Spotlight: Katou Setsuko

I’m not sure if this is even necessary because Katou Setsuko seems to be catching on more and more lately. But I figured I’d do one for her anyway, since she deserves all the attention she can get. I learned about her shortly after her first tankoubon was scanlated, but really didn’t take notice of her as a mangaka until I read more of her stories from Cab and thus searched out her unscanlated works as well.

Trompe L’Oeil no Yubisaki
Tsurukusa no Niwa
Otodoke Shimasu

Her website can be found here, and it has some very delicious colored art in the gallery. Her work has been published as early as 2006 with Marble’s Hetare Otoko Catalogue, but her first tankoubon wasn’t published until early 2008. She has also contributed art for two novels by Shinohara Makoto. I wouldn’t say she’s unknown in Western fandom, but I definitely wouldn’t consider her a ‘household name’ by any stretch. In late ’08 Trompe was released by Attractive Fascinante, who also just recently released previews for her third tankoubon Wasuremono which should be released by the time most people even read this post. That same group also has Otodoke listed on their ‘current projects’ list. Tsurukusa, on the other hand, was picked up by Bliss and the first chapter was released a month or so ago. Which means that everything released by Katou Setsuko thus far has been claimed and will be translated.

Which will hopefully also mean that she’ll catch on relatively quickly from here on.

Her art style is very clean. The way she draws makes most of her men look pretty by default—clear, sharp eyes and full lips make up her faces, and the bodies of her men are usually very fit but in a lithe, sensual way. While her backgrounds are only detailed when she seems to find it necessary, her boys are always drawn carefully. Personal style is generally quite simple and mature, with jeans and tight-fitting long-sleeve shirts for casual wear or uniforms and business suits. Screentone seems to be kept to a minimum, being used only when necessary and quite rarely for backgrounds.

Story-wise, Katou-sensei is very good at writing shorts that are packed with sexual tension. Even simple things like a man putting his hand over another man’s looks quite sexy when it’s written by her. She tends to write serious stories—I haven’t seen much form her in the style of comedy or even anything particularly lighthearted or fluffy. But that’s not to say her stories are incredibly dark or angst-filled or anything; rather, she’s just very good at writing things that are short but nonetheless filled with emotional content.

Her characters tend to be stoic or hetare or maybe mingling somewhere in the middle. My favorite characters from her are her prideful, aloof ukes. You don’t see them as often as I would wish in BL manga, but she does them spectacularly. As far as gender traits go, Katou Setsuko once again strikes a nice balance between masculine and feminine. Though she often writes her men a bit moody, it’s a nice change from the types who constantly put up a happy front. While her ukes and semes tend to have their roles lined out in black and white, relationships are generally pretty well-balanced and open.

She’s also pretty realistic to the point of making her men actually gay at times, having them use condoms and lube, and having them get into fights that any couple (or couple-to-be) could definitely have.

Sexually, Katou Setsuko is a beast. She draws her genitals pretty graphically, though it’s not like she draws every pore or wrinkle in the skin. Censorship laws be damned, Katou-sensei isn’t going to make her sex scenes look like some random dry humping with furrowed eyebrows and clenched teeth. But even when she’s not showing anal sex in great detail, she writes some of the best make-out scenes I’ve seen in BL manga. They can go on for pages at a time and are so sensual that they’re often sexier than your average complete sex scene. Absolutely brilliant. Katou Setsuko really knows how to set up a perfect mood for those kinds of moments.

It’s nice that she isn’t shy about outright eroticism. I must say, the third chapter of Trompe made a pretty huge impact on me. It’s not every day a man says to his sexual interest “has anyone ever told you they wanted to shoot on your face?” Daaaaaamn. Any chapter that starts out with a sentence like that and ends with someone licking chocolate off their lover’s fingers in public is an automatic favorite in my book.

Highly recommended if not for her interesting stories then at least for the types of characters she writes, for her lovely art and for her delicious H scenes. Her art has changed a bit since she first started (as it always does) but either way her writing style is wonderful and you should definitely give it a try.


15 responses to “Spotlight: Katou Setsuko”

  1. kery says :

    Haha… Katou Setsuko is my new love too. I’ve read all her books except for Wasuremono, and I must say that what makes her work stand out are her stories. They end at strange places, e.g. before the confession, or after some strange comment, or just abruptly in the middle of nowhere. But she does the stories so well that instead of griping, I find myself remembering them because of how unconventional they were.

    … And feeling somewhat unsatisfied because some of them feel a bit unfinished.

    The content of the stories is not anything FANTASTIC but they’re just memorable because of her execution.

    • ふう子 says :

      Haha yeah, she’s really weird about the ‘placement’ in her stories—they start at random parts in relationships and end abruptly while leaving you wanting more. She really knows how to mess with a reader’s emotions, doesn’t she? You’d think such short, simple stories would ultimately be forgettable, but the way she writes them leaves you thinking about them for a long time afterward.

      • kery says :

        Haha yea. Have you read Wasuremono? Is it a long story like Tsurukusa no Niwa or a collection of shorts again?

        I must say that I like her shorts better, though.

        • ふう子 says :

          I’ve read the first chapter since it’s what’s been posted by Attractive Fascinante so far, but I’ve only been able to glance through the rest of the book since it’s in Chinese and that’s a language I don’t know at all haha. The first two chapters are one story, but then there are three more unrelated one-chapter shorts.

          I agree, I prefer her short stories as well. The tension that makes her writing style so good gets a bit watered down in her longer stories. Though I still find them enjoyable. /o/

  2. haphazardlycurious says :

    I like her art and I really want to read more of her stories :D.
    “has anyone ever told you they wanted to shoot on your face?” like the most direct approach ever! it was really something, never going to forget that.

    • ふう子 says :

      Her art is lovely, isn’t it? /o/ I actually plan on scanning something of hers that I ripped out from Cab if only I could get in the mood to scan again. orz

      Hahaha yeah, that line left me absolutely shocked. That’ll probably always be one of my favorite stories in BL manga if only because it left such a huge impression.

      • haphazardlycurious says :

        Well I will check it if my knowledge gets deeper. If it has no furigana I’ll probably have to wait for scans. At least she is getting attention now :D

        I actually don’t remember the story that well, but that line, yeah. I know there are others situations like these but I can’t quite remember them. Right now the ones that come to my mind are those from Akanai Tobira.

        • ふう子 says :

          Hmm I’m not sure if Katou Setsuko’s manga have furigama off the top of my head. Maybe just for stuff like names or word puns.

          Uwa it’s been so long since I read Akanai Tobira, I should probably reread it.

  3. Lennie says :

    Time to read all of her scanlated works! ;D
    DAMN. They all look so good… GAH SO EXCITED TO READ LOL

    and ^www akanai tobira was o_o and o//o and =_=

  4. haphazardlycurious says :

    Wasuremono is out by Attractive Fascinante!! <>

  5. Sweety says :

    coooooool XD i love this mangaka ever since i’ve read Trompe l’oeil no yubisaki XDD and also the newest scanlated by Afascinante, Wasuremono ^^

    The graphism is cool and fluid. it gives an easy reading mode ^^;;;

  6. azurelucy says :

    I love this mangaka. But even though every manga of hers is translated she doesn’t seem to be really popular with fandom. There’s always a lot of people complaining about her stories.

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