a pretty big challenge pops up was fun and it brought a place I love into the mix. Kousuke loves skateboarding and plans to go pro. He gets an opportunity to train at Whistler for a year and the two struggle with how a long distance relationship would work. They both have conflicted feelings about him going and try to ignore the issue at first before it quickly becomes obvious that's not going to work.

 

Every mention of Whistler was fun for me because I've been on those mountains a number of times, so I actually recognized the places they were talking about. There wasn't a ton of Whistler talk, but it was a nice bonus for me.

 

There is an issue in the extras which brings the story down for me though. While the story already has the above mentioned consent issues, the extra adds a flashback that makes things much worse. The extra is from Kousuke's point of view and shows how he's been silently pining for Ryouto the past 3 years.

Until he finds Ryouto passed out drunk alone at a party one night and proceeds to make out with and fondle his unconscious body while masturbating. Then he cleans things up and acts like he just found him so he can get Ryouto's friends to help get him home.

(spoiler show)

The whole thing left me feeling gross. Scenes like that are why part of me is always wary while I'm reading any BL manga for the first time. I never know when sexual assault is suddenly going to appear.

 

Despite that, I enjoyed the series overall. The art was great. And once the couple was together (after the sexual assault and boundary pushing was finished), they were fun to see navigating their relationship. But Powder Snow Melancholy does have consent issues and sexual assault which will, understandably, make it a hard pass for some.

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review 2018-07-31 04:43
Honey So Sweet (manga, vol. 1) story and art by Amu Meguro, translated by Katherine Schilling
Honey So Sweet, Vol. 1 - Amu Meguro

All Nao Kogure wants is to avoid attracting too much attention and to hopefully make a few friends. Unfortunately, for some reason Taiga Onise, the guy everyone in her class is afraid of and who punched some upperclassmen on his first day of high school, has taken an interest in her. When he asks her to be his girlfriend ("Would you please date me with marriage in mind?" - coming on a little strong), she's sure that what he really wants is for her to be his slave for the rest of high school. She worries that if she says no to him, he'll torment her or hurt her. Seeing no other solution, Nao says "yes" and prepares for the worst.

As it turns out, Onise's bad reputation is a misunderstanding and he's actually a pretty nice guy. The more Nao gets to know him, the more she likes him. Too bad she's in love with someone else: her uncle, Sou, who's been raising her since her parents died. In this volume, Nao and Onise also gradually become friends with Kayo Yashiro, a gorgeous but aloof girl, and Ayumu Misaki, a good-looking boy with a prickly personality.

This was...okay. There were indeed quite a few sweet moments, but there were also a few things that threw me off.

The fact that Onise knew from the start that Nao only agreed to date him because she was scared of him was a little icky and at odds with his overall sweetness, even though he was eventually honest with her and admitted that he knew. Also, Nao wholeheartedly agreeing to continue being friends with Onise, knowing that he still liked her romantically, seemed like a bad idea. Still, I liked seeing Nao and Onise get to know each other. Onise's habit of bulldozing his way into people's lives balanced out Nao's desire to simultaneously blend into the background and somehow make friends. He also seemed to be encouraging Misaki out of his own prickly shell.

One big thing in this volume that didn't appeal to me was Nao's crush on her uncle. Who is related to her by blood and who has raised her since she was six or so years old. There's a definite squick factor there, and I hope this aspect of the series gets phased out quickly. The end of this volume indicated that I might be lucky in that regard. Either that, or Onise's words will just make Nao cling to her crush on her uncle more tightly. Please, no.

I've requested the next volume via ILL, so I guess I'll find out. Crossing my fingers that volume 2 is the end of Nao's crush on her uncle, and the beginning of even cuter scenes with Nao, Onise, Misaki, and Yashiro. I want to find out the story behind Onise's part in the umbrella flashback, why Misaki's so angry, and what the deal is with Yashiro.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-07-19 00:00
Ax Volume 1: A Collection of Alternative Manga
Ax Volume 1: A Collection of Alternative Manga - Katsuo Kawai,Nishioka Kyodai,Takato Yamamoto,Toranosuke Shimada,Yuka Goto,Mimiyo Tomozawa,Takashi Nemoto,Yusaku Hanakuma,Namie Fujieda,Mitsuhiko Yoshida,Akino Kondoh,Kotobuki Shiriagari,Shinbo Minami,Shinya Komatsu,Einosuke,Yuichi Kiriyama,Yunosuke Saito, I read this collection several years ago. There were a few stories that were interesting and had beautiful artwork. However, most of the stories were bland, forgettable and just ugly for the sake of being ugly. For example, one manga was about a woman being hit by some fluids from a giant naked man. That was the entire story for that manga. What was the point of the story? This is one of the problems I have with some alternative works is that it's pointless for the sake of being pointless. I don't expect all stories to have a lesson or moral; I understand that there are stories told to entertain people. But most of the stories in this collection failed to entertain me.
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