Review

by Rebecca Silverman,

Ten Count

GN 2

Synopsis:
Ten Count GN 2
After the abrupt exit of Kurose from his life, Shirotani finds himself even less able to cope with his anxiety and OCD than before. Concerned, his work friend Mikami finds Kurose's number and asks him to contact Shirotani to make sure he's okay. When the two meet up, Kurose admits to Shirotani that he cut off their relationship because he had fallen in love with the other man. Thus their relationship begins to take a turn…
Review:

If you're studying or practicing psychology, or are just particularly well-informed on the subject, this is the volume of Ten Count that may make your skin begin to crawl. Whereas volume one was more focused on Shirotani beginning to take charge of his disorder and learning to cope with it, book two begins the romance plot in earnest, and it relies quite heavily on ideas of transference and countertransference. This is not to say that it won't appeal to anyone, because if you enjoy boys' love stories with a distinctly dominant and submissive partner and non-consensual elements, Takarai does a good job using those tropes to scratch an itch. But if that's not your romance story preference, it's increasingly becoming clear that this may not be the story for you.

The book opens a few days after Kurose has cut Shirotani off, saying that he cannot continue to help him manage his OCD and accompanying anxiety. This sends Shirotani into a tailspin, retreating to his apartment, not even going to work or checking his phone. His work friend Mikami, one of the few people who is fully aware of his condition, begins to worry, and through their boss he finds Kurose's number. Kurose is reluctant, but he does agree to check on Shirotani, which manages to bring the other man out of hiding. At this point, Kurose confesses the real reason why he cut their relationship as therapist and patient off: he found that he was falling in love with Shirotani.

Clearly, this was the right thing for him to have done in a professional capacity. While transference (the patient developing feelings for the counselor due to their “close” relationship) is one thing, countertransference, where the counselor develops feelings for the patient, is another, and recognizing this shows that Kurose was aware that their relationship was unhealthy in a professional context. So his choice to pursue it anyway when he gets back in contact with Shirotani is somewhat troubling. While their professional relationship has been cut off, it's still abundantly clear that Shirotani feels dependent upon Kurose, which creates a power imbalance. Kurose is well aware of this (he even mentions it as something that appeals to him at the end of the book), and that will be a problem for some readers. All of the sexual encounters in this volume (two in total) are basically forced upon Shirotani by Kurose, who ignores the other man's protests and the knowledge of Shirotani's triggers. That Shirotani protests continually and is visibly conflicted in terms of physical pleasure versus emotional pain can make this uncomfortable, and the disconnect between his thoughts of “I want you to stop!” and his verbal acquiescence play into myths about sexual assault and “asking for it.”

Of course, it is important to remember that romance, yaoi or otherwise, is a fantasy genre. While it doesn't feature elves and unicorns, it deals in safe spaces to live out sexual fantasies, and Ten Count is well within the purview of its genre on that level. Takarai has a deft hand with her story, using very little censoring and a willingness to show us Shirotani's conflict rather than simply have him give in immediately. She's clearly done some research as well, as her note at the end implies, so we have to assume that she is deliberately writing this particular fantasy with the goal of making it as good as she can. The two shorts at the end show that she has a sense of humor about her genre and this story in particular, which again indicates that she knows what she's doing. It isn't that this sort of power imbalance is all that unusual in yaoi (or mainstream romance novels); it's how Takarai writes it that is striking. Knowing that there is an element of self-awareness does make the story somehow more interesting, at least from an academic point of view.

In terms of artwork, this volume continues to be attractive. The shortcut of using screen tones instead of backgrounds can make it difficult to place events location-wise, particularly since there appear to be very few differences between Shirotani's and Kurose's apartments, but the men are drawn with a softness and delicacy to their features that enhances the story's mood, giving both of them an (unexpected in Kurose's case) air of fragility. There is almost no censoring, although it is worth mentioning that there is also no pubic hair drawn.

Ten Count's second volume won't be a comfortable one for all readers, but Takarai's deliberate approach to the unhealthy relationship between the two men does make it a stand-out in its genre niche. If that's your preferred fantasy, this is absolutely a series to check out. But if you were starting to feel icky about Kurose in the previous book, this volume will only make that worse as it ventures further down that particular path.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B+

+ Takarai is committed to her story and Shirotani's issues, art is very pretty, works to appeal within its genre
That commitment to the story and issues can make this very uncomfortable, perpetuates assault myths

Story & Art: Rihito Takarai

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