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Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 6 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 6   

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: September 13, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/250 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Katsuragi has become uncertain, both of himself and his relation with Akihito. He thinks himself weak and useless because Akihito no longer blindly obeys him—so what purpose does he serve? While dressing the morning after, at Akihito’s hotel, he notices ragged garments in the closet and wonders why they are there. And why won’t Akihito get the haircut Katsuragi keeps telling him he needs?

Akihito meets with Ishizaki at a hot pot restaurant, which irks Ishizaki because it’s a hot day. Akihito says he is about to retire to Kamakura, under the pretense of his fake illness. Much has changed since the evening at the Moriyama’s, and thanks to the reporters Katsuragi arranged for, is common knowledge. For example that Ishizaki has become the Kuze house guardian. Madam Kayoko’s trip to France and her estrangement from her husband. Akihito’s “lung illness.” One reporter asked Akihito about the importance of producing an heir, but that won’t happen, not while he has Katsuragi. Ishizaki muses that things would be easier if Katsuragi were a woman.

Master Ishizaki informs Katsuragi that he has purchased a mill and wishes him to become the president and make a profit. He accepts the position. When he tries to drop off some papers with Amamiya, the new Kuze butler insists he deliver it to Akihito himself, and also deliver something from Katsuragi’s brother, Takayuki, who Akihito has entrusted with the financial affairs of the Kuze house. Katsuragi goes to the hotel and wakes Akihito, informing him the government railways have finally given their approval. Now Akihito can set up a railway in the old fief.

Ishizaki returns home from a late night out to find Katsuragi in his room. Katsuragi tells Ishizaki to not see the geisha he’s been seeing, and if he must continue the relationship, then he must allow Katsuragi to buy her out of bondage in his own name. Akihito meets with Katsuragi’s brother, who also remonstrates with him about his unruly hair. Akihito reiterates that he will be leaving for Kamakura, as planned. When Akihito says that he wishes Tomoyuki and Takayuki, as brothers, were closer, Takayuki responds with the comment that they are not related by blood, to which Akihito enigmatically replies, “Do you really think so?”

Katsuragi calls on Saionji and catches up with him. It seems his former lover knows him pretty well, including the fact that he loves Akihito. Saionji is happy himself, with his wife and new baby. Saionji gives Katsuragi some advice on what he should do. Later, Katsuragi goes to the mill. His employees are apprehensive about what their new boss will be like, fearful they will be blamed for past failures and be let go, but Katsuragi is not what they expected.

Even as Akihito makes plans to study abroad, he is concerned with Katsuragi, knowing he wishes to know about his origins, whether he voices his desire or not. Akihito and Amamiya visit Kiku’s old house, and Amamiya wonders what might have been, know that he knows about Akihito and Katsuragi. Akihito confides his plans for the future, once the railway is in place. Despite what Katsuragi may think, he does have the best interests of the Kuze house in mind, as well as his future with Katsuragi. Will he be able to persuade Katsuragi to come with him to Kamakura?

Each volume of this series is wonderful, I can’t get enough of these characters, even as I am left on the edge of my seat, wondering when they will finally be in sync with one another. The only way I will be happy is if they end up together at the end, nothing less will do. The artwork is superb, both men are very handsome, especially Katsuragi. She is very expressive in portraying their emotions in their faces. I can see the lust that glazes Katsuragi’s eyes, feel Akihito’s own wonder and joy as he gazes at the man he loves during their intimate moments. As to who will end up with the house of Kuze, I would not venture a guess. There is a whole lot going on, and the plot just keeps on getting deeper.

Can’t wait for the next one, one of the best yaoi manga ever!

 

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Book Review: Soul Eater, Volume 3 by Atsushi Ohkubo

Soul Eater, Vol 3     

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: March 3, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Soul is hospitalized, following the fight with Ragnarok, unaware that some of the creature’s black blood has mixed in with his. What they are all unaware of is that the witch Medusa has become a doctor at the hospital! That can’t be good! A depressed Maka blames herself for Soul being hurt, but as she leaves his hospital room, she finds her father waiting for her. She goes up to the roof with him to watch the sunset.

Black Star balks at the remedial lesson he’s been assigned by Sid—he’s charged with cleaning and straightening up the library. Not sure where to begin, he runs across the library’s collection of manga, to his delight. When he expresses his joy a little too loudly, he draws the ire of Death the Kid, who is also there. Not accidentally, as Black Star assumes, but very much on purpose. Death tells him he’s looking for a book about a legendary blade, call the “holy sword” known as Excalibur. Dr. Stein weighs in and tells them even he could not draw Excalibur. So naturally Black Star and Death the Kid want to twith hiry their hand at it! Although, perhaps this isn’t quite the adventure they were looking for.

Tsubaki accepts an assignment to deal with the Uncanny Sword Masamune, even though Shinigami-sama warns her it will be a hard fight. But she feels compelled to do it, mostly because Masamune is her older brother! She and Black Star head to the village she came from. Black Star is his usual loud self. But when a villager notices his tattoo and recognizes it for what it is, Black Star’s story begins to come out. When they find Masamune, Black Star battles him, using Tsubaki. But the fight is ultimately Tsubaki’s, and she’ll do what she must, even if that includes getting into her brother’s head.  Black Star sets up a vigil beside Tsubaki’s body and vows to wait for her as long as it takes.

In the hospital, Soul confides to Medusa about his strange dream, which has a disturbingly Twin peaks vibe and ends in the same disturbing way—with him coming out of Maka’s stomach! Medusa tells him not to worry about it. On his release, Maka throws a party for him at their apartment, and Blair gives Make and Death the Kid quite a shock. Suddenly, Maka is startled at the realization that there is a presence in Death City that should not be there.

I especially enjoyed seeing more of Tsubaki in this volume of Soul Eater. She doesn’t usually get as much attention as Black Star, probably because he’s a hog for the spotlight and she is much quieter. Her interaction with her brother is touching. I also liked watching Black Star and Death the Kid in their quest to draw Excalibur from the stone. The cover, featuring Death the Kid and the Thompson sisters, is great. As usual, I love the artwork. I liked seeing a more tender, Dad side of Maka’s father. Too bad I don’t think it’ll last. He always manages to do something wrong sooner or later.

Another great volume, looking forward to more of the same!

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 3 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 3     

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: November 12, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/224 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Akihito is beginning to take greater control of Kuze family matters, much to Katsuragi’s surprise. All letters in regard to bank business are to go straight to Akihito. Meanwhile, Akihiko is paying his court to the fifteen-year-old Chikako, of the Sajo family, and spends their time together playing games with her. He realizes the gap that exists between the Sajos and the Kuzes, and intends to call upon the —Moriyama, as well as the Ashizakis. Meanwhile former houseboy Amimaya is visiting with the retired housekeeper, Kiku. He reveals to her some of his thoughts regarding Katsuragi, but the older woman makes no direct comment.

Akihito requests that Ashizaki act as his agent in the matter of his proposed marriage, explaining his reasoning behind this decision, which Ashizaki concurs with and agrees to help. But that help will come with a steep price. Is Akihito willing to pay such a price? Afterward, Akihito goes to Katsuragi, and initial conflict becomes into their usual method of resolution—lovemaking. Later, Katsuragi thinks on the original plans he made when he was first put in charge of Akihito’s education, the revenge he intended to extract for promises made to him but never kept, for unforgivable behavior toward him.  Has something changed now?

Akihito is not pleased that Katsuragi no longer dines with him. He tells the two highest ranking servants that they will dine with him from now on, which makes them uncomfortable. When Katsuragi arrives, Akihito informs him that he will be joining them as well.

When Amimaya returns to visit Kiku, he learns she has returned to her hometown, to his dismay. Furthermore, she has left instructions for him to clean every corner of the storehouse. Furthermore, her instructions emphasize papers that he will find there, given to her by Lord Kuze. Is this significant? Amimaya grasps what he perceives to be the meaning behind Kiku’s actions and agrees to do as she has requested. Maybe his lifelong dreams will come true after all.

Akihito seeks Katsuragi’s opinion on household matters, and as they work together, the butler does something quite unexpected—he kisses Akihito. A thrilled Akihito responds in kind, kissing Katsuragi’s hand. But the moment is spoiled when Katsuragi demands Akihito release him, and he walks away, to Akihito’s dismay.

The next day, Katsuragi receives a request for him to go to the storehouse, where Amimaya has something to tell him. Meanwhile, at school, Ishizake searches for and finds a despondent Akihito, who is no mood to talk. Ishizaki can only imagine what has him so upset, what is usually the cause of his upset—Katsuragi. Ishizaki knows what is being asked of Akihito, and he asks can he actually go through with it, but Akihito doesn’t want to listen and asks, instead, what message Ishizaki has from Katsuragi’s brother.

Amimaya lets loose some rather nasty accusations at Katsuragi. Akihito goes to see Katsuragi’s brother, and learns the former houseboy has made accusations of his own. But the elder Katsuragi also warns Akihito not to trust Tomoyuki.

Back at the Kuze manor, Akihito and Katsuragi now dine alone, as the other servants have begged off, due to their discomfort. Alone, they can talk more freely concerning what Amimaya has alleged.  Will this new information tear them apart or drive them closer together? What is Akihito willing to do in order to stay by Katsuragi’s side and raise the Kuze house, as he has sworn to do?

In this volume of Blue Morning, we learn about Katsuragi’s parentage, and we also get a glimpse into the boy he was, and the expectations he was raised to have by Akihito’s father. There are still pieces of that puzzle that are missing, and if they include, as I suspect, Katsuragi’s sexual abuse by the older Kuze, that will explain much. At the same time, we see more of Katsuragi’s own feelings for Akihito, as his tightly wound façade beings to unfurl at Akihito’s continued tenderness and unswerving loyalty, something he has received from no one before and certainly did not expect from the target of his own ambitions. No wonder he’s becoming confused and uncertain, as he never saw this coming. Will he embrace his feelings for Akihito or deny them in order to proceed with his plan? I’m leaning toward the former, but I am also a hopeless romantic. I’ll be very disappointed if this series ends and these two are not together and very much in love. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.

As usual, the artwork is superb, the story excellent. Both men are very lovely to look upon, but especially Katsuragi. I’m looking forward to the next volume.

 

 

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!

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 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!