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.

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!

Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It

Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make ItEditor: Anne Ishii, Chip Kidd, and Graham Kolbeins
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
ISBN: 9781606997857
Released: December 2014

The first major publication of gay manga to be printed in English was The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga. Soon after its release a new project—a gay manga anthology called Massive—was announced by the same team that worked on Tagame’s debut English collection. Originally intended to be released by PictureBox, the anthology was temporarily orphaned when the publisher ceased releasing comics before the volume was completed. I was thrilled when Fantagraphics took on the project. Edited by Anne Ishii, Chip Kidd, and Graham Kolbeins, Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It became one of my most anticipated releases of 2014. Gay manga is an extremely underrepresented genre of manga in English. Massive, like The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame before it, is a groundbreaking work. Through manga, interviews, photography, and essays, the anthology introduces nine of the genre’s most influential, respected, and promising creators to an English-reading audience.

The volume’s table of contents is formed by a gallery of photographs paired with full-page color pin-ups illustrated by each of the contributors to Massive: Gengoroh Tagame, Inu Yoshi, Kumada Poohsuke, Takeshi Matsu, Jiraiya, Gai Mizuki, Fumi Miyabi, Seizoh Ebisubashi, and Kazuhide Ichikawa. This is followed by introductory essays written by each of the three editors. Kidd’s “It Feels Too Good” conveys the excitement over the fact that a volume like Massive even exists, while Ishii reveals some of the steps it took to publish the material in “Seeking English Translator.” Kolbeins essay “Glocalizing Gei Manga” is particularly enlightening, providing a greater context for Massive and a brief overview of the history of gay manga and how the volume fits into it. Also included is a timeline of male-male sexuality in Japanese culture, a list of recommended readings, and numerous photographs and illustrations. However, the real meat of the collection is the individual profiles of each of the creators introducing their work and personal histories and exploring their careers and the impacts they have made on the genre of gay erotic manga. The other major highlight of Massive is the inclusion of examples of their manga.

For most of the contributors, Massive marks their debut in English. Excluding Tagame, who has thus far had four collections published, Matsu is the only creator to have had a major release in English. And except for Jiraiya’s “Caveman Guu,” which was previously printed separately, all of the manga collected in Massive is being translated into English for the first time. Some are excerpts of longer works, like Tagame’s Do You Remember South Island P.O.W. Camp? and Poohsuke’s Dreams of the New Century Theatre, while others are shorter, standalone stories. There is humor and playfulness to be found in Yoshi’s “Kandagawa-Kun” and Matsu’s “Kannai’s Dilemma,” more dubious encounters in Mizuki’s “Fantasy and Jump Rope,” Ebisubashi’s “Mr. Tokugawa,” and Ichikawa’s “Yakuza Godfathers”, and even mythological inspiration in Miyabe’s “Tengudake.” The manga collected in Massive is most definitely erotic in nature. Some of the selections are simply suggestive, but many feature explicit, uncensored, and uninhibited sex between hypermasculine, muscular, and otherwise large-bodied men. It is called Massive for a reason, after all.

The profiles of the creators included in Massive are just as engaging as the manga that has been collected. The volume provides an incredibly valuable look into the creation of gay erotic manga and art. Interestingly enough, several of the contributors mention that they would like to create gay manga without as much erotic content, but to successfully do so would be difficult due to the demands of their audience and what is expected from the genre of gay manga as a whole. The artists address many of the same subjects in their interviews but they each bring their own perspective to the discussion. It’s fascinating to learn about how the manga industry has changed and continues to change, the impact and challenges presented by foreign scanlations of manga, the benefits of working within the manga industry or independently outside of it, the use and misappropriation of the term bara both in Japan and in the West, and the relationship between gay manga and boys’ love manga, among many other topics. Massive truly is a spectacular volume and highly recommended for anyone interested in gay manga, its history, and its creators; it’s a fantastic introduction to the genre.