The Fall 2018 Manga Guide
What's It About?Coyote is a werewolf, a member of an underground society working from the shadows to prevent the extermination of their kind, as the world of humans has not been known to react well to their existence. Tensions have begun to flair, however, as the werewolves have begun to clash more and more frequently with members of the Galland Family, the city's largest and most influential mafia.
Amidst all this drama and strife, Coyote has become acquainted with Josh, a piano player at a local bar. Josh immediately is attracted to Coyote, and after Josh discovers Coyote's secret, he swears to secrecy and the two begin to sleep with each other. Josh has a secret, however...a secret that could destroy their relationship. Josh is a member of the Galland family, the grandson of the family's patriarch who harbors a vendetta against all werewolfkind.
As murmurings of war turn to real, palpable bloodshed, will the two be able to maintain their affection? Or will their duties and heritage tear them apart and force them at each other's throats?
Coyote is an original manga series by Ranmaru Zariya. It is published by Sublime, available for $6.99 digitally and $12.99 physically.
Is It Worth Reading?
BL has a perhaps well-deserved reputation for not always telling the most consensual stories. Ranmaru Zariya sort of skirts the edge of that by making one of her protagonists a werewolf who goes into heat despite being male. (Chalk up another of my stupid pet peeves: male animals do not go into heat; the estrous cycle is a female thing.) See, it doesn't matter if Coyote has been fending off Marleen/Josh's advances for months; he can't help himself because he's in heat. Ooo, clever.
Snark aside, what Zariya is really more interested in is telling a story in the Romeo & Juliet vein, hopefully with a happier ending. Werewolves are a persecuted community in the story's world, and hunting them is not uncommon. Most werewolves therefore attempt to hide their true natures from humans at large, seeking only to live out their lives peacefully and normally. The exception is during the week of the full moon, when they can't control themselves and feel the uncontrollable urge to mate. Coyote has managed to avoid any issues until a pianist he nicknames Marleen figures him out and manages to take full-moon advantage of Coyote. The issue is that Marleen is actually the scion of the human faction that advocates for werewolf eradication.
What saves this volume is not only the fact that Zariya's art is very attractive and somewhat more anatomically sound than other BL mangakas', but also that it seems as if the two genuinely do like each other. Marleen, even suspecting that Coyote's a werewolf, still really likes him, both in terms of his physical attractiveness and his personality. Coyote, for his part, is much more conflicted, even without knowing who Marleen really is. That makes sense – he's the one who stands to lose his life if someone figures out what he is, so why would he just trust some guy who's hitting on him? Coyote has to be cautious if he wants to survive. He's not comfortable just accepting Marleen's feelings for him, which allows the plot device of “heat” to almost kind of work. Whether it's healthy is a whole other ball of wax.
This is a fairly explicit title, with a lot of sex scenes and the use of obscuring cloth allowing Zariya to skirt around rules banning the drawing of actual penises. But more important (to me, anyway) is the growing emotional and contextual drama of the story, which has enough of an intriguing star-crossed lovers story that, despite my reservations, I am willing to read at least one more volume.
Coyote makes no bones about what it is, jumping almost immediately into the somewhat graphic sex between the main couple (after a threesome). There're hints of something otherworldly going on even before that—“Lili” is said to be “in heat” and shares traits with a werewolf—but the overly complicated conflict doesn't start trickling onto the pages until well after the sex, framing the leads' romance as star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of a mafia war mixed with a werewolf versus werewolf-hunter aspect. It's all a bit much, the segues into the political maneuverings of the mafia dumped via a lot of text, trying to lend too much gravitas to a story that originally solely reveled in its erotic nature. That said, “Lili” and “Marleen” barely have time to do more than look at each other with hooded eyes before they're tumbling in bed together over and over again, what little character depth there is to be had for either one not apparent until toward the end of the volume. Then there's the convention found in many a yaoi title that nonetheless makes their exchanges slightly uncomfortable. Lili is constantly saying “no,” insisting he can't be with Marleen because they're both men, but Marleen plows ahead, dominating Lili at every turn because Lili's flushed face and feeble attempts at pushing Marleen away shows that his “no” does mean “yes.”
Zariya stages the sex scenes with skill, building up the tension of each encounter and managing to dance around not explicitly showing genitalia, though the mangaka stops just short of it. The character designs are somewhat generic, though bishonen enough, and while there aren't an obtrusive number of blank backgrounds outside of the sex scenes, the background art usually functions as the mere backdrop for the character interaction it is. However, the first few full-color pages are stunning, setting a grim urban-fantasy tone to the series.
Coyote volume 1 is an adults-only title that delivers on the erotic scenes it promises but could do with a little more character development before the first encounter between the sheets. The story takes an interesting turn when it sets the two leads up on opposite sides of a paranormal/mafia war, but it also overcomplicates the conflict. That said, readers who know what they're in for are sure to find its sexy promise delivered.
Coyote is an experience, though not a particularly good one. The majority of my reading experience was spent re-reading pages to figure out what had even happened or laughing at its sheer absurdity.
I know what this is trying to be. There are four sex scenes in this volume that are about fifteen pages each, one of which barely makes sense in context of the plot. Coyote and Josh are toned, lanky dreamboats. I get it. The problem is the context of their romance, which is dubiously consensual. Coyote is noticeably reluctant to sleep with Josh, and Josh drags the wolf-boy to his house for their second encounter without Coyote ever saying he wants to go. This makes Coyote very hard to appreciate as erotica, as this lack of enthusiastic consent adds an extremely uncomfortable air to every instance of love-making.
But the thing about Coyote is it's not just that. It's also gangster tragedy! And fantasy allegory! And about the stifling effects of devotion to family! But it's not really good at those things, either. The last chapter throws in scores of new characters for the purpose of outlining the wide scope of the upcoming gang war and it's just confusing. Casts of thousands are a given for mob epics like this, but are extremely hard to make compelling without strong characterizations, which outside of the two leads, Coyote really does not have. This means that what should read as intrigue instead comes off as confounding, as the stakes of the conflict have no real grounding, human or political.
Coyote is a lot and very little. It tosses around ideas of oppression and large-scale warfare without having any real interest in these things beyond easy gangster tropes, meaning this ostensible mob epic resonates as empty and hollow rather than grand and sweeping Really, the whole plot feels like a backdrop for the sex, which is troubling and uncomfortable due to blurring of consent. It's at once super basic BL tragedy where I can predict the beats just by reading the first chapter and hard to follow. The one certainty is that I didn't enjoy reading it. The main feelings I had in experiencing it were ones of frustration and being baffled, which really are quite strange emotions to have for werewolf-boy smut.
In a society where werewolves are hunted for their blood, a pack must hide in plain site from the notorious wolf killing family, the Gallands. Coyote, nicknamed Lili, is a young werewolf trying to survive day-to-day life all while concealing his identity. This would be easy if weren't for the beautiful bar musician, Marleen, discovering Lili's in heat. Refusing to stay idle, Marleen decides to lend a hand anyway he can, including putting his hands anywhere Lili needs him to.
Coyote is similar to a lot of monster related romance; it's all forbidden love and hidden identities. If you're looking for a plot, don't really expect one besides the light and classic concept of hiding your identity from your partner, but still being passionately in love. It's a done to death plot but what can you expect from a werewolf yaoi?
What's nice about Coyote is how beautiful it is. Throughout the whole manga, people always mention how gorgeous Marleen is, but in reality, Lili, and his boyish looks is just as captivating as Marleen's handsome features. Besides the characters, the world around them is a gorgeous site and definitely noteworthy. Brothels, cemeteries, bars, and mansions are the landscape of this manga, and Ranimaru Zariya does a wonderful job at it. Even the background characters are a delight to look at.
Coyote ultimately is not groundbreaking. The plot has been done many times before in all forms of media, but there is something captivating about it. Maybe it's the art, or maybe it's the urgency in both characters' actions. Either way, Coyote's stunning art and characters make up for its lack of plot. Not to mention, that cliffhanger ending begs you to come back for volume 2!
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