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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/13/2004 Archived Entry: "Yaoi manga review: Passion, vol 1"

Passion, volume 1
by Shinobu Gotoh
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing

Review by Ginger Mayerson

Why older women should read yaoi manga.

Warning and Full disclosure: I'm forty-four years old and I've just started reading yaoi mangas and I'm hooked like a bass. Furthermore, I know there's a lot of yaoi theory out there and not only have I read none of it, I intend to read none of it. So what you read here is purely my impression of what I found thoroughly enjoyable about Passion and what I found thoroughly weird about it and everything in between.

Okay, plot synopsis: It doesn't really have a plot, it's just a series of events that the two main characters react to (sort of). It starts with the High School student, Hikaru, anally raping (or trying to) his doll-like male teacher, Shima, in a deserted class-room. Now, this is weird already, but gets weird squared because Mr. Shima acts like nothing happened. Then Hikaru shows up at Shima's apartment and they have more sex stylized sex. Then Shima's old flame and fellow teacher, Mr. Amamiya, wants to get back together with him so badly, he sexually assaults him in the men's room. Shima fights him off and, again, acts like nothing unusual happened. Later that week, Shima makes out with Hikaru on a school rooftop.

Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this manga in the same way I enjoy all melodrama. The events are very melodramatic, but the characters are so deadpan, it sets up a space to obsess in and God knows I love to obsesses on stuff like this.

The art style is new to me and it took a while for me to get used to having males who look like girls and females who look like dolls. But I got over that very quickly, what disconcerted me was one panel where there should have been a penis and there was just white space impersonating a penis. Well, okay, but in a way this is too bad because I've seen penises in Japanese erotica and they are indeed impressive. However, I suppose the pop erotica market is lower key. Is Passion erotica? Sure, but surreal, sanitized and strange erotica. But that's okay, that's what I liked about it. No one worries about filing charges, bruises, safe sex, or drawing sex in a believable way, and this actually worked for me. But I am an older woman and know that sex and anatomy are not as they are portrayed in Passion. Passion isn't even like it's portrayed in Passion, there's more... passion in it or something.

I do wonder how younger women, the 18 and older crowd it's aimed at, react to this stuff. I'm pretty sure they realize the dangers of unprotected sex, that coerced sex is not the norm, and that men have penises. At least I hope they realize this because yaoi manga is meant to entertain, not educate, and if they don't know that, these young women have a pretty steep learning curve ahead of them.

And this why older women could read and enjoy yaoi manga because it isn't didactic, political, intense, or distressing. It's as light, mellow, and improbable as a daydream in the checkout line. I found the writing (translated from Japanese, I assume) only so-so. I've read two yaoi mangas and I thought the other one was better written (which is why I liked it more).

For me, the appeal of gay erotica has always been seeing men allowing themselves to be vulnerable to and tender with each other. Yaoi throws that off kilter because the men do look like girls and what I assumed to be the passive partner really looks more feminine than the already feminine men around him. But I got over that very quickly. However, this dissonance, lack of realism, detail, and, well, facts set up a space for mentally reframing the action in a more suitable way. At least that's what I did.

The format throws a Westerner off kilter, too, the book is read right to left and thank you Digital Manga Publishing for the diagram on what turns out to be the last page explaining how to read the damn thing. Once I got the hang of it, it still felt weird, but that weird feeling kept me on my toes, so I really paid attention to what I was reading. This book can be read more than once, mainly because it can take one or two readings just to stare at the drawing and get the hang of the format, another reading just to take it all in, another reading to really focus on who's speaking to whom and in which panel, another reading to puzzle over what the hell might be going on here, and all the readings after that just to enjoy it.

And so I say unto you, sisters of a certain age, we can still keep those coffee table erotica collections from Fantagraphics on the coffee table, but we can read yaoi manga just to amuse ourselves, too. And, yes, this confuses men, but that won't hurt 'em.

EDIT: And don't forget to look for Passion, vol. 2, so we can know how it all works out. For what its worth, my money is on Mr. Amamiya.

Replies: 8 comments

Edit - Note to Jane:

"I wasn't kidding about older women reading these and being able to enjoy the fantasy aspect of it. Younger women would have to have a skeptical attitude, and that's antithetical. Skeptical young women would bring the species to a screaming halt in a NY minute."

Posted by Ginger Mayerson @ 11/16/2004 10:46 AM PST

I think your wrong. Theres a lot of younger woman reading and enjoying this kind of manga. Only they dont come out or had guts to say they like reading this stuff. Anyway thank you for the review and scan sample. Hope the volume 2 come out soon.

Posted by Bl Fan @ 12/06/2004 07:11 AM PST

Oh, come now, I didn't say younger women wouldn't enjoy yaoi, I said they might be somewhat confused later on if they assumed sex in real life is like the sex depicted in yaoi manga. I have since been informed that my younger sisters can take care of themselves, thank you, thank you verra much.

I dunno, being a teen in the 70s was way different from being a teen now.

However, I'm looking forward to Volume 2 of this manga as well. The release date on the publisher's site is next February. So there IS something to look forward to.

Posted by Ginger Mayerson @ 12/06/2004 10:31 PM PST

I think that you were mistaken in stating that younger women wouldn't enjoy Yaoi. I, myself am a huge yaoi fan, as is my 13 year old sister. In fact, she is the one that got me addicted to yaoi, as well as this very series. Dammit, I want to volukme two to come out!!

Posted by Sonjia Seek @ 12/26/2004 02:57 PM PST

I never say younger women wouldn't enjoy yaoi, I said they might be somewhat confused later on if they assume sex in real life is like the sex depicted in yaoi manga. I have since been informed that my younger sisters can take care of themselves, thank you, thank you verra much.

Posted by Ginger @ 12/26/2004 03:27 PM PST

Me, I read Desire, and although I really shouldn't, considering I'm only thirteen, but I enjoyed the book very much. Yes, Desire is a yaoi, not a shounen ai, and I know full well the difference. I own the full gravitation series. Reading these comments makes me think that Passion really is for the older teens like Desire, but only in mind. If you are mature enough, yaoi is very enjoyable.
Many people, since I'm still in eighth grade thinks boy love is gross. I don't see how they feel as if yaoi or shounen ai is "gross". I think yaoi is actually much more romantic than straight love.

Posted by Jenny Oh @ 10/07/2005 07:55 PM PST

I agree with you, Jenny. Although on yaoi manga they has warning signs on them, but I wonder how did you get Desire when you are only 13 years old?

Ah, well, you read what you like as long as you're mature enough to read it/them.

I also agree that yaoi IS more romantic than straight love. How boring it became to me! Anyways, I have BOTH Passion volumes and I love 'em!! For those who haven't, get 'em, read 'em and enjoy!!!

P.S. Hikaru is so cute, you really can't help but love him, for he REALLY loves his teacher.

Posted by Zaidy @ 11/06/2005 10:08 PM PST

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Posted by Editor @ 01/19/2006 02:08 AM PST

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