PriapusCreator: Mentaiko Itto
Publisher: Bruno Gmünder
ISBN: 9783867877947
Released: April 2015

Mentaiko Itto’s Priapus is the fifth volume to be released by Bruno Gmünder as part of its relatively new Gay Manga line. Although the publisher is based in Germany, so far all of the manga have been translated into English. With the publication of Priapus in 2015, Itto joined Gengoroh Tagame and Takeshi Matsu as one of the few creators of gay erotic manga to have had an entire collection of their work released in English. However, unlike Tagame and Matsu, who both had examples of their work translated before being published by Bruno Gmünder, Priapus is Itto’s official English-language debut. Although the release of Priapus provided my first opportunity to read any of Itto’s manga, the creator does have a fairly strong presence online and so I was already somewhat familiar with his artwork and illustrations. But, I don’t actually know much about Itto beyond the fact that he seems to have garnered a global following; Bruno Gmünder describes him as “one of the most exciting young voices in gay manga today.”

Priapus collects several of Itto’s short manga and doujinshi. The volume opens with the first three episodes of “Priapus,” an ongoing series of stories featuring a contemporary erotic reimagining of the titular Greek god of fertility. Zeus, fed up with humans and their pointless wars, has decided to eliminate the entire race. Believing more violence will do nothing to solve the problem or teach humanity a lesson, he orders Priapus to bring about their demise bloodlessly in a way that only he can—by turning all of the men gay in a great Homopocalypse. “Gachinko Battle” is a spinoff of sorts from “Priapus.” The Gachinko Budokai is an epic mixed martial arts tournament, the winner of which is granted a wish by the gods. However, the rules of the competitions change according to the gods’ whims, and with Priapus in charge that means the champion will be whoever makes his opponents orgasm first during a fight. The gods have their fun in “1/4” as well, shrinking a young man to less than a quarter of his size and cursing him to stay that way until he successfully has sex with someone he likes. Priapus concludes with the completely unrelated “1000 Meters Deep” which is about the intimate relationship between the two last remaining members of a swim club.

Priapus, page 106In general, there isn’t a lot of depth to the stories and characters of Priapus. The setups mostly serve as an excuse for a copious amount of sex, and there is plenty of vigorous, uninhibited sex included in the manga. But so much of Priapus is intentionally ridiculous that, for the most part, it’s not intended to be taken too seriously to begin with. Ultimately, the result is highly entertaining. At times the volume is even surprisingly cute and sweet. As expected, Priapus is a stunningly virile god who takes great delight in being given free rein to have as much sex as he wants with as many men as he would like using wide a variety of divine tools and techniques to achieve his goals. But it soon becomes clear that he actually and honestly cares for the men he seduces. He even takes the time to set them up with other guys when he needs to move on to his next target. The men in the other stories, too, make emotional and romantic connections with each other, not just physical ones. The erotic content of Priapus tends to be the focus of the manga, but there are some rather charming character moments as well.

Although in part some of the characters in Priapus are inspired by Greek mythology, Itto’s stories and interpretations are entirely his own. Humor pervades Priapus, everything from the basic premises of the stories, to the references to anime and adult videos, the breaking of the fourth wall, the interactions between the characters, and even the imaginative sex itself. (By necessity, the sex in “1/4” has to be particularly creative.) Initially it would seem that “1000 Meters Deep” would be the exception to this trend. Overall, the story has a much more melancholy and introspective feel to it. Even the artwork is more delicate, setting it further apart from the rest of the manga collected in Priapus. But it also ends with a bit of levity. Itto mentions in the afterword that he’s very happy that his work has now been published uncensored; his lean, trim, muscular, and well-built men are on full display in all of their frequently naked glory. The artwork in Priapus is attractive and the stories and characters are amusing and even heartwarming on occasion, making for a very appealing collection of erotic gay manga. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more of Itto’s work translated.

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