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by Rebecca Silverman,

Loved Circus


Loved Circus GN

After he loses everything when he's taken in by a call girl's lies, Kei is determined to end it all. He is rescued from his suicide attempt by a group of male sex workers; in exchange for helping him pay off his debts, he will work with them at the male brothel Circus. Not seeing any other options left open to him, Kei agrees, and he quickly learns everyone has their own separate circumstances that led to their presence at Circus.

Loved Circus is translated by Christine Dashiell.


It's an old trap, but a good one: office worker Kei has become a frequent customer of a hostess named Momo, and before he quite understands what's happened, he has driven himself into debt in his misguided attempts to help her. Naturally, Momo doesn't need his financial help; she's simply taking advantage of her job to get a few extra perks, and she doesn't appear to care that it nearly resulted in a tragedy. Facing financial ruin, Kei is about to attempt suicide, fully believing that he doesn't see any other way out. Fortunately for Kei (to say nothing of the book, which would be exceedingly short had he succeeded), several interested parties have observed his interactions with Momo, and they can intervene before it is too late. These people turn out to be the male sex workers of Circus, the brothel affiliated with Momo's workplace.

If you suspect that they have been watching for Kei to make just such a move as he did, you aren't entirely wrong. The men of Circus were fully aware of Momo's standard operating procedure, and they knew that her latest target would get himself in trouble soon enough. While it is unlikely that they anticipated his suicide attempt, they have been hovering in the wings, waiting for their moment. It's something that they have done before, and it perhaps isn't quite as seedy as it sounds. All of the men working at Circus have circumstances that landed them in the field of sex work, and the ringmaster (the manager of the place) seems to feel that he is offering his workers a relatively safe way out of their financial and other difficulties. He isn't naive; it's evident that he knows that sex work is not without its risks. Every worker must be tested regularly for diseases, and he has various safeguards to protect them should a client prove difficult or dangerous. But the fact that he has those safeguards in place indicates that the ringmaster is doing his best in a business environment that does not always have protections for its workers. However, this kindness is, in hindsight, symptomatic of the book's issues.

With its protagonist forced into the world of sex work, Loved Circus may have a bit of an uphill battle for readers. It is, therefore, a little reassuring that this is not presented as a typical romance, BL or otherwise. This is a dark book, and it touches on complex themes such as suicide ideation, sexual assault, and drug abuse. Unfortunately, it does not go far enough into any of these areas to truly work on a storytelling level. The creator brushes the surface of all these themes, almost teasing us with the possibility of a deeper dive into them before pulling back and glossing things over. While this may be good news for readers who are not looking for something too dark and deep, it doesn't do the story any favors, and the book ends up feeling decidedly less than. The closest it comes to exploring its subject matter is when we learn about Shiro's past; Shiro is the sex worker at Circus for the longest and is the object of Kei's fascination during his time there. His past is revealed towards the end of the book, and while it is sufficiently upsetting, there is still this sense that the creator is not entirely comfortable with the story they have created. We also see this issue in Kei's introduction to sex work, which is mainly trauma-free, and in Joe's interactions with an unscheduled client. In all of these cases, the characters and the story would have been better served by a deeper exploration of the themes. In not doing so, Loved Circus more or less cuts itself off at the knees.

This feels like a volume created by somebody whose eyes are bigger than their stomach. The ambition for the piece is clear, but the execution does not go far enough to make this story feel particularly worthwhile. There are also some issues with what happens to Shiro at the end of this book; it feels almost like he is being punished for his life choices, which only partially works with his supposed redemption arc. We don't get to know the characters well enough to care about them, and there are some definite leaps of logic in the back story that risk pulling readers out of this plot. With its gritty art, surprising lack of detailed sex scenes, and interesting themes, Loved Circus is a story that almost works but ultimately does not go far enough in any one direction.

Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B-

+ Interesting setting and themes, makes a clear attempt to tell a type of story we don't often see.
Doesn't delve into its subject matter far enough, some definite leaps of logic.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Nemui Asada
Licensed by: Tokyopop

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