Junko “Star-like Words”
Star-like Words is Junko’s anticipated (by me haha) fourth tankoubon release, and her second through Gush. As of yet it hasn’t made much of a splash, garnering one simple five-star review on amazon.jp and some nice reviews on Chill Chill. Nothing particularly substantial, but we have to keep in mind that it’s only been out for four days. Things could pick up! Actually, things probably will pick up, because Star-like Words is an absolutely adorable book.
The story starts out with Subaru, a high school student, getting it hot and heavy while bent over a desk. Subaru loves sex and has many sex friends at school, often going so far as to have sex and give sexual favors in abandoned classrooms, but he’s never been in love. He’s even continuously been asked to date properly by some of his sex friends, but if there isn’t love he’s not interested. He really wants to fall in love though—the kind of hard-hitting, breathtaking, knocks-you-on-your-knees love that makes your heart speed a mile a minute. He just doesn’t know how to get it. That is, until he’s about to have sex with his friend Okada and sees the most gorgeous painting he’s ever seen and promptly falls in love with the man who painted it.
There’s a problem, though: the painter, a fellow student named Nagayama, is a closed case. He rarely speaks and has almost no interest in human interaction—even with his fellow art club members—often walking around with earphones in to block everyone else out. He’s been alone since he was little and has never been good at speaking or showing his emotions, using art as his only way of communicating himself to the world. But, sadly, art is a language most people don’t understand. He’s even picked on at school, but has become so used to people’s reactions toward his silence that it barely fazes him anymore. When Subaru, pants still around his ankles from the fun he was previously having with Okada, suddenly confesses his new-found love for Nagayama, Nagayama’s only reaction is “No way. That is to say, who are you?”
But Subaru has no intention of giving up. He’s finally tasted the sweet flavor of love and he fully intends to make it bloom—no matter how much Nagayama pushes him away. He loses interest in sleeping around, content to sit in the art room and pester Nagayama all day after school. And finally, his persistence pays off when he realizes Nagayama is upset simply by seeing the emotions conveyed in his painting—something that has only happened one other time, when Nagayama was small and his grandmother and only true support until she passed away was able to read his feelings from his artwork. Slowly Nagayama starts opening up to Subaru—eating out together, having real conversations, going home together.
But it all breaks down when Nagayama walks in on Subaru and Okada making out again in the art room. Granted, it was Okada who initiated it (though Subaru ended up caving since it had been so long since he felt physical pleasure), but Nagayama wants to hear none of Subaru’s excuses—as far as he’s concerned, up until that point Subaru was just lying about his feelings. Subaru had finally been within inches of tasting true love, but then it was snatched away by his stupid mistake. Is there any way he can make Nagayama listen to him and understand his true feelings? Can Nagayama learn to trust him and start opening up again? Or will things just go back to how they used to be?
There is also an extra story of these two, with the introduction of Nagayama’s rival, Mihara—Nagayama has suddenly lost interest in painting, and it’s supposedly Subaru’s fault? Is that why Mihara is trying so hard to break them up? A cute story in which we find that Nagayama no longer plans to use his art to express his loneliness but instead wants to find a way to turn it around and express his happiness at meeting Subaru and thus being able to open up slowly to those around him. Then there’s a oneshot extra as well, Honey Trap, featuring two boys who disguise themselves as a couple through crossdressing as a way to get into a couples-only cake cafe. But one of them actually hates sweets and just lied about loving them as a way to use a mutual interest to get closer to his classmate. Having to kiss in front of the waiter as proof of their fake relationship is painful, but maybe they can take their relationship one step further and make it real? Well, through sex out in the car in the parking lot.
First, sorry for my over-excited mini-post yesterday. I can assure you, you weren’t the only people spammed. Tumblr also got spammed. As did my twitter friends. I have maybe fallen head-over-heels in love with Star-like Words. Much more than I expected, actually. To be honest I am always apprehensive when I start a new book by one of my favorite artists—I don’t want to hold it to higher standards just because it’s by a mangaka I have loved other stories by previously. Sometimes a mangaka writes a book I love and sometimes a mangaka writes a book that I enjoy but don’t plan on reading again any time soon. It happens. I didn’t want to open up Star-like Words and expect to love it just as much as Kimi Note, because I figure that would be just opening myself up for incredible disappointment.
But—! She did it again! The cover is gorgeous, the color insert is gorgeous, and then BAM—the first page smacks you in the face with a bent-over-the-desk-panting-and-loving-it sex scene. I am always excited about BL manga where the ukes loves sex. To me it just makes reading the sex scenes so much more enjoyable—it’s kind of like watching actual gay porn and the man on the bottom is limp and looks bored and you’re like “blehhhh this isn’t hot at all!” It’s so much more fun when they’re both into it! It also makes the sex scenes generally more loving for both sides to be enjoying it equally. Plus, I liked that Subaru enjoyed sex but was also interested in love. Often in BL you see the ‘icy sex queen’ stereotype—the uke is interested in sex but afraid of actual love and thus kind of a cold, depressing person. So I thought right away that Subaru was really a breath of fresh air: exuberant, unashamed to love sex, but nonetheless always looking for that special someone that would make sex—and just life in general—glitter like the stars.
And then he was paired with Nagayama, who just really sincerely needed someone like Subaru in his life. Everyone else didn’t necessarily give up on Nagayama, per se, but they did give up on trying to crack though his shell. Nagayama had a hard life as a child who was always left alone—always lonely. His story really tugged at my heartstrings. So for Subaru to jump through hoop after hoop to prove his love for Nagayama and force Nagayama to open up to him was just so brilliantly sweet that their final confession for each other was felt all the way down in my rotten fujoshi heart. In their first sex scene when Nagayama touched Subaru’s skin and was astounded by the warmth radiating from him, that was just gorgeous. And then Nagayama being fine with no longer being able to create art like he used to because he was openly embracing his love for Subaru was just… ahh. Everything about their relationship is exactly what I love reading in BL manga. Super sweet and touching and fluffy with just a dash of angst.
I don’t want to discount the level of comedy, though! Aside from being sugar-sweet with its angsty moments, Star-like Words also has its fair share of comedic silly moments. Such as Subaru going on cheesily about how amazing Nagayama is when he’d only just met him, and Nagayama awkwardly adapting into someone who speaks. So to break up the fluff clouds there are also many scenes that will make you laugh as well. Junko has a very understated but great sense of humor and it really comes through in this manga.
Though, something I’m sad about: I really liked Okada a lot! So it’s a bit sad to not get more of his story. For a side character he really had an interesting personality, and his reactions toward Subaru really made you wonder about him—what are his true feelings toward Subaru? How did he get mixed up in all this? etc. So it’s a bit sad to get attached and wonder about a character who is only barely shown. But I guess that’s just more proof of how amazing Junko is, always writing such likable characters that you can’t help but grow attached even to the ones who aren’t shown so often.
Not to leave out the final oneshot! As if I didn’t already absolutely adore the main story, this one just snuck up on me! I was expecting to be disappointed by it since the title story was so cute and fun and I enjoyed it so much, but it had everything I wanted as well as my weird secret fetish: crossdressing, with the one in the dress on top. The only other time I’ve seen this (and not in a gag manga) was in Ootsuki Miu’s Gush Peche oneshot, so I was ecstatic to see it again here. Plus, I thought the premise was so cute—lying about loving sweets just so you can fake a mututal interest with someone and grow closer to them. Kuratani actually hated sweets to the point where they made him feel physically ill, but at least it paid off when Shinonome noticed Kuratani’s feelings and ended up falling for him a bit as well. Plus, if the crossdressing weren’t enough to get me excited, surprise makeout in public? Mutual masturbation in the backseat of a car? I can assure you of one thing: I will probably have read this oneshot at least ten times by the end of the week.
Overall? Well… haven’t I already shown pretty strongly that I can’t recommend this manga enough? Junko’s adorable art style mixed with fabulous, sweet, relatable characters and a story that is not only fluffy and silly but also quite touching—really, what’s not to like? To be honest it’s been a while since I was so excited while reading a BL manga. The entire time I read this I was giggling and making obnoxious excited sounds to the point where my cat even gave me an evil look—it wass really just that enjoyable to read! (Just make sure to read it where no one—not even your cats—might be disturbed!) Highly, highly, highly recommended! I guess this will at least be something amazing to make the wait until Junko’s next book be slightly more bearable.