Shungiku Nakamura

Blu

The art is completely weird.  The story is a bit stock.  The characters are dumb but sweet or arrogant and brilliant.  The writing is strange, especially in later volumes.  The sex is not that hot.

And yet this is one of my favorite comics of all time.

I often wonder, when I kick back and reread a volume, whether this was drawn in ball point in spiral notebooks or what.  Because–well, look:

or:

Weird, eh?  I mean, the perspective is completely batty.  (Perspective, you might say, what perspective?)

And yet….

Look at this depiction of arrogance.  It’s so clear, so vibrant.

I find it charming.

For me, the appeal of this comic is its utter shamelessness.  I once read a how-to book about manga that said that Manga is love, and how true it is here.  This is a book with a lot of emotion packed in around some fairly stock skeletons of plot and character.  A young man (Misaki) is trying to get into college, but his exam scores suck, so he gets a tutor.  Said tutor (Usami), a friend of his brother’s, is brilliant and wealthy and arrogant.  They fall in love and have adventures.  The end.  (Well, not really the end, because it’s in 9 volumes and counting, but my point remains.)

The big twist of the series is that the older lover, Usami, is a famous author.  He’s brilliant and writes award winning books.  He’s also crazy as a fruitbat, in that special writer way, which means in his case, his bedroom is full of plush toys and trains and a dinosaur in a wee helmet.  (Really!)  He also, as a hobby, writes boys love novels, which he populates with his real-life crushes.

This allows the author to write some meta, sure, but it mostly allows her to indulge in a variety of hilarious and classic scenarios.  Selections from Usami’s novels are written by various BL novelists and included, like so:

I’m not going to try to convince anyone to get over their distaste of the art to engage in the story.  The art is one of those styles that is very much love it or leave it, I think.  For me, I love it.  What it lacks in realism, it makes up for in expressive charm.  The story itself is fun, but nothing radical, at least in the first volume.   The story starts with Misaki and Usami figuring out how to work together for the sake of Takahiro, Misaki’s brother and Usami’s unrequited love.  It’s romance, pure and simple, with some smut and some humor.  I won’t tell you differently.  But sometimes, romance with smut and humor is exactly what’s wanted.

As a companion to Junjo Romantica, the volume contains another story, Junjo Egoist, which I liked in its first installments, but found disappointing as the run continued.  Since Blu titles are usually shrinkwrapped, be forewarned that fully half of the volume’s pages are Junjo Egoist.

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