Nobara Aiko “Akiyama-kun”
Initially I thought I wouldn’t buy this book, since it’s one of those random “Baby Comics Extra” books that’s oddly expensive compared to your average tankoubon. But while I was getting ready to make my order I decided to look at a few reviews of it, which led me to the Chill Chill pages which led me to finding out that it was tagged an ‘ero ero’ book (which is my favorite kind, as I explained on tumblr a while back—a BL manga without sex scenes is like cake without frosting to me, good but it could be so much better) and so in the end I decided to get the book and just hoped it was worth the spendy price tag.
Well, worth the spendy price it is—not only is it a pretty big book (it’s larger than your average BL tankoubon; actually, closer to the size of a BL anthology such as Cab or Gush Peche) but it also has guest essays and illustrations from other random Baby Comics mangaka such as Manako and Kyuugou who’re fans of Nobara’s work. Not to mention the story just blew me away.
Let me try my best to explain. The story is about Shiba Daisuke and his sudden relationship with an upperclassman Akiyama-kun. One day Shiba is evidently not able to hold it in any longer and confesses his adoration to Akiyama-kun in front of all of Akiyama’s friends—supposedly he fell for Akiyama when the older boy saved him from being beat up in the bathroom of their school. Akiyama doesn’t exactly hang with the best crowd; in fact, it would probably be understandable to refer to him as a ‘punk’. So after poor Shiba confesses, they drag him to Akiyama’s house to interrogate and mock him. But being in front of Akiyama incidentally gives Shiba somewhat of a hard-on, which—to Shiba’s dismay—Akiyama’s friend Sano Tomomi notices. So they shed Shiba of his pants in order to mock him some more, which leads to Akiyama tentatively and gently placing his foot on Shiba’s crotch. Unlike the other boys, Akiyama seems to treat Shiba with curiosity much more so than with disdain. So when Shiba starts moan and thrust into Akiyama’s foot he doesn’t seem particularly disgusted by it. In fact, he gets kind of turned on by Shiba’s cries and expressions.
Which is where it starts getting weird for Akiyama’s friends. With Shiba’s cum all over his foot Akiyama starts to undress, downs the rest of the booze he was holding, gets down in the floor with Shiba, and starts making out with him. His friends watch in dismayed interest, not sure if Akiyama is messing with them for more juvenile laughs or if he’s actually seriously going to have sex with Shiba. But by the time Shiba pulls Akiyama’s erection out of his pants and starts jacking him off, all in the midst of the two still passionately kissing, it’s pretty obvious—with all of them still in the room, Akiyama is letting Shiba have his way with him. And they’re all too shocked to leave.
This leaves a lasting impression on the entire group of boys, which is really what this manga is about. Poor Sano Tomomi is so shocked by the events he saw that he becomes impotent, only getting terrifyingly aroused by thinking of the lustful look in Akiyama’s eyes while Shiba touched him. Shiba’s other two friends take a fairly more homophobic route, starting to avoid Akiyama at all costs to hopefully just forget about what happened that day. Akiyama, now abandoned by his friends and evidently still fascinated by the passion Shiba awoke within him, seeks out Shiba again—this time even going so far as to buy condoms and lube so they can keep experimenting. Shiba, a very shy and easily manipulated boy (kind of similar to Mihashi from Oofuri, for those who are familiar with the series), is more than happy to go along with Akiyama’s requests even though he doesn’t understand why Akiyama is suddenly so fascinated by him.
What’s so interesting about this manga is the weird ’cause and effect’ type of plot it follows. Instead of having your regular romantic tone in which two people fall in love and try to make their relationships work, these boys lives are suddenly thrown for a loop because of one weird event that they never thought would happen in their young lives. Everything that happens in this book is caused by the simple act of Shiba confessing to Akiyama. While it’s a fairly unrealistic premise on some sides, all the characters and their reactions were so human to me that I felt a little taken-aback by it. For instance, Tomomi’s sudden impotency—not only was it somewhat of a humorous plot, but the fact that seeing two men fucking on the floor right in front of him caused such a huge emotional disturbance that whenever the idea of sex was brought forth it was all he could think about… I found that really interesting. I have never seen it in a manga or book before, much less in the cliche-filled world of BL. I really enjoyed that.
I also liked how all the characters just felt very three-dimensional. Even Akiyama, who is arguably the most ‘cliche’ (punk-type) character of them all, just didn’t feel like he fit the mold perfectly—yeah, he had the lacking home life and such, but his lack of motivation for school and a job stemmed more from his loneliness in the world than it stemmed from anger or rejection. On the other hand, Shiba didn’t have any close friends and was your average shy nerd, but he didn’t let it deter him from trying his best like it usually would in most other fictional stories—he had his loving mother and sister and so he didn’t feel lonely even though he wasn’t the most social person ever. Not to mention he was arguably the most courageous characters in the entire book for blurting his love for another man out in front of said man’s friends and anyone else who could have been within hearing distance. Then there’s Tomomi, who was a very hard character to understand. (But I’ll touch on him more in a bit…) Kajiwara and Oota were interesting if only because it seemed very obvious that their homophobia toward Shiba and Akiyama’s actions stemmed from fear of the unknown and unusual moreso than anything else. Then there was the cute and friendly Chie-chan, Shiba’s coworker, who was very accepting and excited about Shiba’s love for Akiyama.
Anyway, touching more on Tomomi—he seems like a lot of people’s favorite character, and I can definitely see why. While the main book is definitely about Akiyama and Shiba’s relationship, Tomomi stands out way more than any of the other side characters. I think Nobara Aiko initially added him and his impotency as more of a humorous side-plot, but it kind of took off into fascinating territory because you don’t really ever understand fully why the aroused look in Akiyama’s eyes messed up his mind so badly. For a while it’s alluded that he might also have some sort of romantic-sexual feelings for Akiyama, but in the final chapter that doesn’t really seem to be the case.
Actually, the entire last chapter is dedicated to Tomomi. It starts out with his thoughts on that day, with Akiyama’s hand grabbing and holding onto the bottom of Tomomi’s pants while he was being fucked by Shiba. But midway through the chapter it’s a dream sequence, somewhat fanservice-y but also a look into Tomomi’s mind. In it he’s a worker at a sex club for men, dressed in bunny ears and ridiculously sexy lingerie that include little lacy panties and a frilly top that shows his nipples. Supposedly he works there with Akiyama, and it’s his first day. Akiyama takes to it like a fish in water, making out and offering his body easily to the club patrons. But, watching him, Tomomi is clumsy and unsure, aroused by their touching but embarrassed and uncomfortable being seen. Eventually he has to be reassured by Akiyama’s kiss. But it’s never Akiyama as the one having sex with him, on top or on bottom. Akiyama is just there while Tomomi is being fucked, even after the ‘scenery’ of the dream morphs into the classroom where Akiyama and Tomomi first met. So in the end you can’t be sure if Tomomi is in love with Akiyama, or just desperate for the idea that Akiyama and he are similar. But the one thing you can definitely take from it is that Tomomi is also fascinated by the idea of being held by another man.
Ahhhhh I just really loved this book. There are just so many scenes that seem to have deeper meanings, even though the overall plot is so simple and ‘slice-of-life’. I loved the entire cast of characters, but in particular I loved Akiyama and Shiba and Tomomi. Shiba, I think, had some pretty interesting character development in entering a relationships with Akiyama—though he was already smart and a hard worker, I think being with Akiyama opened him up more as a person. Before he was kind of just drifting, but after his feelings with Akiyama seem to be reciprocated (though there is never any complete confession of love from Akiyama all throughout the book) he becomes that much more dedicated and sure of himself.
As I already said, there isn’t really ever any complete reassurance of love from Akiyama so it’s hard to tell exactly how he feels toward Shiba which I suppose could turn some people off. The closest you get to him outright stating his intentions in having sex and being around Shiba is “I like being around you, it’s fun.” But I think the look on his face when he’s staring at the ring Shiba gave him for his birthday says it all. Akiyama isn’t really a ‘feelings’ type person anyway—the opposite of Shiba, who is very forthright with his own emotions. I think they fit together perfectly.
Also, can I just say how much I loved that Shiba was the ‘top’ in their relationship. Usually, considering their personalities and who is dominant, most people would have written Akiyama as the top and Shiba as the bottom. Also the fact that Akiyama seemed to be so fascinated by how anal sex felt that he kept wanting more. idk sometimes in BL anal sex is written as something scary and painful and icky, which can be kind of an annoying turn-off at times even though it can be true under certain circumstances. So it’s always nice when both partners seem to wholeheartedly enjoy the act of sex instead of one wanting it and the other (generally the bottom) constantly running from it.
Ummm haha I just really loved this book! orz As you can probably tell. It just went way above and beyond my expectations—I already liked Nobara Aiko, but now I’ll probably be watching the release dates like a hawk hoping for more of her books. Her art is sketchy but very nice, and I love the way she handles facial expressions and paneling and just pretty much everything really. I think she’s definitely a great up-and-coming mangaka, if this book is any indication. I just adored this entire book and I highly recommend it, especially if you’re in the mood for something with a lot of sex and adolescent problems in a book that is just begging to be read a million times over. So good—I can’t help wishing there was more.