Desirable Swimming Boys does what it does very successfully. And what it does is boys doing boys. This is a lovely, smutty little romp that fails in its cursory attempt at psychological tension, but delivers in spades elsewhere. The story follows swim team members addressing their sexual obsessions in all sorts of complicated and counterproductive ways. Finally, a tall and dark deus ex machina turns this “love” triangle into a rectangle and brings our group to its symmetrical and rather moist climax. It is all highly enjoyable.
Here we find a very nice array of fetishes and tags, from rape to incest to group sex. While there is censorship, the filth level is still plenty above average. The art is good. The toning is blocky and very liberally applied, and there are some noticeable instances of Yaoi Anatomy Syndrome, but really nothing distracting. I was very impressed with the expressiveness of the faces, which are really beautifully and effectively rendered, and of course the aforementioned anatomical shortcomings are nowhere to be found in the sex scenes. Panel layout is frenetic but flows very intuitively, creating a complimentary feeling to the emotional tone of the story. Composition in general is tightly pulled in, so there is very little background to speak of.
What elevated this volume from one I was glad I had been able to enjoy one afternoon to one I was glad I own is the bonus story, Untitled. This one shot is really beautiful and I look forward to revisiting it. Untitled takes place in a single room in a vaguely dystopian context, where we watch as the routine of the lone character, a sex worker whose entire world is the plain room with the two-way mirror in which he lives and works, is interrupted. Each page floats on an offset border of lace screentone, deepening the effect of the decadence we feel from the world outside the room, and contrasting garishly with the stark minimalism of the panels. The common thread between Desirable Swimming Boys and Untitled is definitely their considerable explicitness, and I’m glad they’re in the same volume.
Overall, as long as what you’re looking for is a very high smut-to-story ratio, this book is a winner and I definitely recommend it!
Review By: Dot Ringo
"The Imperial Army’s Love Academy" was very disappointing. In keeping with Mizukami’s general style, this is a very smutty piece of hard shota, set within an historical context. All of this is well and good if that’s what you’re looking for, and Mizukami is a champion at it. Where Love Academy breaks down, however, is its attempt to have a plot. What we have here is a threadbare framework of what attempts to be story, character, and relationships, attempting to support a porno, by an artist who is very good at the porno thing.
The arc of the “romance” at work here is definitely cringeworthy, and this is by yaoi standards. Unhealthy relationships are nothing new, unexpected, or even necessarily objectionable in our genre, but this one really takes the cake. We watch an adult, Onizuka, not only prey relentlessly on a child in a sexual sense, but also break him down on a personal, petty level. The child, Yamato, becomes more and more isolated until rather abruptly coming to “love” Onizuka. Handled more competently this could make for an interesting psychological story, but it’s all played totally genuine and without nuance, so the resulting relationship seems tacked on, absurd, and boring. In addition, it’s a bit offensive the way Yamato’s pain seems to dry up suddenly along with the last of his personal boundaries and the self respect he has doggedly clung to throughout the story. Again, I realize this is nothing at all unusual, but in the case of Love Academy, this trope is especially poorly handled.
Love Academy essentially opens with our hero Yamato, an underdeveloped teenager, being raped by his adult superior officer in a pitch black room. This is the first of several highly explicit and well rendered sex scenes, which are hot despite censorship. This is where Mizukami Sensei really shines; In the depiction of young boys being brutalized. Their style is very unique and quite lovely, one can tell Mizukami’s work immediately. The characters have interesting features, though there is one mustache that needs to be killed with fire, and if you look at some crowd scenes everyone’s identical. This is not the only time Mizukami has used a vaguely period military setting. The world building in this book is generally unsuccessful, though the uniforms are very nicely rendered, as are the human forms in general, and the toning is great. Visually this is a very good work.
Overall I can’t recommend The Imperial Army’s Love Academy. Yaoi fans have high levels of patience for ridiculous relationships and terrible plots, but in the case of this book the “story” is actually bad enough to negate the good things about it.
Review By: Dot Ringo
Throughout the years, the yaoi genre has come across many different types of stereotypes fans have come to expect. Whether it is something simple like the big tough seme has to take a sick day or something controversial like a dubious start of a relationship. There are certainly tropes fans will flock to and others that are avidly avoided.
Japanese and American audiences both have different standards on what they deem as acceptable content and what resonates with their local fans. As social media progresses more and more each year, the blending of these cultures has started to see much more common ground.
The biggest and most controversial trope, dubois and/or non consent, has seen the most progress over the years. The "rape-fantasy" has dominated the bl genre for years as a means of coping with homophobia, but at the same time, severely misrepresented the LGBTQ communities for quite a while. Many people that identify with the LGBTQ community have shuned yaoi for this reason among other missteps portrayed in "typical" yaoi books.
Some people, however, read the yaoi genre for this exact reason. Since it is in paper form and not physically hurting someone, this can be used as an outlet for a multitude of reasons. It can help someone overcome their own personal traumas, or used as an outlet for personal expression.
This is not to say that non consent is a healthy start to a relationship by any means. Like "The Tyrant Falls in Love" series, it starts in this trope to later progress into a healthier relationship. More modern titles like "Don't be Cruel," have also started in such a matter, but have later brought up the topic for the characters to discuss and remorse their actions.
As the yaoi genre evolves, as does its tropes and character progressions. With the cultural gaps becoming slimmer and slimmer each year, yaoi audiences world wide are more and more drawn to realistic plots and human emotions. Projects like Juné's yabara collaboration with Velvet Toucher hope to mend the gap between yaoi, LGBTQ, and indie comic book audiences alike.
Below is our video blog discussing "The Tyrant Falls in Love" volume 1 and why you should give older titles a chance. Keeping an open mind, learning what you like to read vs what you do not enjoy, and having healthy discussion in welcoming communities is the best way to keep modernizing the bl genre and bridge the gap between cultures.
The Boys Love Book Club is back with our latest video highlighting the work of Hideyoshico. She has an expressive, atypical yaoi art style in which she highlights the manly features of her men. Hair legs, tough skin, even her character's body language steps away from the typical bishounen look and gives breath to Hideyoshico's own unique style. In this week's BLBC, Gracie covers books one and two of Hideyoshico's "Apple and Honey" series. Watch the video below, read her books, and let us know what you think of this wonderful series!
My first thought when I opened this file was “Wonderful! A vintage title!”. Based on the art style I would have dated A Gentleman's Agreement Between a Rabbit and a Wolf about ten years older than it actually is, and that's a very good thing! The art is my number-one favorite thing about this overall very high quality manga, it reminded me (only visually!) of the work of my favorite mangaka, Mika Sadahiro.
The composition is dynamic and well thought out, so each page moves beautifully. Also, the characters are all very different looking and individually recognizable, which I think we all know can not be said nearly often enough when it comes to yaoi. The characters are expressive, too. Their emotions and motivations read not only on their faces but in body language too.
Oh, and speaking of bodies, attention to physical detail is very present and anatomy is carefully and realistically rendered, right on down to the unusually, er, plausible endowment. The spicy scenes are very much so, and not in short supply. I was a very happy camper throughout.
A Gentleman's Agreement is a series of one-shots, of which several follow the same couple. These characters are adorable. Between the Rabbit's aggression and the Wolf's responsiveness, these two's interactions never cool off, and despite the fact that this is a workplace story, it contains unusual elements such as furry fetishism and even a supernatural story!
The perspective switches between the men and the relationship feels very fleshed out, though I must say there is no conflict o speak of. Sometimes that's okay. The other shots include a School Life story that deals with trauma, a very original and hot Yakuza story, and a lovely workplace story involving megane fetishism, science, and drugs! It's just really fabulous stuff.
Overall this manga is original, entertaining, hot, and excellently executed. I will revisit it many times and it would be a treat for any yaoi fan. I was very refreshed by this work and I hope lots of other readers discover and enjoy it too!
Review By: Dot Ringo