Crimson Snow Hori Tomoki, March 2011, Blu
First of all, Blu. I will miss you more than I can say. Even thinking about it makes me emo and cross and stabby. Fucking economy. Fucking Stuart Levy. The world is now a darker place.
It seems fitting to send Blu off with a column about a release that I kind of love, Crimson Snow. I’ll start with the cover, as I usually do, since that’s how my manga selection process works. It’s a dicey strategy – who among us hasn’t been burned by an intense, brooding stare, a well-drawn mouth, and the promise of more? But I’m a fool for a promising visual. I didn’t just fall for the poignant thug and the kimono-wearing pretty boy (who has on those geta with the fur-lined toe caps – so often I put on my Birkenstocks and sadly ask them, why aren’t you geta with fur-lined toe caps?). I like the design of this one, too, clean and rational in its use of flowers, confident of the drama it creates in juxtaposing not just the crisp, modern lines of the thug’s clothes with the flowing kimono robes, but also the muted colors of the two characters with the blood red of the petals and the gash across the top of the page.
Also, thug. Do I ever have a thing about thugs. I could do without the hipster facial hair, but his expression on the front cover is nice. There’s some of the at the end of his rope feeling his body language conveys so well, but there’s also something challenging, and part of that challenge is protectiveness over the robe-wearing little fruit loop holding him. Said fruit loop has nice hair, but there’s a problem with the perspective – or something – in his face. Not horrible, but not right. I’m giving it a pass because the thug looks so good, but the situation is duly noted. I like him better on the back cover.
That’s a lot of chin, but worrying about it would be picking nits, given that image, which picks up on the promise of the front cover and runs with it. (Also, the snake with the om disk in its mouth – besides being kind of hot, is this a Kundalini thing? Are we supposed to take a moment to think about the cosmic energy that lies dormant, coiled in the spine? Because I’m willing to make an effort, but I’d sort of just rather not. I was frightened by Kundalini yoga as a child.) (Sort of like this guy.)
(Oh dear, right? One must be made of stern stuff to navigate this yaoi shit. This guy is from the second story, but don’t worry – it’s not that bad.)
Opening up the book, I was initially somewhat concerned. (I mean separately from the above.) The glorious thug from the cover looks more like a used car salesman fallen on especially hard times.
The fruit loop looks like a normal (which is to say, terrifying) high school yearbook photo.
Things get better, though, and not just because I took a bottle of White-Out to that fugly mustache. (I didn’t, really. But I might.) It’s mostly because the situation won me over. A gentle, pure young man quietly falls in love with an obviously dangerous but badly injured stranger, and the stranger falls in love with him. (Spoiler Ho!) The stranger leaves to redeem himself, and the young man is sad. Oh, and they have sex. Sort of peaceful and hot. And eventually the reformed thug returns, in a sweet little short at the end.
I’m torn over the second story, “At First Sight.” Two differently shy boys fall in love. At first sight. Right. The author really puts the metaphor through the ringer. There are things about love at first sight, and glasses, and looking away, and a quote in Latin class, “Love is borne out of the eyes and sinks into the heart.” Stop beating me with your fists of ham, Tomoki, I get it. Geez. On the other hand, the boy who doesn’t look twelve is cute (the boy who looks twelve would be cute, too, except for the whole looking twelve thing), and the shy boys staring longingly at each other cross the quad and finally getting together is a powerful shtick.
The third story, “Cry for the Sun,” is, in a word, freakish. For all of you who have bitterly lamented about your desire for something different by way of yaoi plots, we have here a case of be careful what you wish for. (Spoilers ahead because there’s a big load of WTF I need to unload – sorry, union rules.) The story opens at a funeral. The bereaved son looks across the fresh grave and sees a tearful hottie who seems familiar (“It feels like my mind’s completely blank. But my body remembers something.” Whoa.) In a nutshell, tearful hottie was the father’s best friend when bereaved son was a child, and dead father’s boyfriend before that, and tearful hottie disappeared from their lives after he tried to strangle bereaved son when bereaved son was a tot. Of course, tearful hottie and bereaved son are meant for each other and fall in love. One can’t really read this story without casting a serious side-eye at the likelihood of this plot, and there’s an aftertaste of something nasty besides. Perverse is the word I think I’m looking for. But what the hell – I like it anyway. There’s something beautiful about the friendship between the boy’s father and his almost-murderer that I liked, so let’s not get all judgmental, OK?
And with that, the book, like its publisher, is over. Let us wave good bye to them like Kate Middleton acknowledging the hordes. Blu is dead; long live – well, June, I guess.