Tag Archives: yaoi

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 7 by Shoko Hidako

Blue Morning, Vol 7     

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: March 13, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/232 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Akihito finds one of his father’s old suits and tries it on, only to find it fits him as if it were made for him. He has a reason for dressing this way. He’s going to pay a visit to the dying head of the Katsuragi house. Meanwhile, Tomoyuki is returning to the Ashizaki house, along with Amamiya, having spent the night with Akihito. Now he has to face the anger of Saemon Ashizaki.

On Akihito’s arrival at the Katsuragi house, he is met by Takayuki Katsuragi, who is highly displeased at this unannounced visit, fearing it’s being done to cause him to lose face. Akihito insists he has no desire to place Tomoyuki as head of the Kuze house, he merely wishes to speak with Takamasa Katsuragi before it’s too late.

Soichiro returns home to find Katsuragi in his room, and he’s surprised to find the man has been drinking. Not surprising considering what happened between him and Soichiro’s father. They speak of Akihito and his plans to spend the summer at Kamakura before leaving for his studies in England.

When Akihito, dressed in his father’s suit, is finally permitted to see Takamasa Katsuragi, the dying man confuses him with his father, and at Akihito’s urging, begins to spin a tale going back some thirty-odd years. Afterward he retires to Kamakura. Time passes, and summer is nearly gone, but no sign of Katsuragi.

Katsuragi and Soichiro have a confrontation regarding the latter’s marriage, as well as the geisha he loves, but it’s not satisfactory to him, even after Katsuragi explains his reasoning. He dismisses Katsuragi peremptorily, tells him to get out.

Things are surely coming to a head in this series, truths are coming out, revealing a complicated web of lies. Akihito has learned that which Tomoyuki yearns to know, and is about to tell him the truth. Surely, using this information, they can find a way to stay together and be together, as equals? I believe that is what it all comes down to in the end, finding the common ground on which they can be equal partners, not master and servant, and free to live their lives together.

Even so, I worry that there are forces who may work against them. At this juncture, although Soichiro has long been supportive of their relationship, right now he is angry, so there’s no telling what he may do. His father is angry too. I think the next volume is the last one, and should be here in just a few months. I’m looking forward to seeing these two men get the happy ending they deserve.

Another great volume, waiting anxiously for the next one!

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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!

 

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 5 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 5   

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: October 14, 2014

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Katsuragi has changed, and so have the plans he worked on so carefully. Thrown out the window by his unexpected feelings for Akihito. Katsuragi has always been in control, has always known what he wanted, and what he was willing to do in order to get it. But nothing is as cut and dried as he once believed it to be.

Akihito and Katsuragi are attending an evening ball at the Marquise Moriyama’s residence, despite Katsuragi’s misgivings. Akihito notices a great number of reporters hanging around outside the gate. As they arrive, he kisses Katsuragi and tells him he trusts him, to Katsuragi’s shock. Will this confession prove to be the former butler’s undoing? Once inside the Moriyama manor, Akihito insists again that Katsuragi walk beside him, not behind him. Yanking Katsuragi into an unused room of the manor, Akihito affirms his feelings, and tells him that just knowing Katsuragi loves him, he can get through anything. Katsuragi promises to tell him everything.

Also in attendance at the ball is Akihito’s father’s half-brother, Naotsugu. Katsuragi’s plan is to have Naotsugu take on the Kuze title. Having met him, though, Akihito is not so sure this is a good idea, and he fears he may have to go against Katsuragi’s wishes. Meanwhile, Katsuragi is intent on protecting Akihito, even if that means lying to him… or about him.

Meanwhile, Akihito’s friend Soichiro Ishizaki goes to his father and begs him not to abandon Akihito, even though it was at his father’s direction that they ever became friends. His father tells him if that’s the case to come with him to the Moriyama estate.

Katsuragi demands and receives a private audience with Marquise Moriyama, outlining his plans for Naotsugu’s success to the Kuze house, which will be temporary as the man only has a few years to live, after which he wants Moriyama to help with something that is unprecedented, so that Akihito can regain the Kuze title after Naotsugu’s death.

It’s obvious to me that these two men love each other greatly, but it’s also obvious that until they stop working behind each other’s backs and work together, nothing will be accomplished. That is the only way in which they will succeed and be able to walk together, side by side, as equals. The plot is only becoming more complicated, with the introduction of Akihito’s half-uncle, and the confirmation of the seeds Katsuragi has sown concerning Akihito’s “illness”. Some of Katsuragi’s plans are coming to fruition, including the divorce of the Marquise Moriyama by his wife, which is the reason why the reporters are hovering outside the manor. They are still keeping secrets from each other, though, and not being entirely honest. That has got to give. Ishizaki is really Akihito’s friend, and while he doesn’t approve of his relationship with Katsuragi, not because he is a man but because he doesn’t entirely trust him, he wants Akihito to be happy. And he feels Katsuragi may actually love Akihito.

So much intrigue, where will it end? Another brilliant volume, looking forward to the next one, although with a little apprehension.

 

 

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 4 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 4           

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: February 11, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/218 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Akihito has moved into humble lodgings, occupying part of a house once owned by Ishizaki’s old housekeeper. As far as the servants at the manor know, he is staying at the Ishizaki villa. This is a brand new world for Akihito, who has no practical knowledge of how anything works, including such basics as using a sink or a stove. He has a lot to learn! The reason for downgrading his lifestyle is that Akihito plans to relinquish his title in favor of Katsuragi, which he confides to Ishizaki, even as he strongly impresses upon him that Katsuragi must not find out.

Akihito confronts Amamiya at the manor. Amamiya is surprised that Akihito bears him no animosity, considering that he has been working to ensure Katsuragi inherits the Kuze house, unaware that Akihito has the same goal. His surprise becomes even greater when Akihito makes Amamiya the new butler of the Kuze household. However, Akihito is adamant that Amamiya not use Katsuragi’s old room.

Katsuragi has taken on the task of instructing Ishizaki, as once he did Akihito. While discussing the arranged marriage for Ishizaki, Katsuragi reveals knowledge of ishizaki’s true love, a geisha, and tries to tell him that he can have both. Ishizaki laughs, saying that is what Kuze has said too, so why can’t the two of them manage to do that themselves? Katsuragi has no answer to that, and Ishizaki silently wishes he could do something to help the two of them.

Getting into an argument with Katsuragi, Ishizaki inadvertently lets on that Akihito has done something stupid because of his former butler.  Learning the truth, Katsuragi goes to see Akihito in his new home, and Akihito serves him tea, while trying to gauge how much he knows. Akihito confesses to burning some bridges and the reason for doing so. Not surprisingly, a heated discussion between the two men ends with passion. The next day, Katsuragi is convinced he knows what he must do in order to save the Kuze house, but he must act quickly.

When Akihito returns to the manor, he is annoyed to learn Amamiya is in Katsuragi’s old room. But when he goes to confront him, he is surprised to find Katsuragi there as well. Amamiya leaves the two men alone, and they discuss the future of the Kuze house, which will necessitate their working together. Katsuragi makes the first move this time, and passion once more holds sway, which leads to a surprising admission on Katsuragi’s part.

It’s interesting to watch Akihito and Katsuragi go to such lengths, each for the other. It reminds me of The Gift of the Magi, in which a young couple each sacrifice something of value to them in order to give something of value to the other, but the sacrifices negate the gifts, leaving only the love. I’m hoping that’s how this turns out for these two. From the bottom of my heart, I want nothing more than for them to end up together, whether at the Kuze manor or somewhere else. I’m not sure they’re at that point, and it won’t be an easy road to happiness, but I believe they can do it. I love the passion between the two men, and the way Akihito doesn’t care about status or lack of it, he loves the man Katsuragi is and wants to be with him forever, even if he forfeits his own status and wealth to do so. Akihito is the seme in this relationship, and I wonder if Katsuragi’s accepting the role of uke is indicative of something in his past which we aren’t privy to yet. Only time will tell.

Ishizaki is proving to be a very good friend to Akihito. I have to believe his words spoken in anger to Katsuragi were simply a Freudian slip and that he wanted Katsuragi to do just what he did, in the hopes he would be able to talk some sense into Akihito. And now, with another candidate for head of the Kuze household looming on the horizon, what happens next remains to be seen. We’ll have to meet this other person to get a sense of his worth, or even his willingness to assume the Kuze title.

Wheels within wheels and a great deal of machination going on. Where will it end? No one knows. Loved this volume, can’t wait for the next one.

 

 

 

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: Blue Morning, Vol 1 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 2     

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: August 13, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/186 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

As a young boy, Katsuragi believed he was being groomed by Viscount Kuze to be his successor, until the viscount leaves for his other home and Katsuragi learns an heir has been born. Years later, he finds himself in the bed of his new young master and questions what he is doing and what he should do. Akihito hasn’t been to school in a few days and shows no inclination toward going. Meanwhile, Akihito’s friend, Ishizaki,  concerned about his health, is buying him some fruit when a chance meeting with Katsuragi’s brother affords him transportation to the Kuze manor.

Akihito and Katsuragi are in the library. Katsuragi is gauging how far his charge has read. When questioned by Akihito, he admits to having read all the books up until a certain point. When the decision was made to bring Akihito to the mansion, Katsuragi was forbidden the use of the library. Akihito can’t keep his hands off the butler, even in the library, and Katsuragi can do not less than obey. He has promised to stand by Akihito’s side forever, as long as he strives to fulfill the hopes of the Kuze family.

Akihito has received an invitation to a formal event being given by Marquise Moriyama, and he wants Katsuragi to go with him. Katsuragi says that as his butler, that isn’t possible, but Akihito insists that it is – if the invitation is sent to Katsuragi as a representative of the Katsuragi family and not as his butler. When Akihito returns to his room, Katsuragi learns of a visitor – Ishizaki – and receives him, telling him Akihito is unable to receive visitors in his current condition. Katsuragi and Ishizaki get into a serious discussion concerning Akihito, Ishizaki questioning Katsuragi’s intentions, which Akihito overhears.

A member of the Kuze household from many years before has arrived from Yokohama, a previous houseboy. Meanwhile, at the Katsuragi bank, the brothers suspect that their younger brother has been involved in some dealings they may not be in favor of. Perhaps it’s time that they see him.

As Akihito is being fitted for his clothes for the event, he makes an inquiry regarding Katsuragi’s measurements, and requests a suit be made for him as well. Katsuragi doesn’t want to go, but Akihito tells him he procured a personal invitation for him from the Marquise, and that cannot be ignored. He also reminds Katsuragi of his promise to stay with him forever and questions whether Katsuragi is working on Akihito’s future engagement. He promises Katsuragi that he won’t question whatever methods he uses to make it happen.

Akihito returns to school, and has a discussion with Ishizaki, who is concerned about his relationship with Katsuragi. Meanwhile, the former houseboy, Amamiya, has gone to the mansion and reveals why he is there.

The night of the marquise’s event arrives, and Akihito ensures Katsuragi’s presence by taking him with him. Once there, they seem destined to go their separate ways, to Akihito’s chagrin. A jealous Akihito watches Katsuragi’s interactions with the other guests, particularly those he knows the butler has slept with. Katsuragi is trying to make plans for a future fiancé for Akihito, but he is uncustomarily distracted by thoughts of his young master and is surprised by the unexpected appearance of his brother. His brother drops a surprising bombshell regarding Katsuragi’s heritage, but is everyone really surprised? What would Akihito think if he saw them?

The second volume of this series is every bit as good as the first. This is not a typical yaoi romance, assuming it will end up a romance at all, which is anyone’s guess, although I devoutly hope so. There is nothing stereotypical about this story at all, and a great deal to sink your teeth into and enjoy. I’m rooting for Akihito, who unabashedly loves Katsuragi and would do anything for him I believe Katsuragi has feelings for him, despite how tightly he’s wrapped up and the way he holds himself aloof. There are moments when he gives himself away in little ways.

Akihito knows he has to marry, and he’s good with that, as long as it furthers Katsuragi’s plans. I’m wondering how he will manage to keep his relationship with Katsuragi going while he’s married, and how open can they afford to be in front of a wife. Ishizaki already knows Akihito cares too much for his butler and is against their relationship, but will he do anything to jeopardize it, perhaps in the mistaken belief that he needs to rescue his friend from Katsuragi’s grip?

Looking forward to seeing where this goes in the next volume!

Book Review: Ten Count, Vol 6 by Rihito Takarai

Ten Count, Vol 6                     

Author: Rihito Takarai

Publisher: SuBLime Manga

American release date: December 11, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/GLBT/186 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

While out with Kurose, Shirotani has a chance encounter with Ueda, the woman who is responsible for his germophobia. As Kurose returns the keys she dropped, she tells the two men she’d like to buy them a drink, as a thank you. Shirotani is reluctant, but he is also reluctant to explain anything to Kurose, who can tell he’s uneasy. They compromise by saying they can go, but just until it’s time to leave for their lunch reservation. Something Ueda says strikes a nerve, and Shirotani excuses himself. Once he’s gone, Ueda makes a blatantly obvious attempt at seducing Kurose, but he has a few choice words for her.

Kurose and Shirotani miss their reservation, but they do share their first kiss. Afterward, Kurose says he’s just as happy with food from a mini-mart, so that’s what they do. They find a place to eat outside, and have a long talk about their relationship. Shirotani admits to his feelings for Kurose, and that his reluctance to fill in the tenth number on his list was in order to keep seeing Kurose forever. Then they both shed tears of happiness.

Kurose is browsing in a book store and notices a table set up for an author signing. A startled Kurose recognized the author, and enters into conversation with him, but doesn’t reveal himself until the end. By the time the author realizes it, Kurose has gone, having found closure on a part of his life he’d never found before.

Shirotani has changed. Not only does he stop wearing his gloves, to the amazement of his boss and his co-worker, he openly seeks out Kurose at the clinic, only to learn he traded his shift for that day. Kurose’s co-worker mentions that Kurose will be missed, since he is leaving psychotherapy, to Shirotani’s great surprise. A fearful Shirotani rushes to Kurose’s apartment. When they make love, Shirotani wants to show his love for Kurose by doing something for him he’s never been able to do before.

This is the last volume of the series, sadly. I have come to love these two guys, and watching them on their journey has been amazing. However, I’m happy with where they are, working on a new list, and even though I don’t think they’ve told each other everything just yet, I think they will. So they’re in a good place, and they have each other.

I think the writing is very good, the author tells her story very well, and these characters come to life on every page. I would definitely watch an anime, if they ever make one. It would definitely need to be explicit, though. This is not a story for minors. I found it realistic, in that her characters are very human and very imperfect. But they are perfect for one another, and that’s what counts. With love, all things are possible.

I highly recommend this series if you want a yaoi romance that goes beyond the sexual (but includes that as well).