I always have trouble reviewing anthologies. Some stories really do it for me, some don’t. I never remember to write down which is which. Necking is dedicated to threesome relationships, men only. Needless to say this is erotica and there will be sex, lots of sex. I’m reminded that turn ons for me are squicks for other people and vice versa (for example, not unsurprisingly rimming is used heavily, one of my all-time squicks but it’s erotica and I wasn’t surprised to see it. I know how to skim so problem solved. Doing it in a dental chair also not my kink but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad story)
The ones I enjoyed the most are the ones that hit my genres. Another problem with this sort of anthology, most of it is just contemporary fiction and I knew that going in so I can’t whine too much. Still, I really liked Skunk Bryan, Spoon (and a Badger) because it was marginally SF and Snowbound for the 1930’s urban fantasy side of it. I also really liked An American in Seville, Down the Middle and Homecoming because there was enough plot to make me happy but all of the stories have their strengths and weaknesses and I think you’ll enjoy this anthology.
Wicked City: Black Guard by Hideyuki Kikuchi
This novel is interesting in a couple of respects. For one, it’s actually 25 years old. I knew it was older but I thought about only 15 and it’s by the author of Vampire Hunter D and these into anime/manga know that classic. Wicked City also had a one shot anime and I have no idea why I like it or this novel. They are utterly male sex fantasy, heavy on the tentacles. Yes, Makie, the female has immense power in this but she does end up on the bad end of a gang rape. Taki, also sort of gets raped and tortured but there is far less detail on that. Oh and Black Guardsmen can apparently use their talents to enhance sex…and expect some of the demons to turn into vaginas with teeth.
See? I had to spoil that bit just to give the proper warnings. So why in the hell would I read this or own the anime? I don’t know. There’s something compelling about it in spite of the misogyny. It’s an alternative earth that knows there is a demon dimension that some times intersects with ours. Some of the demons are friendly. Most aren’t. The Black Guard, who possess high Psychic Powers (PP), are pretty much the border patrol and police force rolled into one.
It’s time to sign the Peace agreement for 500 years this time. Taki believes his job is to guard the mystic, Mr. Mayart, until the man can sign the accord. In 24 hours every malcontent demon will want them dead. Taki is assigned a partner, Makie, a demon in a beautiful human form. Together they try to keep the ridiculously sexually active Mayart under wraps, failing miserably and meeting demons, rape and torture at every turn until an ending neither of them expects. What is to be said about this? I have no idea why I like it. I shouldn’t given its attitudes towards females but somehow I do. It’s highly erotica and graphic both in sex and violence so…Now I’m just curious how they pulled off the live action movie that’s on the cover of the book.
Vampire’s Portrait #2 by Hiroki Kusumoto
This is the continuation of a two part series (for now. The mangaka hinted there might be more). I loved that yaoi reviewers were whining that there was too much plot and not enough action. Really? Are they that sex starved that they’re going to criticize an author for actually including a plot.
I, for one, liked the plot. There are two or three of them running around actually. Lou, the young artist that entered the picture to paint Sein’s portrait in the first volume is still here and still in love with Sein (though, typical of many romances regardless of orientation, the love is rather boom we’re in love without much build up). He had competition in Adam, a young doctor whose family has been bound to Sein for generations. Sein and his brother Verloren are at loggerheads. We get to learn how the brothers became vampires, how they feel about it and what they ultimate want as they battle to the finish. Honestly, I rather liked this one. It had a plot. It had romance. It had pretty men having sex though there is some dub con, incest and blood but it’s manga. What do you expect?
Hero Tales #1 by Hiromu Arakawa & Huang Jin Zhou
With Fullmetal Alchemist ending (waaah!) I turned to Arakawa’s new work, though as far as I can tell she’s only doing the art. For once I have to say, I had trouble telling her characters apart. I’ve always praised her above all other mangakas because her art is so easy to tell each other apart but then again everyone in this is Asian in appearance so there are tons of young men with dark hair and almond eyes. Not that the art is bad in any way mind you.
It opens with Taitou, a young man who has to complete his coming of age ceremony…the last boy to accomplish this, something his sister, Laila, isn’t going to let him forget. Son-ji, Taitou’s mentor (?) and his father have engaged the assistance of Ryuukou Mouten, a perpetually lost Rikka priest (Buddhist sect) to ‘whip Taitou’s ass’ in his coming of age ceremony. Taitou is hot headed and brash and loud mouthed (looks and acts like Roy’s kid brother or maybe if Roy and Ed had a bastard son…). What Son-ji and Taitou’s father suspect, the boy isn’t just any kid. He’s one of the seven heroes of legend, bearing the power of the stars of the Big Dipper. When this power is activated, a tattoo will appear on their skin (not too original but okay fine).
Ryuukou does as commanded. Taitou naturally refuses to give in but the ceremony is interrupted by a soldier trying to steal the token of Taitou’s impending power, a sword, Kenka-rabu, that only Taitou as the hero ‘Hagun’ can draw. This does activate Taitou’s power but he can’t control it and naturally the man makes off with the sword.
Taitou, Ryuukou and Laila go off to get it back. Naturally no end of enemies, injustices and other Star Heroes await them, including Housei, who keeps proposing to Laila. In fact all the guys are rather touchy-feely (I can see the slash fandom now). It’s not a bad start. There is a ton of names and info to absorb. This will require a second reading. Laila can fight, almost better than her brother. However, so far she exists to be captured or hurt to give the enemies the upper hand. Sigh. (she looks a lot like a dark haired Winry and there is one we only see briefly who is definitely Bradley’s uglier brother). One of the villains is a woman though so I’m holding out hopes that we’ll see the strong females we got accustomed to in FMA. (keeps reminding self, Arakawa doesn’t seem to be writing it…adjust your thinking)