August Reading List

Hi everyone! This is the first of many posts where I’ll be reflecting on the BL/shojo/LGBT manga I have read or am currently reading. In the future, I’ll aim to post these lists at least twice a month and also track/discuss unlicensed manga I’m reading through scanlations. Definitely let me know if there are series you want to see me pick up–especially licensed works available through the library.

This list is not a collection of summaries or formal reviews, and it’s definitely not spoiler-free! That said, enjoy these thoughts and feelings and take from them what you will~

Thanks so much for all your support, and be sure to check out my Patreon if you want to help me pay my rent and keep writing!

Local Library
Go For It, Nakamura! (v. 1)

  • Fun! Feels quintessentially BL but also very modern
  • Inclusion of an unambiguously self-identified gay protagonist is a nice touch, makes for some excellent jokes and contributes to the modern sensibility of the book
  • The whole chapter about Nakamura picking up BL and becoming a fudanshi was incredibly charming, I loved it.
  • TENTACLES

I Hear the Sunspot (v. 1)

  • Gentle, tender romance
  • Thoughtful portrayal of disability; at times Taichi’s role in the narrative toes the line between advocacy and saviorism, but the inclusion of a girl who wants to date Kohei in order to fulfill a shallow fantasy about caring for a helpless ‘other’ helps bring that into contrast and emphasize how Taichi’s protectiveness of Kohei comes from an appreciation and respect for his dignity and humanity, rather than a paternalistic denial of it
  • Gave me heart palpitations

Tokyo Babylon (v. 1-4)

  • Eyebrow-raising age gap; Subaru and Seishiro are both heads of their respective clans which does put them on more equal footing, but it’s a BIG gap when Seishiro is 25 and Subaru is SIXTEEN and still in HIGH SCHOOL
  • Magic, mystery, intrigue, heavy-handed social commentary!
  • For the most part I agree with the points the series tries to communicate about modern society (or at least don’t disagree) but Clamp is not subtle here
  • Subaru’s genuine affection for Tokyo, as well as his determination to protect people and do the right thing is still very endearing and balances out some of the smacking you over the head with debauchery! cruelty! loss of spiritual connection! alienation!
  • Don’t think I’ve gotten to the best bits of the story yet; the suspense being built up around the inevitable reveal of Seishiro’s true identity and moral ambiguity, particularly as it relates to his first meeting with Subaru is shaping up to be very compelling
  • We’ll see what happens in 5-7!

Loveless (v. 1-11)

  • BIZARRE
  • I LOVE IT
  • Ritsuka and Soubi’s relationship is framed in an uncomfortably romantic way, particularly in the earlier volumes; there are hints at the more complex notes their interactions take on later in the series, but it’s very, very frustrating and could certainly be a dealbreaker for a lot of readers
  • Adult authority is problematized in a fascinating way–although there are several sympathetic adult characters, the only one in a significant position of influence who the narrative frames as trustworthy (if somewhat incompetent) is Shinonome, who is depicted as more childlike and still has her ears
  • Soubi, Kio, and to a certain extent, Ritsuka, walk the line between being adults and children; although Soubi is in college and has lost his ears, making Ritsuka initially see him as an ‘adult,’ the later volumes emphasize how much of Soubi’s character is a result of being an abused child, groomed and taken advantage of first by Ritsu and then by Seimei. Ritsuka is only 12 and still has his ears, causing multiple characters to (understandably!) scold Soubi for his dependence on Ritsuka and declare that Ritsuka is a child in need of protection. Although this is not necessarily untrue, it raises the question, protection from and by whom?
  • Yun Koga’s art is gorgeous and she gave me lesbians. I would probably die for her.

My Brother’s Husband (v. 1)

  • Gengoroh Tagame is Horny On Main
  • The opening panels of Yaichi changing, with the close shots of his calves, body hair, and the noticeable imprint of his dick (soft) in his underwear are such blatant carryovers from Tagame’s past, more pornographic work that I’m shocked no one else has commented on them
  • This is a tender, sweet story about family, grief, and overcoming prejudice. (This is, uh, probably why no one has commented on Tagame being Horny On Main–after you finish the book, the tears in your eyes and the wonderful pain of recognition in your heart make it feel a whole lot less significant.)
  • Arguably this sensuality/sexuality in the depiction of men’s bodies is part of its appeal, at least to (Western? overseas?) LGBTQ fans, as it marks the work as coming from a distinctly gay male perspective
  • The moment where Mike comes home drunk, sees his late husband in Yaichi, and collapses into his arms sobbing, overcome with grief, was incredibly powerful

Wandering Son (v. 1); (OOP, buy on Amazon)

  • Takako Shimura’s art and paneling is striking here
  • The emotions of the kids are given gravity and empathy–the last panel of the book, with Shuu holding her knees, looking at the “girl” version of herself in her imagination, is gorgeous and heartbreaking

Renta!
Yata & Momo (v. 1)

  • Harada is such a tricky artist!
  • Very strong example of her tendency to subvert or ‘break’ the BL fantasy! As Yata and Momo grow closer the audience assumes (and the narrative framing suggests) that Momo will become responsible, organized, gainfully employed and sexually faithful/monogamous–that he will heal as a result of Yata’s love and his own love for Yata. The twist at the end that Momo is still Momo: messy, lazy, and generally incompetent is interesting and even refreshing
  • I’m still not wild about the undercurrents of sex-as-punishment that  pop up in Yata and Momo’s dog/cat dynamic; physical arousal is not the same as genuine desire, and seeing Yata become sexually aggressive and Momo respond with surprise and uncertainty or hesitation (meant to be ‘canceled out’ by his physical pleasure) was frustrating

Warning! Whispers of Love

  • Takes the association of ear-cleaning with romance to a comedic extreme
  • Extremely cute collection of oneshots, Puku Okuyama is a fave
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