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Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Kyouji is training to fill his uncle's shoes as a monk and exorcist, but he has to have best friend and lover Yu around to protect him from the ghosts which he can't see. Between investigating disturbances in the mountains, exorcising ghosts at school, and all the other mundane interruptions teenagers face, will Yu and Kyouji ever mangage to really have sex?
With a humorous take on many of the issues that fill yaoi novels, I Can't Stop Loving You is an enjoyable entry into that genre. The plot actually manages to be engaging at some points, and the gags just keep coming, and while the characters suffer from some stereotyping issues, Takakura attempts to do something a little different from the top/bottom idea that is usually stuck in yaoi novels.
Why the exorcist thing? It seems to be pretty popular for male romance stories, possibly because of Tokyo Babylon, or CLAMP in general, but it works pretty well in this instance. Kyouji is the exorcist in training, but Yu is the one who can see the ghosts. Such a convenient partnership is hardly original, but again, it works. In the first volume, Kyouji is asked to train in the mountains. Yu naturally follows him, and there is really only one thing for two hot guys to do in a cabin by themselves, right? It's too bad, then, that Kyouji's fear of ghosts keeps him from having too much fun with Yu in said cabin. Surprisingly, these are the funniest parts of the story; Kyouji and Yu just can't catch a break when it comes to getting some alone time. It actually manages to be really humorous in some places. The humor of the story comes from the sexual frustrations of the two main characters, who don't manage to have sex until the end of the second volume for various reasons, including stray adult figures, intervening girls, the occasional cracked rib, and a few ghosts here and there.
The exorcist portion of the story is pretty interesting too, especially the one in the first volume, which is longer and more detailed than the chapters in the second. There are elements of mystery and suspense that are pulled off surprisingly well for a yaoi novel, a comedic one at that. The stories in the second volume deal more with possession, and some of them even have a point, something that goes totally against the nature, even the name, of yaoi novels. Even so, it is refreshing to see one that focuses occasionally on storytelling, and fits the sex into the story, sometimes.
Yes, there is sex in this novel, and quite a lot of it, considering the fact that they don't actually get to finish a session until the end of the second volume. It's in there. It's graphic. It shows pretty much everything, in detail. Takakura has attempted to mix up the traditional stereotype on “top” and “bottom” characters in yaoi, but with limited success. She is trying to be innovative by having the “bottom” character, the more feminine, weaker looking one, be the one to engage the sex most of the time, and also be super strong, to the point of making sex difficult. But according to stereotype, the “top” is supposed to be the aggressive one, so really all she's doing is drawing the top and bottom opposite of how they usually work. She really isn't expanding on or going beyond the stereotype. That she has the characters discuss the role reversal is the biggest downfall.
Visually, the character designs are pretty, but rehashed. The front cover for the second volume could easily be confused for the cover of a Loveless volume. In addition, the designs don't really fit the characters, as mentioned above. Kyouji is a tall, muscular guy, but thin, effeminate Yu is capable of fracturing his ribs just by casually hugging him. While funny, it just isn't within the bounds of any reality. Otherwise the characters are drawn well. There is plenty of detail, and they never look off balance or distorted. Other visual elements are done nicely, although it does get a little heavy on the screen tones at times.
Additionally, about one fifth of the first volume is taken up with a bonus story, The Best Place. For only being about sixty pages, this small bonus manages to tell a fairly good story. It tells the story of a young man, Toru, disowned by his father, who comes home for the old man's funeral, only to find that his dad adopted a young man, Kenji, days before his death. Toru, who only came back for the inheritance, is outraged at being cut out, and moves in with Kenji to try and get his money back. Toru is obviously a flawed character, but that is okay. In fact, it is almost refreshing. This guy is a gold-digger, and everyone is fine with that. Over the sixty pages, Tory and Kenji get to know each other, in a realistic relationship. It's insightful for a bonus story, and that's not something you often see.
I Can't Stop Loving You isn't a groundbreaking entry into the yaoi category, but it does contain a story, and a good bit of humor, which turns out to be a rather pleasing side-dish to sex and exorcism. Go figure.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Unexpected humor, interesting storyline.
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