The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window, Vols. 1-3

By Tomoko Yamashita | Published digitally by SuBLime

tricornered1Until Olivia mentioned it over in the comments on Manga Bookshelf, I had no idea this series existed, let alone that it was being released in English! Having loved Yamashita’s Dining Bar Akira and Black-Winged Love, I immediately purchased all extant volumes.

Kosuke Mikado has been able to see spirits since he was a child, but any time he tried to talk to his friends about it, they thought he was weird, so he has been keeping his distance from other people and has begun to doubt his own sanity. When the manager of the bookshop where Mikado works hires Rihito Hiyakawa to deal with a pesky spirit—and after Hikayawa recognizes Mikado’s powers and uses them to boost his own—Mikado finally finds someone who lives in the same world he does. Although he begins the series frightened and clinging to skepticism, through Hiyakawa’s assurances, Mikado gradually accepts the things he sees as reality and begins to combat them independently.

tricornered2I love series like this, where the leads have episodic disturbances that they investigate (via the partnership they strike up as a sort of supernatural cleaning crew and frequently assisting a non-believing cop named Hanzawa) plus an ongoing mystery (involving curses cast by someone named Erika Hiura) and yet the most important and fascinating aspect is the relationship between the leads themselves. There are the fun, suggestive moments where the guys are combining their powers for one reason or another and end up using dialogue like, “Do you want me to touch it?” or “Take me all the way in.” But where Yamashita-sensei really excels is at teasing out threads of darkness.

We first get an inkling that something is amiss when the guys visit a potentially fradulent fortune-teller. Mikado is the one who physically sits for the session while Hiyakawa, bodily still in the waiting room, casually inhabits Mikado’s body to see for himself. The fortune-teller warns Mikado that the way Hiyakawa reaches into him so easily is dangerous, a warning neither Mikado nor I take seriously. And yet, after an encounter with Erika Hiura shows Mikado’s vulnerability to being accessed in this way, Hiyakawa makes Mikado enter into a contract he doesn’t remember, and we get this awesomely creepy full-page panel.

After this point, more and more potentially disturbing things about Hiyakawa are revealed. “I don’t have parents or friends,” he says at one point. Later, he seems baffled by the concepts of beauty and evil. As troubling indications mount, Mikado knows that he should be thinking seriously about what is happening between them. Other characters certainly question it, but Mikado is strangely reluctant. Is it because Hiyakawa is somehow keeping him quiescent, or is Mikado willfully maintaining his ignorance because he does not want to go back to being alone?

tricornered3It’s only at the end of volume three, wherein Hiyakawa nonchalantly suggests that it’d be good if they could work the other side of the business, too, that Mikado realizes he has no idea what kind of person he’s working with. As a reader, I too was lulled into believing that of course the protagonist of a series about fighting the supernatural is a good guy. Turns out, he’s more of an empty-inside opportunist. At this point, even I just want to say, “Run away, Mikado! Run away and don’t look back!” Is there any hope that he can help heal and humanize Hiyakawa, or will he only end up destroyed? How soon until volume four comes out?!

Lest my focus on the relationship suggest otherwise, the plot of The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is also excellent. In fact, I sincerely owe Olivia a debt of gratitude. And SuBLime, too, in fact. I hope print editions are available at some point in the future, because this is a series I need to have on my shelves.

The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is available on Kindle and at sublimemanga.com. The series is ongoing in Japan, where the fourth volume has just been released.

The Color of Love by Kiyo Ueda

For this month’s BL Bookrack, I decided to check out The Color of Love, which was among the BL titles Amazon recently removed from its store for (theoretically) violating its content requirements.

Did it deserve this fate? Not in my opinion! Check out my review for the details.

Your Story I’ve Known by Tsuta Suzuki

While I’d stop short of calling myself an actual fan of A Strange and Mystifying Story, it was at least interesting and I found Tsuta Suzuki’s distinct art style very appealing. When the opportunity to read another work from her arose, therefore, I was eager to seize it.

You can find my review for Manga Bookshelf’s BL Bookrack column here.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Right Here, Right Now! 1-2 by Souya Himawari

This time travel historical romance is actually a lot more rational than one would expect. Unfortunately, the romance is the least successful element of the story.

You can find my review for BL Bookrack here.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

Crimson Snow by Hori Tomoki

I reviewed Crimson Snow, a BL short story collection from BLU Manga, for this month’s BL Bookrack column. Despite the yakuza connection, the three-part title story is quiet and compelling and well worth the price of admission all on its own.

You can find that review here.

My Bad! by Rize Shinba

I didn’t think I was interested in reading My Bad! at first, since I typically don’t enjoy BL comedies, but after reading Shinba’s Intriguing Secrets, I changed my mind.

I’m glad I did, because the stories in this collection are quirky and often genuinely funny. “Stamp Please!,” the story of a guy who falls in love with his amiable postman, is a particular favorite.

You can find my review—as part of this month’s BL Bookrack column at Manga Bookshelf—here.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Honey Colored Pancakes by Keiko Kinoshita

Who could resist a cover this cute? Certainly not me.

I reviewed this collection for this month’s BL Bookrack at Manga Bookshelf. I liked the title story very much, but had mixed feelings about the others. You can find that review here.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

You & Me, Etc. by Kyugo: A-

What a pleasant surprise! The stories collected in You & Me, Etc. are all very strong, and my only real complaint is that they’re over too quickly!

You can find my review here, as part of Manga Bookshelf’s monthly BL Bookrack column.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

No Touching At All by Kou Yoneda: A-

No Touching At All depicts an office fling between two coworkers in their late twenties that grows into something more. Even though formerly straight Togawa declares his love for Shima, Shima just can’t believe that Togawa’s desire for a family won’t eventually tear them apart. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Future Lovers, so if you liked that (and who wouldn’t?!) you’d probably enjoy this, too.

I reviewed No Touching At All for this month’s BL Bookrack at Manga Bookshelf. You can find that review here.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Tidbits: Four by Hinako Takanaga

This installment of Tidbits is devoted to the BL stories of Hinako Takanaga! Today I’m focusing on some shorter works, but look for Little Butterfly and Challengers in future columns. A trio of one-shots is up first—A Capable Man, CROQUIS, and Liberty Liberty!—followed by the second volume of You Will Drown in Love. That series is still ongoing in Japan, where the third volume was released in July of last year. All are published in English by BLU Manga.

A Capable Man: C-
Looks are mighty deceiving with this one. Because the cover is bright and cute I expected a sweet one-volume romance, but what I got instead was a collection of short stories featuring unappealing characters.

Things got off to a bad start when, barely a dozen pages into the first story, “I Like Exceptional Guys,” a teenager forces himself onto his childhood friend. It’s a very disturbing scene, complete with a gag for the victim. Ugh. Afterwards, the attacker (Koji) cries and apologies and aw, gee, it’s so hard to be mad at someone who’s assaulted you when they obviously love you so much! Even Koji thinks it’s weird to be forgiven so quickly.

Another problematic story is “Something to Hide,” about a teacher who’s having an affair with his student. The student is about to graduate and wants them to move in together but the teacher has reservations. Is it because he’d be betraying the trust of his student’s parents, which he has worked hard to cultivate? Nope. It’s because he’s embarrassed about his unruly hair.

The collection is rounded out by “How to Satisfy Your Fetish,” about a trainee chef with a voice fetish who gets off on provoking disgusted reactions from his instructor, and “Kleptomaniac,” about a guy who compulsively steals objects that have been used by his crush. The latter is rather dull, but the kinky former could have been fun if I wasn’t already weary of “semi-sickos,” as Takanaga herself describes these characters.

CROQUIS: B
When Nagi Sasahara—a young man who works in drag at a gay bar and is saving up for gender-reassignment surgery—seeks to augment his income by modeling for an art class, he senses something different in the gaze of a student named Shinji Kaji. Ever since the age of ten, Nagi has fallen only for guys, so he’s both accepted his sexuality and become accustomed to rejection. Kaji surprises him by returning his feelings and the two become a couple, though the fact that they make it four months into their relationship without sleeping together causes Nagi to doubt whether Kaji is really okay with the fact that Nagi is male. Frequently comedic and happily short-lived angst ensues.

There are things to like and to dislike about CROQUIS. First off, I love that Nagi has known he was gay since childhood and that the story makes at least a passing reference to the existence of homophobia. I also like that he and Kaji interact essentially as equals, even though Kaji is underdeveloped and Nagi has a tendency to be high-maintenance. Where the story falters, though, is in its depiction of Nagi’s reasons for wanting to undergo surgery. Does he wish to become a woman because he feels like he’s trapped in a body of the wrong gender? Nope. He just thinks that’s the only way he’ll be able to score a boyfriend.

This volume also contains a one-shot about a pair of childhood friends and their conflicting opinions on the value of wishing upon stars and a pair of stories called “On My First Love.” The latter two are actually better than the title story, in my opinion, and tell the bittersweet tale of former classmates who had feelings for each other in the past but never managed to act on them. Now both have moved on with their lives while secretly nursing painful yet precious memories. I’m a sucker for sad stories like these, so it was a treat to discover them after the pleasant but not oustanding title story.

Libery Liberty!: B+
“In a corner of Osaka, one young man lies atop a heap of trash.” That unfortunate fellow is drunken twenty-year-old Itaru Yaichi who, in the course of being discovered by a cameraman on stakeout, breaks an expensive piece of equipment belonging to a local cable TV station and finds himself heavily in debt. The cameraman, Kouki Kuwabara, agrees to let Itaru stay at his place until he can find a job. In the meantime, Itaru helps out at the station and eventually reveals what circumstances led to his present predicament.

At first, Liberty Liberty! seems like it will be cute but utterly insubstantial love story, but the narrative offers many more complexities than I initially expected. For one, before anything romantic transpires between Itaru and Kouki, they first must become friends and do so by talking about their professional goals and setbacks. Kouki was a film student when he learned that nerve damage was impairing the sight in his left eye. He thought he was through but when a friend offered him a job at the TV station, he rediscovered his passion. Similarly, Itaru had a story concept stolen (and improved upon) by an upperclassman, so a crisis of confidence made him go on a leave of absence from school.

Gradually, by working at the station and witnessing Kouki’s example, Itaru takes the first steps towards writing again. He wants to become a person he can be proud of. His feelings for Kouki develop after this point, and his accidental confession results in a pretty amusing scene:

Again, their relationship evolves slowly, largely because Kouki has been alone for such a long time (and nursing some unrequited feelings for his cross-dressing friend, Kurumi) that it takes him a while to accept the possibilities of new love. I love that both characters are vulnerable and hesitant, and that Takanaga took the time to develop the friendship between them first before bringing them to the verge of something more. And “to the verge” it is, because the story ends before the boys have done more than smooch. As a result, Liberty Liberty! perfectly deserves its Young Adult rating and would probably be a hit in a library’s manga collection.

You Will Drown in Love 2: B-
Reiichiro Shudo and Kazushi Jinnai—both employed at a fabric store, where the younger Reiichiro is the boss and Jinnai his subordinate—have been dating for a while but Jinnai is feeling uneasy. He’s unsure whether Reiichiro really loves him or is just being compliant. When Kijima from headquarters arrives to help the store get ready for a trade show, he begins to put the moves on the oblivious Reiichiro, which sends Jinnai into a tizzy.

Even though this is written just about as well as the introduction of an aggressively sexual new love rival can be, it’s still a pretty tired plot device. In Takanaga’s hands, Kijima isn’t as over-the-top as he might otherwise have been, but he’s still more of a catalyst than a character in his own right. Scenes in which Jinnai freaks out become a bit repetitive, but once the twist comes—it’s Jinnai that Kijima is really after—it actually allows for a pretty satisfying ending.

No, the twist is not very dramatically surprising, and no, having competition doesn’t compel Reiichiro to boldly confess his love—that would be quite out of character—but it does prompt him to object to Jinnai getting close to any other man, which Jinnai happily accepts as proof at last of Reiichiro’s affections.

This may have been a somewhat disappointing volume, but I still like these characters and this setting so I’ll be back for volume three, whenever it makes its way over here.

Review copies for CROQUIS and Liberty Liberty! provided by the publisher.