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2016: In Reading

At the end of 2015, I lost eight years worth of BL manga files. It was like a freak accident. One minute they were there and the next, gone. I was able to re-download all of my Juné and Sublime titles and my eBookJapan titles weren’t affected, of course, but all of my indie comics and unofficial translations were gone. It took some work, but I was able to get most of my indie comics again and I had most of my favorite unofficial translations (like everything by Miyamoto Kano and Yamada Yugi and Mouse/Carp) on my tablet. But everything else? I didn’t have it in me to make any real attempt to recover them. So, I just let them go and 2016 was kind of a fresh start.

Most things in my life have a short shelf life, so I’m used to letting go and moving on. I made two reading lists for 2016 in an attempt to curb my habit of rereading stories I’ve read too many times to count by reading new things instead. I totally failed on both lists, by the way, but, with the bulk of my library in a state equivalent to binary ash, I was pretty much forced to read new stories, anyway. Though, by the middle of the year, I’d found some new favorites and quickly fell back into my habit of re-reading.

I usually have my end of year posts ready and waiting, but, until the 31st, I wasn’t even sure I was going to do one for 2016. Such a strange year. I don’t remember most of it, but thankfully I have a habit of documenting my habits, so I’ve actually got something to work with for this list. I wasn’t sure how I should organize this list either, but I finally settled on some general categories. Links to what I’ve already written about and quickies for titles I haven’t.


Webcomics

New to me in 2016. I’m keeping up to varying degrees. I’ll link you to the comic so that you can see for yourself.

Jennifer Potter: Echo’s Rift – First Impression | Comic

Mars: Long Exposure – Comic

Erli & Kromi: No End – First Impression | Comic

BL Manga & M/M Comics

I did not read a lot of new manga in 2016. That and the fact that, at some point, I stopped reviewing unofficial translations, makes this list relatively short. Other notables are that Fujii Mitor’s 4th Guard series came to an end. I finished it, including the spin-offs. Also, I read and liked a surprising number of cross-dressing stories, including Miyoshi Ayato’s “Irony Dress ni Sayonara” and Muno’s “Houkago Edge.”

Shoowa: Iberiko Buta to Koi Tsubaki and Iberiko Buta to Koi no Dorei – A gang of environmentally conscious idiots who follow a laid back (like waaaaaaaaaaaaay back) guy, an extremely earnest and playful guy, and the yakuza floating in the background. This is the Shoowa I like. The odd and interesting Shoowa I met in “Koujitsusei no Tobira.” They playful and sad Shoowa that gave me “Non Tea Room.”

After an encounter with the levelheaded and laid back Irie and his gang, Tsubaki and Irie start hanging out with each other, much to the terror/chagrin of their friends. Tsubaki really likes Irie, he thinks he’s a really good guy, but when Tsubaki’s dad’s business causes trouble for Irie’s family business, Irie cuts Tsubaki off. And ohmygoodness! Tsubaki’s heart breaks. You can see it. But even though he doesn’t quite get it, he loses it for a bit. But Irie… So good and hilarious.

The second couple are two of Irie’s fellow gang members/babysitters, Gen (recyclables) and Yoshimune (plastics). It starts off with the fake lovers trope because of a stalker and is a little sad because you spend half the time feeling bad for Gen, it’s also silly and funny. But then, it gets sad and decidedly unfunny and you spend all the time feeling bad for Gen and wanting to hug Yoshimune and tell him that it’s okay, that he’s okay. And then it ends. Gen and Yoshimune’s story continues in “Iberiko Buta to Koi no Dorei,” in the second book of the Iberiko Buta series. The mood picks up a little bit, but it still aches. It was good though and my kind of Shoowa. Though it’s still going on, but I can’t imagine what story the third volume will tell, unless Gen and Yoshimune make it official. I’m interested regardless.

Kawai Hideki: Thank You My God – From the cover, I thought it could go one of two ways: 1) I’d enjoy it, possibly enough to read again or 2) I’d drop it before the end of the first chapter. It’s the embrace. It gave off a feeling of cherishing rather than possessiveness, but I could have been wrong. Thankfully I wasn’t.

Nico leaves home without a word and finds himself in a village where he comes to make a life for himself while he tries to figure out if he should die or not. That’s not what the synopsis reads, of course, but that’s what the story is about. The first two chapters are about the present and then the third chapter takes us back to Nico’s first days in the village and his first encounter with Eri. In the fifth and sixth chapters, we learn the circumstances under which Will, Nico’s brother, comes to find him. Eri and Nico are more than friends, but neither one of them are sure about that and Will is in love with Nico. This is not a sweet story. There are touching moments, there’s sex and love, there’s heartbreak and things do end well, and while I wouldn’t call it heavy, it’s definitely not light reading. I did enjoy it enough to read again, though not yet. One thing I realized when I got to chapter six is that, for the most part, it didn’t feel like I was reading a BL manga. I guess I appreciate that.

Natsume Isaku: Doushiyoumo Nai Keredo V01-V02 – If this wasn’t the first title I read by Natsume, then it’s one of the first and I am so glad that I was finally able to finish it. It was great, of course. I enjoyed the development of the relationship and how they were both rather hopeless for each other. And that look of complete helpless wanting that Natsume’s uke gets when whatever is happening now isn’t enough and they may just cry, like bawl, if they aren’t penetrated soon–that look just kills me. Shimano wore it well. I lost count of how many times I read the first volume over the years.

Ah! And the extra in Tight Rope! It has one of the cutest scenes EVER! It’s right up there with the scene in the Border extra where Yamato, all sleepy-like, plods over at Will’s beckoning, sits on his lap, and dozes off while Will continues playing chess.

Kizu Natsuki: Given V01 – The wait for the next volume… If I didn’t already know, after reading this, I’d have to say that if volume two maintained the pace of volume one, there’d definitely be a third volume. I can’t call four until I read two, though. It’s a struggle already. Uenoyama choking Haruki over Mafuyu’s love song; Mafuyu calling Uenoyama, waking him up when Kasai couldn’t, wanting to interrupt that moment. Haruki’s unacknowledged feelings. Yayoi and Kaji. All of that on top of Mafuyu’s past and the groundwork has been laid for the shedding of copious amounts tears. While I get this sort of Kyuugou foreboding vibe and Kizu has had some rather not-so-happy endings, I think this is either going to end with Kizu-level happiness, or if it is ambiguous, it’ll lean towards the happy end. So, I’ll happily suffer through this.

Asou Mitsuaki: Only You, Only – Initially I thought that the pace was too quick, but that seemed to just be at the beginning. In the end, I think that the story was absolutely wonderful. It’s been awhile since I’ve been so just completely into the couple. They start out as just sex partners; one had already had feelings and the other begins to develop them. And the things that they go through… and then it’s just over. And I’m like, wait, how can this be? And things are going on in their respective lives and it’s just so… How in the world are they going to get back together? Because you just assume that is just what’s going to happen–they have to get back together. But it isn’t looking like it, but when they do, how it happens…is just so…it’s so good. I really, really, really, really appreciated every little detail about the story, the choices that Asou made for the characters, how the story progressed, which devices she used to move the story along–all of it. It was just great. I really, really love this story and I really, really love the couple.

Komatsu: Sorekara, Kimi o Kangaeru – This was a collection of collection of mostly bitter, but sometimes sweet stories. I much prefer full-length stories over one-shots, but, in the same way I fell in love with Tatsuki’s ability to tell a perfect story in just a few pages, Komatsu has stolen my heart as well.

Muno: Shuden Elegy – This one, too. A collection of one-shots that I really enjoyed. The first story was enh, but the rest were perfectly sweet and only a little bitter, but also funny and cute.

Also: Guilt|Pleasure: In These Words V01-V02 | Yoneda Kou: Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly

Novels

I enjoyed most of these as audiobooks.

G.L. Tomas: The Unforgettables – YA usually isn’t for me, but I saw an aesthetic rec for “The Unforgettables” on Twitter and it caught my eye. Initially, other than wanting to dangle one of Paul’s (male lead) siblings over a canyon by their ankle, I was enjoying it. The way kids and teenagers are usually written often makes my eyes threaten to remain at the back of my head, so I was especially pleased that GL Tomas (the pen name of the twin authors) had managed to keep my eyes on the page. However, as the story progressed, I became impressed by and engaged in Felicia (female lead) and Paul’s individual family dynamics. Not at all what I expected to encounter–so much depth. And the course of their relationship with each other was only enriched by those dynamics. Such a satisfying story. I actually did a running commentary for it, but I’ve yet to sort it out for public consumption, but I’ll get to it eventually.

Also: Alan Bennett: The Uncommon ReaderNaomi Novik – UprootedJasper Fforde: The Eyre AffairKatherine Addison: The Goblin EmperorRobin McKinley: Sunshine

M/M Novels

I have a terrible history with this genre, but ever since I read Stygian by Santino Hassell, I’ve been pretty fortunate–finding more diamonds than duds. This is where the majority of my reading was done this year. I think I’ve said all I need to say about Santino Hassell, but he wasn’t the only author who came through for me in M/M in 2016. TT Kove, Nicola Haken, and Garrett Leigh have all given me great moments to look back on in 2016.

Blayre Delecour: Fellfire Summer – For reasons I won’t get into, I did not want to like this, but good is good and this was great! Post-war societies, political intrigue, fantasy elements, distinct cultures, slow burn romance, and engaging dialogue. This was definitely a page turner. I also read the two related short stories, “Stormfront” and “Beachhead” which did a wonderful job of giving the couple some closure. “Argentine Winter,” the next title in the series was good, but not as good. There’s a third as well, and I’m looking forward to that release, though I don’t know if it will be categorized as M/M.

Taylor Fitzgerald: Vinny Gets a Life – I say “Vinny Gets a Life,” but it’s really the whole “You Could Make a Life” universe. The title story wasn’t a favorite, so I’ll just talk about the ones that I really loved. Just know this all about love and hockey.

“Vinny Gets a Life” is my favorite story. My friend, Lucy rec’d it to me and it was love at first read. Thomas Vincent, human sunshine, is in love with his best friend, Anton Petrov, but he thinks that’s stupid because it’s not like he wants to be with Anton like that, but the fact remains that he’s in love with him. Anton is made of 100% authentic grump, but is usually nothing but smiles when it comes to Vinny. Their teammates joke about their relationship, which is that of best friends. As far as anyone knows…or says. Things go along as usual until Anton wants to buy a house and wants Vinny to move in with him. From there, it’s and painfully enlightening journey that includes girlfriends, best friends, breaking up, moving out, and cuddling. [AO3]

“In Taking it Apart” is about Mike Brouwer and Liam Fitzgerald. Mike’s an old man in hockey-years who vacillates between fighting and succumbing to the woefully jejune attempts at seduction Liam throws his way. Liam is a baby in both hockey and human-years trying, for whatever reason to endear himself to Mike. You never find out what Liam saw in Mike initially, but he latched onto it for dear life, even when he, in his misguided youth, pulled away. They aren’t exactly opposites attract material, but the friction between them sustains their relationship until Mike remembers that he’s scared and shuts Liam out. Regardless of who makes the distance, it’s always Liam trying to close the gap, because, unlike Mike who’s seen so much and resigns to living with the fear and the pain and the longing, Liam’s young and doesn’t know better. So Mike likes to think. But it’s really that Liam knows what he wants and is brave enough to hold onto it, though, being young and optimistic helps. [AO3]

“No Expectations of Returns” tells the story of Gabriel Markson and Stephen Peterson dealing with the involuntary end to Stephen’s days on the ice. Childhood friends. Friends to lovers. Unrequited love. Longing. Cowardice. Family. Brisket. What more could you ask for? [AO3]

AlsoSantino & Ais: Evenfall V01 | Santino & Ais: Evenfall V02 | Kay Simone: The Aftermath | Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell: Fast Connection | Roxas James: Unexpected | A. J. J. Bourque: That One Kid Who Freaked Out, or Whatever | Santino Hassell: Sunset Park | Garrett Leigh: What Remains


And that was my 2016. I’m pretty sure I’m missing a few things, but doesn’t stop them from being good. I’m looking forward to more great reads this year, too.

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  • klkAlexar

    There were certainly a lot of cross dressing manga last year; I’m happy you joined me in the dark side if only for a bit. Our tastes didn’t seem to overlap that much in bl, the only that left a lasting impression was Given, and I did read Asou Mitsuaki but it was another title. I guess you’re still waiting on Koimonogatari to finish? Or was that a 2015 title? I do remember you reblogging a post about it. It’s going to take a couple years to finish anyway.

    I started reading FS when you mentioned it, and then got distracted by something else. If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have started it because I’m a bit petty. The story didn’t grab me, so I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish it.

    • I can’t articulate it just yet, but the story has to written a certain way for me to be able to enjoy it when cross-dressing is the theme.

      Koimonogatari was a 2015 read. I doubt I’ll be able to write about V02 until 2018, at the earliest.

      I have a feeling that the catalyst for your pettiness and the reason I didn’t want to like FS are probably the same.

      So what did you like last year?

      • klkAlexar

        Yeah, I think there’s only like 2 chapters out. The wait is reminding me a bit of Dear Brother, except that was such a wild ride and my feelings for Koimonogatari are a bit gentler. I’m used to bl taking so long, so I’m always surprised how fast some mangaka are now that I’m reading different genres.

        I don’t really keep track of what I’m reading and my mind is like a sieve, so I might be excited for a title then a month later, I forget all about it. A summary of bl for me would be something like: I still love Scarlet Beriko, I’m lukewarm on Psyche Delico, Michinoku Atami’s stuff feels oddly homophobic, I’ve given up on Ogeretsu Tanaka, Hidaka Shoko new manga is finally being scanlated, Saiyaku is being scanlated but vol.6 hasn’t even gone up for preorder, Golden Days (not bl I know, but still) was finally finished in English, ST still doesn’t have enough chapters for Barbarities vol.2, and I’m a bit upset about how popular omegaverse has gotten.

        Oh! I also heard that HwS is getting a drama, which is exciting but I don’t watch bl dramas.

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