Saturday, November 24, 2012

Preaching Yaoi at Bent-con and New Book Review

I'll be at Bent-con  next weekend. I have three panels, so far. One of them is a repeat of the panel I did at this year's Yaoicon on localizing manga for the Digital Manga Guild (DMG). It's a fun panel about the process of translating, editing and lettering a manga goes through before it's released in the US. There is a lot of controversy on the internet about the guild and how its workers are treated. There is also some debate about DMG titles and how much the original mangaka have to do with it. I take on all of those issues. In the end, I hope to attract talented people who love manga into joining the Guild.

The other panel is Yaoi 101 and It's Impact on Japanese Pop Culture. That's a long and lofty title for what will likely be one really naughty panel. I've got lots of bishie images and even some video clips. This panel will introduce yoai and its history to a room full of gay men who look at the genre sideways. I'll also discuss how it has evolved from its 'plot what plot' origins and how it is having a real impact on pop culture in Japan. I will have lots of snippets of the rampant fanservice offered in current anime. It will be a fun panel that is also quite flame war worthy. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have found it interesting. I'll share all the images and snippets I use in the blog next week. If any of my gentle readers are in town, come on by. It's a very cool convention with a lot of great guests. Check it out on the web page.

Book Review
Saying Goodbye at Ocean Isle  by Kimberly Hunter

What would you do if you lost the love of your life?
What would you do when you finally had to let them go?
And what would you do if you were given a second chance at love?
For Laine Abernathy and Sean Pike, losing their lovers in tragic accidents was devastating. But over a year later, Laine has realized that holding on to the past is futile. Sean’s not ready yet to say goodbye. Deep inside, he knows he should. Unfortunately, the mind is willing but the heart isn’t.
Through grief and sadness, the two form a bond that develops into much more over the course of a month long stay at Ocean Isle Beach.
Then a night of passion sends Sean running. Thinking he’d pushed too hard, Laine returns to his life, disappointed and down. He’d shared something with Sean he never thought to have again.
Three months later, Laine receives a text. “Meet me at Ocean Isle. Need to say goodbye.”
Is his chance for happiness gone before it even begins? Or will two broken hearts finally be mended? There’s only one way to find out...

I must confess that I read this book with grave misgivings. I'm not one for romantic tragedy. I don't read for catharsis. After I've had that 'good cry,' I end up ticked off for being made to cry. However, Saying Goodbye at Ocean Isle is far more complex than the typical tear jerker and more brave. This book looks at what happens after a perfect union of soul mates is brutally ended when the survivor has to choose whether to go on with life or follow into death. Kimberly Hunter manages to take on a potentially depressing topic with a deft touch. She manages to economically render and fully realize two very different couples complete with family histories early in the book. Blaine and Sean's love stories with their partners are miraculous. The loss of their life mates is incredibly poignant and painful. It's hard to believe that either man is willing or able to really move on. That journey is intense and wrought with suspense and really, really hot. Talk about sexual tension! As a reader, I felt guilty about the lusty thoughts about men who've endured such tragedy. Not that those feelings kept me from wanting to read more. That conflict was nerve wracking. And then there was the question of whether the intense, mutual longing would be acted upon. Would either man be able to grab that second chance at real happiness? Saying Goodbye at Ocean Isle is an amazing ride that manages a great deal of moving and exciting drama in a very short span. And that was a good thing. I don't think I could have survived a longer roller coaster ride.

Next week – The Con report and a Manga review!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Joys and Terror of an Insane Seme

I've blogged a lot about the possessive Seme and a bit on Seme on Seme relationships, but there is a Seme I really adore but don't see too often that I'd like to talk about today. The Insane Seme has all of the characteristics of the typical Seme – gorgeous, strong, passionate, possessive and sex crazed. On top all of that fun, this Seme is quite a bit nuts. I have few examples, so I'll talk about the first one I ever ran across and my absolute favorite.

Usami Akihiko from Shungiku Nakamura's Junjou Romantica has all the traits of a great Seme, including great wealth and talent. When I first saw the show, I was thinking 'Okay, another arrogant Seme about to set upon this poor, vulnerable young man.' The spooky room full of toys gave me pause, but it wasn't until Usami-san was seated beside that big stuffed bear on the sofa that I realized he was bonkers. By the end of the first episode, I was madly in love with this Seme. Usagi-san's state of mind is the result of complex situation within his family during his childhood and his being a writer. For the most part, writers are wacky. How wacky varies from writer to writer.

Usagi-san is really, really wacky. That's quite a combination with arrogant and possessive. One might think that it would be too much for 18 year old Takahashi Misaki to handle. But I think that the overt nature of Usagi-san's zaniness revealed the vulnerable side of this rich and powerful Seme to Misaki. He could see through all of this man's formidable defensiveness better than people who have known the man for decades. Misaki knows and understands Usagi-san better than his brother who has been his best friend. This gives the uke a measure of power in the relationship. That power grows as Misaki takes on more and more responsibility for aspects Usagi-san's life. All of this began because Usagi-san was obviously a bit nuts.

Junjou Romantica's premise does not seem to be exciting. At it's simplest, the plot revolves around an orphaned college student who lives with a writer who has family problems. Their lives are filled with deadlines and the occasional family squabble. The beauty of the pair Shungiku Nakamura created and this manga and anime is that even without the high drama and threat of violence, they are fascinating and exciting. Despite the love of teddy bears, Usagi is a real Seme and quite capable of going to find his uke and drag or carry him home. Usagi-san is also not afraid to strip said uke naked and pound into him that he belongs to said Seme. Usagi-san's instability makes the story very scary to me. He has a lot to lose if he snapped and did something in a public setting. Misaki is very afraid that his Seme will do something unwise in front of the wrong people. He would never lose his money – unless he managed to spend it all on too many suits for Misaki. But he could lose his writing career which is more important to who he is as a person than the money. There are people in Usagi-san's life who want to protect that career, but they don't realize that his survival as a writer and a man has become wrapped up in his relationship with Misaki. That misunderstanding and Misaki's reluctance to admit that he has fallen in love with a man makes Junjou Romantica really scary sometimes. Usagi-san is crazy enough where Misaki is concerned that he is willing to risk everything to keep his uke beside him.

There are other insane Semes, I'm sure. Takano Masamune of Shingiku Nakamura's spinoff series, Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi is certainly nuts. However, he isn't the kind of gleefully batty that Usagi-san is. I'd love to see more variations of the arrogant and possessive Seme. I would certainly welcome the humor that a nutty Seme brings to a story. I'd be very interested to hear other opinions.