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I read these back-to-back several months ago .... it's possible that I may have forgotten a point or two, but I want to write them up already!

In Endless Comfort, a handsome, wealthy businessman named Kuzumi returns to his luxurious childhood home after the death of his beloved mother. There he meets Yuu, the troubled younger man who is training and handling Kuzumi's mother's prize-winning Great Danes, and it's essentially love at first sight.

In No Touching at All, introverted office worker Shima finds himself getting unexpected attention from his rough-around-the-edges boss, Togawa. At first, both of them assume that it's just Togawa's typically friendly, nosy approach to a shy new employee. They both seem somewhat surprised when it turns into more than that, and Togawa's past turns out to have even more dark corners as Shima's does.

In both stories, two men with troubled pasts find solace in each other. But it's a good thing that I read Endless Comfort first, or I would have been rather impatient with it. No Touching at All turned out to be much more appealing to me. Endless Comfort seems much more like a traditional m/f romance: lonely, wealthy man falls for attractive young servant in his parents' home. The only difference is that it's not his younger sibling's governess or his late mother's paid companion/nurse. The lush, elegant artwork supports this feeling: the setting is gracious and aesthetic in the extreme. In No Touching at All, despite the boss/subordinate situation, the two men are closer to equals and have to deal with power issues in a fairly explicit fashion. The drawing style here is much simpler and rougher - more like, say, Mushishi - and the setting is gritty and urban: the office, the subway, public parks, and Shima's messy little apartment.

 

Two Yaoi One-Shots: Endless Comfort and No Touching At All (review)

Endless Comfort is visually lovely, no doubt about it, and there's a lot of charm to the characters (and I'm including the beautifully drawn dogs in that). But although Yuu is definitely not a minor, he still comes across to me as the vulnerable, broken boy, and Kuzumi, despite his melancholy, is clearly a powerful, successful adult. His intentions toward Yuu are beneficent, but these are not equal partners. Yuu's affection and skills with the dogs cheer Kuzumi up and warm his heart, but Yuu is not going to be shouldering any of his benefactor/employer's burdens anytime soon - if ever. And Yuu's past troubles - childhood abuse by his stepfather - make me feel a little squicky about his burgeoning relationship with Kuzumi. I have a feeling that some of this is colored by my own age: it's impossible for me to look at Yuu, as illustrated, and think anything other than "what a kid" - especially in contrast to how Kuzumi is drawn.

I was a little surprised by how much I liked No Touching at All. The story actually "goes there" with the inherent imbalance of a boss/employee relationship: at one point, Togawa manipulates Shima by threatening him with being fired. But although Shima is psychologically a mess and disturbingly passive about accepting Togawa's advances, he's stubborn and prickly and and a survivor. No huge trauma is given as a reason for his extreme introversion: although he was caught in a painful situation that cost him his previous job, it's pretty clear that he has had this personality for far longer than that. Togawa, on the other hand, is brash and sociable on the surface, but vulnerable and needy underneath. Their awkward relationship becomes acutely painful toward the end, when Shima breaks it up by refusing to go with Togawa when he's transferred out of town, but the final resolution was very satisfying to me. It's nowhere near a perfect relationship, but they're each well on their way to becoming the other's missing half. And the scene where they finally confess their feelings - as the snow comes down! - is very beautiful in its own right.

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( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
lady_ganesh
Sep. 10th, 2011 03:21 am (UTC)
I cried like an idiot at No Touching at All. A damn idiot.
chomiji
Sep. 10th, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC)

Those guys really earned their happy ending! After I finished, I kept turning back to the snow scene. And the little epilogue was just delightful.

lady_ganesh
Sep. 10th, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC)
Yes. Did you get this from octopedingenue's rec? There's doujin too!

Edited at 2011-09-10 05:14 pm (UTC)
chomiji
Sep. 18th, 2011 02:45 am (UTC)

Ack, somehow I never got back to this comment of yours about No Touching at All.

Yes, I imagine I did get this from octopedingenue! And ... doujinshi? Where?!

lady_ganesh
Sep. 18th, 2011 03:04 am (UTC)
Here! I really need to download them.
whymzycal
Sep. 10th, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
I really, really liked No Touching at All. A lot.
chomiji
Sep. 10th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC)

It really grabbed me and kept touching me! At first I was kind of horrified by Togawa's pushiness, but Shima kept pushing back. The tension between them was really well done. The resolution was so strong and so sweet because of that.

smillaraaq
Sep. 10th, 2011 05:32 am (UTC)
Yay, more reviews! <3

I enjoyed reading them both, but EC was just a little too fluffy-sweet to be a keeper for me; NTAA is something I'll definitely reread. (Did the print version include the side-story doujinshi about Deguchi and Onoda? If not, you'll want to read those online; they're also quite good.)

Yuu looking younger than Kuzumi didn't bother me quite so much since he still looked adequately post-adolescent; my squick doesn't kick in so strongly unless the uke characters are so short and slight and big-eyed baby-faced that they look like they've barely even hit puberty. (Shuichi in Gravitation, for instance, or Misaki in Junjou Romantica) I'm not so fussed by characters who look distinctly younger than the seme so long as they still seem to be old enough to give consent -- much as I love it when both partners seem to be closer age peers, the younger/prettier-uke convention is so commonplace that I'm just fairly relieved when they do at least look like they're plausibly in their late teens. (The fluffy oneshot I've enjoyed the most in recent reading, Cafe Latte Rhapsody, has a in interesting subversion of the usual cliches -- the uke is older, but such a short and baby-faced boyish type that people assume he's younger than he is; the seme is so imposingly tall and stern-faced that people assume he's much older, and scarier, when he's actually just a sensitive woobie college kid. The uke also actually self-identifies as gay and is cautiously closeted at work, and it's presented in a fairly realistic way rather than as fodder for Epic Melodrama...all in all, rather unusual and refreshingly so for a fluffy BL one-shot!)

I loved Yoneda's artwork so much -- her style is so quirkily distinct and such a pleasant change of pace from the more cookie-cutter look of some BL mangaka. And Togawa's really got something of a Kenren-ish (or maybe more AU-Gojyo-ish) sort of personality, with the big soft heart beating under the dudebro exterior.

Edited at 2011-09-10 05:33 am (UTC)
7veilsphaedra
Sep. 10th, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC)
I loved Cafe Latte Rhapsody! :^) I'm not sure why, either. It felt light and airy. Nothing got too serious. The relationship between the two progressed so naturally. It was a wonderful little story.
smillaraaq
Sep. 10th, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
I think you've got the key to it right there with talk of the naturalness of the relationship's development. For me, part of what made CLR work so well when so many similarly fluffy-sweet one-shots are fun but forgettable were all the little understated, realistic touches. Serizawa is semi-closeted but it's not a huge production of angst and fear and self-loathing, he's just cautious. His ex-boyfriend is a jerk, but not in an over-the-top villainous obstacle sort of way; he's just a believably pushy, selfish jerk. Keito's unusual height and multiracial looks draw a lot of attention, not always totally positive, and he sometimes has mild language/cultural issues with fitting in due to his international family background, but these are all just low-key minor issues, not major sources of drama. And it's a pleasant change of pace to see the younger, more inexperienced partner not automatically be written as the bottom!
7veilsphaedra
Sep. 10th, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, those understated moments polished up the story and brought out very touching moments of self-identification — not in the sense of having been in the exact same position, but in having been in similar situations of awkward-gawkiness, needing to be careful and self-protective, dealing with agendas, or even people who are not selfish, but flawed.

I'm drawn to story-arcs that are very dramatic and fantastic (Saiyuki, T&B, Bleach ...), but I'm captivated by subtle interactions, and my memory is saturated by those quieter stories.

The rest fades away.
chomiji
Sep. 10th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)

I'll have to look for that one - it sounds rather Fumi Yoshinaga-ish (although the artwork looks fluffier than hers).

smillaraaq
Sep. 10th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
The art is absolutely fluffier and more conventional than Yoshinaga's clean minimalism, but the story does hit something of the same sweet slice-of-life mood as one of her lighter feel-good works like Flower of Life. There's not a lot of sex in this one and IIRC it's mostly not even very explicit, so there's all the more page count available to go into all of the quiet little scenes of two awkward, sweet and shy characters stumbling around a growing relationship.
chomiji
Sep. 10th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)

Yoshinaga loves her smut, bless her! Ichigenme is still one of my favorite things ever.

chomiji
Sep. 10th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC)

It was Yuu's fragility as well as his apparent youth, sis. He's almost like another pet for Kuzumi rather than a partner. When I first became more open to myself about my fascination with m/m, I was in a VTM RPG where I had a young male ghoul character who really wanted to be taken care of that way, but I rather cringe when I think about it now. It's not the sort of relationship that satisfies me at this point.

Shima has a lot more agency, even though he does self-destructive things with it.

Yeah, Togawa looks more like Kenren, but he has Gojyo's hungry heart. His back-slapping friendly drunk act is his version of Gojyo's flirtatious gambler act. I love the fact that he's gradually trying to give up smoking to please Shima (who's pretty blunt about how he feels about it: "You stink."), and when they split up, he's looking wistfully at his cigarettes: "My mouth feels lonely."

smillaraaq
Sep. 10th, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
Ah, see, I guess my taste for H/C is so strong that this sort of thing really doesn't put me off -- I may not get deeply invested in it beyond a one-time read, but as pure fantasy idfic I do rather enjoy seeing an emotionally fragile character being cared for tenderly. Even if it plays out a bit more like a pet and owner rather than an equal partnership, well, so long as all the parties involved seem happy with the arrangement, I can usually buy into it for at least the length of the story.
chomiji
Sep. 10th, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC)


I think that for me, because I've ended up in a caretaker role a number of times, the identification with the caretaker in that situation tends to be strong enough that I can't step back into the cared-for role terribly well. So for me, h/c tends to be a sort of mutual thing, where the cared-for person gets fussed over but the caretaker gets his/her reward in the form of knowing that his/her other half will be back to full strength soon.

7veilsphaedra
Sep. 10th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the reviews. I would like to read both of them.

Sometimes, I really enjoy the pure fantasies of "Here, let me be a hero and support you for the rest of your life, so that you're sheltered from all challenges and hardships". They don't present quite as textured and layered a story, but at times, it's just good to let go and relax and be sloppy with escapism and desire. There usually has to some other sort of gratification involved to make the story memorable — something along the lines of how Darcy won Lizzie over honourable step by honourable step, or Marianne Dashwood acquired her own wisdom, only (one hopes) with a little more variation on the Austen template.
chomiji
Sep. 10th, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)

I was never ever into m/f romance, even the literary type. I only read the most famous Austens a couple of years ago, after several people whose taste I trust said I really should!

I went through a stage about 15 years ago, when I was first starting to realize that hey, there's m/m stuff out there and I'm a grown-up, so I can read it if I want, where the "I'll take care of everything, baby"-type of interaction appealed to me. I started pushing away from it after that. As I was starting to read manga, I ran into online discussions of why women like slash, and it became clear that the "equal partners/two halves of a whole" model was what I was seeking.

See, if your partner takes care of everything and knows what you need, he doesn't have to take your opinions seriously in anything. He knows what you need, after all!

I love fantasy settings, but I like the relationships to be mostly realistic. I prefer Gojyo and Hakkai to Kenren and Tenpou because 10K are too perfect. 585 are broken and have to work through things. They earn the happiness they get.

7veilsphaedra
Sep. 10th, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC)
I used Austen only because her stories (and Shakespeare's) provide the original templates for most romance fiction, even slash fiction, not because the stories are M/F.

See, if your partner takes care of everything and knows what you need, he doesn't have to take your opinions seriously in anything. He knows what you need, after all!

But that breaks the law of escapism, which is about the purely fantastical release of psychological tension. It does not come with the parallel expectation irl that our burdens and karmas will ever be truly released, but it allows us to imagine that freedom. I think this emotional release is healthy and essential, and the more originally it is framed, the more gratifying it feels. So, the hero in a story which is purely about wish-fulfillment and gratification will always take one's opinions very seriously, because the consequence of not doing so is that he will stop being fed by that adoration.

On a less facetious note: yes, of course, the other sort of story is more interesting and mature. It serves a different function.
chomiji
Sep. 10th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)

>>It serves a different function.<<

Well, yeah. XD

I think I have boundary issues with fiction. If I really enjoy it, I'm strongly identifying with one or more characters. And as I said to smilla above, the caretaker role pulls me in even as I rather resent it, so a story like this one doesn't do as much for me. I can't put myself in Yuu's role enough - I keep flipping back to Kuzumi and thinking that as cute as Yuu is, he'd not going to be able to give much back except to just be there.

(And this is why fanfiction that seems way OOC bothers me - it's me they're messing with, not just the fictional character. There's a fairly classic 58+3 story (the name won't come to me) where Hakkai has created a shikigami of Sanzo, and he and Gojyo are getting off on tormenting it, and I just hate the story because I wouldn't do that, so Gojyo shouldn't either ... it's not rational, and I've never commented on the story because I know it's all about my own issues and not the merits of the piece.)

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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