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Half the time I feel like ranting because I hate everyone-- no surprise if you've read this lj for any length of time. But then I remember I'm not really in fandom. I still have my con report to write up and want to go to more, and I still love HP, but it's not... online HP fandom and online fandom in general just makes me want to rant 80% of the time in practice and only squee 20% of the time. Either I feel like everyone's too critical or everyone's too blindly adoring of things that aren't that great-- there's rarely any happy middle. I try to remember the last time I enjoyed a fanfic of any kind and honestly can't remember at all. Doujinshi seem better to me these days, and doujin are mostly stupid, especially the Heero/Duo ones.

Anyway, I've been reading lots and lots of yaoi and lots and lots of fantasy books (Diana Wynne Jones-- yaye magic! Simon R Green and his crazy ideas! Kat Richardson and her Seattle-based urban fantasies! hee!) I should just review them and go 'lalala YOU DON'T EXIST lalala' to everything else. Yes. That will be my philosophy from now on. \o/ If I rant about anything to do with fandom ever again, or even participate in a debate, just slap me, and good riddance to bad rubbish. :D


- Hero Heel by Makoto Tateno -
    I really like everything by this mangaka, from awesome, tight one-shots like 'Warui Yume' (downloadable here to give you a taste) to the licensed stuff out right now like 'Hero Heel' (which you could order from Amazon.com here, though you may or may not find it in [livejournal.com profile] yshare if you really want to read the complete 3 volumes ;)... heh).
    Hero Heel's the one I read most recently, and it's about a bunch of actors in a Japanese live-action sfx drama of the 'Power Rangers' sort. The main protagonist is playing the hero, Minami, and his love interest, Sawada, is playing the villain.

There's nothing unusual about Sawada's initial coldness/mocking attitude (since he's the senpai with the previous experience and Minami sucks & is pretty careless about the low-end job initially), nor about Minami's enthusiasm and puppyish admiration and insecurities, but Makoto Tateno makes it work because of how real the character's emotions are. Sawada's uncaring facade, his calm and reasonable-sounding rejection of Minami's overtures... rather than just being angstily 'cool', they're plausibly rendered. He really makes Minami look stupid and hot-headed and wrong, all without really trying, so that when Minami gets some experience and self-respect and stands on his own two feet, it's both painful and admirable. It turns the common trope of distant-angsty!seme/eager-puppy!uke around just enough to give it depth and some plausibility without really leaving the well-tread paths behind.

In an odd way, most of Makoto Tateno's mangas combine this predictability with a totally unexpected and genuine suspense based on the immediacy of the characters' personalities. They always seem a little too independent and a little too self-possessed to go down the frothy shoujo path, and even though she kind of pulls the same trick every time, I always fall for it. Partly because it's not a trick, and her characters -are- independent and self-respecting individuals who love passionately without giving themselves up. Even her ukes have seme-style pride as well as the usual hard-working ethic & soft heart, and her semes only get them when they show/realize their own insecurities and vulnerabilities. I mean... there's just something deliciously Japanese about all that, somehow :D

On the more shallow level, I love this particular manga because I really do think the conceit/set-up is cool and I love the hero/villain pairing in general, plus the conflation of the meta level of them coming to terms on the show & the actual actors' relationship running parallel makes me all fangirly 'cause it strikes my usual story kinks (of romance in 'real life' as being linked to its mythic underpinnings, the stories we tell ourselves about each other about the loved one, the myths we create, etc). Man, brooding villains angstying over their doomed love for the hero which they cannot allow themselves = HOOOOTTTTTTtttt. >:D And yet this is only the meta/surface level here (of sorts), which is pretty cool.

A sample from chapter 1:






~~

- Secret Diplomacy of a Minister Excellency - Youka Nitta -
    It seems rather embarrassing to be going on about Youka Nitta's work 'cause 'Haru wo Daiteita' is so... it's like Viewfinder in that it's embarrassing and sort of feels sad to admit I like it, but... they're popular for a reason. Though both with 'Viewfinder' and 'Haru wo', the mangakas' most popular works are my least favorite of theirs and seem the most shallow/stupid to me. Maybe I'm just bitter, but then I read another fangirl squeeing about how she wants to have Asami's babies and I remember how I'm right after all. :D

You can download the first chapter (first released as a one-shot) here for a taste, and the rest can be found here after joining [livejournal.com profile] db_scanlations. One volume is currently complete.
    The thing I like about Youka Nitta's work (besides the super well-rendered art style and those luscious lips of her boys... damn), is how basically most of her work is about... work. She always seems to have characters who care a lot about the craft of what they do, and it's never the usual slapdash sort of 'sexy CEO' or 'harried but hard-working office drone' or 'devoted teacher' thing-- she always writes about creative or at least higher-end professionals in a way that's almost... philosophical. Not like, soppy (I mean, usually artists or photographers or models in yaoi tend to be 'the best' and v. talented and hard-working, but the craft itself is rarely addressed). It's like the sports manga approach with her, haha, where the nitty-gritty is an integral part of the plot, even if it's over-the-top.

In a way, this reflects the work focus of Hero Heel-- funny, 'cause I didn't mean to choose them based on a theme (it was semi-random), but it seems all three of the ones I'm reccing are about this theme or working men, approached quite differently in each case. In 'Secret Diplomacy', the main character, Tomohiro, is a diplomat on assignment to assist a Minister, Yoshinaga, who's his sister's fiance. Yoshinaga is quite a self-controlled and mysterious character, but there are all these weird/beastly rumors about him that concern poor Tomo. Weirdly, he's supposed to have seduced all these women in order to get ahead in the world of high-end diplomacy, but as Tomohiro finds out, Yoshinaga's actually quite serious and honorable, but he does sleep around with other men and doesn't intend to stop. Cue the seme's "moral indignation" (or at least, that's what they're calling it these days).

As usual in Youka Nitta's work, there's some angstying about issues of honor and propriety, and Tomohiro honestly does struggle with his admiration of Yoshinaga and his attempts to moralize even as his own descent into serious grey areas commences. Tomohiro's earnest and straight-edged, the usual type, and he's oh-so-fascinated by the contrast between Yoshinaga's two sides-- it's not quite the typical attraction to his complete opposite, because Yoshinaga's definitely an adult and only has this narrow time and space when he lets his hair down. But when he does, he becomes almost unrecognizable-- a completely seductive uke to the point of radiating pure sex with a single hooded look. At the same time, Tomohiro's got no one to blame for his reactions but himself, and he fully realizes it.

There's a feeling of measured progression about their relationship-- it develops in very clear stages, sort of like a chess game or a slow waltz, so there's always a feeling of anticipation and expectation, where you can tell things are definitely going somewhere inevitable but it's still hard to tell where, because the dilemmas are real enough and have several possible/plausible solutions at each point, which the characters tend to have to face carefully. It's not something I'd want to experience every day, but it's definitely a more psychologically and ethically analytical yaoi manga than most.

Some sample pages from chapter 2:






~~

- Konbini - Keiko Konno
    Keiko Konno is one of my all-time favorite mangakas; she has a super-light touch, has adorable boyish characters, and never writes over-the-top angst while remaining touching and emotionally intense. Basically it's worth reading everything she's ever done, but Konbini fits my theme :P

At the moment, only three chapters are out scanlated by Memory for You (here), but the story's episodic by chapter, so you they all kind of stand alone. Plus it's adorable. And it's my review, so I can do whatever I want. So there.
    Konbini is cute Japanese for 'convenience store' (Con-Veni), and basically it's about two guys who work there and the people who come and go. Their attitude is typical for post-High School slacker guys-- they don't really care, but they kind of can't help themselves at the same time. They just want to take things easy, but nothing ever seems to work out quite right in ways that end up being adorable and somehow impossible to forget.

The main couple, Mita & Morishita (the two guys who work at the store) are kind of painfully adorable. They're awkward sort-of-friends-sort-of-boyfriends who live together because Morishita didn't have anywhere to go and Mita's the kind of long-suffering slightly frustrated nice guy that actually exists in real life (but not usually in yaoi). They kind of don't get each other and are awkward and sweet and aren't the best at communicating but it's the sort of thing where they do their best anyway, stumbling along. You can really tell they're actual friends, because Mita's protective of Morishita and jealous too, but mostly he just wants the best for him (and vice versa, though Mori's more of a scoundrel and/or slacker). Awww.

The third chapter is a self-contained story, and probably my favorite, though. It's your usual plot with a guy being forced to take someone in 'cause they're so pathetic/lost/hurt (...again), but it's just so cute and Tetsuo's such a lovable rascal, there's no resisting it; it's your typical situation comedy scenario except it's fresh and cute like it just got out of the dryer or something. Aww, they're such BOYS. <333

Sample from chapter 3:





Date: 2007-09-16 02:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lilith800.livejournal.com
It's really kawaiiii...

Date: 2007-09-16 11:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yourpoison.livejournal.com
It iiiiisss... ♥♥♥

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