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.
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.