Visually stunning if somewhat plot deficient, Beast and Feast follows the forbidden and truly torrid romance between Hyodo and Kazuha, a Yakuza and detective.
This is pretty much the most classic cop x criminal story possible, in which childhood not-particularly-friends have grown up and gone down opposite paths, reconnecting thanks to a criminal investigation. We learn that Hyodo, the Yakuza, has carried a torch for Kazuha, the detective, for many years, though the story would work just as well if this weren’t the case.
Hyodo of course takes the opportunity to demand sex from Kazuha as payment for information. Kazuha successfully refuses this coercion, but Hyodo ultimately gets what he wants after rescuing Kazuha from a separate group of miscreants.
It seems both parties feel Hyodo is entitled to have his way with Kazuha in light of having rescued him, which is quite disturbing, but since I doubt anyone views yaoi as a bastion of healthy sexual mores, no harm done.
After an intriguing setup and astonishingly hot first encounter, the plot hits a bit of a rough patch. Actually, said rough patch lasts the whole rest of the book. There are minor hills climbed but no real climax; just a series of oddly heteronormative emotional struggles and minor crime related drama that is all resolved quickly and somehow never feels urgent.
Even the most nearly compelling plotline evaporates in a convenient deus ex machina, just in time to wrap up the book with a superfluous side story about the heroes’ history together.
Overall Beast and Feast reads like a salaryman romance, as if it couldn’t commit to any of the grit of the Yakuza genre. Our Yakuza doesn’t even have any tattoos!
Even if the story is hardly pulse-quickening, the smex decidedly is! And there’s a lot of it. Sexual language and images are not sanitized in any way, and this is a very manly couple with very manly bodies. Sweat drips, blush blossoms, and the panels veritably pulse with energy. There is a beastial nature to the sex and our heroes appear as predator and prey, tense and heaving. If you are a reader who values these scenes especially this is a book not to be missed!
The art all around is terrific. The design of the main characters is well considered and develops their personalities. This is particularly true in the case of Hyodo, who with his bright eyes and prominent canines (not to mention active tongue…), is every inch the eponymous beast.
The author uses chibis, caricatures, and implied line sparingly but very effectively, sometimes communicating more with missing information. The art elevates the star score of this book significantly and makes it a valued denizen of my collection.
Overall, Beast and Feast is a title that I’m sure readers will revisit many times, even if it is flipping through to find the sex scenes. These are some of yaoidom’s most gorgeous characters and the relationship really is sweet at the end of the day. Don’t buckle up for a story that will stick with you, but look forward to a visual feast of beautiful beasts!
Review by Dot Ringo
Black Sun has been one of my favorites for years. It is a shining denizen of that strange genre that draws from an historical framework, and is at once pure fantasy.
We meet our heroes, a general of the Approximately Ottoman Empire, and a prince who has just failed to protect his fortress from falling to the imperial army. The prince is to be the next conquest of course, trading his freedom and chastity for the lives of the fort’s inhabitants.
As the pages turn, the scope of the story gradually irises out more and more until what started as a personal passion more or less only concerning the central characters develops into a much greater conflict with implications far beyond them.
Be aware that this story starts with quite a lot of rape, and it could easily be argued that this is a Stockholm Syndrome story. Our darling uke will experience this assault outside the central relationship as well. If this will not sit well with you, please be warned.
This story structure is graceful, exciting, and very action-packed. Each character is satisfyingly wrapped up, and the side stories included in both volumes give the story both depth and levity.
The cast of supporting characters are each more engaging than the last, from the Emperor, to the wicked turncoat knight, all the way down to the palace’s pet panther. The characters each have a well considered, voice, character, and look, and each one has a backstory that the reader comes to understand not through exposition so much as storytelling.
It is very impressive how the author is able to fully develop such a complex story and so many complex character, with so much smexy time, in only two volumes and not have it feel rushed anywhere or have dry stretches.
The action is hot and plentiful, especially since it is uncensored! The bodies are beautiful and their endowments are certainly impressive. No matter what the characters are up to the proportions and movement are always on point, communicating tension in the right places and practically vibrating on the page.
Black Sun definitely exhibits that classic yaoi syndrome of heteronormalizing gay sex and simply not considering real life mechanics whatsoever, which can be a bit distracting if you’re sensitive to it, but there is plenty great enough about this book to make it a non issue.
The art is gorgeous and the world is truly sumptuous; Faux-historical Fantasy at its yummiest! I especially enjoy the costumes, and mercy me, our heroes (and everyone else) are hot. Ogasawara definitely has a mold that she uses to make faces, but they are always expressive and it’s always easy to tell characters apart because they’re so well designed. A convincing context is created well within the history that inspired it.
I sincerely recommend Black Sun, and I suggest purchasing the pair together for sure. The first volume ends so dramatically, I was very grateful I didn't have to wait for the conclusion. Unlike some multi-volume stories, this one's pace is consistent and exemplary across both books.
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
Fujoshi, sports fans, and anime watchers alike have proven once again Wednesday nights belong to "Yuri on Ice!!!." The show has already broken barriers with its diverse casting and realistic character growths. It is one of the first animes to show the progression of a homosexual romantic relationship grow and develop without being labeled as a shounen ai or a yaoi.
Last night's episode was impactful both on the screen and within the YOI universe itself. Fans got to finally see everything come together in one grand plot twist. Viktor's ambitions and reasonings for coaching Yuuri, to many a surprise, all started with a silly drunk Yuuri months before Viktor approached him to be his coach. It was in that moment the fans begin to realize Yuuri was actually the seducer and Viktor was the one who was cast aside all along.
Many fans with the fujo eye had claimed Viktor had fallen in love at first sight after seeing Yuuri at the airport after his failure at the Grand Prix. Little did we know they had a flirtatious dance together months before! The reason why Viktor had decided to drop everything and coach Yuuri was not from pure instinct, but rather he had already been asked and seen exactly what Yuuri was truly capable of. There was a reason Viktor chose Eros for Yuuri to dance to, he knew he could bring out that seduction once more.
Little things start to add together with this new insight to the series. In the very first episode we see Viktor excited to take a photo with Yuuri, only for Yuuri to walk away. Throughout the series Viktor is very touchy with Yuuri and blatantly flirty, assuming that these are things Yuuri wanted since he had shown this flirtation once before.
The idea that they were both infatuated with each other, but were unsure with each other at the same time gives this series more depth. Yuuri not having memory of their one evening together gives these characters even more room to grow emotionally. Each character gets to take the chance to truly get to know one another beyond flirtation, but see one another as they truly are with every struggle and happiness in between. For them to still fall for each other is a truly wonderful and romantic notion.
The giving of the thank-you-rings-turned-engagement-rings is something never done so casually in a sports anime before. What makes this even more significant is that when their friends and competitors find out, they do not scoff or scorn their relationship. Instead they rejoice and amp up their competitive fire. Sayo Yamamoto has created an universe that has well rounded, open minded characters. This is something fans have been asking for a while, creating natural, healthy romantic relationships, regardless of gender with an accepting universe.
Yuuri still has the Grand Prix to compete in, and with the promise of marriage from Viktor and fierce competitors in the way, will he succeed? Regardless of how the season will end, this story has impacted the industry in such a positive light, here's hoping for more creators to follow in Yamamoto's lead.