Miscellanea and Ephemeron
11/14/2004 Archived Entry: "Shonen-Ai review: Only the Ring Finger Knows"
February 9, 2006: UPDATE ON THE NOVEL!
*Powells has the description wrong, but everything else is right.
End of update.
Edit 070105: I don't know if it's been announced elsewhere, but Isaac Lew of Digital Manga told me today at AnimeExpo that the "Only the Ring Finger Knows" novels will be published in May 2006. Lucky us! Thank you, Digital Manga!
Edit 20050406 IMPORTANT MESSAGE (scroll down for review):
"There is more story behind the ring finger than what anyone knows...
"The genre of Boy's Love novels is well known in Japan but is almost unrepresented her in the United States. Now that the growing trend towards publishing yaoi is occurring in the translated manga market, we would like to bring one of our most popular yaoi titles to our readers in its original form. "Only The Ring Finger Knows", the novel.
"So let your voice be heard! For those fans of the OTRFK manga, if you wish to see this title, and possibly other BL novels published in an English format, please fill out the online petition listed here."
Message from Ginger:
and now here's the review:
Review by Ginger Mayerson
Why older women should read yaoi manga redux.
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 Only the Ring Finger Knows, which wins the wacky title of the week award, and what I found a little squirrelly about it. Frankly, once I got into it, I loved it, I really loved it. (Images, except one, removed 20041226, sorry. However, the art is worth buying a copy.) I reviewed another yaoi manga, Passion, earlier and will be using some of that text. So yes, I know I'm repeating myself, but no, it's not senility (yet).
When I was twenty-nine I made a point of reading my first and only Barbara Cartland romance. I read it because I didn't want such a thing to pollute the purity of my thirties (my twenties were beyond redemption). I think I read it in an evening, mildly enjoyed it and forgot all about it until I read Only the Ring Finger Knows this week and was reminded of it, because this manga is as sweet and as full of improbable events as the Cartland novel. But I liked Only the Ring Finger Knows much more.
Plot synopsis from Digital Manga: "At Wataru Fujii's high school, it's all the rage to wear paired rings with the girl you love. Wataru wears one though he is single, and one day inadvertently discovers that his ring pairs up with that of tall, handsome and smart Yuichi Kazuki, the senior classman idolized by the entire school. Though Kazuki has a reputation for being kind to all, when dealing with Wataru, he is strangely harsh. Their paired rings somehow draw them together and the two alternately clash and attract, as they must sort out their budding feelings for each other."
Plot synopsis from Mayerson: "He hates me, he loves me, he doesn't love me, he's a guy, I'm a guy, I hate him, I love him, he loves someone else, I can't eat, I can't sleep, how am I ever going to get over this and get into Tokoyo University? Oh wait! Maybe he. . . he, um . . " Etc. It's adorable! I wish there were more of this. I understand there are novels, and if they were translated into English or even French, I would buy them and read them and obsess on them, too. If anyone can go to Satoru Kannagi's site, which is in Japanese and tell him this, I'd be much obliged. If anyone can also tell me why the author and artist's blood types and sun signs are on the dust jacket, I'd be much obliged to know that, too. Kind of a nice, but odd (to me), touch.
So, unlike Passion, Only the Ring Finger Knows is aimed at the sixteen and over crowd of girls, I assume, because I wonder if guys would get it at all. This yaoi manga is full the sweetest smooches I've ever seen between two guys who look like girls. And what causes me to stare at these kisses is that, although I am far from an expert on how men kiss each other, it seems to me that Yuichi and Wataru's kisses are more like the way a gentleman kisses a lady: his hand lightly under her jaw, more for support and direction, but never dominating, grasping or scary. Whereas the male kisses I've seen in films and books, usually one guy has the other guy's skull clamped between his hands, as if to fully restrain him, and were the other guy, with luck and dexterity, to liberate himself from such a kiss, he would need to spend some time in a neck brace later on. So, every time Yuichi kisses Wataru (and Yuichi is always the active partner), I think, "Gee, how nice," and what I think might happen in a sequel is between me and my fevered imagination. But what are yaoi mangas for if not to give a woman something to think about?
I find it interesting that Only the Ring Finger Knows is aimed at sixteen and older girls, which is about the age, maybe a little earlier, when girls begin to wonder what's really going on with boys. And vice versa, but girls (as I recall) really try to figure it out starting around age sixteen. I think that a book like Only the Ring Finger Knows would throw a pretty serious curve into that process because the main characters are much prettier than most boys that age, hell, they're prettier than most girls that age. And although the plot is more rational and better executed, and the main characters are more masculine than in Passion, Yuichi and Wataru are still not behaving in any way I've ever seen real boys behave. Maybe real boys do obsess about each other and maybe they do kiss each other that way, but, unlike Yuichi and Wataru, who indiscreetly smooch in parks, schools and in the street, maybe other boys just hide it better. I also don't know what the social customs in Japan are on such things; Only the Ring Finger Knows might be firmly in realm of fantasy, of which yaoi is probably an established part.
Anyway, I thought it was cute. I remember being struck by a line somewhere in Brideshead Revisted where some woman explains that boys grow up to be happier men if their first love is another boy (whether they ever act on it sexually or not). That fits beautifully with Only the Ring Finger Knows, except you want them to stay together forever. Come to think of it, that's also what I wanted for those two guys in Brideshead Revisted, but I digress.
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, a certain amount of logic set up a space for mentally reframing the action in a more suitable way. At least that's what I did. Yes! I obsessed on a yaoi manga, I admit it, I freely admit it.
The format throws an uninitiated Westerner off kilter, too, the book is read right to left and thank you, Digital Manga Publishing, for the handy-dandy diagram on what seems like the first page, but 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 mull it over.
So, you know, life is sometimes very stressful and sometimes a grown woman needs something to relax with after a hard day in the world. I would recommend Only the Ring Finger Knows, not exactly a literary valium, but not unlike a literary glass of mid-price Chablis. Enjoy!
Edit November 23, 2004: I guess this isn't yaoi, according to this and a few other things I read that finally convinced me, it's Shonen-Ai. Apparently Shonen-Ai is "boy's love" and yaoi is gay porn. It's good to learn something new everyday.
Edit June 7, 2005: And don't miss the fabulous Lene Taylor's commentary on this manga "Why is Yuichi Kazuki so Mean?" And then sign the Petition for Only the Ring Finger Knows Novel so we can all find out what happens next.
Replies: 30 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 10:47 AM PST
A slight correction -- shounen-ai (as interpreted by Westerners, not by the Japanese) tends to mean mild Boys Love. Yaoi is NOT gay porn by any definition, though. By Western standards, it simply means Boys Love with more sex. Both terms have other, similar meanings in Japan, where Boys Love is the general term.
Posted by April G. @ 11/30/2004 06:53 AM PST
Thanks, April! Okay, now I think this is shounen-ai and "Passion" is yaoi and neither are porn. Hm, whole new set of terms to learn, eek.
Posted by Ginger Mayerson @ 11/30/2004 07:51 AM PST
I enjoyed reading your review of this manga. The story is as beautiful as the art. For your interest, and the interest of those who read this review, Be Beautiful is a publishing company that was recently formed to release yaoi titles - yea! They have released some good titles, with more to come.
Posted by Shami @ 12/03/2004 08:48 PM PST
Thanks for the review, it's great.
Posted by Nea @ 12/05/2004 11:53 PM PST
Thank you so much for this extensive review! I just read the manga yesterday and I was so regretting not buying it (will do so today *laughs*).
Posted by Sachiko @ 12/29/2004 08:56 AM PST
I haven't read this manga, but I plan on. I haven't even bought it yet, but I am definately going to after reading your review! I threw my plans to buy Eerie Queerie vol. 1 to get this! I sure as hell hope it is the best. I'm only 14, but I guess that Manga isn't manga without the cute gay guys! ^-^
Posted by Larewen_evenstar @ 01/25/2005 12:25 PM PST
I LOVE this manga! It was absolutely beautiful in its simplicity, while still carrying an undercurrent of pure, adult, sophisticated emotions. Yet another magical wonder of yaoi. ;)
By the way, sun signs and blood types are incredibly important in Japanese culture. I'd have to find you a source, but historically, marriages were only arranged between two people of compatible blood types. If the types weren't compatible, then the marriage or joining was no go. *smile* Some still carry on the practice to this day. Compatible blood types are supposed to signify a "powerful" or "meant" joining. ;) I hope that helps.
Posted by yumijimeru @ 05/14/2005 11:20 PM PST
hey 1st i like to say to say wataru and yuichi are gods!!!!(lol)
Posted by Raven @ 06/07/2005 01:54 PM PST
It's great to know the growing awareness and acceptance of this Japanese genre. I haven't read this manga yet and it does sound like a loveable one. I'll definitely check it out.
In regards to the other comments, I would like to add my two-cents. This manga is not a yaoi but shonen-ai. Shonen-ai are more about young 'boys love' where as yaoi is more graphic depiction of sex. Compare to the rating system in the USA, then light shonen-ai would be PG-13 and hardcore yaoi would be XXX. There are several genres within this category; from first loves to older man and teenager couples to shota to slash doujinshi. The Japanese market has a wide spectrum of this type of genre with the focus audience of teenage girls to young women. The majority of manga-ka (manga authors) are female and novel writers are male. With the addition of American publishers in translating these genre, the market for shonen-ai and yaoi material is becoming more available. There are even drama CDs and anime you can purchase readily now via online stores. Some reccomendations are Amazon.com, JPQueen.com and Sasugabooks.com.
In regards to the blood type question. To the Japanese, the blood type is like the zodiac signs, it determines the persons behavior and compatibility.
Now to the depiction of these boys/men that are drawn as women. Well, the general Japanese audience much like myself prefer to look at pretty people and having gruffy looking men with facial hair and everything is not so attractive. The Japanese call these pretty boys bishounen. This terms refer to other non shonen-ai and yaoi guys too.
I hope that covers it. Now if you are wondering how I know all this? I've two years of Japanese study and has been a fan of Japanese mangas, animes and novels ever since I was a teenager. So if you have any questions, feel free to contact me via email.
If you are looking for some excellent reads, here are my personal favorites to name a few:
Love Mode, Kizuna, Gravitation, Fake, and Fujimi no Orchestra
Posted by Amani @ 06/07/2005 03:18 PM PST
I love Only the Ring Finger knows and I would love to know what happens next. I'm looking forward for the yaoi part.
Posted by Rebecca Ha @ 06/11/2005 09:12 AM PST
I'm looking forward to the yaoi part too. That's why I'm really hoping DMP will publish the novels so I can at least read the yaoi part. Don't forget to sign the peition, please and thank you.
Posted by Ginger Mayerson @ 06/11/2005 04:28 PM PST
Ok, first off i have to say i love this manga!!! I'm an artist, and i really love/adore/admire the art in OTRFK. This manga HAS to be read - it really is that good (the art, story... everything)! And now for some good news that you might not know yet.... DMP are going to publish Only The Ring Finger Knows - the Novel!! WOHOO!!! Guess everyone (myself included) who signed that petition will be cheering now. No exact release date set yet, but keep your eyes and ears open. At the moment they've listed the new novel in the 'Future Releases: Just Announced' part of DMPs web site (www.yaoi-manga.com), so go check it out! I think it might come out in 2006 (maybe?), so we can all look forward to that year, 'cos then we non-Japanese-speaking people can finally find out what happens next! ^_^ YAY!
Posted by Kes @ 07/13/2005 12:05 PM PST
any male manga-ka (manwha ga maybe) created a shonen ai/ yaoi
Posted by SasuNaru lubbs @ 07/22/2005 11:57 AM PST
Ah yes, this manga instantly caught my eye when I went into the anime store. I've been a fan of anime for over 5 years now and a fan of yaoi/shounen ai for 4 (i'm 18 now). Most of my manga collection consists of mangas that are, if not outright shounen ai/yaoi, then at least hint at it (it's more fun sometimes to imagine what pairings COULD the mangaka have meant lol). A bunch of my friends are also rabid yaoi fans (fangirls yeah~!!!).
This manga is definitely one of the better ones out there, beautiful art, light plot dabbled with angst and humour, just perfect all around. I've noticed as I'm sure have a lot of other fangirls that yaoi and shounen ai mangas are beginning to gain real momentum here in North America and for that I am so grateful cuz I remember 5 years ago not being able to find ANYTHING manga/anime related much less yaoi/shounen ai related.
I also recommend Legal Drug, Gravitation, Wish, Golden Cain (careful, this one's full blown yaoi), Yami no Matsuei, and Fake. Although all of these (except Golden Cain) are longer than just one volume (Gravitation is on it's 11th volume and counting), they are all excellently plotted and drawn. If anyone wants to chat, just come to my website www.livejournal.com/users/koneko_desu/
Posted by Omi-kun @ 09/24/2005 02:40 PM PST
OH MY GOD SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Spasms!!!!
Posted by Caylee and Kory @ 10/17/2005 09:22 AM PST
OHMIGAWD SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Spasm's!!!!
SO CUTE!!!!!! MAJOR SPASM'S!!!!!! I LOVE YUICHI KAZUKI!!! WATARU IS CUTE TOO!!!! ;)
Posted by Caylee and Kory @ 10/18/2005 09:16 AM PST
OMG!!! MAJORLY MAJOR SPASM"S !!!! HA HA HA!!! this is one of the cutest yaoi books i have ever seen. *TWITCH* SPASM's *SQUEAK* * DIES*
Posted by Kory @ 10/18/2005 09:21 AM PST
Well...Only the ring find knows is about the only shounen-ai I like. I admit. I love smutty yaoi. haha but OTRFK is so sweet in a sick sadist sorta way. I can't wait for the novel to be released.
Posted by froggie @ 10/18/2005 02:01 PM PST
I loved Only the Ring Finger Knows and I am DYING for the release of the novel! I would import it and translate it myself But that takes too much work. <.<
Posted by Candi @ 10/23/2005 04:58 PM PST
I very like how the story line goes. I admire the drawing very much and would want to read part two but can never find it in book stores. I'm dying to read part two of Only the Ring Finger Knows. I very injoy reading yaoi's graphic novels and would want to read more. Keep up the good work. ^0^ cool
Posted by t-stir @ 10/25/2005 04:29 PM PST
I sooooooo love Only The Ring Finger Knows! I love read yaoi, but my parents hate it, mainly my dad, but I still read it and I love it! My all time favorite yaoi series is Gravitation, but I read what I can get! I soooooo want th 2 volume of OTRFK, but I can't find it anywhere! Grrrrr
Posted by Rage @ 10/29/2005 04:28 PM PST
Anyone wanting to read more Yaoi, eXtasy Books has just brought out two stories by best selling author Morgan Hawke. Torrid is a novella, Hungry Spirits is a full book. Watch for more in the Torrid series, the next being published in December. Come check them out at:
Posted by Veronica @ 11/08/2005 09:28 AM PST
i absolutely adore "only the Ring Finger Knows" and just want to tell all that it is really important to sign this petition. If you dont like OTRFK, i dont know what you are doing on this page but o well, sign this for the benifit of others.
Posted by Some random yaoi crazed fangirl @ 11/13/2005 04:44 AM PST
Posted by surrealistic_destiny @ 11/20/2005 05:08 AM PST
Does anyone know how many novels are in this series? I would really like to know. Thanks.
Posted by Heather @ 12/10/2005 12:38 PM PST
Surrealistic_destiny...in OTRFK (Only the ring finger knows) there is only the one book...and I loooooove it...people find me yucky cuz of the kissing but I think the way they do that in this book is incredibly sweet it just makes ya wanna go "squeeeeeeee!"
Posted by just there to be there @ 12/26/2005 07:46 PM PST
OMG OTRFK is such a amazing book i loved it soo cute the art was beaytiful and the story was perfect i can't wait for the novel hoping that it comes out soon. Yuichi and Wataru are such a cute couple i hope they stay together FOREVER!!!!!
Posted by ME @ 12/27/2005 02:00 PM PST
AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! I'm totally gonna read all the titles suggested! But i need to ask, anyone know where i canbuy books online and pay cash? 'Cause sadly that's all i've got, only 15 you know. if you do please help! Oh and anyone else just love the totally hard core stuff? Like when they take it in the ass and say no but mean yes? Sadistic, masochistic, you name it. s&m. I love that stuff! if any one wants to jus talk about it please email me! Please and thank you! (show of hands) who thinks I'm an odd 15 year old? (my whole school raises hands.)
Posted by Claudie the yaoi fanatic @ 01/04/2006 10:33 PM PST
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Posted by Editor @ 01/31/2006 08:55 PM PST
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