restart manga
Restart, by Shouko Hidaka
Digital Manga Publishing, 2008

“A drunken night of sex sparks the beginning of their relationship, but Tadeshi’s growing insecurity over the younger Aki’s meteoric rise to stardom gets in the way of love. Clearly, it’s not all glitz and glamour in the tumultuous world of modeling.” So sayeth the dust jacket.

I had a strange relationship with this book before I read it. I accidentally bought it twice (and Borders wouldn’t let me return the second copy, damn them to hell), and caught myself thinking about buying it four more times before I remembered. And that wouldn’t sound at all strange if you a) knew me and b) saw my four terrifying, teetering “to read” stacks. The point is, part of my brain clearly wanted to read this book.

It was right, of course. I’m confused about many things, but the kind of yaoi I like is not one of them. I’m torn here, by the way. Should I launch into a summary? Or tackle the cliché question? The former, I think.

restart manga

The major point of Restart is willowy, elegant-looking boys with long, messy hair. Or at least long, messy bangs.
I always award bonus points if one of the main characters has that little quasi-updo thing going, too.
I would say that’s just me, but it can’t be. It has to be a bit of a fetish for other yaoi fans, too; it occurs too often not to be. Because Japanese men are more fashion-forward and groomed than American men, but really, the incidence of the little half-ponytail in the wild is not extensive.

restart manga

The semi-random means of bringing the willowy, elegant-looking boys together is a misunderstanding that almost destroys their nascent relationship (let’s spin the wheel – oh, one of my favorites! They get drunk, have sex, one of them doesn’t remember it the next day, and they pine for each other until the mistake is cleared up), but finally resolves into a new connection, followed by meaningful makeup sex. There are longing looks across the room. There are resentful musings. There are hurt feelings and confusion. Followed by meaningful makeup sex.

restart manga

The sex can occur on- or off-screen; surprisingly, I don’t much care which. It’s always tricky, approaching the initial sex scene in a book by a mangaka you haven’t read before. Everything can be fine up to that, but there are just a lot of deal-breakers – I can be in love, love, love with everything about the story, and then, oh, God, the sound effects say “slurp.” You know. And then there’s how the genitals are, er, handled. They can’t show them in Japan (although some mangakas do anyway, always a pleasant change of pace), so there are conventions to let you know what’s being put where. There’s the ghost penis, where one of the characters obviously has his or his partner’s equipment in hand, but the hand is empty. Or there’s the partially rematerialized penis – think Star Trek, where everybody is kind of a shimmery cloud before they fully beam in. As far as where the penis is inserted, you often get a kind of cut-away; fingers are inserted into – nothing. And sometimes you just have to laugh. Laughing is enjoyable and, I understand, can help you live longer, but it isn’t always right for the big sex scene. Restart gets it right. There are a couple of sex scenes (actual, not implied), but it’s all about the romaaaaaaaaaance. Charged expressions, well-positioned hands (not a given), meaningful eye contact. And it starts in the bathtub, which just pleases me.

restart mange

TMI? Well, that’s the thing, when you’re talking about porn. Yaoi isn’t just about sex, but it is about sex. So while literary criticism is relevant, it isn’t really as relevant as whether it, you know, works. If it’s hot. That’s a combination of plot, story-telling, the quality of the art, and if it hits your favorite kinks – which can be the most important part. And that brings us back to cliché.

Those of you who are familiar with yaoi will recognize the getting drunk and having sex that is immediately followed by a misunderstand aspect of Restart whether you’ve read it or not. (I’m talking about the main story here, which comprises five chapters; there are two others, both enjoyable, but filler) It is not an original plot device. It is, in fact, a well-worn plot device – so much so that I actually think of it as a subgenre rather than a cliché. I don’t have a problem with that because the drawing is lovely, the story is sweet, and, most important, the romance works for me, and the sex works for me. That’s why I read yaoi; I want romantic porn. If the book succeeds on that level, it succeeds.

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