Would it be Okay to Love You? – Amy Tasukada
A robot fanboy. An erotic voice actor. When love comes calling, will they shed their armor?
Sato’s only long-term relationship is the one he shares with his Gundam collectibles. He dreams about the kind of unconditional love his parents enjoy. If only he could break out of his shell, he might find his special someone…
Outgoing playboy Aoi has sworn off relationships. He knows they only distract him from his budding voice acting career. He’s earned a few loyal fans, and if he keeps at it, he may even earn enough to never worry about being evicted again…
When Sato meets Aoi at the local anime store, there’s definitely a spark. But even as they tread carefully, their commitment issues and Aoi’s troubled past soon muck things up before they can start. In order for Sato and Aoi to have their happily-ever-after, they’ll both have to take a leap of faith… and hope to be caught.
Would It Be Okay to Love You? is the first book in a gay romance series set in Japan. If you like original characters, nerd culture, and simmering chemistry, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s charming multicultural love story.
If Blood Stained Tea was a homage to everything BL, Would it be Okay to Love You is a bombastic overload of everything Japanese pop culture from Gundam kits and VK to seiyuu in-store meets and megane moe. I love everything Japanese but I couldn’t help but find the whole thing cringy as it was so tropey and weaboo-ish. Maybe it was meant as a tribute to everything the author love about Japan (the kind of Japan you see on the internet) but a little subtlety and sophistication can go a long way.
Heavy-handedness aside, the romance was sweet and fluffy and the couple was adorable. Aoi is a smol power topper whose every other line was an innuendo but he didn’t come across as a sleaze. Sato is a virginal, number crunching geek who won trophies for pen spinning. It’s the opposite attracts kind of thing that came together in a delicious slow-burn process. The secondary characters were all likable and I have a special shoutout to Michiko, a girl after my own heart.
The writing is still amateurish, the plot was pretty much standard but maybe the author was going for less high brow, more fanfiction-y, fan servicey anime-ish kind of story. I have come to the conclusion that it’s Amy Tasukada schtick so I just need to get over it and think of it as a BL manga in prose form. With that in mind, I’m just going ahead and see if I could get my hands on book 2.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
The Yakuza Path: Blood Stained Tea – Amy Tasukada
A bloody past haunts him. A devastating present calls him back…
Nao hides from his violent past in the Japanese mob by opening a teahouse in Japan’s cultural center, Kyoto. His past comes flooding back when he discovers a gravely injured man with a tattooed chest, a bloody knife, and a Korean business card.
Saehyun would’ve died if not for Nao’s help. He knows nothing of his savior’s connection with the local mafia, but Saehyun has his own secrets. He commands the Korean mafia, the mortal enemy of Nao’s former syndicate.
As Nao and Saehyun grow closer, so does the strength of the Korean mob. A shocking murder pulls Nao back into a past he’d all but abandoned. War is looming, and Nao must choose between protecting Saehyun or avenging the honor of his old mafia family.
Most of the time, you can tell when an Asian themed book is written by a westerner for westerners by how, for the lack of a better word, “touristy” it is. While Japanese authors like Higashino Keigo or Minato Kanae would just write about deceptively normal, everyday things without feeling the need to showcase the cultural aspects, a western author usually goes out of their way to highlight customs foreigners usually associate with Japan such as geisha, samurai, yakuza and the likes, to keep that exotic Japanese vibe going. Which is why, I am always wary of western authors writing about Asian stuff for a western audience
Some authors can pull it off very well. For example, Trash by Andy Mulligan did a great job portraying third world street kids without going through the usually stereotypes. I could tell Mulligan really spent a lot of time with them because at one point, the story mentioned that these kids had a certain smell that marked them as street kids even after they bathed. This is very, very true. Kids living on the streets had a distinct tangy, rusty, earthy smell that remains even if they’re clean.
In the first book of The Yakuza Path series, Blood Stained Tea, Amy Tasukada did the usual touristy tour of Kyoto (shrines, festivals, yukata) then topped it with generous servings of anime and BL sauce starting with that opening scene of saving an abandoned person in the rain, then moving on to The Fever and The Porridge, teasing the cat with a feather toy trick, floppy hair hiding the eyes maneuver, the “I can’t say it yet” hesitance, meek man with berserker alter ego and much, much more. Go see for yourself, play a game of catch that trope and see how many you can find. The only thing missing is an actual description saying Nao looks like a girl but “Nao is a girl’s name” comes close. The writing, characters and plot are amateurish but I found it amusing. Saehyun and Nao behaved like adolescent boys in their first love affair instead of hardened mafia members. Funnily enough, Nao didn’t get along with the most sensible characters of the book, Sakai, the lawyer and Takeo, the reluctant bodyguard who had to be killed off.
The simplistic and naive dealings of our couple went on for about 80% of the book (i’m trying to avoid the word but yeah, they were both stupid as in the smart guys who should know better than to fuck up and/or fuck kind of stupid) until finally, finally, FINALLY! Nao got his shit together then went on his badass shadow assassin mode, discovered his inner god and wrecked havoc worthy of Kenshin Himura in battousai rage. That safehouse scene was worth the 300+ pages of protagonist blunder and anime rip off. Yes, we get the much awaited “suki desu” moment but no, you’re not going to be happy about it. It’s not that kind of romance story. In addition, for me, it counts in the novel’s favor that it is shounen ai. Although the language is explicit and there’s blood and gore, the smexy scenes get a fade out treatment.
Overall, it’s not the most well-executed or sophisticated of gay yakuza romance dramas but well… a fujoshi wrote it, a fujoshi might like it.
P.S. I haven’t read light novels but this must be what light novels are like.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Tensorate: The Black Tides of Heaven – J.Y. Yang
Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.
A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?
I read this because the cover, by Yuko Shimizu, is really cool. Also the reviews are mostly 5 or 4 stars. My reaction echoes that of those who gave fewer stars.
This is a highly original novella that presented a world that works on nature magic to power technology, where people are genderless until they confirm their chosen gender and where matriarchy is the norm. The story follows the twins, Mokoya and Akeha from childhood, teens to adulthood. The twins were sent to a monastery as bargaining chips by their mother, the Protector. They learned to use the Slack, the magic system of the Tensorate world, which is probably similar to qi. Mokoya then revealed her prophetic gift and the twins were soon returned to the Protectorate palace. When they were almost 17, Mokoya confirmed she was a girl and the issue of gender identity was explored.This is the part of the story that was interesting and well-developed.
The second half of the story follows Akeha as he struck out on his own and got entangled with the Machinists. Here, things happened but I didn’t really care much about them because they just sort of happened and not elaborated upon. Generally, I felt the story had a lot of interesting ideas and plot threads but lacked details or follow up. I love the authenticity of having an Asian author create an Asian-based world and this book could have been up there with the great ones had the entire Tensorate world been more fleshed out.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it