In the first volume, Fruits Basket presents itself as this semi-wacky comedy shoujo about a girl who discovers that the family she’s living with can all turn into animals, but as the story progresses we begin to see this for what it truly is: a mask, a facade if you will. Fruits Basket’s true story lies within the family’s it follows. The shame, guilt, and abuse that sometimes hides behind closed doors, or in some cases is right out in the open. But it also speaks to us about the families and relationships between people who care and have cultivated a space of love through struggle and personal growth. I talked about this a bit last volume in how Yuki and Rin’s family dynamics shaped their current personalities and character growth arcs. Yuki especially we see yearning for any kind of parental and motherly love to the point of gravitating towards Tohru, seeing her as someone who can fulfill this emotional hole in himself. In volume eight, we see a bit of a continuation of this, but with more of a focus on the steps he’s taking to grow past it. We also delve deeper into both Kyo and Tohru’s past by taking a look at Tohru’s mother, Kyoko.
Volume eight continues where we left off last time with Yuki recounting and remembering his childhood and relationship with Tohru to Kakeru. We see more of his nonexistent relationship with his mother, the abuse he faced from Akito, and finally the mystery of the baseball cap Tohru keeps with her is solved. In true shoujo fashion, the story moves on to feature the activities of the culture festival, with a play performed by Tohru and gang to the sort-of story of Cinderella. With Kyo as Prince, Tohru as evil step-sister, and Hana as Cinderella, it manages to be both amusing and entirely relevant to the story and characters. For the rest of the volume, we get a look at Kyoko’s past and how Kyo winds up knowing her and then the beginnings of a look into Machi and Yuki’s slowly growing relationship. Continue reading
I’ve been seeing this manga floating around Twitter for awhile with some very high recommendations from people who either read it before it came out in North America or from people who got early copies of the manga before it released earlier this week. Well it finally came out on Tuesday and I figured with all the talk around this title, it must be worth trying out. I have to say, everyone was right. Our Dreams at Dusk is a fantastic Boys Love title worth all the hype I’ve seen surrounding it so far. The art and page layouts are visually appealing and often break the mold in multiple places. The story is one of adolescent sexual discovery with some deep emotions and questions being asked about the acceptance of gay and queer people in Japan and the kind of emotional distress and mental illness that can come from having this dissonance between public and private persona and identity. I highly recommend this manga and I really do think I won’t be able to do it justice here in this short of a space, so definitely pick up a copy if it seems up your alley.
Our Dreams at Dusk follows high school boy Tasuku who may just have been outed at school for being gay, one of the worst things that could happen to him. Faced with the jeering of him peers for being a “homo,” Tasuku tries hard to deny everything. But standing on the edge of bridge later that day, he feels his way of life was ended in that moment and contemplates jumping. Before he can do the unthinkable, Tasuku meets a mysterious woman who leads him to a group of people dealing with problems similar to his own. The manga is created by Yuhki Kamatani (creator of Nabari no Ou) and is published in English by Seven Seas. Continue reading
There are few things I love more than cooking manga, except apparently cooking manga combined with gay relationships. What Did You Eat Yesterday is an interesting take on both cooking manga and boys love, though I guess you wouldn’t call it boys love since both main characters are 40-year-old men, but you get my point. I found this manga through I believe a recommendation on Twitter, which it seems is where I’m finding the most interesting recommendations now, and picked it up on a whim last week to finally check out. And while I wouldn’t say it’s the best or most interesting manga out there, I think how the mangaka, Fumi Yoshinaga, tackles big societal issues through the characters and their actions means I’ll be coming back for future volumes.
The story of this manga revolves around Shiro Kakei, a lawyer by day and gourmand cook by night, who lives with his boyfriend Kenji Yabuki, a hair stylist. Each chapter deals with a new issue surrounding being gay in Japan and a different made-from-scratch recipe. Whether it’s Kakei’s unwillingness to share the fact that he’s gay with his coworkers or the case of a male domestic abuse victim that comes to Kakei for legal advice. Each of the eight chapters in this volume pairs one serious issue with a recipe fit for food lovers. I can see why it was nominated for the first Manga Taisho Award and received a jury recommendation at the 13th Japan Media Arts Festival Awards. Continue reading
Ah CLAMP, just reading any of their series brings me back to my early teen years of reading Cardcaptors and Chobits. Over the years, they have wound up becoming one of my all time favorite manga creators. Their wide breadth of titles and stories make it easy to find something entertaining for almost every reader, and their ability to create meaningful stories for both younger readers and older ones is hard to match. Wish is one of the few series from them that I actually never had the chance to pick up and read, so I was excited to learn that Dark Horse had started to publish the entire 4-volume series in one collected omnibus. It’s a challenge to read with it being at least two inches thick and pretty heavy, but the series itself is definitely worth it especially if you like cute and innocent love stories.
The story of Wish follows a young doctor Shuichiro who notices an adorable flying thing trapped in a tree on his way home from work one day. It just so happens to be the angel, Kohaku, who offers to grant Shuichiro any wish he desires in gratitude. The only problem is that Shuichiro has everything he could ever want, a good job, enough money to be comfortable, and a nice house. But that doesn’t dissuade Kohaku, and Shuichiro soon finds himself with a new roommate who just so happens to draw more angels and even devils to their home, becoming a sanctuary for those looking to escape both hell and heaven. Continue reading
I feel like good disability fiction is on the rise lately with the likes of A Silent Voice becoming so popular and now I Hear the Sunspot is being talked about as both a great story about someone with a disability but also a great boys love manga. I’ve seen it mentioned so many times around the web and pop up on a lot of people’s must read mangas of 2018, and I have to say this manga definitely deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon it. Yuki Fumino really delves deep into what it means be a person with a hearing disability that not bad enough to be considered part of the deaf community but also not insignificant enough to be considered a “normal” person. The boys love aspects appear as more of an afterthought as the characters traverse societal rules around conformity and the almost infantilization of people with disabilities.
The publisher, One Peace Books, describes I Hear the Sunspot’s story as: “Because of a hearing disability, Kohei is often misunderstood by others and has trouble integrating into life on campus so he learns to keep his distance. That is until he meets the outspoken and cheerful Taichi. He tells Kohei that his hearing loss is not his fault. Taichi’s words cut through Kohei’s usual defense mechanisms like a knife and opens his heart. More than friends, less than lovers, their relationship changes Kohei forever.
I want to preface this review by saying that his is book one of the original two part series, but the volume itself does not mention what book it is. I had a lot of trouble figuring out what book to buy first since there is this one, book two, and then volume one of the multi-part series as well. So if you are looking to buy the series, start with the book with the green cover, then book two, then volume one of the series. I’ll be reviewing each one in order, so feel free to follow along with me as well. Continue reading
What is it about watching romantic comedies about older women failing at love that keep us coming back? Is it because watching them fail makes us feel better about our own lives? Or is it just oddly entertaining to watch people make mistakes and ruin their own lives? I’m not entirely sure why, but all I know right now is that I am still hooked on the story of Tokyo Tarareba Girls. I mentioned in the volume 2 review that the themes and story of this series are fairly relatable, dealing with how the arbitrary 30-year-old milestone makes women think they’re failures if they’re not married and successful by then. Volume 3 continues these themes and shows us more how forcing yourself to be happy can lead to disastrous outcomes. All of this is wrapped up in some awesome art by Princess Jellyfish creator Akiko Higashimura.
Volume 3 picks up where the last volume left us, with Kaori and Koyuki still continuing their relationships with a married man and an ex-boyfriend while Rinko still feels lost after being dropped from a writing gig. When a gig finally comes Rinko’s way however, she finds she may not be young enough or in-the-loop enough to handle a story geared towards a younger audience. After Rinko loses the gig due to none other than Key’s meddling again, both Kaori and Koyuki begin questioning why they’re still in these relationships as new information about both of their men surfaces. Continue reading
I’m approaching 30 and am two years out from getting married, so it’s safe to say that I’m not really the target audience for Tokyo Tarareba Girls, but I do feel like I know enough people like the women in this manga to feel a connection to their story. They’re thirty year old women who have been told over and over again by society that they might as well be washed-up has-beens if they’re not married and living comfortably by now. This manga is simultaneously a depressing and entertaining look at how society–Japanese society in particular–enforces ideals of marriage, success, and love on women throughout their lives while setting an arbitrary cut-off date for these things at 30 years old. Akiko Higashimura continues to use a sharp sense of wit, a dynamic art style, and a keen understanding of society to create a truly entertaining manga for thirty-somethings and those of us approaching that arbitrary milestone age.
Volume two of Tokyo Tarareba Girls picks up right where volume one left off, with the fallout over Rinko drunkenly sleeping with the famous model Key. After finding herself alone the morning after, Rinko heads back home by herself feeling like it’s becoming ever more apparent she’s going to be alone for the rest of her life. Meanwhile, her friends Kaori and Koyuki are feeling like they’ve found a small bit of bliss while hooking up with a married man and an unavailable ex-boyfriend respectively. However, even these two begin to see that sex isn’t everything and the same old “what-if’s” begin to pop up again as they all have to face up against younger and fitter women. Continue reading
A couple months ago I posted on Twitter asking for opinions on what manga I should buy if I could only buy one volume, and this manga, Water Dragon’s Bride, was one of the suggestions I got. I’ve been trying to branch out from some of the longer running series I’ve been reading, trying out new stories and manga that look interesting, so I figured why not give this one a shot. I honestly wasn’t sure what my opinion of the story might be going in, but I was a little worried that I probably wouldn’t like this one or that it would have some problematic age-related romance in it that I usually steer clear of. And in some ways this manga surprised me, but in others it also confused me. I can see the appeal of the story and what the mangaka might have been going for in this first volume, but in all honesty, I’m not sure this manga is for me.
The Water Dragon’s Bride is a shoujo manga created by mangaka Rei Toma who has also created Dawn of Arcana. It’s a story about a young girl who is completely spoiled by her parents that gets transported to another world through a small pond in her backyard. The girl, Asahi, has no idea where she is and everything and everyone in this world is so strange and old-fashioned, totally different from the bustle of modern Tokyo she just left. She soon meets a young boy named Subaru who offers to shelter her while they look for a way to get her back to her parents. But Asahi’s strange clothes and way of speaking scare the other members of his village, and they begin to think that maybe she would be a suitable sacrifice to the god that lives in the lake. Continue reading
Kakuriyo hits a lot of the key points for me in terms of a series that I know I’m going to be interested in long-term. It has a focus on youkai, and as you probably know by now, I will forever be drawn to series that use concepts of mythology and the supernatural. But it keeps going further, by blending this youkai base with concepts of cooking and romance. In essence, it becomes its own weird isekai/cooking genre, with similarities to say Restaurant to Another World where the main character is forced to cook for youkai and other interesting characters with the romance integrated into the main plotline but not overshadowing it. I have to say at the end of watching the last cour, I do find myself liking the series as a whole and might pursue looking into the manga since the volumes are just starting to publish here in the US. However, I do have certain problems with the series, but those mainly focus on the quality of animation.
The second cour of Kakuriyo picks right up where the first cour ended, and while I only went up to episode 12 in the last review, I would say the second cour starts around episode 14. It’s within these first couple episodes that we see the beginning of the second major story arc with the arrival of the head of the competing Southern inn Orio-ya, Ranmaru. We met some of the employees of this inn before in the last cour, but it is here that it is revealed that Ginji’s status as a Tenjin-ya employee is only temporary, and he called back to Orio-ya to complete a special “ceremony”. In an effort to prevent this from happening and convince him to come back, Aoi threatens Ranmaru and Ougon-douji and is promptly kidnapped and taken with them to Orio-ya where her struggles begin anew. Continue reading
I’m sure you’ve noticed just how much I’ve been talking about XXXHolic, and it’s not just because it’s that time of year when I want to read slightly spooky or mystical stories. The content of XXXHolic hits on a lot of humanity’s biggest fears and insecurities, including the ones from legends and folklore. In chapter 26 of the manga, Watanuki keeps running into a disembodied hand on his way home from buying groceries. A hand sticking out of a cherry blossom tree. A hand lying behind a sandwich sign. At first he brushes it off as a mannequin hand, but when he makes it to the park, the hand is there again sticking straight up out of the ground. As he watches, a small petal falls onto its palm, the fingers close and reopen. The petal is gone. When some kids get too close, Watanuki loses his grocery bag to the hand and it drags it back into the earth where suspicious crunching noises are heard.
Stumbling into this short encounter while reading XXXHolic had me wondering what other kinds of myths were out there concerning disembodied hands, and is this one related to any in particular. I realize it might be a strange thought to have, but hear me out and join me as I go down this rabbit hole. I promise I’ll try and keep it short this time. Continue reading