Tag Archives: shounen ai

The Betrayal Knows My Name (manga)

Mangaka: Hotaru Odagiri/Translator: Melissa Tanaka

Status: Ongoing (7 volumes, although the first 5 are 2-volume omnibus editions, so really more like 12 volumes)

My rating: 5 of 5

Growing up in an orphanage, believing his parents didn’t want him, Yuki struggles to find meaning in his existence. Yet even in the midst of his pain, he brings kindness and healing to those around him, perhaps even more so as he begins to develop the ability to see a person’s emotions and past when he comes into physical contact with them . . . although not everyone takes his kind intentions well. But as Yuki’s strange ability grows stronger and other odd things being to happen around him, he encounters a beautiful, silver-eyed man calling himself Zess who seems oddly familiar. Then another beautiful man comes to the orphanage claiming to be Yuki’s long-lost older brother. Not only that, but Yuki actually has a large extended family, all of whom are delighted to meet him, and Zess is somehow connected to them all as well. But all is not well for this family as they find themselves trapped in a centuries long war against dark and evil forces, being endlessly reincarnated to fight over and over again. And Yuki himself is a pivotal figure in this was, the reincarnation of their princess, bringing healing and hope to them all . . . if only he could figure out why he doesn’t remember anything about his previous lives. All he wants to do is bring an end to this war and to the hurt felt by these people he has quickly come to love.

Love this manga soooo much! If you can imagine a mashup of Fruits Basket and Black Butler, you probably have a pretty good idea of what The Betrayal Knows My Name is like. You’ve got the gorgeous art (and people), demon contracts, and mystery/fight aspects that you find in Kuroshitsuji. Then you’ve got the super air-headed and kind MC, the oversized cast, the reincarnation aspect, and the dark family history themes that you find in Furuba. Not necessarily an expected combination, but it works. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and mysterious–but there’s a nice mix of cutesy slice-of-life segments filled with sweetness and humor as well. The cast is huuuuge, so it is admittedly hard to keep track of everyone at first, but as you get to know the characters, they become not only unmistakable but beloved. It’s rare for me to find a story in which I love so many of the characters so very much, which is one of the primary reasons that I give this a full five-star rating. As for the plot, there’s currently a lot of mystery and unknowns that could go in a lot of directions, so I’m curious to see whether it ends up some huge shounen-style fight or a hug-it-out shoujo conclusion or something else altogether. (I’m hankering for a very sappily sweet shoujo ending myself, but I’ll be thrilled just to see this story finished, whatever the conclusion. It’s been on hiatus for 4 years, and I had given up hope that it would every be continued. Soooo . . . happy dance that the mangaka has picked this series up again!) Fair warning that the mangaka is fairly well known for writing yaoi stories, but also firm clarification that this particular manga is not yaoi at all–it sits on the verge between shoujo and josei with aspects of shounen and a mild shounen ai flavor, but it never goes beyond that. So honestly, The Betrayal Knows My Name is generally appropriate–and highly recommended–for any T+ audience. Love it and looking forward to reading the rest!

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Restricted (Supernatural Fanfic)

Author: cirobert

FanFiction ID: 12383537

WARNING: Mature Audience/Mild Slash

My rating: 3 of 5

Recently, Castiel has been feeling the restrictions of being an angel cooped up in a human’s body. It’s making him grumpy and short, even with the guy he (not so) secretly loves. Really, Cas desperately needs a chance to spread his wings, just for a while . . . but there are all sorts of complications that make that less than practicable. Lucky him, Sam and Dean think they might have a solution–assuming it actually works.

So, I was in the mood for some Supernatural stuff (which, on a side-note, sorry for totally spamming SPN right now), and I found this adorable little fanfic. It’s mostly a happy and fluffy means to a cute Destiel end, despite the issues presented with Cas’s vessel and the complications of the spellwork the boys have to go through to make things work. I feel like the author captured the characters well, and I enjoyed the overall tone of the story. The concept was interesting too; in canon SPN, we get so little of what’s going on in Cas’s mind at any given time that it’s nice to see that explored more. Plus, the development of the relationship between Dean and Castiel was tasteful and convincing. On the downside, there were some mild grammatical issues, but then, it’s nearly impossible to find fanfiction without that. More outstanding was that the author has a bad tendency toward certain sentence structures which, while great for adding color and variety to writing, become kind of repetitive when used all over the place. Still, this was a fun story which I enjoyed, and I’ll probably read more of the author’s work.

Note: You can find this story at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12383537/1/Restricted.

On a side note, it’s been ages since I’ve read fanfic at all, but recently I’ve just been in the mood for more stories about the characters I love. I’ve found some pretty good ones, too. So I may be including some more reviews (which will be clearly labeled, so you can skip them if desired)–mostly SPN, Merlin, Doctor Who . . . possibly some Superwholock if I can find some good ones (the concept does fascinate me). Anyhow, point being that I’m planning to include these as Media Reviews and stick review links on my Media Room . . . yeah.

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Carry On

Author: Rainbow Rowellcarry on

My rating: 5 of 5

Throughout the magickal world, an Insidious Humdrum is sucking the magic away, leaving gaping holes of magickal vacuum scattered all over Great Britain. And the only thing standing between the magickal world and this great threat is a boy who spent the first eleven years of his life not even aware that magic exists. Simon Snow: the most powerful magician in the world–and also the most incompetent at controlling his own abilities. If not for his best friend Penny, it’s doubtful that he would have even made it through his first seven years at Watford. Of course, Simon would have more time to devote to his studies if he weren’t so obsessed with his vampire (unconfirmed) roommate, Baz. And as Simon and his friends enter their final year at Watford, Simon finds himself even more distracted when Baz doesn’t return to school–clearly he’s plotting something particularly nasty. Or maybe not?

From the first time I read Fangirl, I’ve always thought that I enjoyed the Simon Snow parts of the story perhaps the best of all, so I was thrilled when I discovered that Rowell had actually developed the idea into a complete (rather extensive) story, Carry On. I was even more pleased when I read it–it’s a very enjoyable story. Any initial tendencies to compare the story to Harry Potter (which seems a pretty obvious comparison when reading Fangirl) are quickly brushed away when reading the actual book; the similarities are superficial while the distinct originality absolutely shines. I particularly love the way Rowell developed the use of magic here, the way it relies so much on everyday language (it makes sense when you read it).  The story is definitely Rowell’s, featuring plenty of geeky conversation and an adorable love story, but it’s a Rowell story set in a completely different genre. I’m pleasantly shocked at how utterly well it works. The number of geeky/pop-culture references is fun, but not placed in such a way that much would be lost if the reader doesn’t catch the reference. I found it particularly interesting that an American author writes a story here about British people–in first person. I was never led to believe that it was a British book–the flow is too American somehow–yet I was convinced that Simon himself and his friends were British, which is quite an accomplishment. The style, vocabulary, and references were just enough without being so overkill as to seem fake. Finally, the characters themselves were interesting (adorable) and were developed nicely through dialogue and the perspectives of other characters, as well as their own first-person thoughts, such that I felt like I knew them by the end of the book. Basically, if you like contemporary fantasy and also enjoy shounen ai stories, Carry On is just about perfect. You should check it out if you haven’t already.

 

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Cardcaptor Sakura

cardcaptor sakuraMangaka: CLAMP

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Ten-year-old Sakura is basically your average girl–cheerful, fun-loving, bad at math, a little overly prone to sleep too late–but she also has a secret. You see, she has magical powers, and she’s been chosen to retrieve and master all the Clow cards, a set of magical cards that manifest as beings or phenomena in the physical world when released as they were at the death of their former master, Clow. Sakura is aided and guided in her quest to capture all the Clow cards by Kero, one of the guardians of the cards, and all her exploits are costumed and videoed by her best friend Tomoyo. But don’t think for a moment that Sakura spends her whole life devoted to capturing the cards–actually you could probably say she doesn’t devote herself enough. She actually has a busy life full of school, family, friends, and the hope of love. Sakura’s a pretty incredible girl.

I’m probably one of the few people who can say they didn’t grow up watching Cardcaptor Sakura at one point. I actually only discovered the manga after I fell in love with CLAMP’s writing and read several of their other manga; I’ve never watched the anime. I have to say that I really love this manga though. It’s so cheerful, even when it gets dark–and yes, at points it does get dark, especially in the second half. But Sakura’s such an optimistic character that she keeps the story bright throughout. And I love that even though this is technically a mahou-shojou/cardcaptor series, it’s fleshed out to be much more than that. There are numerous enjoyable facets to Sakura’s life that are presented here, as well as a number of really sweet love stories besides her own. This is one area in which I have complaint against the series, however; one of the fourth-grade students has a romantic relationship with one of the teachers, which is a totally CLAMP thing to do and is presented in a sweet and innocent way, but still NOT okay. And that, in addition to some of the complexities of the other relationships, is the primary reason that I can’t see this as a middle-school girl’s manga, even though it’s usually presented that way. It’s cute and sweet and funny, and yes, middle-schoolers would probably love it . . . but still. I do think there is a lot here for older teens and adults to love, though. Like I said, sweet story, great characters, and by the way, incredible art throughout. Absolutely beautiful. So in all, in spite of a few things I’m uncomfortable with in the story, I think Cardcaptor Sakura is an adorable, delightful manga that I would definitely recommend.

Note: I’d recommend getting the Dark Horse omnibus editions if you’re buying this. It’s only 4 volumes that way, and the binding is really nicely done. Plus, there are some incredible color pages included.

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Rust Blaster

Mangaka: Yana TobosoRust Blaster

My rating: 4 of 5

In a world where humans and vampires have forged a working alliance, Millennium Academy is an elite school designed to train vampires (and the odd human–I mean it, he’s odd) to protect the peace. It would seem that Aldred, the headmaster’s son, would be a misfit in a school filled with such skilled vampires who are able to easily control the mystical weapons that are their vampiric heritage. You see, he’s the only vampire in the school who can’t create such a weapon. But Aldred makes up for his lacks with a combination of bluster, determination, leadership, and true friendship that somehow draws others to follow him. And when he encounters Kei, a seemingly emotionless boy who was raised solely to house a legendary mystical weapon, Aldred will find even his extreme optimism challenged as he discovers he is able to wield Kei’s weapon–at the cost of drinking Kei’s blood, which Aldred hates. Not that he has much choice. The world as they know it is ending, and it will take all they can give to stem the tide . . . even if it means changing who they are to protect that which is precious to them.

I’ve been waiting for years, just hoping that Rust Blaster would finally get an English translation–and it’s finally here! As you may recognize, this is the debut manga by Yana Toboso, the creator of the delicious Black Butler. While not as mature as Black Butler (has become), being Toboso’s first manga, Rust Blaster does show a lot of the same trademark qualities that make Toboso’s work extremely popular. The art is gorgeous–lots of bishounen and just generally a very attractive style. You really don’t see the extreme learning curve in the art that you do with a lot of mangaka, which is really nice. And while there are a lot of shounen mores (it would be easy to compare Aldred to, say, Luffy or Naruto it his attitudes at points), the story is actually well-written and interesting. The characters are a bit more stereotypical that I’m used to seeing from Toboso’s writing, but not painfully so–there’s definitely an enjoyable individuality about them that goes beyond the base types that are at their roots. And while this is a vampire fantasy, complete with violence and blood splatters, it’s also a cute/funny school story that has a lot of humor, and the parts with Aldred and Kei almost nudge into a shounen-ai feel at points. Toboso packs a lot of variety into a single 6-chapter manga, but it all works pretty well and is an enjoyable mix. I think I’d recommend Rust Blaster to basically anyone who enjoys manga and doesn’t mind a bit of blood and fantasy violence–but I’d particularly recommend it to fans of Black Butler, since it’s really neat to see the mangaka’s beginnings.

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How They Met and Other Stories

Author: David LevithanHow They Met

My rating: 4 of 5

Love is perhaps one of the strangest things in the world. It’s universal, and yet so often uncomprehended, misunderstood, and frankly baffling. It can begin in the most bizarre, unexpected places and situations. It can develop along lines you’d never imagine. Sometimes it gets a little help along the way. All too often, it doesn’t work out. But when it does, it’s amazing, a real-life miracle and a precious, surprising treasure.

Throughout the years, David Levithan has written short stories as Valentines Day gifts for his friends–sounds like a much better gift than chocolate to me! Anyhow, a number of those stories have been collected here in How They Met and Other Stories. This is truly a delightful, if eclectic, short story collection featuring love in its many, surprising facets. The stories range from sweet and funny to serious and heartbreaking, but one thing ties them all together: they are all written with Levithan’s keen observation of people. It’s remarkable how he can craft even a super-sappy coffee-shop romance and not make it Hallmark-ey (ick). And some of his stories are truly deep and thoughtful. Personally, as an intentional single, I really appreciated his story featuring a girl who got to the point where she decided she didn’t need to be in a relationship to be a complete individual; seriously, singles don’t get enough credit and society pressures relationships way too much. Anyhow, sidetrack there. But seriously, How They Met and Other Stories has something for everyone (the stories aren’t even all “young adult” for what the label’s worth)–check it out!

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Konya mo Nemurenai

Konya mo NemurenaiMangaka: Kotetsuko Yamamoto

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Warning: Yaoi/Mature Audience

Rikiya has lived a quiet, reserved high-school life without being in any relationships. Now as he’s entering college, he decides to take matters into his own hands by signing up on a gay dating site. . . . And just as his luck would have it, he falls prey to the worst sorts of folks. Just when he’s in an extremely tight situation, a boy pops right out of the wall (very awkwardly!) and says he owes Rikiya a wish–saving him from the bad guys in the process. When Rikiya pure-heartedly can’t think of anything to wish for, he sends this boy–actually a powerful demon by the name of Endo–back home. Only, I’m pretty sure Rikiya didn’t mean his own home, which is where Endo ends up freeloading while avoiding his own troubles back in the demon realm. Well, it’s not all bad having some company around the apartment, even if he does eat a lot, take the futon for himself, and have an attitude.

So, for a short (3-volume) yaoi manga, I found Konya mo Nemurenai to be pretty cute and interesting. It’s one of those odd instances where I don’t find anything particularly original in it . . . like, I feel like all the major story elements are ones I’ve encountered elsewhere. But Yamamoto-san pieces these elements together skillfully and sweetly such that the story feels comfortable, familiar, and cozy rather than boring or repetitive. I know it’s technically yaoi, but it’s one of the most pure-hearted and innocent of the genre I’ve seen–there are only a few sexually-related scenes in the whole story, although do be warned that there’s one near the beginning that’s pretty bad and scary. The characters really make this story shine: Rikiya’s sweet and shy and accommodating in the extreme, while Endo is, well a demon although in the tamed-down manga sense. He’s unpredictable, relatively amoral, doing what he wants without regard to how it inconveniences others–but at the same time he’s capable of some pretty passionate defense of the things and people he cares about, which is pretty cool. Plus there are a number of other interesting characters who show up as the story goes along, just to stir things up. The art’s nice, expressive and attractive but not too overdone either–it suits the story. I guess I’d mostly only recommend Konya mo Nemurenai to those who enjoy shounen ai/mild yaoi manga, but for that group, I think this is a great read that will be much enjoyed.

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