I can’t even think about this title without kind of flapping my hands and sputtering a bit. It’s – yes. Well. It is not for those of you who don’t appreciate your explicit content; nor is it for those of you who don’t have a healthy tolerance for dubcon. (Some would call it non-consensual, or noncon, but I think, in context, there really is dubious consent, or dubcon). You’ll also need to have a healthy tolerance for general absurdity, historical mishigas, and borderline racism. But presumably the yaoi fans among us are not dismayed by that sort of thing.
The story is set during the Crusades. This is just – think about this. A sweeping manporn tale of the forbidden love between a Christian knight and a Turkish general during the Crusades. It’s absurd to take yaoi history remotely seriously, but I just can’t stop myself from pointing out here that the point of the Crusades was for Europe to recapture the Holy Land from Muslim rule. Now, think about this in the context of the untenable position the Western world now finds itself in re. the Middle East. It adds texture.
Deus lo volt!
OK. I’m not going to say anything else about that.
I do want to mention the whole Japanese mangaka picking out European names thing, though. It’s wonderful. In this story, our uke (or bottom) is Prince Leonard de Limbourg, a monastic knight from Gerun Fortress. At first glance I thought someone was finally paying tribute to the gerund, a wonderful and under-appreciated part of speech, but alas, no. The Turkish general is Jamal Jan, which sounds like an old-school rap compilation. Another Western character is named Nicolaides Vassilios.
But let’s talk about the dubcon. I mean, the plot. Within the first thirty pages of the manga, Leonard has surrendered and Jamal has had his filthy way with him, in front of the troops. Huh, you might be saying. That sounds like rape. Rape is non-consensual. And yes, in the real world, it very much is. In yaoi, though, there’s a subgenre of uke who thinks he doesn’t want it but really needs a strong man to take him and thus show him what he really wanted all along. No, no, no, you’re saying. That’s still rape. That’s exactly the excuse rapists use. And yes, you’re right again. In the real world, this scenario is indefensible. In anything anyone might take remotely seriously, I’d have intractable problems with it. But in yaoi, and especially a title as over the top as this, it doesn’t bother me as a fantasy trope. You might feel differently – which is why I point out, prominently, that the relationship and the rest of the plot is built on what happens in this scene.
If this is something you can fantasize about, there’s plenty of, er, meat to this story. Oh, my God, the sex. Lots and lots of sex. Hugely embarrassing to try and read on the train, let me tell you. Penises everywhere. It seemed like every time I turned that page, I thought I was safe, but – no! Erection in panel two! Glistening bare buttocks in panel five! Unexpected fellatio in the full-page panel on the left! Black Sun is a full-body aerobic workout.
The art is good, too – and did I say explicit? No columns of light here. Very realistic naughty bits everywhere you look. It’s difficult to get past that, but there are also some wonderfully expressive faces – and pretty, too. Very, very pretty. And, um, elaborate costuming. I especially like the burlesque biking costume Leonard is sporting toward the end of the book.
And at the end, the entire manga is hijacked by a minor but pivotal turn by Nicolaides’ pet panther. From the panther’s point of view. I will not diminish its greatness by even attempting to describe it, but I do suggest that if you decide this title is not your cup of massively politically incorrect and potentially post-traumatic stress syndrome-inducing tea, you might want to pluck it off the bookstore shelf and read the panther story on the last few pages of the book.