Author: Himawari Souya
Format: Manga, Blcd
This manga was first published in 2001 but it’s going to be dramatized by Intercommunications next February!! I intended to only write a short review for this manga initially but I changed my mind and write a detailed review to celebrate the coming of the BLCD (which will only cover Sango & Nekoyanagi’s story). This is known as the iromachi (similar to modern day red light district) because the story took place in a fantasy setting that resembled the ancient red-light district of Japan. The whole district is isolated from the rest of the world and the prostitutes working there are not allowed to leave without permit. Many children were sold to become prostitutes to pay off their family debts and in this series, we get to see the life of a few of these prostitutes.
!!SHOTA WARNING !!
The ages of the couple vary but most of the uke are YOUNG. Sango is around 13-14 at the beginning of the story so it’s okay (13 is the age of consent in Japan I think but it’s about to change I’ve heard). Momiji looks around 6-7 to me and Asagi looks around 9-10 for me.
This manga contains various couples (with various stories) and they are quite smartly linked together. The major couple is Sango (CV: Shimowada Hiroki) and Nekoyanagi (CV: Kondou Takashi) and they appear in both volume 1 (Kago no nada de) and volume 2 (Kago no hana). To make summarizing easy, I will review both volumes at the same time. Sango and Nekoyanagi are childhood friends and the best of friends. They have been always together but neither of them realize they’re “in love” with each other, until by chance, a group of diplomats came to Iromachi. The leader of the group had eyes on Sango and wanted to spend the night with him. However, while having sex, he demanded Nekoyanagi to be in the same room. For some reason when Nekoyanagi was around, Sango did not want to raise his voice because he did not want Nekoyanagi to hear him moan. At the same time, Nekoyanagi also felt very embarrassed when he saw the seductive side of Sango. After the first night, things began to change. Nekoyanagi’s feelings began to stir and Sango was also worried that Nekoyanagi would no longer treat him as his friend. Of course, Nekoyanagi was not thinking much when he said he did not want to sleep with the prostitutes in Iromachi, but that hurt Santo a lot because he was also one of the prostitutes. It’s a simple action here but it already reflected for Sango, Nekoyanagi was more than a friend. The second night, the diplomat also demanded to sleep with Sango, who did not want to sleep with him anymore because he knew if he did, Nekoyanagi would be there. Turned out it was right, the diplomat demanded Nekoyanagi to be there and even asked him to hand water over in the middle of the sex. Worse, he gave Sango biyaku that made Sango even more irropoi than usual. In the end, Nekoyanagi could not watch any longer and Sango also felt very upset…to the extent he threw himself into the pond even when it was freezing cold. At that point, their relationships began to change.
In the second volume, Sango and Nekoyanagi were still “friends” but one night, Nekoyanagi went drinking and when he was drunk, he finally confessed his feelings to Sango but nothing happened because he fell asleep soon after. After that, Nekoyanagi left for three weeks for work. In the meantime, Sango saw a bunch of guys bullying a young girl. He went to her rescue but himself got caught and raped instead. When he was eventually found, he suffered broken ribs and other injurires. Nekoyanagi was very angry that Sango got into trouble while he was away and could not protect him. Ironically, this was the chance that enabled Sango to meet the doctor and to start studying medicine with the doctor. However, when he was studying with the doctor, Nekoyanagi got jealous and thought there was something going on. Finally, when he found out there was really nothing, he relaxed and the two slept together for the first time. Later on, when Sango repaid all the debts, he became the doctor in Iromachi and spent the rest of his life between curing the invalid and keeping Nekoyanagi company ^0^.
In addition to this story, there are three other short stories collected in these two volumes. I’m sorry I am going to be brief with the summaries of the short stories because I wrote A VERY LONG VERSION but it VANISHED accidentally (weep). Took me an HOUR to write and it’s all LOST (can’t believe it).
Koi wa kokokara
Ukon is a reporter who wrote very offensive reviews about the prostitutes titled “Keisei Jobou Hiwa” (probably what became the title of this manga series) at Iromachi and the girls were complaining. Momiji overheard the quarrel and was pissed off by Ukon’s attitude. So, he challenged Ukon to a sex duel (?) ^_^;; to show Ukon that the prostitutes at Iromachi were not to be made fun of. While sleeping with Ukon, Momiji found he was way more gentle than his usual customers. Ukon also developed some special feelings for Momiji and admitted his defeat and withrew his offensive reviews. Soon after, Momiji became weird (boy in love) and Ukon could not sleep with other women. Eventually, Ukon confessed openly to Momiji his feelings and worked hard to save money so he could be with Momiji (he even started translated foreign books though he disliked doing that).
The is the story between Seiji, one of the guards at the gate of the city wall and a prostitute Asagi. If you recall in the beginning of the main story when Sango said prostitutes were not allowed to climb the wall to meet the guards because one prostitute escaped before, that was Asagi. Asagi and Seiji were in love and Asagi’s debt would soon be paid off. Just before that though, unfortunately, one of the customers liked Asagi a lot and offered to buy him off with twice the money of the debt. The night before Asagi was due to leave with the customer, he asked Seiji to sleep with him out of love. Then, Seiji asked Asagi to run away with him and the two escaped from Iromachi.
The last and my favorite of the three short stories. This is the romance between Shirotae, the prostitute and Bokusui sensei, a famous artist. Shirotae hated artists because his father was a very poor artist who sold his own son for money to buy art materials. Shirotae always hoped his father would come back for him as promised but his father never came back. After sleeping with Bokusui, the latter told him that he was really a student of his father and he was there to come to bring him back. His father passed away though but drew a picture of Shirotae based on his own imagination of his son when he would grow up. Bokusui fell in love with the Shirotae in the painting, and even more when he saw the real Shirotae. He then asked Shirotae to forgive his father. Out of the three short stories, I actually like this one the best because both the dialogues and monologues are beautiful, especially this part when Shirotae talked about his heart being painted pitch black as a result of his father’s betrayal.
Despite throwing in a nice mix of comedy, this story is a TRAGEDY and it’s not the story for everyone. If you can’t stand seeing small children being the object of a sex trade, this is definitely not the story for you. What I love about this story is the fact that uke are strong and they can smile despite their unfortunate circumstances. This is especially true in the cases of Sango and Momiji. They keep on smiling or even trying to find pride in what they do despite knowing what they do is really shameful and being looked down upon by the rest of the world. When Sango emerged from a prostitute to a doctor, he also became the model of many other prostitutes in Iromachi because he gave them hope, the hope that even a prostitute could become something in the future as long as he worked hard for it (this part was more explained in volume 3). Another strong point of this manga is the fact that it has a very nice tempo and flow such that you will not feel tired or feel the story is written simply because the author wants to draw H (though there’s LOTS OF H scenes) in this manga. The artwork is more clear-cut in monochrome than the more dreamy atmosphere on the cover but it’s cute nonetheless. Again, this manga is SHOTA and unless you like Shota artwork, you won’t like this I suppose.
The love between Nekoyanagi and Sango is very romantic because while Sango slept with numerous number of men, he never slept with Nekoyanagi until the very end when they firmly became lovers and were sure about the feelings for each other. I like the way this story is laid out because if Nekoyanagi just raped Sango and forced himself onto Sango (as we so often see in the BL world), it would be hard to mend the relationship later. The fact that Nekoyanagi was so cute and pure and innocent certainly gave Sango something to cling onto. It’s this purity in Nekoyanagi that hurt Sango but also saved Sango. The scene where Sango was being caught and Nekoyanagi went to search for him was very touching… those emotions, it was love beyond doubt. As I said before, Sango is a very tough guy. Despite his circumstances, he’s the one who’s cheering up and looking after Nekoyanagi all the time (though he’s younger). He’s apparently very intelligent too (to be able to study to become a doctor) and persistent. I like uke who are strong and determined and knows what he wants. As he grows older, he’ll catch up in height with Nekoyanagi and that part is cute as well ^_^;;
Nekoyanagi is like a stupid cat ^_^;; Probably because he’s never slept with ANYONE before sleeping with Sango (meaning he’s a virgin till around 15-16), he’s extremely innocent (compared to all the prostitutes around him) to the extent he seems a bit childish. However, I like seme who’re innocent and uke who’re more mature because in that way, there’s a nice balance of power in the relationship. Also, the innocence in Nekoyanagi renders him much more power because everyword and action, it’s not just to please his uke but from the bottom of his heart. This couple is nice >v<… can’t wait to listen to the CD. As for the cast, since it’s Intercommunications releasing it, I put my money on Hirakawa or even Hatano (if he’s ready for a main) but in my heart, this stupid cat is of course best voiced by MY stupid cat XDD but I’m sure he won’t be in time for this.
While Sango and Nekoyanagi are cute, I like Ukon and Momiji the best because both of them are SO CUTE (screams). I absolutely love the “sex duel” when both think the other are good :D. Momiji is a very tough kid and I like the fact that he can take pride even in a career as a prostitute ;__; but it’s SO SAD to see a 6 or 7 year old saying those words. Ukon…well, let’s just say he’s one erotic reporter who got his heart stolen by the cute cute Momiji XD.
My least favorite story and my least favorite couple (sweat). Speechless seme and genki uke and a very blend story. I suppose it’s only function is to explain why the prostitutes were not allowed onto the gate later on (explode).
I actually don’t like the plot of Bokusui x Shirotae ‘s story because frankly, I can’t believe a hatred for some many years can easily vanish in one night and Shirotae can so easily forgive his father. However, this remain my favorite short story nonetheless because the wordings are very beautiful. As I quoted in the summary, the use of colors to describe Shirotae’s feelings was brilliant and it was very touching. The part where Shirotae said Bokusui need not be gentle because he was already “used” to being pierced through by men…that certainly invited tears. If this manga got licensed (though I doubt it ever will given the ages of the uke), I wonder how this story will be translated. It would be wonderful if the translator could capture the beauty of the monologues (and dialogues).
This manga targets a very special group of audience like myself, who can stomach shota, stomach seeing young children as sex slaves (but only in the fantasy world of BL) without throwing the manga against the wall. If you don’t think you can stand these, please don’t read this manga because the last thing I want is to see people bashing a manga because of the taboo. Certainly this author is not justifying the actions of the people in her story (which is good)… on the contrary, she’s trying to show the pain of the children and how they cope with this pain. In the shota genre, works of this quality is quite rare because most shota are plotless (and many good authors stay away from shota). I personally thought I graduated from the shota genre because of the lack of good stories but this manga certainly made me reconsider my decision.