Black-Winged Love

Creator: Tomoko Yamashita
U.S. publisher: Netcomics
ISBN: 9781600093241
Released: October 2009
Original release: 2008

So far, only two of Tomoko Yamashita’s works have been released in print in English, both in 2009 and both by Netcomics: Dining Bar Akira and Black-Winged Love. I’ve read and enjoyed both volumes a great deal, but it’s Black-Winged Love that has really stuck with me. In fact, Black-Winged Love, originally published in Japan in 2008, is one of my favorite boys’ love collections and contains some of my absolute favorite short manga. (Though, as with all collections, some of the pieces aren’t as strong as others.) When the subject of the Manga Moveable Feast for August 2013 was decided to be boys’ love, my mind immediately turned to Black-Winged Love. I’ve actually been meaning to review the volume for quite a while now. As a lesser known work from a lesser known publisher (which tends to specialize in manhwa rather than manga), I personally feel that both Yamashita and Black-Winged Love are deserving of more attention and I wanted to share my love.

Black-Winged Love collects seven unrelated short manga by Yamashita along with some fun bonus material to close the volume. The collection opens with “Drive a Nail into Love,” unusual for a boys’ love story in that it is told from the perspective of a gay high school student’s older sister. Next is “It’s My Chocolate!” which captures being the oldest sibling in a large family exceptionally well. “A Villain’s Teeth” shows the relationship between the daughter of a mafia boss and his former second-in-command and explores his devotion to the both of them. In the titular “Black-Winged Love,” a man’s masochistic tendencies and fetishes get in the way of his feelings. Next is “Jump Across That Fire” which follows two students as they become closer in the school library over summer break. “Fool 4 U” features a problematic relationship between two long-time friends. Black-Winged Love concludes with the shortest piece, “Photogenic,” in which a man doesn’t quite get what he was expecting from a male escort service.

None of the stories in Black-Winged Love are tied together by plot and they are all quite different from one another, but many share similar elements. One of the recurring themes in Black-Winged Love is the importance of family—”Drive a Nail into Love,” “It’s My Chocolate!,” and “A Villain’s Teeth” in particular feature atypical families and family situations. As someone who is a queer oldest sibling, I’m especially fond of “It’s My Chocolate!”—never have I come across another boy’ love manga that I so personally and closely identify with. I also happen to read and enjoy Japanese literature, so I appreciate the literary references in Black-Winged Love and how characters connect (or try to connect) through books and reading. In “Jump Across That Fire,” both the title and part of the story are references to Yukio Mishima’s The Sound of Waves. And in “Black-Winged Love,” short works by Edogawa Rampo and Kenzaburō Ōe play a small role.

So, what exactly is it about Black-Winged Love that works so well for me? I like that all of the stories are a little unusual and unexpected while still be very realistic in the portrayal of their characters and their relationships. Black-Winged Love explores hidden feelings that are often forced out into the open. The characters must first come to terms with themselves before they can attempt to come to terms with those around them. Black-Winged Love tends towards the more serious, introspective, and melancholy, but all of the stories and many of the characters exhibit a quirky, dark sense of humor as well. I like that the stories have funnier moments to balance out the morose. Not every one is treated to an ideal happy ending but some of them are. To me that makes Black-Winged Love feel more authentic. Black-Winged Love is a collection that I have read several times already and it continues to be one of my favorite volumes of short manga, boys’ love or otherwise.

My Week in Manga: November 1-November 7, 2010

My News and Reviews

I had a very busy week and wasn’t home much which means I didn’t get much manga reading in, either. However, I did manage to clean my room and completely reorganize my bookcases, getting all the manga that’s been accumulating in boxes onto actual shelves. (Except for Ranma 1/2—I’ve a box it fits in perfectly and being the longest series I own it takes up too much space otherwise.) Granted, they’re all stacked at least two deep but at least now they’re alphabetized and I know where everything is.

This past week featured October’s Bookshelf Overload, which I now know at least one other person enjoys, as well as a book review for Nahoko Uehashi fantasy novel Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. I really enjoyed the book, so I hope more people will check it and its sequel out. Maybe then Arthur A. Levine Books will publish the rest of the series!

I hit a bit of a technical snag while updating the Resources page and lost a bunch of links and my backup was a bit outdated. Fortunately, I think I’ve managed to recover most if not all of them. And now, like I’ve been promising, there’s a section for podcasts! I’ve only got eight so far—if you know of any others, specifically those manga related, please let me know. My post on podcasts will probably appear sometime next week. That’s the goal anyway.

Completely unrelated to manga, but I’m still excited about it—I was able to attend Jake Shimabukuro’s concert on Thursday night! It was a fantastic performance. Jake is an amazing musician and has a wonderful stage presence, too.

Quick Takes

Black-Winged Love by Tomoko Yamashita. I am in love with this collection. I had previously read Yamashita’s Dining Bar Akira and enjoyed it, but Black-Winged Love is even better. The manga collects seven boys’ love stories plus some fun bonus material. The stories are mostly serious in tone, but each also exhibit a quirky sense of humor. While there’s very little actual sex, the manga is still sexy and smart (I mean, we’ve got references to Yukio Mishima and others in here). I keep changing my mind about which story is my favorite; I liked them all and reread the book several times. I’m setting this manga aside to do a more in-depth review in the future.

Parasyte, Volumes 1-8 by Hitoshi Iwaaki. I spent most of my Saturday reading through this entire series, it’s that good and addicting of a story. It’s fascinating to not only see Izumi change and grow as a person through the series, but to see the Parasites develop and evolve as well. And his relationship with Migi—the Parasite that took over his right arm after failing to take over his brain—is simply great. The two of them must learn to work together and coexist in the same body, but they are definitely both individuals. There’s a lot in the manga that explores human nature, and sometimes it’s the Parasites with their straightforward logic that appear to be the more humane creatures.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, Episodes 1-12 directed by Kenji Kamiyama. As I mentioned above, I recently read and adored the novel this anime series was based on, so I was very excited to watch it. The first few episodes follow the book very closely, but the middle section has been greatly expanded while still holding to the spirit of the original story. The attention to detail in the animation is wonderful, not only for the characters (the eyes in particular are gorgeous and expressive) and beautiful backgrounds, but even the clothing and weaponry. Occasionally though the CG used does feel a bit out of place. I look forward to watching the rest of the series.

Princess Mononoke written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Although I have enjoyed just about every Miyazaki film that I’ve seen, I think that Princess Mononoke is probably my favorite. And at over two hours, it is also one of the longest animated films ever made. I think the thing I love most about this anime is the complexity of the characters and the situations they find themselves in. There’s man versus nature, and man versus man, and it’s not always easy to pick a side and say who is right. With lovely animation and accompanying soundtrack, it is is a wonderful movie and has been adapted well for English speaking audiences.

My Week in Manga: September 6-September 12, 2010

My News and Reviews

I’ve more or less gotten back on schedule after my vacation. Not much news to speak of, although I have some fun things in store for all of you out there. An interesting story about my third volume of Challengers: I went to read it only to discover that it was volume two hiding in the dust jacket of volume three. I have never seen something like this happen before, but the folks at Akadot Retail (from whom I ordered the books several months ago) were marvelous to work with in fixing the situation.

I did review Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Slum Online this past week which I’m pretty sure was a light novel. If you like video games, you’ll probably enjoy it, and if you don’t, you might still enjoy it. There is also another As Seen Online post with links to all sorts of interesting things.

I’ve added a few more sites to the Resources page. I don’t remember how I stumbled across Kathryn Hemmann’s Contemporary Japanese Literature, but it was a very happy accident. The blog features book reviews for everything from nonfiction to manga. I’ve also added Manga Worth Reading, which is a part of Comics Worth Reading sites, A Feminist Otaku, which explores gender issues in manga and anime, and the news and review site Manga Xanadu.

Quick Takes

Challengers, Volumes 3-4 by Hinako Takanaga. The third volume is probably my favorite in the entire series. While there is still plenty of humor and goofiness going on—it is a romantic comedy after all—the last two books take a slightly more serious turn. Though, I do giggle every time I read the phrase “Satan’s rape demons.” Anyway—we get a showdown between Kurokawa’s mother and Souichi, Morinaga admits to Souichi that he’s gay, a female coworker is out to rehabilitate Kurokawa, and Tomoe is given the opportunity to work in America. Challengers is followed by the series The Tyrant Falls in Love which focuses on Morinaga and Souichi.

Dining Bar Akira by Tomoko Yamashita. The first thing I want to say is that I absolutely adore the cover of Dining Bar Akira; it really does a great job of capturing the feeling of the story. Despite having fallen for one another, Akria and Torihara piss each other off so much. They’re complete opposites and it’s hilarious in a very realistic way. Yamashita’s art reminds me a little of est em’s which is not at all a bad thing. In addition to the main story there are also two shorts, “Foggy Scene” and “Riverside Moonlight.” The dialogue is a little hard to follow at times, but I really enjoyed this one-shot.

GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, Volumes 15-20 by Tohru Fujisawa. I do like this series, I do, I do. At this point, most of the material is completely new to me and doesn’t show up in the anime. The craziness, inappropriateness, and well intentioned insanity continues. While Onizuka has won over most of his students by now, he still has plenty to work out with their parents, other teachers, and the school administration. Now my only problem is that I haven’t been able to track down affordable copies of the last five books in the series. I’ll be keeping my eyes open, though.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie The Cowboy Bebop series was one of the first anime that I ever saw and remains one of my favorites. I don’t think the movie is quite as good, but it’s still pretty fantastic. It’s hard to go wrong with awesome music and awesome characters. Apparently, the movie is rated R for violence, which I hadn’t realized until now. The movie doesn’t seem to have the same sense of urgency as the series does, but granted the creators have almost two hours to explore one plot arc as opposed to under a half hour. Still, the movie is pretty great and even if you haven’t seen the series you should still be able to follow everything.