Nogaki Suzume: Silly Gossip

When I first saw the cover of Nogaki Suzume’s Silly Gossip, I said to myself, “I’ll pass.” The drawing style wasn’t to my liking and from what it portrayed–a walking perv and a clueless brat–I could tell that I wasn’t going to like it. Then I was offered the chance to review it. I hesitated because my last review was a little low on praise and I didn’t want to write about how disappointed I was with a title so soon after. But then I considered that this could be an opportunity to discover another Abe Miyuki or Kotobuki Tarako or or or or or even a new Mizushiro Setona (if only!). All three are mangaka whose art initially made me cringe to varying degrees, but whose storytelling prowess slayed me. I thought it best not to pass it up. So here we are.

This English language debut of Nogaki Suzume contains two unrelated stories. The title story clears the first seven chapters and is about talent manager Bidou “Rei” Reiji’s pursuit, capture, and constant manipulation of his idol client Haguruma Narumi. The second story and final chapter in the volume, “Magic M.D.,” is about an unfortunate mage, Rai, who is suffering from an abundance of cuteness and Magudora, the doctor who aims to cure him.

It’s taken me a couple weeks and some change to come to the conclusion that I have mixed feelings about this title. I can honestly say that I wasn’t disappointed. It’s hard to be when the story turns out to be exactly what you thought it to be. Silly Gossip is about a walking perv (Rei), and a clueless brat (Narumi). This dynamic is representative of what’s at the core of my confusion. That is to say, I really like walking pervs, but I’ve never been fond of clueless brats or any kind of brat for that matter. For just about everything that made my eyes roll to the back of my head, there was something that made me smile. The good, the bad, and the ugly of it all was pretty much this way throughout.

Starting with…

The Ugly: Well, I wouldn’t call it ugly, but the drawing style was too juvenile for me. Both Narumi and Rai looked all of 14. In the first couple pages of “Silly Gossip,” Narumi did look closer to 17, but he spent the rest of the story resembling a boy who just entered puberty. I don’t mind when a uke is cute and boyish, but I don’t like when he looks like a little boy when paired with the seme. Also, the facial expressions of the uke are exaggerated to the point where I’m put completely in the mood for Saturday morning cartoons–not exactly the tangent I want to wander off into when I know heavy breathing is just a page away. BUT. There was one panel where I could really feel Rei’s expression. The difference between it and all the others was like the difference between the look in Jim Caviezel’s eyes as he played Edmond Dantès and the look he had when he resurfaced as the Count of Monte Cristo. And just like Jim’s, Rei’s character was better for it.

Continuing on to…

The Bad: I don’t like brats or human-animal hybrids of a certain ilk. Narumi’s an indecisive tease who’s ever-present lack of awareness fails to be charming or endearing. In my opinion, it seems like a difficult task (but not impossible) for writers to craft a uke who is indecisive and non-committal without the character becoming a drag or a cliché. Their internal conflict often moves the story along by helping create engaging twists and turns in the plot. Narumi’s not deep enough for that so his resistance just annoys me. Speaking of being short on depth and going back to boyish vs. little boy, the distance a character can be perceived as straying from that dividing line is most often influenced by the story and the author’s ability to craft a well-rounded character. In that respect, I would not say that Silly Gossip is quite on the level of Madlibs, but it did have a bit of a cut & paste feel. And regarding Rai, I get that people like the neko-chans, but I can do without. There are a handful of exceptions to this–really, I can count them on one hand–but, “Magic M.D.” is a bit too fluffy to be included. Thank goodness neither one of these characters were the seme or I never would have survived it.

And last but not least…

The Good: As I mentioned, I like walking pervs and Rei was an enjoyable one. Right from the start he makes it known that he’s not blinded by celebrity and puts Narumi in his place. He also wastes no time in revving up the perv engine and then he steadily moves it into high gear. In addition to being a perv, he played the caretaker role; it’s one I like very much. And out of all of the characters, Rei had the best lines. He gets to say things like, “on the memo pad of my heart” and “Now submit as I deliver the naughty!”. Such things endeared him to me all the more. However, Rei wasn’t the only good thing about Silly Gossip. Nogaki-sensei’s 11th hour introduction of Beniko Tsuguharu was a welcomed addition to the main story and Magudora, the doctor from “Magic M.D.” was a letch and well, who doesn’t like a letch? But I think what I liked most was the mangaka’s awareness of the state of her creation. The intermediate comments she wrote about her story and characters as well as some of the character’s reactions seem to echo my thoughts on those aspects in a strange way. From her comparison of one of the characters to an animal to the perceived lecherousness of the doctor, I felt like I was reading her mind. That is not to say that the story was overly predictable, but it’s more in the way of: she wrote it in such a manner that you (or possibly just me) had no choice but to interpret an action or a line they way you did or feel the way you did.

So… I did not discover another Mizushiro Setona and I wouldn’t exactly rave about this title, but now that I’m here, I have to say I had some fun. Silly Gossip doesn’t require much from its readers in the way of participation and it isn’t pretending to be anything it’s not. Even though it’s a handful of fluff and giggles, it had its moments. But sans the gratuitous sex, it really is just BL for the sake of being BL—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Personally, I can only take so much of these kinds of stories, but I don’t doubt that a great many people will find it to there liking and unapologetically so.

Unlike a knife, writing is the kind of tool that gets sharper the more you use it. Nogaki Suzume may be using a utility knife now, but I think she has the potential to wield a filet knife some day soon. If nothing else, her ability to create a twisted seme should only get better and for that reason alone, I’d definitely be interested in what she produces next.

I want to thank BLBangBang and DMG for giving me the opportunity to review this title for free via eManga. This was my second opportunity and I really appreciated it. I actually finished this review about 2 weeks ago, but in a freak turn of events, I lost half of it. I was really close to tears and fell into a flash depression and decided I just could not write it all over again. I had my letter of apology to BLBB and DMG half-written when I decided to sleep on it. I’m glad I did because even though finding the right words was a struggle before I lost half of my progress, I really wanted to complete this and share it with my fellow fans. Take what you will from my Impression, but don’t take my word for it.

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