By Halco, 2010, Blu

I read this weeks ago and wasn’t thrilled with it, but decided it would do. (Wait a minute, the discerning reader might well be asking; just how low is the bar re. manporn you’re willing to waste our time with, anyway? And the answer, gentle reader, is that you should never ask questions when you don’t want to know the answer.) I wasn’t sure it would do initially, mind you. I only came to this conclusion after hours of the sort of intensive research you’ve come to expect here at Gluey Tart. No, no, I wasn’t cyber-stalking anybody. I read four more manga, and they were all worse.

Since we have a winner, after a fashion, let us trudge onward through the muck. Ahem. Stray Cat. When I sat down to write, I picked up the book and frowned mightily. (This is a terrible sight, and you are well out of it.) Because I remembered nothing about this book, not even the cover. This happens all the time with yaoi titles; many are called and few are chosen, as far as my ability to remember anything useful about the plot even a few days later. A few weeks later? Forget about it. (Ha! Get it? I can’t remember – forget about it! Now, that’s the stuff.) I tend to remember the art, though. Especially when there’s a cat. But – no. It is as if this book and I never met, shared a laugh, exchanged fleeting intimacies, and went our separate ways.

Vexing. Manfully facing the challenge before me, however, I proceeded to pick up and actually page through the book. No, still not ringing a bell, but the first scene I saw was a detailed blow job in a park (detailed in this context means the most relevant body parts are visible and clearly represented), and who am I to quibble with that? No one, that’s who. And the art is pretty good. It veers toward cartoony, rather than highly stylized, impossibly long-legged fragile beauty (although those who are not visually brainwashed by yaoi manga like I am might wonder what the hell I think I’m talking about), and what I really like are the facial expressions. Halco draws a cute disgruntled frown and an equally engaging embarrassed, bemused sidelong glance. (This leads to another thought – thank God – which is: Who or what is Halco? It’s a lighting solutions firm, isn’t it? No, no, I tease. She’s done tons of doujinshi. Apparently she did a doujinshi based on Rin. I love Rin.) There are some unfortunate incidents with nose perspective and the like, but look at this:

Fluid expressions and body language like this tell stories the way cartoons are meant to – that is, the pictures say at least as much as the words do, and it’s smooth and intuitive. There are some problems with Halco’s art, but you never stop to wonder what the hell is going on.

That goes for the stories, too, for better or worse. The eponymous main story does what it says on the tin. There’s a leery, standoffish guy who really wants to be loved. There’s a friendly, not-standoffish guy who tames him. Minor complication, minor complication, happy ending. This is accomplished without making me roll my eyes, so good on it, as our antipodean friends say.

The second story, “Lonely Man’s Love,” starts out well enough.

What we have here is the old “meet a drunk on the train, go well out of your way to take him home, even though he vomits on you, have an accidental but unforgettable homosexual encounter (even though he vomited on you – I don’t know about y’all, but in my experience, vomiting is an unmitigated deal breaker), and overcome all odds to get together again and confess your mutual love” story. It’s a well-known trope in yaoi, which is fair enough, because who among us hasn’t had this happen, right? I would argue that this setup is more a classic than a cliché because it expresses something so essential to the human condition. You know, like myth. I’m actually serious. More or less. It is the rare person who hasn’t at some point hoped that someone would stumble across them, see through the veneer of boring plainness they present to the rest of the world, and fall hopelessly in love with them. (Please excuse me while I have a middle school moment. There we go – all better now. Better to just lance it and move on. Thank you.) The only real question about the plot of this story is “Is there a happy ending?” And that isn’t a real question, either. Or course there is.

There’s a third story, called “You Should Love, Too!” (Titles like this always make me wonder if someone couldn’t have spent just a few more moments on the translation. You know?) I am charmed by aspects of this story. Like this:

Now, this character looks disturbingly like my hard-core high-school crush object (I will not share his name, as he has suffered enough). I think his appeal is more universal than that, though (the character, not my high-school crush object, who is, so far as I know, still in prison for selling club drugs). This is an amazing panel, from the standpoint of manga story telling. It tells you everything you need to know about the moment, and it does so with a lovely lack of fuss. (And, apropos of nothing, on the next page there’s a guy with one of those half-updo ponytail coifs, and you all know how I feel about that.) (Or perhaps you don’t, if you don’t hang onto my every golden word. How could you? Anyway, I do have a thing for the manga guy half-updo ponytail look.) This story is – well, I just looked at it again, wandered off for five minutes to take care of some minor catastrophe in the kitchen (that happens fairly often chez Kinukitty, especially factoring in how seldom we actually cook anything), and sat back down at the computer, and I completely forgot, again. That probably says something. But let me try one more time… There. Kid who doesn’t want to live at home winds up with older teacher, who falls in love with him, and against all odds, they get together. Surely no comment is needed as to why this sort of thing plucks a string or two in the heart of many (and if comment is needed, see above re. why the world needs the drunk on the subway trope). And, sure enough, there’s not much there there in this story. It falls flat because Halco forgot to add the baking powder. (That’s a metaphor. A metaphor that harkens back to the kitchen aside. And the circle is closed!)

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