3. Acid Town [アシッド タウン]
by Kyuugou (Gentosha)
An overlooked mangaka to be sure, when a long-awaited license of her work finally arrived it was… Bokura ni Matsuwaru Etcetera (You & Me, Etc., licensed by Blu), and I was more than a little miffed. I mean, they were both publised by Gentosha, in even the same year, but the cuter one got the license. I’m not saying You & Me, Etc. is a bad title by any means, but Acid Town runs circles around it in every regard, except, possibly, the lovey-dovey department. While You & Me, Etc. is basically your “traditional” BL fare (boys falling in love with one another), Acid Town is nothing of the sort. It could barely even be called BL at all, which is possibly why Tokyopop passed the series over in favor of the one-shot collection. In Acid Town, Yuki and Tetsu become fast friends in an essentially lawless city. Tetsu develops romantic feeling for Yuki, but unfortunately for both of them, Yuki’s traumatic past and the meddling of various organized crime groups render him unable to consider his friend in any other way. Add to that the leverage of Yuki’s beloved and ill younger brother played against him from various sides and Acid Town is a recipe for suspense and dramatic action.
2. RULES [ルールズ]
by Kano Miyamoto (Tokuma Shoten)
3 Volumes (+ assorted doujinshi)
To be perfectly honest, I would love to have anything and everything Miyamoto has ever drawn get licensed for English release. I’d settle for the more recent, and easier to digest as it involves adult relationships, Calling, if that’s all I can hope to have, but Rules is where it all started for me. Its prequel, Hydra is also fantastic, but was released as a doujinshi under Miyamoto’s Curve Circle, and would be difficult to license. Rules follows the love lives of four men. Two are high school classmates and two adult acquaintances in Tokyo’s gay scene. Yuki secretly has a crush on his classmate Atori, and in desperation to find some kind of contact with another man travels to ni-choume (Tokyo’s gay disctrict) where he meets and has a one-night stand with Hikaru. After coming out to Atori and confessing his feelings, Atori, who does not return those feelings towards Yuki, becomes curious about the gay lifestyle and find himself caught up with male prostitute Tooru. The characterizations are uniquely realistic for a BL title, and while at its core, Rules is about men falling in love with one another, Miyamoto brings that element of authenticity that much of fantasy/wish-fulfillment BL lacks.
1. Kyuuso wa Cheese no Yume o Miru [窮鼠はチーズの夢を見る] and Sojou no Koi wa Nido Haneru [俎上の鯉は二度跳ねる]
by Setona Mizushiro (Shogakukan)
2 Volumes total
The titles of the two volumes in this series translate as The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese and The Carp on the Chopping Block Jumps Twice, which are awkward and unweildy to be sure. The contents, however, are among the best that the BL genre has to offer. Set up with a typical BL premise, the story starts with gay private investigator Imagase blackmailing his old college crush, Kyouichi, with sexual favors to keep his infidelity from his wife. This beginning eventually leads the two men down a path to a romantic relationship, but that relationship is so dysfunctional and tenuous it’s hard to even call the title BL anymore by the end of the first volume. Imagase’s feelings border on obsessive, and Kyouichi accepts him, not out of love, but out of a need to feel wanted by someone. It might not seem that interesting of a read from just that premise, but the premise is just the spark of the plot. Mizushiro’s story shines in the human relationships between her characters. Kyouichi’s passive personality leads him to get swept along by anyone that takes an interest in him, but his heterosexuality serves as a barrier he struggles with throughout the story. Imagase knows this and, while he knows logically that Kyouichi can only hurt him in the end when he ultimately chooses a woman, is powerless in his repeated attempts to escape their relationship. At times the story is dark and brooding, but at others it is light and comical. Mizushiro, an increasingly rare BL mangaka that also draws shojo, wrote this story for an older female audience and ran it in a magazine for older women. This is probably the focal detail in what sets this title apart from the vast majority of BL, which is targetted to girls in their teens and 20s. Not only is it a story about adult relationships, but it is written with adult sensibilities in mind.
Why isn’t this licensed already? No, seriously, Viz, why isn’t this Shogakukan title licensed already?!
I know, I know. where’s the license rescue request for Haru wo Daiteita? I just couldn’t do it. Setting aside my personal feelings about the tracing scandal, it’s just not feasible to me for this title to get licensed by an English publisher when those in-question images may have more of an issue with copyright holders in the US if they were printed here. Sure, a little disclaimer could be used on each one, but to be on the safe side those pages might actually need to be completely removed from an English edition, which I don’t think any of us really wants to see. We might get to see a digital-only release of the series by the Japnese publisher (Libre Shuppan), ala those individual chapters from Boku no Koe, et al, but I won’t be spending my money there. I’d rather hold out hope Youka Nitta returns to The Prime Minister’s Secret Diplomacy because, honestly, that’s what I want to read more of from this artist.
As for other popular mangaka not appearing on this list, Nase Yamato, Toko Kawai and Hinako Takanaga already had most of the titles I really wanted from them licensed already. For Kawai it was the license of The Scent of Apple Blossoms by SuBLime (in, fact, one of only two of her entire catalogue left to license), and for Takanaga it was the rescue of The Tyrant Falls In Love by June. As for Yamato, I’m honestly not much of a fan of her work, however, the one title of hers I really do like, Kyoushi mo Iroiro Aru Wake de, would have made it on this list if not for Manga Update’s claim that it is already licensed by 801 Media.
(mangaka name orders listed in Given first, Family second)
Images taken from Manga Updates