[Manga] Mix Vegetable (Komura Ayumi)

Hanayu is the daughter of a pastry-maker who aspires to be a sushi chef. Hayato is the son of a sushi chef who loves sweets and aspires to be one that makes them. Naturally, being the children of a pastry-maker and sushi chef, their family expects them to take after them and this makes it harder for the both of them to pursue their dreams with their parents’ blessings. They both attends Oikawa High School Cooking Department and are competitive among each other when it comes to making the best cuisine.

There came a day when Hanayu had this crazy idea of marrying into a sushi chef family and then take over as the sushi chef in the future. For this sole purpose, she set her eyes on Hayato whose family owns a sushi place. Little did she know, Hayato too, had the same crazy idea as her. And so, they started seeing each other with their personal goals in mind but soon, Hanayu’s guilt got the better of her and they fell apart when they both revealed their true intentions.

They fought, had a fallout and then they found each other again. When he found out that Hanayu have been wrestling with her dreams of becoming a sushi chef, Hayato encouraged her to talk to her father about what she really wants. With his words of encouragement, she managed to do just that and as tough as it was to get her dad’s seal of approval, her dad gave his blessings in the end after much persuasion. Thus, she begins her training at Hayato’s family sushi restaurant everyday after school where she learns the art of making great sushi from the best sushi chef (Hayato’s dad) and subsequently developed feelings for Hayato.

Hanayu’s love for Hayato did not go unreciprocated. When Hayato had a meltdown as a result of his inner conflict on what he really wants to do (inherit his family’s sushi restaurant or pursue his dream of becoming a pastry chef), Hanayu was there to comfort him and that was when they both realise that they have feelings for each other. They kissed and the day ended with Hayato walking Hanayu home hand-in-hand (awww…).

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My thoughts on this one: seriously, seeing as they both love each other, they might as well get married after graduation and inherit each others’ family businesses – Hanayu pursue her dreams at Hayato’s family’s sushi restaurant and Hayato, Hanayu’s family’s pastry business. Problem solved. Lol. I know that thing’s aren’t that simple.

That aside, I must say that this is one of the good shoujo manga out there. A keeper, I would say, exceptional artwork, strong characters and most importantly, the main female lead isn’t weak; as a matter of fact, she’s strong and determined in realising her dreams as a sushi chef (where this line of profession is dominated by mostly men) unlike most shoujo manga where female leads are often portrayed as weak characters, whiny and/or boy-obsessed.

If you, like me adore Mix Vegetable, you should check out the author’s other work, Hybrid Berry. Just as Hanayu in this series, the female lead in Hybrid Berry too, is a strong character except that this time around, the heroine is a gardening otaku who is scouted for the baseball team where her crush is one of the player.

Last but not least, why the title Mix Vegetable?

[BL Manga] Toritsu Mahou Gakuen (Hoshino Lily)

Of all Hoshino Lily’s works, I like Toritsu Mahou Gakuen best.  Mostly because of the cute factor and her rather unique artwork.

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The setting of the story is the Tokyo Metropolitan Magic School (kinda reminded me of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts) where students learn magic along with other basic high school subjects such as Japanese, Mathematics, etc. At the magic school, during their course of study, each of them will be assigned a familiar spirit as their partner. It is preferable that the assigned familiar is powerful enough to use high level spells but in the case of Kouji Yuno, he got Harlem, a low-level incubus instead.

Contrary to what most readers would think, Toritsu Mahou Gakuen doesn’t fall under the shotacon genre although Harlem does look like a pre-pubescent boy. As revealed during familiar spirit transfiguration class (students were taught how to change their familiar spirits to human form using a spell), despite his appearance Harlem is really a 17-year-old teenager but as an incubus his growth is generally slower so as to maintain his cuteness.

The smut level of this manga is really low  in my opinion as a seasoned yaoi reader. Not much of an actual love-making although it is implied that they had definitely done it. One interesting incubi fact (in this manga’s universe, that is): right after an intercourse, incubi will assume its human form representing their actual age so, if you see an incubus in its human form, he/she had definitely done it earlier on. As far as the theory goes (again, in this manga’s universe), the human form implies that the incubus has matured or have grown into adulthood.

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I like Hoshino Lily’s works, I really do but most of them are either dull (but cute), smut level is too over the top, or rather, PWP (Nurse ga Oshigotothis one looks more of hentai rather than yaoi thanks to the girlish ukes) and her ukes are just too feminine-looking.

As for Toritsu Mahou Gakuen, it is just too cute and sweet especially the part where Harlem is just too attached to Yuno vice versa and not to mention that Harlem with those ears and rabbit-like tail is really adorable and easy on the eyes. A good read if you’re looking for a light-hearted BL manga without the angsty part.

[Manga] Ai wo Utau Yori Ore ni Oborero!

It was hate at first sight when I first read Love Celeb and on top of that, it is one of the very first smut manga that I ever read along with Desire Climax. In the case of Ai wo Utau Yori Ore ni Oborero! however, it’s more of a love-hate affair – like it at first, got tired of it for a while and finally when the series is completed, I decided that perhaps I should give it another go and finish it till the end…and I did. The end result? Not so much of a hate anymore although there are some parts of the story that still displeases me.

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Sakurazaka Mizuki is the prince of the prestigious St. Nobela Girls School. She’s tall (almost the same height as an average man, I presume) and manly-looking to boot (she seriously looks like a man, no kidding!). Girls in her school idolizes her and plus, she’s the guitarist of a girl-rock-band Blaue Rozen which has already gain a huge fanbase in its own right.

Shirashi Akira on the other hand, is the complete opposite of Mizuki. He attends an all-boys school known for its bad reputation and has always been targeted due to the fact that he’s prettier and cuter than some girls. It’s true that he is a man outwardly but with a feminine face and cute appearance, it’s no wonder that he would be mistaken to be a girl. Heck, I was even deceived when I first read the manga.

Akira fell in love with Mizuki at first sight when he saw her in a Blaue Rozen concert. When the band was on the verge of disbanding when their vocalist left the band, he auditioned to be the vocalist of Blau Rozen and is then accepted by the band members. The only catch is since Blau Rozen is an all-girl band, he has to disguise as a girl during their performances. Not that he minded since he’s doing it all for Mizuki. A manly girl and a girly-looking guy? That’s what I call opposites attract.

And then there’s Ran and Rui, Akira’s “bodyguards” who seem to be infatuated with his feminine looks. They may look like a pair of nutjobs but when the situation requires, they could be an asset. And since they always appear together I can’t help imagining what if they get together in a yaoi way. A wishful thinking on my part, or rather, my inner fujoshi.

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I was totally fooled by the cover at first thinking that the cute and pixie-like guy is the girl and the masculine-looking blondie is the guy. Looks can be deceiving, eh?

Did I enjoy reading this? Can’t say that I love this one but it’s definitely better than Love Celeb, that much I can say. At the very least, I manage to read this to the end without getting bored or annoyed by weak female leads who don’t mind being trampled all over by the man they “love”.

There’s one thing that I can’t stand about this though. Not sure if it’s only me but for instance, as I recall, she introduces another girly-guy in a chapter as an antagonist who is all out in sabotaging the relationship between Mizuki and Akira because he has a crush on the former. To settle the dispute on whether who is a better match for Mizuki, he proposed to compete with Akira in a princess contest in which whoever gains the most vote for the better princess wins Mizuki. Well, in the end Akira loses but he still wins Mizuki. The girly-guy was last seen dancing in victory in that chapter and then he is never mentioned again although he attends the same school as Akira. It’s like he disappeared without a trace.

Note: It seems that due to the author’s relationship with the publisher has gone sour, she has switched to different publisher. As such, the series is concluded at five volumes. It’s not totally the end though as she continues the series with a sequel entitled Ai Ore! with a different publisher.

[Manga] The Day of Revolution

To be honest, I started off by reading Princess Princess and had I not read Princess Princess, I wouldn’t have the thought of reading this one as these two different mangas are related. The Day of Revolution is a gender bender at its best…at least that’s what I think.

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Kei has always been a boy, or rather a pretty boy and seems like he’s also a delinquent together with his three best friends. His days as a boy however has fallen short as he has discovered after a medical examination that he has both female and male characteristics. He was given the option to either live on as a boy or change to a girl and he chose the latter. And so, he underwent a simple operation to complete his transformation to a girl and starts anew, come new school term with the assistance of Makoto, her doctor’s niece as a guide to being a girl.

Alas, the quiet days that Kei craves for seems far away as his delinquent friends back when she was still a “he” recognised her as the Kei that they once knew. Rather than an “emotional” reunion (Kei did left them without a word after all), it ended up with all three of them plus a certain president of the student council professing their loves for her despite her protests.

Along came Makoto’s younger brother Mikoto. The fateful encounter occurred when Kei went over to Makoto’s place to hide from those four amourous guys who vowed to made her their girl. At first she only saw Makoto as a cute younger brother and before she knew it, she has already fallen for him. Still, those four continues to chase Kei relentlessly even though she has made her feelings towards Mikoto known to them. To think that these guys actually went to the point of being “overprotective” of her even after they have graduated high school.

Take note that Mikoto appears as one of the characters in Princess Princess and yes, he is one of the school’s “princess” in the all-boys school hime (princess) system but that’s another story.

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The whole gender bender thing is believable, I guess. I’ve read that there actually exists such condition where a person is born with both male and female organs. That person would have to choose to live as a male or female at some point.

And despite that most people thinks that this manga is heading towards the yaoi direction, there’s no indication that says there’s yaoi element at all and nor that there is any yuri at all. It’s purely shoujo where the main guy suddenly becomes a girl. Well, biologically, Kei did had the surgery to complete his transformation into a girl. Come to think of it, had he decided to continue living as a male, he’ll live as an incomplete male so he might as well live as a girl.

[BL Manga] Naisho de Alleluya by Kamo Nabako

Hana*Koi is the first Kamo Nabako work that I read and it was quite ok though it did not leave a lasting impression on me. The artwork isn’t exactly of my taste but the storyline is interesting enough to keep me reading the series till the end and not to mention that the uke is rather cute-looking (as most of her ukes are as I had discovered later on).

Naisho de Alleluya

Shuuichiro is one of the top songwriter in town who has spawned number one hits for various Japanese idols. It is assumed that he made a lot of money from his songwriter job and that he is quite well-to-do and even has a son, Botan whom he doted upon very much. His wife, however is a no-show as a result of failed marriage and ever since then he has been a single father raising his kindergarten-going son. All hell broke lose when out of the blue, Botan brought home what he thought to be a cat, albeit a very-human looking one who turned out to be Umekichi, a man whom he had slept with previously. One thing led to another and somehow Shuu found himself allowing Umekichi to live in his house and he eventually fell for him later on despite his pride.

Umekichi however, is not who Shuu thinks he is. It turned out that Umekichi is in fact, Shizuka his cousin whom he was close to when they were kids. When the cats are out of the bag, Umekichi (or Shizuka) was fumed that Shuu actually paid him in exchange for sex earlier on. Well, who doesn’t?

The road to happiness is a bumpy one for these two lovers as Shuu kept getting jealous over whoever who dare to come on to Umekichi, more so in its sequel, Aikotoba wa Hallelujah where the pest comes in the form of Shuu’s former classmate whom he hates with all his heart. The sequel is a highly-recommended read if you enjoy this one.

Other work by Kamo Nabako that I like: Koi wa Ichiya ni Shite Narazu, about two men who work in the same company but didn’t get along with each other. One thing led to another and they found themselves on the same bed. Pure crack.

[BL Manga] Otona no Mondai (Adult’s Problem)

Otona no Mondai is unlike any BL mangas that I’ve read. Heck, there’s hardly any BL scene worth drooling over at all.

Naoto was barely out of kindergarten when he first learnt the word “gay”. Back then, he didn’t know what it really meant when his mom told him that his parents are getting a divorce and it’s all because his dad is gay all along.

Fast forward a couple of years later, Naoto is now a college student. He’s all stressed out from concealing the secret behind his parents divorce from everyone he knows, including the girl he was crushing on (who eventually became his girlfriend). He was so stressed out that his hair actually falls so much that it forms a mini golf-course at the back of his head (a man’s nightmare, I can imagine). His stress multiplies when his dad announced that he is going to marry his long-term partner, Ebi Gouro a young jewelry designer (note that “ebi” means lobster in Japanese) who is always being made fun of because of his name. The bigger joke was the fact that Naoto’s dad previous lover’s name is “crab” in Japanese. In Japan, there’s no law to accommodate gay marriage but one can adopt the other into the family so that he can take his lover’s family name. In the case of Ebi Gouro, by “marrying” into Naoto’s family means he can get rid of his funny name. Of course, their union isn’t accepted by their families. Fortunately for Naoto’s dad, his ex-wife (Naoto’s mom) seems to have accepted his homosexuality and his life partner and they even get along well considering the circumstances that they are all in.

Added into the mix is Gouro’s elder brother, Ebi Hajime who went all out in opposing the “marriage” and never fails to bicker with Naoto’s mom whenever they meet. Hajime is all about perfection; he had a perfect life that one would dream of – he was a child prodigy, went to the top university, got the perfect job at a top-class corporation, a perfect wife and a little daughter and as such, he deemed his younger brother’s being gay as an imperfection. Here’s the funny thing that happened: the constant bickering that he had with Naoto’s mom blossoms into love (which I had expected from the beginning) and they got married eventually (after he divorce his wife when their relationship turned sour due to his obsession in being perfect).

Lets see, Naoto’s dad is “married” to Ebi Gouro whose brother is now married to Naoto’s mom. How complicated and dysfunctional can his family get? This is gonna cause Naoto more headache in explaining the situation when asked, that’s for sure.

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This manga deals with Naoto’s who had to come to terms with the fact that his father is a gay and is now “married” to a man who is only older than him only by few years and his struggles to keep all that a secret from everyone he knows.

One word to describe this manga: hilarious! Enough said.

Nodame Cantabile OVA

Being a fan of Chiaki and Nodame I was met with disappointment when I watched the 1-episode OVA. Still, as a Nodame Cantabile fan, I enjoyed it nevertheless and I had a good laugh while watching the special edition OVA that was bundled together with the manga’s 22nd volume.

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This time around, the center of the story isn’t Nodame or Chiaki. Remember the replacement concert conductor that Chiaki got for Rising Star Orchestra before he flew to Paris? That’s right…the main character this time around is none other than Matsuda Yukihisa. Well, in the main story nothing much is known about the reputable conductor and in this special OVA, more will be revealed on his true nature.

Matsuda is known as the youthful, dark-haired prince (or so he thought) but that is before Chiaki made his debut as a winner of Platini competition. He is indeed envious of Chiaki who is much younger than him but managed to earn his place as a conductor of the most reputable orchestra in France, Roux-Marlett compared to him who only managed to become a conductor for the lesser-known Roussel Orchestra at age of 29. He’s a womanizer without a doubt (he is indeed a reminiscent of Stresemann and he aspires to be like him someday) and he seems eccentric alright – he has a future journal that depicts all the good things that he had decidedly should happen in the future.

One thing led to another and somehow Chiaki ended up having a drink with Matsuda. They talked about the most ridiculous things and the night ended with Matsuda getting drunk. And so, Chiaki brought him back to his place while hoping that Nodame isn’t in but lo and behold she hid herself in the bathtub full of bubbles (bubble bath?) hoping to catch Chiaki unguarded and preferably naked (lol…she’s indeed a pervert). Too bad for her though, for the man who entered the bathroom isn’t Chiaki but Matsuda who had wanted to ease himself…hilarity ensues with them screaming their lungs out at each other.

      

He then left Chiaki’s place and appears to be walking home hoping to reconcile with his ex as he called her using his cellphone. As expected, he was dumped for the second time. More “misfortune” follows when he “bumped” into Takahashi (he could have followed him for all we know), one of the member of Rising Star Orchestra in which he is a conductor back in Japan. If I remember correctly, Takahashi used to have a crush on Chiaki (yes, he’s gay) and was pursuing Chiaki relentlessly. Looks like he had found himself a new target (lol).

And so, the OVA ended with Matsuda spending the night with Takahashi or rather, we viewers were given the impression that Takahashi is gonna have his way with Matsuda and as on what’s gonna happen next were left to our imaginations (the fujoshi in me thinks that Matsuda is gonna be raped by Takahashi..lol).