Fusanosuke Inariya, 2010, Digital Manga Publishing and Oakla
I’d heard very, very good things about this manga from people who were hoping someone would pick it up from licensing limbo. Now that June has come to the rescue, I decided I could not ignore all the buzz about this title, despite my misgivings. Grave misgivings. Because look at that cover. I am merely talking about my own squick factors here, but even a whiff of WW II fetishization raises a forest of red flags for me. I am also not a fan of ukes who appear to be under age. (Or semes either, but putting the too-young-looking one on the bottom seems to bother me more.)
Now, Taki, the uke of whom we speak, is younger than the seme, but not under age. It’s just that in the very fully realized sex scenes, he looks it. He’s even in a position of great power, a lord and a military commander. Not underage, not powerless. This is so clear that by the end of the book, I almost got over thinking he looked twelve whenever he was stripped (which was often). It is a testament to the power of the story-telling here that I was pretty much able to get over my pretty thoroughgoing distaste for this kind of visual.
And the book is about war. Old-fashioned world war, including lots of old-fashioned ideas about heroism and honor and noblesse oblige, all of which I think is not only horse shit, but dangerous nationalistic horse shit. I do not find war stories romantic. And I especially worry about the kind of sexual excitement some people get from fascism, often symbolized by Axis uniforms. Now, just like the uke isn’t actually under age in this book, the war isn’t exactly WW II, and the lovers (Klaus, a tall, strapping blond, and Taki, a diminutive Asian man) aren’t exactly German and Japanese. The particulars are technically different, but – look at the cover. It’s obvious what we’re looking at. I do not like to take things too seriously, especially yaoi manga, of all things, but I was highly skeptical that I was going to be able to enjoy a manga in this setting. (Apparently even Kinukitty has limits.)
But I was told no, it’s OK, really. It’s well done. I didn’t think that was likely, but I was interested in what this book would be, anyway, so I bought it. And pointedly ignored it for months, unable to quite deal with it.
I wound up bringing it with me to the park to read while my son flung himself alarmingly off large pieces of playground equipment. I will point out one thing right now – this is not the book you should bring with you to the playground. There is lots of graphic sex. Lots. Graphic. I was off in a corner by myself, but I kept looking furtively over my shoulder, terrified some other, more responsible parent would show up and see this extremely NSFW image after the jump:
And, oh, it gets more explicit than that. So I might have to reread it, as I zipped past that shit in hyperdrive. While I’m talking about the sex, I’ll take the opportunity to mention that it’s harsh. This is not staring into each others’ eyes, flowers splashing across the page, dancing with columns of light sex. This is borderline rape, domination, and desperation. After my speeches above, you’ll be relieved to know I don’t have any problems with that, except that it often isn’t very believable. It isn’t exactly believable here, either (that’s an awful lot of blood, in that one scene), but the idea of it, at least, does work with the plot, and by the end of volume one, I’d bought into the romance pretty thoroughly.
What the hell is this book about? Well might you ask. (Some spoilers coming.) Klaus and Taki went to school together in not-Europe, but Taki was deported when war broke out. Klaus gave up everything to follow Taki to not-Japan (where Taki goes to command his people in war), to be Taki’s knight, of all things. It’s actually kind of successful schmoop. Klaus gives up his rights, citizenship, etc. to become Lord Taki’s dog, hated and distrusted by everyone in Taki’s unit. And we learn that (earnest sigh) it was meant to be, because Klaus originally met Taki when he visited Japan years before and lifted some kid in elaborate robes up so he could smell flowers. There’s this whole thing about people who smell like flowers, but that is less successful as schmoop, unfortunately. It’s just kind of dumb. But nothing’s perfect.
Anyway, the book is about the war. Taki is rolling about the countryside in a tank, leading and inspiring and visiting the wounded. Klaus is zipping around battlefields on a motorcycle, exposing himself to danger because he’s dashing like that. At the end of the first volume, Klaus finds out that Taki was supposed to keep himself pure, so, oops there. And now you are more or less up to date.
So, Inariya dodged the bullet (as it were) with that whole fascism thing. How did she do that? I don’t know. There’s enough story there to make it work – that’s the best I can come up with. I’m still vaguely uneasy about the set-up, but I’m into the manga.
The first thing I did when I got home from the playground was order the next one. Because for once, everyone was right. This should be a mess, but it isn’t. It’s really kind of beautiful. I hope Amazon bathes volume 2 and brings it to me soon. I promise not to take it to the playground.