Author: Tanizaki Izumi
Illustrator: Rikuyu Chikako
Format: Novel, Blcd
This novel actually consists of two parts: Dorothy no Yubiwa/ Dorothy’s Ring (the first case) and the first part of Iseult no tsubo/ Iseult’s Pot (the second case). Since “Iseult no tsubo” is incomplete, I won’t go into the details. However, “Iseult no tsubo” is based on the Arthurian legend of Tristan and Iseult and so as you probably can guess, the pot has the power to produce love potion or so the owner said.
The story is staged in an old antique shop known as Ogata (CV: Kosugi Juurouta) and run by Ogata Yuu. The shop is really half open and half closed because Ogata is neither buying nor selling goods. He just tries his best to avoid selling the antiques in the shop. Although he appears to be quite “useless”, he is actually very intelligent and has tremendous knowledge on antiques because he learned a lot about antiques from his grandfather. In addition, he also lived in France for 7 years and could speak French fluently. He actually did not intend to come back to Japan but his father’s sudden death three years ago forced him to come back to inherit the shop. That’s when he met Sanbongi Tsunehiko (CV: Morikubo Shoutarou). Owing to an incident (not related in this novel in details), Sanbongi somehow entered into a deal with Ogata and was raped by him. Although Sanbongi was angry, he also became interested in Ogata’s “business” and maintained contact with him for the rest of the time. The current story actually takes place when the two knew each other for over two years. It all started with a man known as Shiho Yoshiyuki bringing a painting to Ogata. Shiho claimed the painting was an undiscovered work by Renoir and since Ogata used to forge artwork when he was in Paris, he had a good knowledge of paintings and also confirmed that the painting was genuine Renoir and was worth roughly 3 billion yen. However, Shiho was willing to sell the painting to Ogata for only 100 million yen. Of course, Ogata was suspicious about Shiho and he delayed the transactions. However, he slipped and Sanbongi learned about the painting and so he bought the painting from Shiho with 100 million while Ogata was on his way to check out a bowl he was looking for. His friend Katsuramaru said he found the bowl and that Ogata must go to see it immediately or he would miss the chance to get the bowl. Ogata told Sanbongi not to go ahead with the transaction but Sanbongi ignored his warning. In the end, Sanbongi bought the fake painting. Worse was the fact that he didn’t buy the painting with his own money but he borrowed from Saga Shinsuke (CV: Koyasu Takehito) who agreed to lend him the money on condition he paid double in return. Since Sanbongi thought he would make at least 1 billion out of the painting, he signed the deal with Saga. Of course, he was unable to pay the debt since the painting was fake, he had no choice but to turn to Ogata for help. Ogata really had no way to solve the problem except to find the real painting. It wasn’t long before they heard the news that Shiho was arrested upon his entry to Paris. However, the police found only the fake painting on him. It seemed that one of Shiho’s customers tricked him and got the real painting. What’s left was for Ogata and Sanbongi to find the “real painting” before the day when they had to return the debt. If Sanbongi failed to pay up, he would have to repay the debt with his body and become Saga’s lover.
While searching for the painting, Ogata came across a beautiful young man – Shimazu Reisen (CV: Yusa Kouji). He was the son of a ruined noble family and he was actually also searching for the lost Renoir painting. When Ogata saw Shimazu, he was shocked because Shimazu looked exactly like the person whom he loved in the past. Sanbongi also resembled that person but not as much as Shimazu. That’s why Ogata could not let Sanbongi go. Ogata knew Reisen was the one who switched the painting and he wanted to switch the fake painting with Reisen’s real painting. However, when he was at Reisen’s residence, the latter begged him not to take away the painting. In return, Reisen slept with him. Reisen also took the fake painting from Ogata but gave Ogata a goldfish known as Dorothy and asked Ogata to look after Dorothy for him. He said Dorothy would be of help to Ogata but Ogata was a bit confused because what could he do with a goldfish? He couldn’t even kiss it 🙄
Back at Ogata’s shop, since he failed to switch the painting, there was little left but to either get 200 million before the deadline or let Sanbongi be Saga’s lover. Saga had a reputation of loving cosplay and so should Sanbongi become his lover, he would definitely have to dress in all sorts of outfits – nurse, maid, and so forth. No matter what, Ogata would not give Sanbongi up. So, he was prepared to sell some of the antiques in his shop (though he sweared before that he would rather die of hunger than to sell the antiques). Just when they were about to sell the antiques, Sanbongi found a diamond in the Dorothy’s container. Apparently, the diamond, which was worth 300 million, was hidden among the sandstones in Dorothy’s container. By giving Saga the diamond, Sanbongi was freed of debt but that was only the beginning, of what would become a long series.
Again, my synopsis is pretty short because the first story is actually quite “thin”. The case itself is very simple and straightforward but it does a good job laying down all the “hints” for future development. Since the timeline of this story is also very confusing, I’ll make it a bit more clear here. The case of “Dorothy’s Ring” actually takes place in the present but that’s not when the whole series begins. In fact, the series can be split into 5 periods (as follows):
Phase 1: Before Ogata left for Paris. That’s probably the time when he met his first lover. I only guessed but since his childhood friend – Katsuramaru also knew his first lover, he couldn’t have met his first lover in Paris.
Phase 2: Seven years in Paris when he forged paintings.
Phase 3: Three years ago when he returned to Japan and inherited the shop. Sometime later, he met and raped Sanbongi and their “relationship” began.
Phase 4: Summer (Case of Dorothy’s Ring)<br>Phase 5: Fall (Case of Iseult’s Pot).
I think this book is brilliant not because of the plot (as the plot so far is still quite thin) but the potential of the plot. I love antiques though I’m quite certain I’ll never have enough money to possess them. That’s why this book is fascinating because every case seems to involve a piece of antique. With regard to the painting though, it’s a shame the author did not try to go more deeply into the painting, like the content or the history behind it. However, I’m looking forward to Iseult’s Pot because we all know the story behind Tristan and Iseult and so it will be interesting when ancient tales cross with modern reality. Another major factor that makes me love this book is the set of characters that appeared so far. Most of the Japanese reviewers criticized this book because they thought the seme was too cunning. He had no loyalty whatsoever and he would sleep around with people but he would not let his uke sleep with another man. I will talk more about this when I introduce the characters more deeply below. I also have problem with this setting (and that’s why I try to avoid Tanizaki sensei’s books because she always starts with rape and her seme usually ignores the feelings of the uke and goes ahead with smex at their own pace.). However in this book, I think it’s acceptable because the two are NOT LOVERS ^^;;
Sanbongi is a very very interesting uke. Though he might seem a bit stupid in my review ^^;; he’s actually very intelligent. He graduated from Tokyo University and is working at a top notch bank. He’s very smart but stingy and the man he loves the most on earth is the guy whose face is printed on the yen bills ^^;; Although he’s just about 25-26 (again my guess from the description in the book), he’s already accumulated over 100 million yen in wealth (but less than 200 million). Unfortunately, such an intelligent guy is often blinded by his greed for wealth and ended up doing “stupid things”. The incident with Ogata three years ago cost him his virginity and the incident now almost cost him his dignity ^^;; Nevertheless, he’s very beautiful and interesting. I’m also curious about his past because so far, we know nothing about him except his passion for money. Yet why did he love money so much? Is it just something that’s innate or did he have some tragic past which made him long for money? Also, he’s not good with people and that’s why until he met Ogata, he never slept with anyone. Probably because Ogata was the only person whom he ever slept with, he seemed to have zero knowledge about sex and that’s very interesting because he often asked very simple questions. I’m sure you’ll laugh at the beginning of “Iseult’s Pot” because he did not even know about biyaku (love potion) and Ogata was explaining to him as if he were an elementary school kid. Again, after that “rape”, he never let Ogata touch him again, until this case. I hope in the future, the author will elaborate more on Sanbongi’s past.
Ogata’s the BIGGEST mystery of the whole story ^^;; He’s a very attractive person who’s smart, very knowledgeable in art, and can do almost anything if he wanted but had no energy to do anything with the shop. He had a lover in the past whom he loved but he lost his lover and ever since then, he would sleep with people who looked similar to his lover. He raped Sanbongi and he almost “raped” Reisen as well… well in Reisen’s case it’s a bit difficult because he didn’t seem to be “unwilling” either. At anyrate, Ogata was a rather “terrible” person and it seemed to me he was WORSE than the villain (?) in this story a.k.a. Saga. At least Saga did not “rape” Sanbongi and was careful enough to avoid Reisen. Having said that though, I can’t dislike Ogata … even though he was such a horrible person. That’s because he’s too interesting ^^;; and I also like the way he’s possessive of Sanbongi. If you come to think of it, it’s actually quite common among males to want to sleep with many women but wouldn’t let anyone touch his own wife. The contrast between the way he slept with Reisen and Sanbongi actually showed the special position of Sanbongi in his heart. Since they weren’t exactly “lovers” to begin with, I can’t really say Ogata cheated on Sanbongi. Compared to Kamisono in Koi Dorobo wo Sagase, I think Ogata is much better….but that’s because I liked him from the beginning of the book.
In the synopsis I rarely talked about Katsuramaru but he’s actually quite an important character. He’s Ogata’s childhood friend and the owner of a large and successful antique shop (though he’s not the most useful person at the shop). It’s quite obvious to EVERYONE that he likes Ogata but it’s also very obvious that Ogata doesn’t see him anymore than a childhood friend. Katsuramaru is actually a rather tragic character (?) because he’s stuck in a very long (over 20 years) and unfruitful one-sided love. However, he’s such a funny person that you can’t help but love and laugh at him. He speaks in a very feminine way but that’s only in front of Ogata and his explicit dislike for Sanbongi is also fascinating.
He’s probably the smartest (?) of all the villians (?) who appeared in the story so far for he tricked the experienced conman Shiho. Actually none of the person in this story is a decent human ^^;; (that’s why the story is interesting). However among all, he’s probably the most mysterious, beautiful, and difficult person. He was the descendent of a crumbling noble family and he lived alone in the old mansion. He was only 20 at the time of the case but it seemed he was used to sleeping with men. For him, antiques would never be gone forever once they were sold but his body would never leave him… so he would rather sleep with men (if possible) than to let go of the antiques. Actually when he got the fake painting from Ogata, he also sold it in New York and earned some money so he could keep the real painting because that belonged to his family and that’s also what his family had been searching for for a very long time. I have a feeling he never tasted love but when he was held so gently by Ogata, he certainly felt something and that’s why he gave Ogata the diamond on “Dorothy’s ring” as the gift in return for the painting.
Shiho & Saga are pretty tragic because one got caught and was tricked himself while the other failed to get his honey – Sanbongi and later was forced to give up the diamond at just 100 million (thats’ told in the second case). So, Saga really made nothing out of the Dorothy’s Case. However, he had no one but himself to blame because he actually tried to trick Sanbongi as well. He knew Sanbongi was thinking about buying the painting and so he approached Sanbongi and tried to lend him the money knowing Sanbongi would not be able to pay back because the painting was a fake. He also lent money to Reisen but was tricked by Reisen as well ^^;; That’s why Reisen was the most intelligent of all.
Actually, there are many other fascinating characters that will keep rolling out later in the story and it seemed Ogata’s grandfather was just as interesting as his grandchild.
If you dislike seme sleeping around or can’t accept “rape” at all, stay away from this book (and all of Tanizaki sensei’s books basically). However, if you don’t mind, then I highly recommend this book as the setting is very interesting, and so are the characters.