Jazz Vol.1

July 30, 2006

jazz.jpgWow. Reading Jazz is like reading the yaoi version of Hot Gimmick. And you know how well that turned out for me.

To be honest, I was aware of the negative reviews it received on Amazon, but there were positive ones as well, so I thought to myself when I saw it in Borders: “Why not?”

(Note to self: Don’t buy a manga without reading it first, even if it embarasses to read it at the counter in public.)

It started out so promising too. Dr Narusawa treats a patient, Naoki, who has an overbering mother. Naoki feels really grateful to Narusawa, and they get closer, having many deep conversations together. Narusawa thinks that it’s just natural that Naoki will go to university and get on with his life. They have one final dinner before Naoki goes to university where Naoki gets him drunk, brings him back to his home and … rapes him. YUP.

At that point, I went: WTF?? What happened to the sweet Naoki who had soulful talks with Narusawa? Overnight, that guy morphed into an abusive boyfriend who demands to find out, after that yucky night, why Narusawa was avoiding him. Like, DUH!

All the yaoi cliches are here – weepy uke, overbearing bullying seme, and that ever popular plotline of seme rapes uke who ends up falling in love with seme.

Narusawa, apparently, hangs on to Naoki because he wants someone to love him and Naoki is the only person who can. Sure. When he actually develops a backbone and decides to leave Naoki for the States, he actually angsts about it.

I heard that Jazz Vol.2 is even worse, with yet another rape scene. This time Naoki actually feels guilty about it – you deserve a whacking, you!

Narusawa, of course, misses and pines for him despite what Naoki did twice. Man, doesn’t this sound familliar?

Jazz can’t even be categorised as fluff. It’s just simply bad. Naoki is just simply unlikeable and Narusawa needs to be put in counselling.

Avoid this, I tell ya! Avoid this!

Honey and Clover: I get it now

July 10, 2006

So I’m back after watching about more than half of Honey & Clover. I get it now why people love it.

My reasons are simple:

Gorgeous watercolour-like art.

Manly nurse from hell!
Morita senpai!!!


Yamada and Mayama. Give it up, girl. He’s a lost cause.

To be honest, when I started Honey & Clover, I really braced myself for a Windy Tales experience. That anime was my introduction to “slice of life” stuff, and thanks to it, I’ve come to equate slice of life with “boring”.

But Honey & Clover is … different. In fact, I think that’s the charm of the anime. It’s not about some super-powered girl with a big destiny to save/destroy the world. It’s not about people flying or bouncing off the walls to evade some mutant monster. It’s about life, it’s about living, it’s about people who are trying to make sense of their lives.

I wasn’t so sure about the whole Yuki X Yamada X Mayama. Man, I’m really leery of romantic triangles and quadrangles, but Honey & Clover doesn’t drag out the angst. I really salute Yamada for being so strong, though I want to shake her and tell her to look elsewhere – like Morita! Tee hee! – because Mayama is so with Yuki. (Their relationship has a better chance than hers with Mayama, poor thing.)
And thank goodness the whole anime is not about romantic entanglements (or not I will surely die). There’s Takemoto who’s trying to figure out his calling in life and what’s he’s here on planet Earth for.

And then there’s Morita, who defies categorisation or explanation. Morita just is. Mochademy Awards, anyone?? I laughed out loud at almost all his scenes (though the one with the manly nurse left me giggling insanely). Though I was quite blown away by his serious side too. Darn, I do wish he was a spy, but I don’t think he is one. And when he graduated only to return for more “education”?? LOL.

Not sure about Hagu-chan, really. Seriously, I know she’s supposed to be this cute darling, but drawing her to look like a five-year-old is a wee bit much, don’t you think? And to have Takemoto and Morita interested in her, no matter what they say about her age, it’s just a wee disturbing to see played out on screen. 😛

So, do I love Honey & Clover? Yup. 😉 But to be honest, I don’t think it’s the work of genius everyone says it is. It’s different, yes, but I don’t know, it didn’t grab me 110% and leave me stunned … not like how Fullmetal Alchemist did for me. I mean, when I watched FMA, I replayed the scenes in my head over and over again … for example, what Shou Tucker did, the war in Ishbal, Roy Mustang pulling a gun on himself … those scenes just burnt themselves in my head thanks to their raw emotion and power.

But perhaps Honey & Clover is just different on another level and shouldn’t be compared to an action/drama/adventure vehicle like FMA. But whatever it is, Honey is definitely good, and you bet I’m going to watch the second season!

(Especially when there are hints they’re going to explore Morita more!)

Honey and Clover: Why not?

July 5, 2006

honey-clover.jpgOkay, I give up. I’ll follow Honey & Clover. Because everyone it, so there must be a damn good reason to watch it. 

I watched episode 1 a while back, and it left me bewildered. OK, there’s this bunch of art students. They live in this crappy hostel. And then there’s Morita-senpai, where everyone is apparently afraid/amazed/awed by. He comes and goes, and disappears for days. When he returns, he has a bucket load of money.

My sis theorises that he’s a secret agent. I kinda like the idea. But apparently Honey & Clover is not that kind of show. In fact, I’m really not sure what kind of anime it is. Some has called it “slice of life”. Thing is, I’ve not really fared well with slice of life anime. Ok, so I only watched one slice of life anime, which is Windy Tales. And boy did that bore me to tears.

So, why am I watching? Not just because it has the “oh gosh it’s so popular” factor but because of Morita-senpai. That weird guy is adorable. And I want to know if he’s a secret agent. 😀

The Tyrant Falls in Love (Koisuru Boukun)

July 4, 2006

tyrantcap.jpgAttention, DramaQueen! Here am I doing wonderful publicity for you guys, so when The Tyrant Falls in Love is finally released, I expect to get a free copy, k?

Well, it was worth trying anyway. 😛

Now, if there’s a yaoi manga that I wholeheartedly recommend, it’ll be Tyrant. In fact, not only do I love it, Tyrant is the yaoi manga that was responsible for corrupting changing me to a yaoi observer to a yaoi lover. 😛

Before, I read yaoi scanlations with a “Meh, so what?” or a “OMG!!” (Runs away) attitude.

But when I stumbled unto Tyrant, I fell deeply and madly in love with the characters.

Morinaga Tetsuhiro is in love with his senpai, Tatsumi Souichi, who is, to put it very simply: a terrifying person. (But cute, of course. I have a thing for long hair. hehe) He’s also … homophobic. Doesn’t like gay people much because his brother ran off to America with one – and to Souichi’s mind, all gay people are to be blamed. 😛

Despite all that Mori loves Souichi, but is he in for a difficult time. One night, Souichi accidently drinks an aphrodisiac Mori was given (very long story, that) and … Mori takes advantage of, uh, the situation. 😛

This is the oddest thing. There is a non-con scene in Vol.1. Yet … yet … the mangaka, Hinako Takanaga still makes it funny. Yes, it’s truly hilarious what happens “the day after”! I know, colour me amazed. Souichi demonstrates that he is no weepy uke despite the non-con. And that’s what I love about the guy.

After the whole non-con incident, Souichi is understandably enraged (a big understatement) and Mori is so guilty that he disappears for weeks. Surprised at his MIA-ness, Souichi begins to feel … anxious.

I won’t spoil the plot for you, and I don’t think I’m doing much justice to the story at all. Many would probably read it and say it’s another one of those yaoi things where the seme rapes the uke and they fall in love and live happily ever after. (shudder shudder)

The biggest pull Tyrant had for me was the comedy. I actually laughed out loud at certain scenes. My favourite parts were not the smexy scenes, but the small little incidentces like when Mori gives (or tries to) Souichi a haircut at the extra chapter in Vol.2 but gets overwhelmed by Souichi’s, uh, sexiness. Souichi of course … flips. And when he flips, blood is shed. Totally my favourite chapter ever.

(Though I have to say Takanaga really draws romantic smex scenes. No, I’m not kidding. Some yaoi have hot sex scenes, but it has a kind of dirty quality to it … this one makes you realise that there is some kinda love involved.)

Typically, the seme is always this broad-shouldered, manly, bullying type while the uke is a total girl. But Souichi, who is obviously the uke, is so bad-tempered and dominant that you really pity Mori for being in love with the guy. He’s arrogant, loud and short-tempered. (But he has a kind heart, really.) And Mori is a sweet, gentle guy who spends a lot of his time moaning at his bad luck for falling for Souichi (it’s funny, trust me) and weeping over Souichi’s exasperating behaviour. 😛

The two are really sweet together, and part of me went, ARGH when I found out Drama Queen licensed it because I really wanted to read more now. But better they than any other publisher as DQ does good work with their published works. They come very well translated and in high-quality materials.
Vol.2 is my favourite so far – I’ve only read Vol.1 and 2 – because it delves into Mori’s angsty past. 😛 One has got to love that. We see how Mori’s family has turned their backs on him because of a scandal he was involved in back home that involved Mori’s brother’s best friend. Big bro is not too happy with Mori, and basically treats him like something you wipe your feet with.

Therefore, the real life issue of how homosexuality is not really an “acceptable” thing for some people and families is not swept under the carpet here. Very often we read yaoi where it takes place in a kind of alternate universe where everyone is so okay with homosexuality (that’s not bad, really) so it’s refreshing to read something real.

Again, it’s not the s3x scenes that do it for me but Mori’s relationship with his brother that I really found very touching. I want more of Nii-san! But not in the brotherxbrother way, okay?

Souichi is also a darling in this volume, as he comes to Mori’s defense. Awww.

The art is very nice … no complaints there. All in all, Tyrant is perfect to me. Comedy, romance, family angst … it has everything. Hopefully, some of you would like it as much as I do. 🙂

And yeah, of course I’ll buy the DQ copies when it comes out … barring the customs doesn’t seize it … because I’ll cry a bucket of tears if they do.

What’s so hot about Hot Gimmick?

July 3, 2006

hotgimmick.jpgI know Hot Gimmick is a really popular shoujo manga, but I, for the life me, do not understand why. I read the first two volumes and the best way to explain my reaction after completing them is this: Reading Hot Gimmick turned my stomach.

So, there’s this girl Hatsumi who becomes a slave to the resident jerk in the company housing she and that bastard guy lives in. The asshole guy, Ryoki, is the son of the most powerful honcho in the company housing complex, and when he stumbles upon Hatsumi buying a pregnancy test for her sis, decides to use that to blackmail her. Smart.

Not only is the guy abusive – he calls her bitch and slut even until the 11th freaking volume – he molests her at every given opportunity. He just wants to lose his virginity and Hatsumi is the convenient method for him to do so. He also ocassionally hits her, grabs her and shoves her.

And yet people want these two to get together. What’s wrong with this picture?

Hatsumi has the backbone of a jelly, no, a paramesium. She keeps returning to the guy no matter how nasty he is. Yes, he’s had a bad childhood. And this gives you an excuse to treat your girlfriend like a piece of dirt?

So, my friend who is really into Hot Gimmick says that it gets better after Vol.3. After feeling physically ill after reading Vol.2, I’m not that eager to continue, but I’ve always been a slave to knowing what happens next, so I took a peek at later volumes. Argh, the man is as big an asshole as he is in Vol.1 & 2! Only instead of doing all of the above, he also doesn’t want her to talk to her brother! Cos his jealous! Lovely! I so heart Ryoki!
The short story to the long tale is that I just don’t understand why people, especially girls, like Hot Gimmick. Ryoki is the most unappealing shojo “hero” ever. In fact, I think he’s plain evil. It made my eyes pop that most people want Hatsumi and Ryoki to be together rather than nice-guy Shindou, or even Azusa (who is okay except that he wanted to use her to get back at her dad. Ok, he’s a jerk too).

Another friend who was turned off by Hot Gimmick said that she put down the book for good after a “near gang rape incident”, which made me go, WTF?? I could’ve sworn that Ryoki wanted to trade his darling slave to his friend so that his pal can have his way with Hatsumi, but I flipped the pages too fast (for fear of throwing up on the pages) to really be sure if it happened or I was delirious.
Anyway, there’s this much-quoted article: She Was Asking for It. It talks about the “unsettling themes” in shoujo manga. Quite an interesting read.

“Hot Gimmick is kind of like watching your own life unfold.”

Hot Gimmick, for those who don’t know, centers on a teenage boy blackmailing a teenage girl into performing sexual activities with him. When he’s not assaulting her, he’s referring to her as his “slave,” verbally abusing her at every available opportunity, and even pushed her down the stairs when the two of them were kids.

He’s her main love interest. An older-but-popular Hot Gimmick website here featured a reader’s poll where a whopping 62% of votes were in favor of the lead heroine ending up with the creep.

Is anyone else bothered by this? The love story in Hot Gimmick may be a fictional one, but readers finding it desirable implies that a submission fantasy strikes a chord with a number of readers. A complete submission fantasy with an abusive boyfriend. Hot Gimmick is well out of the “hot bad boy” waters–the heroine desperately needs therapy, and the hero, for all his actions, deserves a restraining order if not jail time. Is this sort of escapist fantasy actually considered romantic by some?

Not me!

Maybe I’m just too much of a feminist to enjoy Hot Gimmick. I can never look at abuse of any kind – verbal and physical – as a sign of affection like Hatsumi and the legion of Hot Gimmick readers do. There are far too many women caught in abusive relationships out there and who justify their boyfriends slurs and punches as “love” for me to sigh and shiver in pleasure as Ryoki calls Hatsumi a slut. As readers defended Ryoki’s virtue – bleargh – I can’t help but think that perhaps my brain is wired differently than theirs.

Anyway, I’m pretty late into this discussion. As evidenced in the article link I provided above, there’s a long string of people commenting about it already (look at the bottom of the article for the links).

Ok, maybe those who love Hot Gimmick can explain the appeal to me. Anyone?

Update: I thought I should include this review by Tangerine Dreams who said:

Everyone who reads it is appalled by the gender politics, yet the writing is so good that you’re sucked in like a coke addict. You really want Hatsumi to mature enough to be able to assert herself. The problem is that the male abusers are portrayed far too sympathetically, and Hatsumi’s method of dealing with abuse (blame it on herself, and apologize for “causing” it), is never questioned.

While Comics Worth Reading recommends Hot Gimmick:

The aftermath of Ryoki slapping Hatsumi in public is on view in book eight. He takes out his fear that he’s the only one who cares on her violently and then blames her for his outburst.

OMG, I don’t want to read this volume!!!!

The reader can view this book as a modern-day Cinderella story where the challenge is more threatening than cleaning a fireplace, or as a dramatization of the dangers of date rape when dealing with an immature teenage golden boy drunk on his own power, or a soap opera with a twisted triangle of attraction. The tension between the various readings and the sympathetic treatment of the character of Hatsumi keeps the reader involved.

Again, why is this popular??

One thing I can agree with the reviewers – the mangaka’s storytelling powress is up there with the best. Despite me disliking it so intensely, I still want to know what happens next. I suppose in some perverse way, we’re like voyeurs of an abusive relationship …