The Way to Heaven, Yamimaru Enjin, 2009, Digital Manga Publishing
Why don’t I like this book? Well, for starters, the backward E in Heaven. Let me share my thought process with you. I said, good lord, that’s a beautiful cover. Those young men are gorgeous. Must read pretty book! What’s it about? Oh, who cares! What lovely art! Why the hell is the first E in Heaven backward, though?
I found that E annoying, and I should have resisted the lure of pretty tie-boy and gone with my initial misgivings. (I’m drawn to the tie itself, not just the prettyboy wearing it; the color, the rendering – it’s a very nice tie. It’s the best thing about the manga, so I urge you to take another look and fully enjoy it.) Unlike the guys in this story, though, I haven’t been plucked from my painful personal drama by a hot and annoyingly playful alien who agrees to give me another chance by allowing me to go back in time for an additional fraction of a second for every test tube I can fill with blood or semen. Looking deep into my heart, I find that I’m really, really OK with that, though.
I’m sorry, I can’t advance the narrative because I keep going back to that damned E. You know what it reminds me of? The logo for Angel, a sort of proggy glam rock band from the 70s. I had pictures of them on my wall and was especially enamored of Punky Meadows.
In fact, this picture right here might have been the initial building block of my lifetime interest in prettyboys. This post is starting to have a monumental, historical sort of feel, isn’t it? Wow. I feel so close to all of you right now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this sharing thing as much as I have. Anyway, I used to have an Angel t-shirt that pleased me immeasurably, partly because I really liked Angel, but mostly because the logo reads the same upside down as it does right-side up.
I drew it on my notebooks and stuff. Nifty, isn’t it? Well, you, The Way to Heaven, are no Angel logo.
Where does this book go so wrong? It isn’t like the plot isn’t clinically insane. There’s the afore-mentioned gathering of fluids. Also, the alien riffs on Sailor Moon. (This gets pointed out, by the mangaka or by the translator, but I was already on it because, in the spirit of over-sharing I’ve just established, yes, I read the whole Sailor Moon series – and no, I can’t explain myself; it’s just one of those things, like Us Magazine and peach Fresca). The drawing is nice throughout, and the two main characters fall in love, just like they’re supposed to. By the way, one of them gets turned into a vampire, all the better to collect the blood, and the other one gets turned into a werewolf (not that he ever turns into a wolf or uses any werewolf powers), the better to collect the semen. Wait. Huh? Don’t ask me – I don’t know.
Here’s a plot sketch. A former boxer, who was forced to quit the sport because of an eye injury, walks across a pedestrian bridge and falls off it while trying to rescue a puppy. Pretty tie-boy sees this happening and tries to save him. They both go overboard and get hit by a truck. A lovely alien lady, who’s been sent to save the earth by setting up an energy recycling system, tells them she’s chosen them for her pilot project. For every vial of blood and semen they collect, she’ll let them go back in time a fraction of a second from “ground zero.” That setup didn’t push any buttons for me – I mostly was just upset because it looked like the dog died. Also, I don’t know – going out and collecting vials of blood and semen for a really, really long time (especially when it’s made clear that semen-guy would rather not – which doesn’t seem like the wrong response, I don’t think) – not sexy. Just isn’t. I realize there are no absolutes in what people find erotic, or in anything else, really, but – this isn’t an especially hot setup, is it? Maybe I’m missing something.
Or maybe that’s supposed to be the funny part. Because the back of the book says “The Way to Heaven passes through comedy, drama, and steamy passion on its way to spiritual Shangri-La!” I assume they mean Shangri-La as in finding true love after a life spent searching, rather than in the sense of the Nazis looking for an ancient master race that hadn’t been ruined by Buddhism. Although, who knows, really. I wouldn’t put anything past this book, and to tell you the truth (since we’re sharing so much already in this post), I had kind of stopped paying strict attention by the time I got to the end. So maybe they slipped some kind of Raiders of the Lost Ark subplot in there and I just missed it.
So. There are plot complications, but the boys find true love. The set up and plot complications made it impossible for me, however, to give a damn. I mostly just wanted the book to end – and, there, at least, it did deliver. If what I’ve described sounds like just the thing to you, I’d suggest you run over to Amazon.com and buy it now because even though it was just released in February, it seems to be out of print. While you’re there, you might want to read the five-star reviews, which compare this to The Matrix. It doesn’t especially remind me of The Matrix, but I didn’t especially like that, either, so maybe this book was just a bad fit for me. The art is certainly pretty, and there is sex and romance. Either way, go in peace.