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Fake, vols. 1-7 (Sanami Matoh)

At the beginning of this police buddy series, handsome young Caucasian-Oriental investigator Randy MacLean has just been assigned to the same New York City precinct as brash, good-looking detective Dee Laytner, who is told that this is his new partner. Dee, who is obnoxiously confident and decisive, forcefully romantic, and pretty completely uninhibited, begins crushing on his new partner almost immediately. Quiet, steady Randy - whom Dee quickly starts calling by his Japanese name, Ryo - is extremely confused by his partner's displays of affection, which rapidly escalate to stolen kisses, but doesn't seem to be able to get mad at him. As they solve crimes (yes ... they - fight - crime!), often risking their lives, Dee's interest in Randy remains fierce and steady, while Randy is gradually forced to confront the truth about his own romantic preferences.

The story is further complicated (or enriched, depending on your point of view) by the two orphans Randy takes under his wing. Bikky, the mixed race son of a drug lord who dies during Dee and Randy's first case together, is ferociously protective of his new not-quite-father and resents Dee's advances. He also has a puppyish crush on Carol, the young blond pickpocket who joins Randy's household a bit later. Far more unlikely is the fact that Carol - at 13 years old to Bikky's 10 - actually takes this quite seriously and seems to return his affection. Bikky and Carol's adventures with their school friends - and sometimes with criminals - often intersect with Dee and Randy's work.

Let's face it - as a crime series, Fake is pretty damn silly. The portrayal of New York City is often so far off that it's utterly hilarious. The way that the other cops tolerate Dee's over-the-top demonstrations of affection for his partner - and the equally showy antics of another young officer who has a crush on Dee - is ridiculous. The Bikky-Carol storylines sometimes have some rather squicky elements, especially when they flash forward to where Carol is 18 and Bikky 15. But the relationship between Dee and Randy has an emotional intensity - and even realism - that completely appeals to me, and by the end of this short series, I was definitely in my happy place.

Potential readers should note that this shounen-ai series becomes yaoi toward the end of the final volume. The rating is "Older Teen - 16+" - but not everyone's parents will be equally calm about what's shown "onscreen" at that point.


Fake, vols. 1-7 (review)

Actually, those Dee/Randy sex scenes - especially the last one - are really interesting in terms of storytelling technique. If you know what's likely to be going on, it's pretty clear what's happening, frame by frame, but a naive reader is not likely to be able to get more than the basic information that they take their clothes off (well, Dee mostly rips off Randy's - he's like that) and have sex - somehow. That's probably how the publisher got away with the rating.

As noted, the BIkky-Carol flash-forward love scene, which stops before any clothing is removed (well, she's in a demurely sexy nightie the whole time), is rather more disturbing to me. OK, Carol, you waited 'til you were 18, and I doubt Bikky is about to complain - but he's a child of 15, young lady! You're now an adult, and you need to learn to think with your brain instead of your crotch ... . (Got news for you, Matoh-sensei: it's still statutory rape in most jurisdictions even if the junior partner is the boy.)

Another thing that's interesting about the series and my reaction to it is how little lingering angst there is. Yes, there are angsty situations - where Dee is trapped in a school building that's rigged to blow up and Randy has to wait for him outside, for example, and when Randy has the chance to confront the man who was responsible for his parents' deaths - but neither character has a lot to regret about his past decisions, and their self-images are in pretty good shape. So although I enjoyed it immensely, I don't think I'm going to be spinning Fake stories in my imagination the way I do Saiyuki and SDK stories. There's simply not much left to resolve, and therefore no story.

The drawings are a little odd, probably because of the time in which they were drawn (original publication was in Japan in the mid 1990s) - they're slightly stylized in a way that jars a bit with the NYC setting and police theme.

If you've read and liked the series, you'll probably enjoy the author's little "two years later" special, which smillaraaq pointed out to me. Thanks, smilla! The drawings in this more recent piece are noticeably more refined (to my eyes, anyway) than those of the original series.


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 27th, 2008 05:42 am (UTC)
I read the first volume, but couldn't take it because the art style means all the faces bear a decided resemblance to a guy I knew at the time who was a huge jerk, and I refused to read a manga that reminded me of him with every panel. :)
Jan. 30th, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)

Yeah, that would be pretty off-putting, wouldn't it? It's too bad - it has a very sweet ending.

Jan. 27th, 2008 02:20 pm (UTC)
Fake is a case where the key relationship worked for me, even if pretty much everything else didn't. I mean, seriously "DEEE-SEMPAI!!!!!!"?????????

Can you imagine -- not even real cops -- how the cast of Law and Order or NYPD Blue would react?????
Jan. 30th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)

Actually, I have to smack the translator for that - they could have come up with some kind of workaround for that scene instead of having him doing something so terribly Japanese.

But yeah, the whole "above and beyond gay-friendly" workplace was pretty bizarre. Even here in Tacky Park, where the mayor is gay and out, I doubt the police - or anybody else - would think that was how you act at work ... .

There's something appealing about Dee as a fictional character, even though in real life, I'd have to smack the snot out of him. His constancy in the face of Ryo's non-reacting confusion was somehow gallant by the end of the series, and I felt like he'd earned the final encounter. I liked Ryo's true confessions scenes with Diana, too - I've had very similar conversations with gay friends, and it made me wonder the mangaka had also.

Jan. 30th, 2008 03:39 am (UTC)
And don't forget the bits where it looks like Berkley is showing a bit of interest in Ryo -- hello, sexual harassment suit waiting to happen!
Jan. 30th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)

Caroline, with a teen's forthrightness, declared flatly "I hate Berkley Rose!"

Jan. 31st, 2008 07:24 pm (UTC)
He reminds me a little bit of the prison warden in Under Grand Hotel. (Only, y'know, much less evil because Fake is just fluffy and sweet compared to UGH.)
Feb. 2nd, 2008 04:10 am (UTC)

So did you talk to me about Under Grand Hotel already? Sounds vaguley familiar.

Feb. 2nd, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it in passing as another series that sort of tweaks a few of the yaoi conventions -- it's the one where the mangaka was obsessed with OZ and American pro wrestling, and so decided to write a prison-sex manga. It's every bit as dark as you'd expect from that setting, lots of dubious-consent material and some flat-out rape scenes/attempts, lots of violence -- and this is no sweetly coy shounen-ai here, this is flat-out explicit NC-17 hard yaoi from pretty much the first volume. And yet somehow in spite of all that, what starts out as a very unsettling dub-con situation between Sen and Sword manages to end up as a strangely touching, if somewhat dysfunctional, love story, complete with a happy ending.

(The Berkley Rose comparison comes in with a handsome new prison warden who's introduced part way through the series. He wants the pretty uke for himself and is not above setting all sorts of creepy machinations into play to get what he wants.)

Other than the whole "manga version of OZ" aspect, the one other thing that's rather noteworthy about this series is that it's one of the rare manga I've seen with black characters that actually look black, rather than either painful blackface caricatures or the mangaka's usual default facial style, just shaded in darker. (Well, OK, seme Swordfish *does* have what is clearly the artist's default bishie face structure; she might be intending him to be biracial, for that matter, as he's lighter than some of his gang and has blue-gray eyes. But the various minor characters, black and white, all have very distinct differences in looks.)
Feb. 5th, 2008 09:35 pm (UTC)

Hmm ... maybe I'll look at it at Katsucon.

SDK had one hideously cartoonish black character (Black Scorpion) and one plausible, noble-looking one (Taihaku, which ironically means "Great White" - he had white hair and wore white and was a "noble enemy"-type ...). But aside from that, I can't say I've run into too many black characters ... Oh! Tōsen in Bleach, of course. But he's pretty nicely drawn.

Feb. 6th, 2008 02:31 am (UTC)
There are enough scenes of violence and very, very iffy consent issues that I suspect UGH wouldn't really be your thing -- the leads are awfully pretty, though, and the interracial romance angle is another thing that makes it a bit of a change of pace from the more routine sort of yaoi.

There aren't a ton of black manga/anime characters out there, and they're a fairly mixed bag -- you've got some like Claudia in Robotech who are perfectly attractive, and others that look like the most painful sort of blackface stereotype -- even when they're otherwise meant to be appealing, positive characters, like Chocolove/Jojo M. in Shaman King.

Indian characters are even scarcer, mind you: so far the only major examples I've encountered are the old medicine man who appears briefly in some episodes of Cowboy Bebop, the "Hmong" quasi-Plains tribe who show up in a couple of episodes of Wolf's Rain, the Patch tribe in Shaman King, and of course poor tragic Gat, who's about the only one that isn't stereotyped to the point of being downright painful. (So of course the Gunlock anime had to just pile on the stereotypes to make up for his being so much more subtle in the manga... *eyerolls*) And I did just stumble across a very random one the other day -- Lost Boys, a strange little shounen-ai version of the Peter Pan story. (Wendy's role is taken by an angsty Japanese teen kidnapped from his London apartment to serve as the boys' father; the Captain Hook equivalent is a bishie pirate with a remarkably pretty crew, and even the Tinkerbell character is apparently male, albeit a long-haired elegant bishie with glamorous flowing robes. And yes, the Neverland Indians are there too, although mercifully only seen in a very brief side story.
Feb. 8th, 2008 07:58 pm (UTC)

Heh, try finding a Jewish character in any of the genres we've been discussing ... both the Young Lady and I are tickled by the canon fact that Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat (X-Men) is Jewish, and even though Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop isn't played as Jewish, his name and appearance shout "Jewish boy!" to me ... .

Edited at 2008-02-08 07:59 pm (UTC)
Feb. 8th, 2008 09:33 pm (UTC)
Off the top of my head, there's one of the title characters in Osamu Tezuka's Adolf, Benny in Black Lagoon, there are supposed to be some Jewish characters in the Fullmetal Alchemist movie (where the characters have gone from their original AU version of Europe to the real world), and IIRC the branching Goldsmith/Goldschmidt family in Blood: the Last Vampire and Blood+ are supposed to be Jewish. Historical European settings are popular enough in manga/anime that it wouldn't surprise me if there were a few more that I've not encountered.

There are a lot more in Western comics -- this list gives some of the bigger examples, although it's very, very incomplete on the artsy/indy side of things. Kitty and Magneto are probably the best-known examples, though, especially with the recent X-Men films emphasizing Magneto's background and making the anti-Semitism/anti-mutant parallels so blatant.
Feb. 11th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I found that list! I was just gently trying to open the issue about whether it's worse to be considered interestingly exotic, so that people try to represent you in fiction etc., or whether it's worse to be either competely left out or even worse, typically demonized. All the choices are pretty unattractive, actually.

(I just remembered another book you might well like: The Sword of Winter, by Marta Randall. Also her SF duology, Journey and Dangerous Games. Her people are as badly messed up as the Saiyuki boys, and use that comparison very deliberately. Incest, mad science, abuse ... .)

Feb. 12th, 2008 07:06 am (UTC)
This page on comic characters and religion does a little bit better than the Wiki page for listing characters from some of the smaller indy presses, but it's still tightly focused on the more superhero-ish books; if they'd included non-superhero books, there'd be quite a few more interesting characters from various other genres.

And exoticization and demonization are flip sides of the same sucky coin, IMO -- either way, you're not really being represented as a person, it's an inhuman caricature. Exoticization of Indians may be the current default in nice-middle-class-liberal circles and some pop media, but sadly demonization of the good old-fashioned, ignoble savage sort is still very much alive and well out there. Sometimes those extremes even feed into each other -- I've seen things get ugly really, really quickly when people found out real Indians didn't live up to their exoticized "positive stereotypes", so I'm really just about as wary around that as I am with the more overtly hostile sort of racism: at least with the latter group you know where you stand from the outset, but with the exoticizers you can't be sure how they will react if you try to inject a note of reality into their fuzzy fantasy ideas. There's also a subset of the exoticizers who want to grab onto some of that exotica for themselves, which can lead to some really distasteful situations with the appropriation and distortion of spiritual practices -- not unlike the recent trend of faddish celebrity interest in Kabbalah.

All the choices are pretty unattractive, actually.

Yep...I wouldn't even begin to try to quantify them for comparison; they all suck strongly but in different ways. The overt racism of the demonizing stereotypes is hideous, but that very vileness can make it offputting to folks who aren't already true believers in hate. But the "postive" stereotypes and exoticization are insidious precisely because they seem so nice on the surface, people who might reject more directly confrontational sorts of racism can fall for these because of that niceness; "it can't be racism, we're only saying good things!". And invisibility, of course, just reinforces the message that people like you are gone, forgotten, might as well not even exist, don't matter...

Really, they just all suck.
Jan. 29th, 2008 12:26 am (UTC)
Hee, I'm glad you enjoyed it! So now do you see why I was babbling about how the Dee and Ryo dynamic reminds me a little bit of Gojyo and Hakkai? For all their differences, they balance each other out well, and even when there's confusion as to whether that mutual attraction is going to go anywhere, there's that solid friendship building up. The setting is cartoony, but the feelings aren't.

they're slightly stylized in a way that jars a bit with the NYC setting and police theme.

Ah, but this isn't a serious gritty crime manga; it's BL shojo, and that sort of stylization is pretty much par for the course in the subgenre. (But again, I cut my eyeteeth on 70s shojo anime, so I have perhaps had to develop a very high tolerance for stylized art!)

I don't think I'm going to be spinning Fake stories in my imagination the way I do Saiyuki and SDK stories. There's simply not much left to resolve, and therefore no story.

That seems remarkably similar to the way my tastes tend to run with canon and fic. If the canon seems perfectly satisfying and complete in and of itself, no matter how much I love it I don't tend to feel an urge to write it or seek out fic -- I'll just reread the original instead. Series that are in progress or left unfinished, OTOH; or that have a character or relationship that I find appealing but isn't given much time on stage, or is badly handled; or where there are things that I like that just aren't explored in as much detail as I'm longing for -- those are the cases where I start trying to fill in the blanks for myself or madly hunting for fic.

(I have occasionally poked about for Fake fic out of curiosity, but haven't yet found anything particularly amazing. A lot of it seems to fall either towards post-series domestic fluff, or plain old smut...although in some of the English-language fandom, at least Ryo finally gets to top occasionally!)

The drawings in this more recent piece are noticeably more refined (to my eyes, anyway) than those of the original series.

Have you seen the new "Fake: Second Season" side chapters on yaoi_daily? Those are even more recent work than LLL, and her style has continued to change in a direction I think you'll like.
Jan. 30th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC)

Well, the thing is, it doesn't make me think so much of our Saiyuki boys because Dee's instant and unrelenting crush is so much the defining factor of the whole thing. With 585, it's like both of them are Ryo, unable to decide whether or not they're attracted to each other. Dee's constant optimism and brashness is somewhat Gojyo-esque, but he's much more confident than Gojyo allows himself to be when it counts - that "Don't worry, dude, I do!" line when Ryo is protesting up'til the last minute that he doesn't know what to do ... it strikes me as very realistic and very Dee, but Gojyo faced with someone he really cared about would probably be a little less smugly self-assured at that moment. That's how he'd talk before things got serious, if that makes any sense ... .

Yeah, I'm still getting used to the various manga drawing styles. It's a miracle that I persisted at all, starting with SDK, where Kamijyo crams little teeny reaction shots into the corners and stuff.

Yup, I think the reason that I rarely feel like doing any fic with Diana Wynne Jones, for example, is I usually feel very satisfied that she's run through all the important bits. (But I'm actually working on a bit of DWJ fic right now, following a suggestion of bad-mushroom's, because The Homeward Bounders has a somewhat open ending.)

Errr, do you have any clues about what day that stuff showed up on yaoi_daily? That's the most gods-be awful place to find anything. If anyone ever wondered whether there was such a thing as too much smut, I'd point 'em over there!

Jan. 30th, 2008 04:03 am (UTC)
Dee's instant and unrelenting crush is so much the defining factor of the whole thing

Ah, well, again that's a pretty basic sort of BL plotline right there -- you've got the classic aggressive seme in hot pursuit of reluctant uke. Part of why it works for me here when that seems to fall flat in so many other series is that the long slow UST phase doesn't feel like it's just gratuitous complications tacked on for the sake of dragging out the plot -- it's driven by the nature of the characters. Dee is passionate and impulsive across the board, not just in pursuit of a crush, and Ryo is similarly a thoughtful, cautious, look-before-leaping sort in other areas of his life, too. The 585 similarity for me is largely in the contrast of those particular character types and the way they form such a strong friendship and work so well together despite having such different approaches to life. They're certainly much more stable and relatively unscarred compared to the Saiyuki boys, of course -- like you noted, while they've been through some trauma of their own, for the most part they're healthy enough that they're able to deal with the bad stuff and move ahead with their lives. (And rereading it recently, the way they relate to Bikky strikes me as an echo of the guys dealing with Goku...)

That's how he'd talk before things got serious, if that makes any sense ...

That makes perfect sense, really; Dee seems to genuinely have the sort of self-confidence that Gojyo likes to act like he has. And it's easier for him to keep up the act around his usual one-night stands because they can't possibly know him well enough to see through it, and they don't matter all that much anyway. It would be another story entirely if his heart were actually involved -- much scarier because this time the stakes are higher, and with someone like Hakkai who knows him so well, it'd be so much harder to play it suave.

Jan. 31st, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)

Well, you can tell how much BL reading I've done, then! Gravitation was pretty much the other way 'round, with Shuichi pestering the crud out of Yuki, and in Legal Drug, it was both of them sort-of interested in each other but neither really acting on it.

Re Bikky as Goku: well, yeah, but Goku wouldn't consider interfering in the 585. Plus Ryo is really Hakkai plus Sanzo to Bikky.

Yeah, that's exactly what I was getting at - it would be much easier for Gojyo to use those kinds of lines on his usual pick-ups, rather than on Hakkai.

Jan. 31st, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC)
Fake and Gravitation do both deviate from that classic trope in some ways -- Shuichi being the one initiating the pursuit, Ryo having that vengeful temper under the surface calm. (Yuki's still the one who makes the first serious moves when it comes to sex, though...) It's like the taller/older seme trope, really -- the theme isn't omnipresent, but it's pretty darn common.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 04:23 am (UTC)

Well, Shuichi's such a little twerp that I don't know if he'd ever given serious thought to what gay sex could mean ... .

Ryo's not so active, not so quick-tempered, slightly shorter. But if I remember, he's actually slightly older, isn't he? (It's trivial, IIRC - like a year or something.) And he's certainly not girly.

The age/height thing is one of the things that makes me snicker about my Kyo/Yukimura fixation: Yuki's 37 to Kyo's 28, but he's either 4 or 6 inches shorter (you know about the Kyo/Kyoushirou situation, right?), and it's arguable who's the bigger perv ... .

Feb. 2nd, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
*checks* Hmm, you're right, Dee is a year younger. I'd forgotten about that! So that's yet another way Fake doesn't quite paint by the numbers.

Shuichi just doesn't seem to think seriously about much of anything, period -- he just sort of caroms randomly through life like a hyperactive pinball.
Feb. 5th, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I can't quite picture Shuichi and Eiri's life together. Neither of them has enough common sense ... they'll have to hire a housekeeper, and maybe someone to do the finances as well.

Feb. 6th, 2008 03:06 am (UTC)
I just pretty much assumed Yuki, with all his money, had people for that sort of thing anyway...

And I really, really have to wonder if the "height rule" along with the the more polite language aren't all part of why the Japanese fandom seems much more strongly fixated on Hakkai-as-uke in 585 pairings; the boys are the same age, but the slight height difference and speech patterns both fit the popular seme/uke stereotypes...and some of the doujinshi do seem to exaggerate the slight differences in height and build to make Hakkai noticeably shorter and more frail.
Feb. 8th, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)

Yeah, he probably does! They are so massively dysfunctional ... .

I think you're probably right ... mind you, 1 inch in height is not an awful lot of difference at approx. 6 feet! I think it's probably Hakkai's speech and his domesticity. I don't know that the contrast between youkai!Hakkai and housefrau!Hakkai is as spicy - genderfuck-wise - in the Japanese cultural context as it is here in the U.S. Certainly many 585 fangirls find the image of Hakkai in youkai form doing anything domestic - like the dishes - irresistably kinky and sexy.

Feb. 9th, 2008 07:50 am (UTC)
Well, the height convention isn't always as glaring as, say, Yuki and Shuichi! And tweaking it's one of the many things that makes the endless unrequited pursuit in Eroica rather amusing -- from Dorian's behavior and the brief glimpses of his other flirtations, he's very clearly a seme who usually goes for very obvious classic uke-types, younger and shorter and meeker and almost girlishly pretty. But he spends the overwhelming bulk of the series in pursuit of a guy who in almost every possible way is coded as even more seme than himself: Klaus is lovely in his own way, but he's no pliant pretty boy, he's all man. There's quite a bit of amusing debate within the fandom as to whether this would be a seme x seme relationship, Dorian's going switchy, or Klaus' exaggerated gay panic is due to him being not just closeted but a seemingly-unlikely uke. ;)

Certainly many 585 fangirls find the image of Hakkai in youkai form doing anything domestic - like the dishes - irresistably kinky and sexy.

Or you've got folks like Red who just love the idea of the boy doing dishes, period -- and pervy youkai fanciers like yours truly who'd be happy with him doing ANYTHING, no matter how mundane, so long as we get to ogle the vines. ;)
Jan. 30th, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)
Ah, here you go, I conveniently still had them in history so I didn't need to go trawling through the subject lines month-by-month...


That's the most recent posting, from last October -- there's an index of all the older links at the top of it so you can go back and start from the beginning. There's some nifty little bits of backstory from Dee's rookie days and memories of Ryo as a young teen on summer vacation, all wrapped up in a new case and their relationship moving along to a new level...IIRC there's really nothing much racier so far than a few kisses, although it's nice to see Ryo getting to be the instigator some of the time now! There's a bit of gore in one of the crime scenes, though.

The lack of tags does make it pretty frustrating going through the archives, doesn't it? Have you explored there much beyond the Antique Bakery DJ? The one other nifty thing I've found trawling through there recently is a gorgeous, obscure Holmes/Watson series, complete with a mangafied version of The Adventure of the Three Garridebs!
Feb. 1st, 2008 03:15 am (UTC)

Finally got a moment to go through all those! Yeah, too bad it wasn't a bit naughtier - I really like her when she gets naughty. She has the best-looking kisses I've seen so far in manga. The last scene in vol. 7 was really awfully good that way - very sensual. (I can imagine Ryo was protesting at various points, though, until the sensations got the bets of him - I mean, he got really freaked out that time Dee was licking him all over ... .) But those were interesting stories she was telling.

Feb. 1st, 2008 03:17 am (UTC)

(Heh, clicked the wrong button.)

Yeah, the lack of tagging is such a pain! I'm going to have to do a post on the AB DJs at some point - I was going to link to a post on someone else's site, where she had them all organized, but she never wrote back, so I'll have to steal her work and duplicate it.

And you know, I'm so dumb - I never thought of doing the subject lines. I was flipping through screen by screen, which is why I finally went "There's too much of this smut!!!"

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