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    MANGA: Shikabane to Hanayome

    Shikabane to Hanayome – Akagawa Sagan

    They were the only two brothers in a sprawling family mansion. At the end of a gruesome battle for succession, the younger brother, now head of the family, held a solemn wedding. The bride’s face remained hidden from everyone behind a thick veil, and she became rumored as “the faceless wife.” But in the bridal chamber on their wedding night, the face revealed is that of his elder brother, who was supposed to be dead.

    From the mangaka who brought us the bitterest bittersweet space-age romance, Hate no Kouya de Vacances WoAkagawa Sagan presents another deeply angsty and hella thrilling psychological forbidden romance of the brotherly kind. 

    Content warnings: incest, violence, zombie sex

    The Corpse and the Bride is a tragic tale of a family torn apart when two half-brothers are pitted against each other by a father who prefers his beloved mistress’s son, the younger brother Jin, and a mother protecting her legitimate son, Lee, who should have been the rightful heir.

    Unknown to the parental units, the two brothers bonded and became each other’s close confidant. When it was time for them to marry, they put off choosing a bride for as long as they can. Until one day, the younger brother Jin is set to marry a woman. On the day of the wedding, a tragedy occurs that wipes out the opposing faction, including Lee, and leaves the bride with hideous scars. 

    Then, a year later, Jin and his mysterious bride, a veil covering her face, were finally married. The lady of the house never showed her face, nor did she speak.

    I had my heart in my throat the entire time I read this. The setting is China, and it is a horror story involving necromancy and Chinese zombies. I had no clue where the story was going. I would have sunk into a pit of despair at some intense scenes had I not cheated and read reviews looking for clues that this ends, if not happily, would at least not reduce me into a bawling mess.

    At its core, it is about love between two brothers, a possessive, obsessive love that defies even death. Many tried to keep them apart. They were forbidden to interact since they should be enemies. Then, they were forced to marry other people, only to be betrayed by an unlikely character.

    The manga started with mystery, and just as we were getting a clearer picture, it exploded into kick-in-the-gut moments. Then, as if to make up for all the drama, the mood gradually lightened, even became humorous, and I breathed a sigh of relief. If the wacky shaman is making jokes, things are definitely looking up for Jin and Lee.  

    Overall, dark, passionate, and fucked up yet so…right?


    Strictly FICTIONAL brotherly love only.

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    MANGA: Randen to Saga

    Randen to Saga – Aikawa Fuu

    Delinquents Randen and Saga are two friends who met by chance. When Saga accidentally gets seriously injured in a fight, Randen licks his wound and he recovers instantly! What is Randen’s mysterious ability?

    Delinquents with golden hearts are some of the best characters out there. Here we have the infamous and feared bad boy Saga, known to be TROUBLE and a very strong fighter. He’s always seen fighting, either because someone would ask him to help fight other troublemakers, or more often than not, he’s secretly helping a bullied schoolmate.

    His best friend is Randen, a half-American, half-Japanese transfer student, well-liked but also an equally strong fighter. He’s the only one who knows about Saga’s true nature. He’s always tending Saga’s wounds when one day, Saga was seriously injured by a blade. Concerned for his friend, Randen licked the wound and suddenly, it’s healed!

    This is where the real fun starts!

    Randen and Saga is a super adorable dumb-and-dumber romance with a touch of paranormal. In healing Saga, Randen casually reveals his two biggest secrets: his healing abilities and that he likes Saga.

    Our boy’s head exploded at the part where Randen likes him, so he’s acting like nothing happened and ended up being an awkward dork. And Randen cheerfully pursues his best friend while they hang out like they normally do. Except now, Saga gets licked when he’s injured. And OMG, it’s ridiculously cute!!! 

    The POV was initially in Saga’s but flipped to Randen’s in the middle. We see how the boys became friends, and that one time Randen stealthily healed Saga. Ack! That scene went right in the kokoro!

    Loved the dynamics of Saga as the tsundere and Randen as the yandere, though these were portrayed lightly. Saga’s approach to protecting his friend is more direct, usually sacrificing himself, while Randen cunningly blackmails anyone who threatens Saga and does it with a smile.

    These two are giving me so much life! One of my favorite best friends to boyfriends stories ever!

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    MANGA: Migite ni Miemasunoga, Ore no Kareshi de Gozaimasu

    Migite ni Miemasunoga, Ore no Kareshi de Gozaimasu – Utsumi Long

    Miyata is a handsome tour guide in Kyoto working alongside the disheveled bus driver Shougo-san. Miyata is bored by his job and also highly dislikes his collegue, but when he finds Shougo-san weeping after being dumped by his girlfriend he strikes a conversation and notices the beautiful face underneath the shaggy hair and glasses. Follow the heartwarming pair as they both grow and learn to love each other.

    To Your Right, You Will See My Boyfriend is a fantastic take on that oldie but goldie megane trick.

    Miyata found his colleague Shougo drunkenly weeping because his girlfriend dumped him. When Shougo took off his eyeglasses, Miyata was awestruck by how beautiful he was! Upon learning of the bi-curious Shougo’s interest in anal, the out-and-proud Miyata immediately grabbed the chance because heck, our boy has been blue balling it for months. 

    Thrilled to find that they had amazing sexual chemistry, Miyata decided to ask Shougo out. What’s a straight guy to do when dating a man for the first time?

    For manga that starts with sex and is all about a happy sex life, this one is pretty wholesome. The romantic development is perfectly paced and one of the most well-executed. Shougo’s coming to terms with his sexuality and feelings for Miyata was heartfelt yet light-hearted, in keeping with the vibe of the manga.

    Miyata is aware of his good looks and knows how to use it. Still, he is a loyal boyfriend and a generous lover, game to whatever sexual fantasy Shougo imagines. My favorite part about Miyata is how our boy is so damn proud of Shougo. He talks about him all the time! He would have shown off his boyfriend to all his friends had Shougo not been too shy.

    That’s why the title is such. Miyata, the tour guide, proudly showing off his Shougo to the world. How freaking romantic is that!!!

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    MANGA: Ushimitsu Dokidoki Koshotentan

    Ushimitsu Dokidoki Koshotentan – Tacocasi

    Komiya is a struggling grad student trying to make ends meet. He meets Youzou Nishi, owner of the Nishi Bookstore, while searching for an affordable room and board, which the latter had advertised in exchange for looking after the bookstore occasionally. After living a month with Youzou, Komiya is smitten. But Youzou is a great mystery. Apart from managing a bookstore, he also has another job that Komiya doesn’t know much about, except that Youzou’s clients all seem otherworldly. Komiya doesn’t think about it much until an earthquake and rejuvenation water turns Youzou into a child. As it turns out, Youzou also runs a pawn shop of holy miracles for gods. (Source: futekiya)

    Since the release of Nidaime Jiguko BrothersTacocasi has become an instant favorite. Their stories are of a paranormal bent, featuring various gods and demons.

    The Story of Ushimitsu Dokidokidoki Secondhand Bookshop or Midnight Bookstore is another delightful offering following the same theme. It combines magic, romance, and mystery.

    Forty-something Youzou is a secondhand bookstore owner who moonlights as a trader of magical contracts, deals, and items. He offered board and lodging to a struggling grad student Komiya, who it turned out had been crushing on the spectacularly oblivious older man.

    A magical accident caused Youzou to turn into his child-like form and needed Komiya’s help going about his business. He goes from child to adult and back at certain hours, which can be tricky and/or awkward. Also, they need to find certain deities to help Youzou return to his adult form permanently. Cue the quirky supernatural side characters.

    The setting is a university town near the mountains. It has the slow living idyll, quaint houses, and old neglected shrines. It’s a place that makes it easy to believe in the supernatural. It reminded me of our overnight trip to the mountains to stay with an indigenous tribe. Boy had they a million stories to tell of their paranormal encounters!

    The neglected shrines connect to how the gods and goddesses of certain shrines had to hustle to keep their homes going. It brought the gods more in touch with human business. For instance, the goddess of fire is in charge of a famous hot springs and makes ink that she sells. The deities then secretly put the money in the donation boxes.

    The setting is just one of the charms. The manga also gives us a slow burn, understated, cozy romance. While it seemed mostly one-sided as seen from Komiya’s POV, and Youzou has one heck of a poker face, it is not angsty but focuses on Komiya’s joy of being able to take care of Youzou, both in his child and adult form.

    It also has a rather practical approach, with Youzou explaining his inconvenient position that would make dating him impossible. Then, the disarming poker-faced man declared he was not discouraging Komiya from kissing or hugging him. What is our boy to do, but not waste any chances and jump headfirst into the fire…

    Despite the stakes involved and the external conflicts, I loved how the story has Youzou’s chill vibe all over it. It’s wholesome and adorable but not overly cutesy or fluffy or anything extreme. It’s amusing without going over the top. Overall, a gently compelling story where the heart goes doki doki.

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    MANGA: Hitori de Yoru wa Koe Rarenai

    Hitori de Yoru wa Koe Rarenai – Matsumoto Yoh

    1950s Japan. Ex-soldier, Seishirou, is working as a waiter in a cabaret near an American military base, passing his days in a stagnant cycle. One day, he is approached by Jim, an American soldier who speaks fluent Japanese. Seishirou is moved by Jim’s soft smile, and Jim soon confesses his interest in him. Seishirou sees this as a chance to change his life.

    I Can’t Stand Another Night Alone is a historical enemies to lovers romance set in post-war Japan.

    Seishirou, a.k.a. Sei, is an ex-soldier working as a cabaret waiter. Because of his PTSD, he has trouble sleeping alone at night and has to resort to staying over his friends’ places. An American soldier, Jim, befriended him, and soon they started hanging out.

    Jim loves Japanese culture and is fluent in the language. It’s quickly apparent that he has more than friendly interest towards Sei. Seeing it as a chance for a better life, Sei went along for the ride and started seducing the American.

    So it wasn’t much of a romance at the start, with Sei and his ulterior motives. On the other hand, Jim was obviously quite smitten and even invited Sei to live in his house, especially learning about Sei’s insomnia.

    The two looked good together AND were good together, but it was hard to root for them. It wasn’t until the drama at the later part that the feels kicked in. It was almost too late as it was heading towards tragedy.

    But do not let this discourage you because it does not end in tears. It was a rather bittersweet ending but still a happy one, so it’s a win.

    I liked this manga but don’t feel that passionate about it. Something about the storytelling needed to be tweaked slightly though I can’t put my finger where exactly. It’s emotional and poignant enough, but lacks that oomph to make it great.

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    MANGA: Sleeping Dead

    Sleeping Dead – Asada Nemui

    Earnest and well put together, Sada is a teacher that’s popular among both his colleagues and students alike. One day after school, while he was on patrol, he saw a suspicious figure attacking a female student with a knife. Unable to escape in time, Sada ended up losing his life. However, Sada woke up on a cold slab…

    Asada Nemui-sensei is a mangaka whose works always stir conflicting emotions. From the icky yet funny tale of two brothers engaging in unbrotherly shenanigans in Ani No Chuukoku to the highly emotional story of loneliness that went straight for the jugular in Call, their stories are weird but so very, very compelling.

    Sleeping Dead is another example, where your feelings are pulled in different directions.

    Content warnings here are cannibalism, non-con bondage, non-con touching, bullying, rape, childhood trauma, animal abuse, and non-con amputation.

    This is a stomach-churning horror story of a well-liked teacher turned into a cannibal zombie by a mad scientist. This is also one hell of a Stockholm Syndrome romance between a gay man and a could-be asexual, could-be neurodiverse loner so rigidly scientific in his mindset that torture and murder are just processes in an experiment.

    Also, the mangaka doesn’t give us an if-evil-why-hot-villain you would immediately absolve of sins. Mamiya is a prematurely balding man who looks older but is the same age as his unwilling experimental subject, 30-year-old Sada, who looks conventionally attractive. The scientist is also one cold motherfucker.

    To say their relationship is fucked up would be a huge understatement. Mamiya treats Sada like the research subject he is, strapping him to a table, conducting painful tests, and cutting him open without anesthesia.

    The scientist and the zombie discuss kidnapping and murder at the dinner table since Sada can only survive by eating human flesh and blood. Logic justifies the kill, conscience considers morality, only for necessity or risk of exposure to force their hand. There’s also a low-key revenge scheme that may or may not be going on. Mamiya shrugs it all off, while Sada has to come to terms with his current state and actions.

    Then, oh so stealthily, so very slowly, feelings started creeping in. Mostly because Sada is a good guy who still treats Mamiya decently even after everything. Despite being bigger than the scientist, it didn’t even cross his mind to punch the guy. Instead, he just tried to get along with him and thus brought out the good and vulnerable in Mamiya’s off-putting personality.

    This is where I feel conflicted most because I started to see Mamiya’s redeeming qualities despite not wanting to like the bastard. I get pulled into their connection and end up rooting hard for this unlikely couple! And OMG, they are so adorkably awkward and surprisingly tender!

    Then, they proceed to gut me with that ending…FUCKING HELL!!!

    All in all, this manga is twisted, gory and the very definition of oddly compelling!

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    MANGA: Sore wa Tabun Kyuuai

    Sore wa Tabun Kyuuai – Megu Iroha

    Every day, just like clockwork, Hirono Nanami hurries home – because if he doesn’t, he just knows that annoying Godai would hunt him down and challenge him to a match again! As it turns out, Nanami can easily beat Godai in all kinds of sports except one, and Godai jumps on the chance…but, feeling bad that he’s taken advantage of the one weakness Nanami has, Godai decides to settle things between them with something they’ve never tried before – by whipping out what, now!? (Source: Futekiya)

    We’ve frequently heard about dick-measuring contests, but what happens when guys actually whip them out and compare?

    Maybe It’s Courtship is two high schoolers whose bitter rivalry went out of hand, or should we say, taken in hand, when one of them proposed to settle things through a jacking off contest.

    Nanami, the grumpy one, is on the student council. He’s a confident, straight-A student in charge of handling the budget for extra-curricular clubs. He plans to withhold the shogi club budget and/or disband the barely functioning club altogether, especially with their president, Godai, forever volunteering to pitch in to other clubs.

    Godai, the smiley one, excels at almost all sports, has good grades, and is well-liked around the campus. He frequently sought out Nanami, issuing one challenge after another in some vague attempt to secure the shogi club budget. He’s forever thwarted, until he came up with the brilliant idea.

    Godai woes that Nanami is just good at everything, while Nanami, whose POV is more frequently shown, has his brain on overdrive thinking about Godai. When they somehow connected their action to feelings, the two became a couple around the 2nd chapter.

    The rivalry simmered down a little, but now Nanami shifts his mental resources to love, sex, and ridiculous school superstitions on relationships in an effort to keep his connection with Godai. Godai, being the laidback one, appears chill but delivers the romance and sweeps his frazzled boyfriend off his feet.

    This silly little manga is rife with overdoing, overthinking, and over the top scenes that made me LOL. The two are pretty well-matched, with Nanami being slightly ahead. The derpy reaction faces were super funny.

    The miscommunication gags were amusing and showed the lengths the MCs went through for each other. Antics aside, Nanami and Godai are cute together! You could tell this two dorks crazy about each other, the way they go at like bunnies.

    No maybes, this one’s definitely a riot!

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    MANGA: Rajou Koizukiyo

    Rajou Koizukiyo – Saku Hiro

    “Who is the strange onmyouji (exorcist), who’s interested in demons?” Kon, an onmyouji, who lives in Kyoto, was immediately drawn in by a strange ship and the “other” world that it came from, the moment he set eyes on it. When he is asked to repair the ship’s barrier, he meets a former male prostitute named Ibaraki, a beautiful four-horned demon. The ship is a red light district?!

    An extraordinary Japanese-style fantasy BL woven by former male prostitute, Ibaraki-doji x demon otaku onmyouji.

    Roughly translating to Night of Love in the Ancient City, this is an enemies-to-lovers paranormal romance between a powerful demon and a young exorcist.

    The demon, Shiki, is, of course a HELLA GORGEOUS specimen of demonkind, fangy, with four horns. Coming from the Heian era, he wears fabulous flowy kimono that gives the art that extra oomph. He’s missing his right hand after a long-ago battle with his master against a group of samurai and exorcists. Formerly a sex worker, he’s currently working as a brothel bodyguard.

    The exorcist, Kon, is an nth generation scion of the Higashimikado clan, whose history goes back to the Heian period. They were, in fact, one of those who went against the demons in that famous battle. However, Kon is surprisingly sympathetic to the demon side. He volunteered to work with the demon brothel since his specialty is barriers.

    Kon, a self-declared “bad boy” because he prefers the company of demons, shows many acts of kindness toward the supernatural creatures. He’s especially kind towards Gara, a child demon that turns into a skeleton, which Shiki uses as a mode of transportation.

    The plot is one of those “arrangements” conveniently set up to facilitate smexy times. Here, Shiki contracted Kon to help restore his right hand thru futon shenanigans. But this is not a raunchy manga. The story is based on folklore, Genji Monogatari, Rashomon, and other historical and literary references I’m not familiar with, making it feel grander and epic.

    It is poignant and deeply nuanced with bittersweet undertones, but the full effect was lost on me. Aside from some unfamiliar cultural references, the storytelling didn’t flow smoothly. The narrative is frequently interrupted by flashbacks or glimpses of backstories that took me a while to connect to the main plot.

    However, I still highly recommend it. This is a beautiful manga with a moving story and lovable characters you’ll root hard for. The Spirited Away setting is magical and surreal while also inviting and strangely familiar.

    Lose yourself in this endlessly fascinating tale!

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    MANGA: Yoichi to Tsugumo

    Yoichi to Tsugumo – Hayate Kuku

    In the protected forest of the guardian deity, Yoichi the tanuki, arises a new guardian deity, Tsugumo. After dying as a fox cub, he was reborn for the sake of becoming a god and is still yet at a very tender age. While he is taught about the laws of life and the usage of divine forces, he innocently takens to Yoichi. “I love you, Yoichi. I want to be by your side forever and ever.” To Yoichi who has continued protecting the forest heftily in solitude, Tsugumo revives his long ceased feelings back, however…

    Yoichi and Tsugumo is a daddy/boy interspecies romance between two furry deities. 

    Yoichi is a millennia-old tanuki or raccoon guardian deity of the forest who found a newborn fox guardian deity he named Tsugumo. The tanuki became the guardian and mentor of the white fox, who soon grew his powers and knowledge of life, harmony, and the world at large. And with that, sexual desire developed, and soon the two became lovers.

    Tsugumo is bratty and childish. His power is stored in his tail. Yoichi is grizzled and tired. He almost gave up life but rallied when he found Tsugumo. His power is stored somewhere the sun doesn’t shine. Tsugumo had fun finding out.

    The mangaka did a good job combining the animal characteristics with the human ones. The two lick, smell, and bite as animals would, but they also showed self-awareness, wear clothes, walk on two legs, and pretty much behave like people, albeit with powers.

    The basic plot is so-so, but the supernatural elements, as well as the unique MCs gave it an edge and a fluffy charm. The evolving relationship between Yoichi and Tsugumo was endearing in its own way. The themes of immortality and the cycle of life and death also lent the story depth and poignancy.

    Admittedly, this might not be everybody’s cup of tea.

    There’s no shifting to human form here. It’s beasties through and through. However, the sex scenes weren’t graphic nor gratuitous, lasting only a couple of panels. Personally, I didn’t find them disturbing, and they weren’t the focus of the story.

    The manga as a whole, and the the artwork in particular, is very well-done. So, I still say give it a try.

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    MANGA: Romance ni wa Hodo Tooi

    Romance ni wa Hodo Tooi – Amamiya

    In high school, Arata fell for a British girl. A salaryman now, he’s reunited with that person, but they’re actually a man?!

    There was a time when I was dying to pack my bags, hightail it to Japan, find work, make pilgrimages to anime sites, and have cosplay photoshoots. Alas, lack of resources and poor mental health wouldn’t let it be so.

    Far From Romance is a tale of a British guy doing just that. Luis, an elite systems engineer, surprised everyone when he transferred to a small fishing village to work for a small IT company. Secretly, his mission is to win the man who helped him years before when he first visited the town that was the setting of a popular anime.

    Luis is an otaku and now fluent in Japanese. It was amusing how the story poked good-naturedly at Japanese quirks through the eyes of a gaijin. He doesn’t cosplay but loves photographing places he’s seen from the anime. He even volunteers to photograph their cosplayer co-worker, thrilled to see cosplay from a Japanese.

    In contrast, Arata doesn’t watch anime but soon did after their work involved promoting the town to anime otaku. He’s portrayed as the typical workaholic salaryman and a well-liked boss. The story is mostly from his POV, where he remembers his anonymous blonde, blue-eyed first love from years ago and how they tried to communicate with the language barrier.

    And now, seeing Luis, he couldn’t help but be drawn despite being straight.


    The gorgeously drawn characters of Luis and Arata and their endearing connection, the gentle but determined way Luis wooed Arata, so pure yet so passionate, just thinking about it, I got happy goosebumps! SQUEE~

    Kommatsu is their female co-worker and a cosplayer. She keeps an eye on the romantic development of the two and dies swooning when she realized Luis and Arata are now officially a couple. Kommatsu is all of us.

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