Star Collector – Anna B. & Sophie Schonhammer
Fynn’s favorite activities are skipping class, smoking, and lying around. So when he’s told it’s time to shape up and try doing something else for a change, he has no idea where to even start.
Then, on a nighttime walk around his neighborhood, he sees a stranger with a telescope up on a hill: his name is Niko, and he loves to watch the stars. Intrigued, Flynn decides to find out more about this nerdy boy and what could be so interesting about the night sky that he loves so much.
I know I sound like an ass but I used to scoff at Western manga because the art seemed off. But when I saw the cover of Star Collector, I immediately requested it on Netgalley. So pretty!
This is a classic opposite attracts story made more magical by stars. Watching Fynn fall for Niko was cute but maybe it happened just a little bit too fast given that they hardly know anything about each other and Fynn just broke up with Zoe. I felt Zoe’s hurt but I liked her for being such a great friend. I would have liked some backstory but I’m guessing that will be for the succeeding volumes.
Star Collector Vol. 1 is a good start of a promising manga. Recommended for those who love gay for you stories about nerds and delinquents.
Can’t wait for volume two! Will Fynn and Niko finally see those shooting stars?
I received a copy of Star Collector from Tokyo Pop via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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