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Book Review: Ten Count, Vol 5 by Rihito Takarai

Ten Count, Vol 5     

Author: Rihito Takarai

Publisher: SuBLime Manga

American release date: August 8, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/mangaGLBT/162 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Shirotani and Kurose are rescued from their elevator ordeal and emerge into falling rain. Cabs are scarce, so Kurose says he’ll walk, but Shirotani speaks up and offers to share a cab with him, which is a major step for him. Once inside the cab, Kurose prompts Shirotani to continue with what he began to say earlier, but Shirotani claims not to remember what that was, when the reality is he doesn’t feel comfortable bringing it up in that place. A disappointed Kurose has the driver pull over and gets out, since they are right by his apartment.  As he waits for the elevator, he’s surprised to hear his name and turns to find Shirotani there. Shirotani gives him an obviously fake story as to why he’s there before finally making what is a major admission for him, even if it’s phrased hypothetically. They go up to Kurose’s apartment and Shirotani requests that Kurose “make him dirty inside”.

As a child, Kurose’s parents were very busy, and he was left on his own most of the time. He strikes up an acquaintance with an older man named Nishigaki, and begins to hang out with him, even if the man claims Kurose is a pain. Kurose doesn’t understand Nishigaki’s idiosyncrasies, why he makes Kurose follow certain rules. Too late, he begins to understand what Nishigaki’s problem is. When Nishigaki disappears, Kurose blames himself. He studies all he can about germophobes, and makes a promise to himself to save the next Nishigaki.

Shirotani wakes the next morning in a strange bed. Kurose is already up and is very attentive to him, anticipating his every need. Shirotani tells Kurose he’s filled in number ten on his list and wants him to guess what it is, so then Kurose has to tell him why he is doing this. Kurose says he has feelings for Shirotani, but Shirotani knows there is more to the story than that, that it has to do with his being a germophobe. Will Kurose come clean with Shirotani?

The story is almost done, one more volume to go, and it’s so good as Shirotani and Kurose’s relationship grows stronger and stronger.  Now we know more about Kurose, and why he was initially drawn to Shirotani. It almost feels like closure for him with regard to Nishigaki. But he also says that Shirotani being a germophobe is not the only reason he is drawn to him, that he would love him anyway. Shirotani hasn’t told Kurose about his father, and what he witnessed that helped to make him the germophobe he is now. Hopefully he’ll do it in the next volume.  Ideally, I would love to see them move in together, and have an open and loving relationship. I think they can heal each other. I’m crossing my fingers for them.

Only one more to go, can’t wait!

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Book Review: Bleach, Vol 1 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 1     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: May 19, 2004

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Ichigo Kurosaki can see ghosts. This is something he’s lived with all his life, so dead people are a normal part of his existence. He’s sensitive to their sufferings. When punks break a floral offering for a young child, Ichigo shows them the error of their ways by beating it into them.  Ichigo lives with his father and two sisters, Karin and Yuzu, his mother having died some time ago. They run the Kurosaki Clinic. His father is strict, in that he demands the teen-aged Ichigo be home by 7, and he has a disconcerting habit of attacking his son without warning. It’s become something of a male ritual with them, each trying to get over on the other. The girls just roll their eyes and shakes their heads at them.

When a mysterious girl in black robes appears suddenly in Ichigo’s room, he is thrown for a loss. She is equally flabbergasted that not only can he see her, he was able to kick her. She explains to him that she is Rukia Kuchiki, and she is a Soul Reaper from the Soul Society. When Ichigo tries to have his dad remove the intruder, his father looks at him like he’s crazy. Apparently no one can see her but him, lending credence to her story. Rukia explains to Ichigo that there are two kinds of souls – the normal kind, whom she performs konso on so they can pass on to the Soul Society, and the hollows, who must be vaporized. Rukia is looking for a hollow now, in Ichigo’s house.

Ichigo realizes to his horror that his family is in danger, and they are being attacked by a Hollow. His guilt only grows when Rukia surmises the Hollow is looking for Ichigo because of his strong spirit pressure, unlike other humans. Ichigo is determined to fight for his family. Rukia only intends to lend Ichigo half of her power so he can combat this enemy, but to her dismay, he absorbs all of it, rendering her unable to use them.

The next day Ichigo is confused to find his family have no memory of the attack and believe a truck drove into their home, causing extensive damage. He goes to school, wondering what’s become of Rukia. Did she return to her Soul Society? To his surprise and dismay he finds her as a new student in his class. What’s up with that? He confronts her in private and asks why she didn’t return to where she belongs, only to learn that she can’t because he took all her powers. So until she can get them back, he has to perform soul reaper duties in her place!

Ichigo and Rukia run into Ichigo’s friend, Orihime, who is something of a space cadet and a klutz but a super sweet girl. Rukia notices a strange bruise on Orihime’s leg, which she laughingly attributes to clumsiness, but Rukia isn’t sure that’s really the case. That night, Ichigo’s sister questions him about some missing items, such as her pajamas and a dress, but he has no idea where they are, why should he? In his room, he hears a phone go off, which turns out to be Rukia’s, and she is sleeping in his closet? No time to argue, a Hollow is nearby and they must confront it! When they find the monster, Ichigo is appalled when he recognizes who it is!

I’ve been watching the anime for several months now but am just starting to read the manga. It’s every bit as good as the anime, and I love seeing the characters in print. One thing I didn’t realize from the anime is that Ichigo has a nickname, which is Strawberry. My daughter explained that it’s because his name translates to strawberry. Learn something new every day!

In this first volume, we are meeting people, such as Orihime and Chad, and of course Rukia. Her sensing Ichigo’s spirit pressure is what starts everything moving.  The Kurosaki family is great, I love their interactions. Dad is really something else. But everything is done with love, and it shows. Ichigo may have been reluctant to take on the duties of a soul reaper, but once he’s agreed to do it, he goes into it wholeheartedly, as it’s his nature to stand up for other people who might not be able to stand up for themselves. He’s a good boy, he is.  The only criticism I can make (and it’s not something unusual to Kubo alone, it’s most of the male manga artists) is the tendency to draw women with huge breasts. But what can you do? I guess their primary target audience are teen-aged males.

Great first volume, lots to go, looking forward to it!

 

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 1 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 1       

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: May 14, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Akihito Kuze inherits the title of viscount at the tender age of ten, on the death of his father. Because of his mother’s frail health, he has always lived with her, apart from his father, who allowed Akihito to stay with her so she wouldn’t be lonely. Having never lived in his father’s home, he’s in for something of a shock on his arrival at the large mansion which is now his and meets the man who is in charge of raising him—butler Tomoyuki Katsuragi. Before he died, Kuze’s father told him to listen to Katsuragi on all things. Akihito is surprised to discover how young the butler is—only eleven years separates their ages. A reception is held in honor of the new viscount, who feels very much out of place. He notices, to his surprise, that most of the people there are drawn to Katsuragi, and actually seek him out. What sort of a man is this butler? Confiding to Katsuragi that he has never learned Western manners, the butler covers for him by telling everyone he is ill and sending him to his room.

Katsuragi takes control of Kuze’s education, and Kuze finds him a stern taskmaster. One day he notices a carriage belonging to a wealthy family seems to come to the estate often, bearing Master Shigeyuki. Curious about his reason for being there, Kuze investigates, and witnesses a kiss between Shigeyuki and Katsuragi! He also overhears the other man trying to entice Katsuragi to send Kuze away and come to live in his house! Kuze is overheard and the meeting comes to an end, Shigeyuki taking his leave. Kuze tries to get Katsuragi to explain things to him, but a clear explanation is not forthcoming. He merely asserts his desire for Kuze to be as perfect as possible.

A few years pass. Now seventeen, Kuze is taking classes at a prestigious academy, but he has permission not to sleep in the dorm. Arriving home early one night he learns Katsuragi is with a visitor and not to be disturbed. Kuze disturbs him anyway, only to find him with a woman of the noble class. Katsuragi insists that everything he does is for the Kuze family, even this. He purposely opens the door to reveal the woman’s presence, thus ensuring her cooperation in future matters concerning the Kuze.

Kuze has always sought Katsuragi’s approbation, but there’s more to that now. He finds himself attracted to the man. And when Katsuragi implies that all he has to do is command him to go to Kuze’s room, he will obey. Does he mean what Katsuragi hopes he means?

This is my first time reading this author. I especially enjoy the artwork, it’s very well drawn, and Katsuragi is certainly easy on the eyes. There is so much more here than the average yaoi manga, wheels within wheels, and I find myself as confused as Akitio at times. I’m sure things will become clearer as we go along. Katsuragi is indeed an enigma. He entered the service of Kuze’s father when he was nine, and was told in no uncertain terms not to go to the Katsuragi house ever again, which he hasn’t. Akihito particularly doesn’t understand this, especially now that Katsuragi’s father is in failing health. He begins to ask questions, and even arranges a meeting with Katsuragi’s older brother, who is in banking.

Kiku has been the housekeeper for the Kuze household since before Akihito’s arrival, but she is older now and in ill health, so has left their service. She is the only servant left from the time of Katsurago’s arrival, the only one that knows about him. But what does she know?

Katsuragi drives Akihito crazy with his cold, inflexible exterior, and yet Akihito wants nothing more than to please him. What will it take to get through to the man? Ordering someone isn’t the same as having them want to do it. Will he be able to make Katsuragi want him the way he wants the butler?

I enjoyed this volume very much and look forward to reading more of the series.

 

Book Review: Ten Count, Vol 4 by Rihito Takarai

Ten Count, Vol 4     

Author: Rihito Takarai

Publisher: SuBLime Manga

American release date: May 9, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/glbt/178 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Shirotani has gone to Kurose’s apartment, ostensibly to watch a movie, but did he seriously think Kurose wouldn’t try to take advantage of the situation to touch him in some way? On some level, he must have known that would happen. So when Kurose introduces him to an anal plus, Shirotani’s protests are weak at best. Once the plug is in place, Shirotani is both disgusted and turned on. When Kurose removes the plug and suggests he replace it with himself, Shirotani fights against the idea, claiming Kurose is manipulating him. To his surprise, Kurose claims that Shirotani is the one who is actually in control. Shirotani worries that if he becomes cured of his germophobia, Kurose will lose interest in him.

Shirotani leaves, but doesn’t get very far in his turgid condition and, against his better instincts, enters a public lavatory, torn between not being contaminated by his surroundings and relieving his need. As he fantasizes that Kurose is touching him, he replays memories in his mind, of his childhood, and the incidents which were the start of his germophobia.

Avoiding Kurose, Shirotani throws himself even harder into his work. The weather has turned ugly and there is talk of an impending typhoon. Shirotani’s boss apologetically asks him to deliver some urgent documents to a client, which of course he does.  Leaving the office of the client, heading down in the elevator, he sees Kurose come on but keeps his back to him, assuming Kurose won’t know him. Unfortunately, a power outage halts the elevator, and Shirotani is forced to face his fears, as well as Kurose. Can they reach a new understanding of their relationship together?

Another great volume of this series. More and more we are beginning to understand what drives Shirotani to be the way he is. It’s hard not to feel sorry for him, and also to hope he can be cured of his fixation. I believe he is fixable, and that Kurose is the key. I suspect there is more to Kurose than meets the eye. He’s already admitted to being attracted to Shirotani in large part because he is a germophobe, but there must be more to the story than that.

Some people might argue that there is some dubious consent here, but after careful consideration, I don’t believe that to be the case. While it might appear that Kurose is going against what Shirotani says, I believe he is receiving his cues from Shirotani, as he claims, and Shirotani is actually setting the pace and controlling the action. There is also the matter of Item number ten on the list, which has yet to be named. I’m not sure it ever will, but I hope so.

Looking forward to the next volume!

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 21 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 21     

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: January 1, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/202 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 

The public is starting to “see” monsters! What the heck? At an emergency meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence, Lightning reminds them that Mephisto’s barrier is set to expire in February. When Sir Pheles arrives, he tells them they have to quit avoiding reality, then schedules a press conference for that afternoon. He has Shura assigned to him as security, and refers to her as the “beautiful boobalicious exorcist.”

At the press conference, the Prime Minister refers to “an anti-social organism,” as being the cause of the problem. Waiting in the wings, an amused Mephisto faces an angry Yukio Okumura, who wants him to admit he knew all along about Yukio’s flame, like his brother’s. But Mephisto refuses to rise to the bait and strides to the podium to inform the public of the existence of demons, only to be shot…

Rin watches the shocking scenario on the television and rushes to his brother’s side. Meanwhile, Shura is pointing out to the authorities who have scooped Yukio up that he can’t possibly be the shooter and they are allowing the actual shooter to escape! Thanks to Mephisto’s injuries, however, the Gehenna barrier collapses! Rin is struggling to make sense of what has happened, and why Yukio is so determined to know the truth of their birth. Is it possible he has inherited the Satan gene as well?

Rin goes to Yukio’s rescue and attempts an escape! But things do not go as planned, and everyone’s favorite double agent is on hand to add to the confusion. When the Koma sword breaks, will Rin survive?

All I can say is wow, just wow. So much going on here. It’s literally mind-blowing. I can usually tell how things will work out, but right now I can honestly say I have no clue. Yukio is undergoing his own personal trials, but so is Rin. Is Shima taking advantage of the confusion to press his own agenda? What is his agenda? I keep wondering if this is all an elaborate set-up, whereby Yukio infiltrates the other side. He’s got the brains and determination to do something like that. Rin, not so much. But I can’t tell. And what a cliffhanger too, just as Mephisto is about to spill the beans to Rin about his and Yukio’s birth.

What agony, especially not knowing how far away the next volume is. A riveting volume, a real page-turner, and one calculated to keep you on the edge of your seats! Please, next one soon!

Book Review: Ten Count, Vol 10 by Rihito Takarai

Ten Count, Vol 3       

Author: Rihito Takarai

Publisher: SuBLime Manga

American release date: February 14, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/glbt/178 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

When Kurose takes Shirotani shopping for a new suit, he offers to take him by his apartment first so he can change out of Kurose’s clothes, which he is borrowing. Shirotani surprisingly refuses, citing the time that would be lost with the rituals he’d feel compelled to perform. This is a definite step forward for him. He does very well with the tailor, allowing him to take most of his measurements, which of course involves touching. An interesting situation arises when they take a break, and Shirotani finds himself unable to walk properly. Kurose takes him back to his apartment and helps him find relief. In the process, we learn that Shirotani is fearful that giving oral sex can lead to a bacterial infection. Where did he get this idea?

Shirotani has had as much as he can take and hurries home, unwittingly leaving a spare key with Kurose. The next day, he sleeps late and doesn’t have time to style his hair, leaving it more natural, which garners a compliment from Mikami. Feeling a little unwell, Shirotani leaves work early, in order not to exacerbate his condition. He goes to bed, feeling unable to do anything else, much less make dinner. A concerned Kurose, who hasn’t heard from him in a few days, calls. But when Shirotani suddenly stops speaking in the middle of their conversation, Kurose becomes very worried and bicycles to Shirotani’s apartment, even knowing the other man would be uncomfortable with someone else in his home. Using the spare key, he gain entry to the apartment.

Shirotani and Kurose go to an aquarium together, then arrange to watch a movie at Kurose’s apartment. Of course, one thing leads to another, and Kurose can’t help but touch Shirotani. And then he gives him an unexpected gift which holds a great deal of promise…

With each volume of Ten Count, I think we learn a little more about Shirotani. This time we witness a flashback to his childhood, and we see what he saw that was rather traumatizing and probably the beginning of his germophobia. On the other hand, we haven’t really seen what makes Kurose tick. I suspect there is more to him than meets the eye.

I think these two are really good together, and that they would make a great couple. Shirotani is already making great strides under Kurose’s tutelage. I think he has strong feelings for Kurose that he isn’t ready to express. He wants his touch and he enjoys his touch, but he has a hard time dealing with this knowledge because it also feels dirty to him. I think this all stems back to his boyhood trauma. I’m glad that Kurose established their relationship the way he did, as friends rather than therapist and patient. If it were the latter, he’d have been crossing a line, now they are equals.

Looking forward to the next volume!

Book Review: Ten Count, Vol 2 by Rihito Takarai

Ten Count, Vol 2           

Author: Rihito Takarai

Publisher: SuBLime Manga

American release date: November 8, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/glbt/184 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Shirotani is devastated after Kurose tells him they won’t be seeing each other any more. He curls up on his bed, and ceases to function, to the point where his boss and his co-worker/friend, Mikami, become concerned. He isn’t answering his phone. Mikami mentions to their boss that the only other friend he knows of is Kurose. The president gives him Kurose’s number and Mikami explains what is going on. Kurose texts as well, but receives no response. When Shirotani finally rouses himself, he realizes his phone battery is dead. After charging it, he discovers a number of messages, including one from Kurose telling him to meet him at the café on Saturday at 2 pm, and he’ll wait as long as it takes. But it’s already 7 pm! Surely Kurose isn’t still there? Shirotani can’t help but go to find out, expecting everything but what he sees—Kurose is there, waiting for him. Shirotani explodes at Kurose, in public no less, then rushes off, forgetting his train pass and his wallet in his hurry. Unable to do anything or go anywhere, he sits in the rain and despairs… until Kurose finds him.

 

Kurose envelops Shirotani in his warmth and explains why he thought he needed to put distance between them—because he realized he was falling in love with Shirotani, and he finds it harder and harder to resist the urge to touch him. They discuss the situation and Shirotani reveals that he wants to keep seeing Kurose.

 

Shirotani arrives at their next scheduled meeting only to discover Kurose not there. He receives a text from him explaining he had to cover for someone at the clinic, and he didn’t know when he can get away. So Shirotani goes to the clinic instead. Alone in the clinic, Kurose, as he has warned Shirotani, cannot resist touching him, kissing his hands… and more. Shirotani is both disgusted and turned on by what is being done to him. They finally decide to meet for the dinner that never was, although Shirotani, as usual, doesn’t eat, but does drink some champagne. Perhaps it’s the influence of the champagne that loosens his tongue when he admits that he’s been thinking all day about Kurose touching him. Kurose tells him to come with him, he wants to take him somewhere he can do even more unpleasant things to him.

 

There is so much going on this volume. It’s obvious that Shirotani is both attracted and repelled by Kurose. The chemistry between these two men is palpable. The one thing that bugs me about Kurose, though, is that as a trained therapist, he has made no attempt to get to the root of Shirotani’s problems. It’s obvious to me that Shirotani has been abused, and he’s never dealt with what happened, which has led to his disgust with and inability to be touched. So far, Kurose is just treating the symptoms, not the disease. I’m worried that at some point, something he does is going to trigger something in Shirotani that might make him worse.

 

I’m sure Kurose has his own backstory, and I look forward to knowing more about both of them. This is not your typical m/m romance, and yet it is very romantic and sexy. I especially appreciate the artwork, and that the graphic scenes have not been erased in any way, as is the case with most yaoi manga. Four more volumes to go, can’t wait!

 

If you like men who are real and not perfect, and real romance, this maybe the manga for you!