Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories

Dr. Makumakuran and Other StoriesCreator: Takeshi Matsu
Publisher: Bruno Gmünder
ISBN: 9783867878432
Released: August 2015

Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories is the second collection of erotic gay manga by Takeshi Matsu to be released in English. Matsu was one of the nine mangaka to be featured in the landmark anthology Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It which is where I initially encountered his work. Matsu can be counted among the few mangaka who have been able to make a career out of creating gay manga, his stories appealing to readers of multiple genders and sexualities. I thoroughly enjoyed “Kannai’s Dilemma”—the story of his collected in Massive—as well as his first English anthology More and More of You and Other Stories (which had the added bonus of in part being a food manga), so I was looking forward to Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories a great deal. The volume, published by the Germany-based Bruno Gmünder in 2015, collects several of Matsu’s short manga, many of which had previously only been available digitally. So, not only are the stories being translated into English for the first time, most of them are being released in print for the first time as well.

Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories collects five of the Matsu’s short erotic manga. The volume opens with the first two episodes of The Dangerous Games of Dr. Makumakuran, a ongoing series featuring the titular Dr. Makumakuran. Both a genius scientist and a total slacker, he spends much of his time working on side projects and annoying his assistants rather than focusing on more commercially productive research. More than once the lead assistant Tachibana becomes the test subject for Makumakuran’s seemingly innocent inventions, including a virtual reality workplace training system which allows for a variety of simulations and a diet formula that shrinks more than just fat cells. The next story, “Yashio and Shibayama,” is about a comedian whose career is struggling after he undergoes a celebrity makeover as well as the lengths he and his manager are willing to go to save it. In “Big Man, Tiny Boss” a strapping underling approaches his superior for some hands-on advice on satisfying a partner, except that he’s straight and his boss is gay. Finally, things unintentionally get a little out of hand in the changing room between a designer and his stand-in model in “Wolf Mask.”

Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories, page 131Although I enjoyed More and More of You and Other Stories immensely, overall I think that Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories may actually be the stronger collection out of the two, or at least the one that will be more immediately accessible to a wider audience as a whole. But either way, both anthologies are great. I’ve come to expect Matsu’s work to have a sense of humor and playfulness to it, and Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories doesn’t disappoint. The stories, as well as the plentiful no-holds-barred sex scenes to be found within them, can actually be surprisingly sweet and charming. Even the scenarios with more dubious beginnings end up being rather romantic. One of the things that I particularly enjoy about Matsu’s erotic manga in Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories is that while the works aren’t overly serious and at times can be quite comedic, there is still some relationship drama and honest emotional connections between the characters; the sex is only one aspect of that greater whole.

Except for the first two manga collected in Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories which are part of the same series, none of the works in the volume are directly related to one another. However, there are a few themes that occur repeatedly. Many of the stories feature a transformation of some sort, whether it be physical or psychological. Matsu plays with size and power dynamics a fair bit in Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories as well. Both “Big Man, Tiny Boss” and “Yashio and Shibayama” deal with pushing the boundaries of professional relationships between men with different body types. The changes in size and dynamics in the two The Dangerous Games of Dr. Makumakuran stories are more fantastic and dramatic in nature and the sex ends up having to be fairly creative as a result. “Wolf Mask” turns out to be intense and kinky, too, but ultimately the relationship between the men is kind of adorable. Dr. Makumakuran and Other Stories is a great collection of erotic gay manga, Matsu exhibiting his skills as a creator whose work can be hot and heavy and still have heart. I hope to see more of his manga translated in the future.


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.

More and More of You and Other Stories

More and More of You and Other StoriesCreator: Takeshi Matsu
Publisher: Bruno Gmünder
ISBN: 9783867877930
Released: November 2014

Takeshi Matsu is a popular creator of gay manga in Japan, his work appealing to both male and female readerships. He initially started out working for shounen magazines, at one point even winning an award for his manga. Matsu moved on to creating erotic gay manga around the age of thirty and was successful enough that he was actually able to make a career of it. It wasn’t until 2014 that any of Matsu’s work was officially translated and released in English. He was one of the nine mangaka featured in Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It which included his short manga “Kannai’s Dilemma,” and he became the first creator after Gengoroh Tagame to have a major release of gay manga printed in English. More and More of You and Other Stories, published by the Germany-based Bruno Gmünder as part of its Gay Manga line, collects several of Matsu’ self-published doujinshi in a single volume for the very first time. Although the individual manga are available in Japanese, the anthology itself is an original English-language release.

More and More of You and Other Stories collects four of Matsu’s manga, beginning with the titular and longest, “More and More of You.” It’s a surprisingly sweet and even romantic story about a young man named Kosuke who is in love with his childhood friend and neighbor Shokichi, who just so happens to now be one of his high school teachers as well. Sho actually returns his feelings, although neither one of the men has admitted it to the other, and the romantic inclinations of some of Kosuke’s classmates only complicate matters further. “Go West” is an erotically charged parody of the Chinese classic The Journey to the West, following the sexual escapades and battles of Sanzo and his small crew as they cruise their way through the gay clubs from Ni-chōme to Doyama-chō. Things get a little heated in the kitchen and in the bedroom when two cooks of rival cuisines begin dating in “Recipe for Love” while “Tales from the Kitchen” features several autobiographically-based gag manga.

Because More and More of You and Other Stories is a collection of erotic doujinshi, it’s not too surprising that each chapter somehow incorporates the characters’ masturbatory fantasies or other sexual encounters. Matsu’s men tend to be lanky, muscular, and very well-endowed. More and More of You and Other Stories can be explicit, but there’s also a lot of playfulness and humor to the sex. Even when the plot includes drama and conflict, ultimately Matsu’s manga is delightfully upbeat and sometimes even hilarious. As just one example, the absolutely ridiculous pillow talk of “Recipe for Love” as the two men rhapsodize about their lover’s body in terms of food is highly amusing. A few of the jokes and references made in “Go West” will make more sense to readers who have at least passing familiarity with The Journey to the West, but no prior knowledge is needed to appreciate the impressive sexual prowess and the rather interesting, psychically-enhanced sexual abilities and powers of the characters.

It’s very clear that Matsu enjoyed creating the manga collected in More and More of You and Other Stories. Because the selections were originally all self-published, he had the freedom to develop the works exactly in the way that he wanted and chose to do. As a result More and More of You and Other Stores is both a fun and funny volume. Even the manga included that aren’t primarily comedies have humor and charm to them. The characters are likeable and by and large are obviously enjoying all of the sex that they are having. Another thing that I particularly welcomed about More and More of You and Other Stories is that in part it’s a food manga, which I love. I also happen to have an interest in The Journey to the West in its various incarnations, so it was as if More and More of You and Other Stories was made with me in mind. In the afterword Matsu mentions that he hopes to have the opportunity to release additional collections of his manga in English; I know that I’d certainly like to see them!

Random Musings: Two from Tagame

Endless GameGengoroh Tagame is an extraordinarily important creator of gay erotic art and manga. He is extremely influential in Japan, but his talent is also recognized worldwide. Tagame’s work has been published in French, Spanish, and Italian, but it wasn’t until 2012 that any of his manga received an English-language release when “Standing Ovations” was collected in the third issue of the erotic comics zine Thickness.

There was a persistent rumor that Tagame didn’t want his work to be published in English, which may have been one of the reasons it took so long for a major release of Tagame’s manga to emerge. Happily, that rumor was unfounded and not at all true; 2013 saw the publication of The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga, which collected stories from over a decade of Tagame’s output.

In part, The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame and the efforts of its editor Graham Kolbeins and its producer and translator Anne Ishii led to the establishment of Massive, a line of apparel and goods inspired by gay manga (and especially by the work of Tagame and Jiraiya). Massive also imports, produces, and translates gay manga and collaborates directly with creators of gay Japanese art and comics. I’m very much looking forward to Massive and Fantagraphics’ release of Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It in late 2014 which will include interviews, photography, essays, illustrations, and manga. Tagame will be one of the nine artists featured in the volume.

The publication of The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame may have also helped to open the doors for the German publisher Bruno Gmünder to release two more collections of Tagame’s work in English: Endless Game and Gunji. Bruno Gmünder specializes in high quality releases of gay fiction, nonfiction, comics, art, and photography, so Tagame’s manga fits the publishing house perfectly. In addition to the manga themselves, the volumes also include color illustrations by Tagame. Endless Game and Gunji are the first volumes in Bruno Gmünder’s Gay Manga line of comics. 2014 will also see the release and English debuts of works by Takeshi Matsu and Mentaiko Itto, as well as one of Tagame’s most recent manga, Fisherman’s Lodge. Tagame was also included in Bruno Gmünder’s 2014 artbook Raunch.

Interestingly enough, Bruno Gmünder’s release of Endless Game was actually the volume’s world debut. The English-language edition of Endless Game was published in 2013, while the Japanese edition of the manga wasn’t collected until 2014. Endless Game originally began serialization in 2009 and was completed in 2012. I was particularly interested in the volume because prior to its publication I had only had the opportunity to read selections of Tagame’s short manga; all one-hundred-seventy-six pages of Endless Game are devoted to a single story about a young jock named Akira and his descent into prostitution.

GunjiTagame is particularly well-known for the hardcore BDSM themes found in his manga and artwork and he doesn’t shy away from rape scenarios in his work. The sex in Endless Game however, while still being hardcore and exceptionally explicit, is entirely consensual. Granted, Akira might not be aware of the extent to which he is being manipulated. But everything that he does, all of the filthy and degrading acts in which he participates, he does so willingly. Akira has an insatiable sexual appetite and even when he is being taken advantage of, he revels in it. There is still power play and intense sexual scenarios in Endless Game, but the extreme brutality seen in some of the shorter manga collected in The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame is missing, making this volume more approachable as a whole to a wider audience.

Gunji collects two of Tagame’s earlier works: the Gunji tetralogy (“Gunji,” “Scars,” “Flash Rain,” and “Pyre”), which was serialized between 2002 and 2003, as well as a slightly revised version of “The Ballad of Ôeyama” from 2004. Both of those manga had previously been released in Japanese and in French before the English translation was published in 2014. The Gunji series was serialized in the Muscle Man manga magazine. The anthology became a crossover of sorts between boys’ love and gay manga and attracted both female and male readers and creators. Because of this, Tagame deliberately incorporated more boys’ love-esque elements into the story. The men, while still very masculine, have considerably less body hair compared to some of his other works. “Gunji” was initially written as a one-shot story, but proved to be popular enough that Tagame followed it up with a serialized prequel. Whereas sex drove the plot in Endless Game, in the Gunji manga the plot drives the sex. The titular Gunji is a skilled sushi chef who is tormented by the sadistic son of his late master, whom he loved.

“The Ballad of Ôeyama” is a historical period piece set in 10th-century Japan. The short manga was inspired by the military commander Minamoto no Yorimitsu (also known as Raikō) and the legend of the oni Shuten Douji. In the afterword, Tagame notes that “The Ballad of Ôeyama” was also greatly influenced by Osamu Tezuka’s 1969 manga General Onimaru which he enjoyed reading as a child. (Even Tagame is influenced by Tezuka!) Raikō and two of his followers are sent to quell a demon which has been terrorizing the people of Ôeyama but find themselves captured instead. The demon, it turns out, is a shipwrecked foreigner who after being shunned for so long desires human contact and forcibly takes Raikō. Tagame’s reinterpretation of the Shuten Douji myth is spun into a surprisingly romantic tragedy. As with the Gunji tetralogy, while the erotic content is certainly important to “The Ballad of Ôeyama,” the story itself seems to take slightly more precedence in the development of the manga. Granted, Tagame himself would be the first to admit that his work is pornography and he is very candid about that fact. But one of the things that I appreciate the most about Tagame’s manga is that in addition to being gorgeously and viscerally drawn they also have interesting narratives and compelling psychological elements.


Author: Dale Lazarov
Illustrator: Amy Colburn and Dominic Cordoba

Publisher: Bruno Gmünder
ISBN: 9783861878872
Released: September 2008

Out of all of Dale Lazarov’s gay erotic comics collections to have so far been released in print—Sticky, Manly, Nightlife, and Good Sports—my personal favorite is Manly. Released in 2008 by Germany-based publishing house Bruno Gmünder (which specializes in gay fiction, nonfiction, comics, art, and photography), Manly was Lazarov’s second collaboration to be released by the publisher. In the case of Manly, comics writer Lazarov worked closely with Amy Colburn, a homoerotic illustrator from Virginia. Manly was Colburn’s publishing debut as a comics artist. Dominic Cordoba also contributed to the volume by providing the color work. Lazarov self-describes his work as “smart, wholesome gay comics smut” which I feel is an entirely apt description. I would also agree that Manly, which was my introduction to Lazarov’s comics, fits that mold perfectly.

Manly collects three short, unrelated erotic gay comics: “Busted,” “Clinch,” and “Hot Librarian.” I say unrelated because the stories do not share any plot or characters with each other, but they do all feature a pair of masculine men who take great pleasure in each other’s company. The collection opens with “Busted” in which a civilian aids in the arrest of a criminal, gaining the attention of the lead ATF agent working on the case in the process. In “Clinch,” a retired championship boxer and a successful, up-and-coming younger fighter discover their mutual admiration and attraction. Manly closes with “Hot Librarian” which follows a man new to the gay club scene who, after an awkward start, ends up finding love in the stacks instead. As a librarian myself, I couldn’t hep but have a particular fondness for “Hot Librarian,” but I enjoyed all three comics a great deal; “Clinch” appealed to my interest in fighting arts and the leads in “Busted” were incredibly endearing.

As is true of all of Lazarov’s comics, there is no dialogue or narration in Manly meaning that there are very few textual clues to move the narrative along. Instead, there is an even greater reliance on the artwork to carry the story. Fortunately, Colburn is up to the task and handles it very well. Because Manly is largely wordless it allows the comics to be enjoyed by a wider audience without having to worry about language barriers. Since there are no words to slow readers down there is a temptation to rush through the volume as a result, but to do so would mean missing some of the more subtle aspects of the stories—facial expressions, body language, and so on. At the same time, because there is so little text, readers must engage with the comics on an almost participatory level in the creation and interpretation of the stories. And there actually are stories in Manly. I liked that there was a bit of plot to go along with all the sex (and there’s plenty of sex, too.) For me, the balance of those two elements in Manly worked nicely.

Manly is sexy and sweet with a touch of humor and a lot of joy. It celebrates the physical intimacy between its men. The comics are explicit with nothing to hide but I wouldn’t exactly call them graphic, either. It was great to see an emphasis on safer sex and condom use. In fact, in one story the lack of condoms means that the men have to get a little more creative in their play. Manly is sex-positive and the delight the men find with each other is wonderful. I was consistently left with a smile and even an occasional chuckle. I liked that the men in Manly actually established relationships with each other. To them the sex was more meaningful than just a casual encounter. Although the men in Manly are all unquestionably masculine, I appreciated the range of ethnicities, ages, and body-types exhibited by the characters. Manly is a great if all too brief collection of gay erotic comics. While the volume remains my favorite, it convinced me to seek out more of Lazarov’s work. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.