Black Sun by Uki Ogasawara Manga Review

Title: Black Sun

Author: Uki Ogasawara

Publisher: 801 Media

ISBN:  9781934129272

May Contain Spoilers

I was disappointed with this book.  After looking forward to it since seeing the super sexy cover at the 801 booth at Anime Expo, the reading experience was a bit of a let down. The art is gorgeous, but I did not care for the story at all.

Leonard is the commanding officer of Gerun Fortress, and when it falls to the invading hordes of enemy warriors, he’s left with little choice but to surrender.  Giving himself up to the fierce General Jamal Jan, he agrees to suffer humiliation and indignities in order to stop the massacre of his men.  Will he ever find freedom from the chains that now bind him?

This book is chock full of BL plot devices that I don’t care for.  After Leonard agrees to lay down his arms in order to save his men, he is publically humiliated by Jamal in a loathsome show of power.  This then seems to be the theme of the story – forced sex committed time and again while a character is helpless to fight back against it.  Bizarrely, the rapes often occur in public, with an audience of indifferent witnesses.  That is just so far from what is acceptable that I couldn’t even look past it in a work of fiction.  Ick.

Leonard is a pious Monastic Knight, and his world comes crashing around him when Jamal’s troops descend upon his coastal fortress.  Having been left in command by Lord Francis, a man he served with great devotion, Leonard doesn’t believe that he’s up to the task of commanding the fort.  Francis is off to help defend another fort, taking a large body of soldiers with him.  When Jamal and his men arrive, they face a nearly empty garrison, and it’s child’s play breaching the walls.  Only Leonard’s agreement to sacrifice himself earns the freedom, and safety, of his men.

Jamal was a slave, who was raised by the king of his country and elevated to a general in the army.  He’s a renowned warrior, fearless and cunning, and he quickly subdues his enemies.  He’s infatuated by Leonard after defeating him, and vows to take him back to his homeland as his prisoner.  When he arrives home, the king is furious that he’s allowed Leonard’s troops to escape, and that he’s brought the knight back for his own pleasures.  Most of the king’s fury seems to be fanned by Nicolaides, the king’s consort and faithful servant.  He has ulterior motives, which also include public indecency.  What is with these guys?

The plot, what there is of it, is meandering and often confusing.  There are sudden flashbacks, or Leonard is given to flights of fancy, that are jarring and disrupt the flow of events.  There is a lack of cohesion, and the ending is abrupt and painfully unsatisfying.

The art kept me turning the pages.  The characters designs are very attractive; these are muscled, lean men who looked like they could stand up to a battle or two.  The sex scenes are graphic and a little too intense for my tastes.  If they weren’t so degrading, I might have liked them more.   The setting is lush and exotic, and the surroundings were much more romantic than the story itself.

Grade: C-

Rated for Mature

Review copy provided by 801 Media

The Devil’s Secret by Hinako Takanaga Manga Review

Title:  The Devil’s Secret

Author:  Hinako Takanaga

Publisher:  801 Media

ISBN:  9781934129227

May Contain Spoilers

Father Mauro’s peaceful life is shattered when he finds Raoul.  Though he’s wounded and helpless, Mauro is reluctant to assist him because of his horns and tail.  Despite his suspicion that he’s a demon, Mauro’s gentle nature won’t let him turn the being away, and he takes him in against his better judgement.  Soon, Mauro’s will is being tested as the playful Raoul attempts to seduce his rescuer.  Will Mauro be able to resist Raoul’s flirtations?

How about a great big no!  Father Mauro is soon putty in Raoul’s hands, and during their journey into love, they discover that Raoul is an incubus.  Yay!  If this guy doesn’t have sex on a regular basis, he withers up and dies!  You had better be prepared, Father Mauro, because you are going to have to sacrifice your soul, or at the very least, your body, to this demonic guy!

Focusing on comedy, the story of Raoul and Mauro is light-hearted and fun.  Introducing Raoul’s older brother in the second chapter to throw a road block up in front of the two lovers, they have to fend off Baldur’s attempts to take Raoul back to the demon realm.  Though older and more powerful, Baldur isn’t much of a threat for the two, being amazingly incompetent for the task he’s been sent to complete.  His presence acts more as a glue to bind them together than as a wedge to drive them apart. 

Mauro is, predictably, gentle and timid, and he’s soon the victim of Raoul’s overpowering attentions.  Raoul is impish and mischievously determined to win over Mauro, who doesn’t stand a chance against his new roommate’s amorous advances.  The fast pacing keeps the action moving along, and these chapters just zip by. 

There are also two unrelated chapters, “Let’s Do Something Useless!” and “Before Winter Comes,” which was my favorite.  When Tomono learns, right before exams, that his best friend is in love with him, he’s shocked and doesn’t know what to do.  On the day their graduation, Yuba tells him that he doesn’t think his feelings for Tomono will ever change, and that he’ll wait for him to make up his mind.  They each go off to different colleges, and over the next year, Yuba continues to send Tomono text messages.  Tomono takes Yuba’s messages for granted, until the day he tries to send one back, and learns that his number is no longer in service.  What happened to Yuba?  A sweet story, one that I really got caught up in. 

There is also a bonus chapter featuring Baldur and his romantic misadventures with the dashing, less than truthful Zahan.

Grade: B

Rated for Mature

Review copy provided by 801 Media

June/801 Media at AX08

June/801 panels are a test of stamina, as they run through the titles so swiftly that they make your head spin.  Here is what I was able to get –

801 -

Hey, Class President

Dog x Cat

June -

Desire Dangerous Feelings

Moonlit Promise

Tricky Prince

Double Trouble

Where has Love Gone

Then Comes Love

Pure Heart

The Way to Heaven

Clan of Nakagamis #2

Object of My Affection

Love/Knot

The Longest Time

Live for Love

Eat or Be Eaten

The Spiral of Sand

Honey/Chocolate

Manhattan Love Story

Planet of Earthquake

Cut

The Lonely Egoist

When the Heavens Smile

Suggestive Eyes

Hey Sensei!

Love Syndrome

Love Potion

Someone asked about the fourth volume of Only the Ring Finger Knows – they are working on it.  A couple of titles are still caught up in the Biblos bankruptcy purgatory – they are working on them on a title by title basis.  Bad news about this?  Their production schedule is all full for 2009, so the earliest we will see some of the titles is 2010.

Their new online store, Yaoi Club, was also briefly discussed.  It opens on Sept 10, but you can sign up for updates at www.yaoi-club.com, and receive a 15% off coupon!

I will update the list with authors, and hopefully some additional title information once I have a tiny bit more time.  Sorry!