12 Days of Yaoi – Liquor and Cigarette – BL Manga Review

manga review, yaoi

Now let’s start of these fun times with a fun little yaoi manga shall we? For on this first day of the 12 Days of Yaoi I present to you Liquor and Cigarette by Ranmaru Zariya, one of my favourite manga reads this year! A big thankyou to SuBLime for giving this manga an official English release and yours truly got her copy through Amazon on Kindle, I swear this year Kindle and a few other sites and apps have been my savior when it comes to reading!

Theo runs his family’s Liquor store and his childhood best friend works just across the street from him in a cigarette store that woman come from other towns just to be his customers. His friend Camilo is a known flirt but does not seem to date anyone who takes interest in him be they women or men which he has shown interest in both because he has openly stated that he is bi and lately Camilo has been a lot more forward with his attraction to his childhood friend.

Exploring themes of sexuality, slight internalized homophobia, and the classic trope of friends to lovers Liquor and Cigarette is a fun boys love read that has just enough drama to keep you hooked without being over melodramatic. The only real issue I think some readers might find with this story is at the beginning of the experimental relationship between the two main characters Theo relies quite heavily on liquid courage and this may bring up some consent issues for some readers so I feel it is only right to pre warn any new reader of this story.

The artwork is what drew me into this series I especially love the amount of emotion the author and artist Ranmaru Zariya is able to convey in the characters eyes in particular, they just seem to stare into you soul making you want to invite them in, especially on the cover which is what initially drew me to the title. It’s no wonder then that another of their works Coyote which I have yet had a chance to read has been on everyone’s must read list this year.

I hope you enjoyed the first day of 12 Days of Yaoi here on Yaoi Playground, stay tuned tomorrow when I will be discussing my favourite yaoi game of the year but also give an honest review about some of the minor problems with the game…

Monster and the Beast Vol 1 – Yaoi Manga Review

manga review, yaoi

One is naïve and shy, the other a creature of carnal desire but don’t assume you know who is who by looking at the cover of this yaoi manga. There are two things I would love to see more of in boys love titles if I am completely honest, stories that focus on characters that are not students and more consensual stories with monsters! I’ve already told you all before how much I love Men Plus Monsters by the lovely Aero Zero, but I hear you my lovely readers. Not everyone who loves yaoi and boys love also has a love for the bara art style, and if you are curious about a boys love story that involves one of the sweetest monsters I have ever seen in a manga then Monster and the Beast might just be the manga for you.

The first volume introduces us the readers to our two main leads of this slow burn romance story and when I say it is a slow burn between these two I mean it. I don’t know about any of my readers but when I read boys love sometimes I want more than just a dirty deed. I want a story that will suck me in and characters that keep me fascinated and guessing and one of the biggest plus’s for this manga series for me is that we have an honest to god fantasy yaoi story that is not just another isakai! The monster of the cover is a gentle and misunderstood soul by the name of Cavo who upon seeing the gentleman Liam being ‘attacked’ by his travel companions can not help but step in to help the man and though thankful for being rescued Liam informs his savior that he was ok really, it was just a little fun taken too far.

As the pair begin to travel together their growing friendship and fascination with each other is both compelling and adorable, you just do not expect a giant monster like Cavo to be so innocent and as expected from their first encounter Liam is quite the playboy but his constant need to travel and not stay in one place for long well it feels like it is foreshadowing something in the future of the story and I look forward to reading more of this manga.

It’s Fine Even If It’s Just a Dream – BL Manga Review

manga review

There are a lot of angst filled yaoi and boys love manga out there. From problematic tropes and depressing stories of heart break and sometimes this is what you want to read. I myself enjoy a well written dark and angst filled story, but reading these kind of stories all the time can get very draining. When you hit this drained out point you just want to read something a little bit fluffy that still pulls at your heart strings but gives you those happy ending butterflies that only a good story can give you and I recently read the most adorable boys love manga over on Futekiya called It’s Fine Even If It’s Just a Dream by Ayu Yamane.

Yamane’s art style is very different to the art of a lot of other boys love manga artists. The best way I can describe her art style is very simplified and round. Her characters though adults are drawn very cutely but you can still tell that the characters are adults and behind her adorable art style are some very beautiful and powerful boys love stories. I have only read a few of her works on Futekiya but it was It’s Fine Even If It’s a Dream that I enjoyed most. Probably because of my love for melodramatic love stories with a happy ending.

It’s Fine Even If It’s Just a Dream tells the story salary man Kiyosaki who is transferred to a branch of his company out in the countryside after he is accused of sexual harassment from a work colleague, something he is adamant he did not do, but at the same time he does not seem to want to defend himself from the allegations. While getting use to his new job location and how quiet the new location is he slowly begins to befriend Sou a very quiet local cook and as the two get to know each other they slowly learn to trust and love each other and begin to grow a life together.

It is a simple and sweet story with just enough drama to keep you hooked but is filled to the brim with cute fluffy moments that just leave you going aww, so if you are looking for a lighter read within the boys love genre that avoids many of the problematic tropes of the genre then this is the perfect read and best of all you can legally read it over at Futekiya!

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Love Me For Who I Am Vol 1 – Manga Review

lgbtq+, manga review

When I originally found this manga, I thought ‘oh it’s a cute manga about a cafe that has crossdressing girlie boys, this could be an adorably fun read’ but then this manga hit close to home for me with it’s main lead and I knew I had found something truly special that I would have to write about this month in particular because this is the first manga I have read that has had a non-binary lead character. The reason this hits close to home for me is that three years ago I myself came out as non-binary after many years of soul searching.

The manga focuses on lonely high school student Mogumo who knows who they are as a person, but because of this feels isolated from those around them because they feel that no one truly understands them and just wishes they had some real friends. One day they are approached by a classmate named Tetsu Iwaoka , who thinks his cute ‘male’ classmate that cross-dresses at school would be a perfect fit for his family’s special maid cafe of cross dressing boys. This is not my first time coming across a yaoi story with a cross-dressing maid cafe, after all I have been a long fan of the series otoko no ko wa maid fuku ga osuki aka Boys that Enjoy Maids Clothing!? Its a bit of a hard series to explain but its basically a slice of life story of crossdressing boys ans their antics. Though if you look this one up I must warn it has a lot of R-18 artwork….

Love me some adorable Cherry Girls!

So yeah, I went into this manga expecting something like the Cherry Girls of otoko no ko wa maid fuku ga osuki which I would have been more than happy with, but then Mogumo drops a bombshell saying they are not a boy, so everyone assumes oh you are a girl then? It is then that Mogumo’s biggest bombshell is dropped. They do not see themselves as a boy or a girl, and in reading this moment my heart just bloomed with so much pride, because I understood immediately what they meant. They are non-binary and I must confess it is a term I wish I had known when I was a teenager. This reveal however causes some conflict with the others working at the cafe and this is when is how amazing the diversity included in this cafe truly begins to shine.

Within the staff of the cafe we have the transgender owner who is Tetsu’s older sister, a boy who wishes they were a girl but has not quite come to the conclusion that they themselves are trans, a young gay boy who loves cross-dressing because it makes him feel free to be himself and a straight boy who just sees crossdressing as another part of his true hobby of cosplay. Everyone in the cafe is different in their own special way, so Tetsu’s promise of Mogumo finding a place where they can belong and make friends could just come through.

I spent much of my youth as an outcast, I was never good with socializing and had very little interest in socializing with others mostly because I have always found it hard to relate to other people. During my teen years as my body began to change it caused me a lot of health issues that still affect my health to this day. I always knew I did not feel like a girl or a woman and was quite often before puberty mistaken for a boy but it never really bothered me. I knew deep down that I never felt female, but at the same time I had no want or need to be male either. I just wanted to be me without the label of a gender, but it would not be until a few years ago that I would learn the language for what I am and that was non-binary and it was not until I embraced being non-binary that I started feeling more comfortable with the more feminine side of myself. I use to constantly keep my hair short but last year for the first time since I was a kid I started growing my hair out and right now I am actually loving having long hair. Something I use to hate so much.

The characters within this manga discuss what it is like to be different and how some of them have found confidence in labels while others say that those same labels feel like painful restraints for them. What can be freeing for one person can be a hell for another and I liked that they had open and honest discussions about this. The LGBTQ+ community is such a large spectrum of different people that even though we all support each other even within our own ranks we will find those we don’t agree with. I myself have had these experiences with the few other non-binary people I have talked to. To many within the non-binary community gender neutral pronouns are very important, but for me I really don’t care what pronouns others use when talking to or about me, as long as they are being respectful I don’t care what anyone calls me. But I know it’s not like that for everyone and I accept that.

One of the cutest aspects of this manga however is the obvious blooming feelings between Tetsu and Mogumo. This brings up questions of sexuality for Tetsu that I hope get further explored in future volumes and also brings some anxiety to Mogumo because they don’t want to cause trouble for Tetsu, but there seems to be a hurdle in the horizon for these two love birds before anything even happens because of an interesting confrontation for Tetsu at the end of this volume and I look forward to reading more of this amazing manga when the following volumes get an official English release and even though this is not a sponsored post, I got my copy of this amazing manga from Bookwalker which I recently signed up for and am loving all the yaoi at my fingertips.

Pure Trance – My Favorite Manga

manga review

956298With her psychedelic creepy Kawai with an overtone of sexual content, the artwork of Junko Mizuno is some of my favorite artists out there and my all time favorite manga is Pure Trance. Written in the late 90’s and then getting an English release in 2005 it is still available today for purchase on Amazon at a very reasonable price (on the American site at least). But looking at the cover of this strange manga you might be wondering, what the hell is this?

This manga is very dark in tone, I will tell you that right now, much like most on Junko’s work what might look strange yet cute it will always have a darker side. Pure Trance is a sci-fi story taking place in the far future after world war 3, a war which has sent humankind off the surface and underground, but that’s ok humans have a great life underground. The main character of the story is a nurse who works at Overeaters Treatment Center 102 where she tries to help her patients. Unfortunately, her job is made difficult by the woman in charge of the treatment center who is a drug addict who uses her position to get what she craves most.

It was the art style that caught my interest when it came to the work of Junko and Pure Trance but it was the strong female characters, interesting character development and world building that had me hooked on Pure Trance. Little snippets of information about the world she has created in this manga can be found at the bottom of nearly every page. These can be explanations of products, devices, hobbies the characters take part in or creatures scattered throughout the story and I really loved this. It added an extra intriguing level to an already weird narrative and in a way almost made it feel more grounded in a believable reality, well almost I don’t think cloning is a popular hobby amongst young women just yet.

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It was seeing this image on an image board site that made me want to check out what Pure Trance is

The manga deals with themes of social norms, eating disorders, self-harm, drug use and finding one’s self in the chaos that surrounds us in the world. It is because of these themes that Pure Trance may not be a good starting point for someone new to Junko Mizuno’s work. One manga I would recommend to someone new to her work is Mermaid Princess, which is a strange re-imagining of the classic tale of the little mermaid, a safer place to start down the rabbit hole that is Junko Mizuno.

Though not the best quality this is a really cool interview with the artist herself, being interviewed by a familiar face to any top gear fan on his previous show Japanorama.

 

OWLS Competition Blog Tour|Pinned! A Competition of Ego

manga review, owls, yaoi

Greetings and salutations to the next stop on this month’s OWLS Blog Tour! If you are following along this month you will see that we have been extra busy and if you are following along you will have already read the lovely post from Shokamoka over on their blog! The growing number of bloggers joining OWLS has been amazing and this makes me really happy because it means I get to read even more awesome blog posts each month.

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As soon as I read what the prompt was going to be for this month’s blog tour, I knew exactly what I was going to cover for it, but first, let’s have a look at that theme this month!

-Competition-

In honor of the 2018 Winter Olympics, this month’s topic will focus on the theme of ‘competition’ because the Olympics is where athletes from all countries join together to compete in sporting events. Through these events, we see how competition’ brings out the grit, the teamwork and the competitive spirit within athletes. This month, we will be exploring anime and pop culture media that discusses the good and the bad when it comes to competition and what it can teach us about ourselves and the world around us.

Pinned! is a western yaoi graphic novel released in 2005 with art by Studio Kosaru and written by Yamila Abraham. Regular readers of this blog should recognize the name as she is the yaoi author behind the crowdfunding campaign I posted about last month for her project My Magical Demon Lover. Yamila Abraham is not only an author with the company Yaoi Press but is also its founder! But I’m not here to gush and fangirl over one of my favorite western authors, (I will write a separate post for that later) I am here to write about this month’s theme of competition in a story about pro wrestling! But wait I hear you ask, how can there be competition in a sport that is completely scripted for television and audiences? Well, that’s what I am going to dive into in this part review part analysis piece for OWLS.

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Pinned! tells the story of the up and coming professional wrestler Synn who has just made his debut as a pro wrestler after being scouted from grassroots wrestling. To those who do not know much about the world of pro wrestling grassroots is where a lot of wrestlers start off their professional career. It is where a lot of them learn the basics of the sport and perform in front of live audiences for the first time in ‘house shows’ which are untelevised events. Synn is very happy to be making his debut, he has even been able to get back in contact with his good friend he use to wrestle with back in grassroots and he has caught the attention of the top card wrestler of the company Renegade, who in my opinion has a striking resemblance to HHH back in the nineties. There is just one catch and it is a pretty big one that could make or break young Synn’s career as a pro wrestler before it even begins.

It would seem that Synn was brought into this world of pro wrestling for one purpose only in the eyes of the guy in charge, bossman. He was brought into the company to be a perk for the top card wrestler Renegade who wants Synn all to himself in more ways than one. Will Synn get a chance to become the pro wrestler he has always wanted to be? Can he put a stop to Renegade’s unwanted advances and as he gets to know the other wrestler do those advances stay unwanted? Well, you will have to read the graphic novel yourself to get all those answers but I will go into a few of them here so if you don’t want to be spoiled for the awesome story that this is you can purchase a physical copy or digital copy right here on Amazon.

One of the biggest themes in the story of Pinned! in my opinion, is the competition of ego between the wrestlers, especially in the second half of the story when the title belt comes into play within the story. As Synn and Renegade spend more time together both outside and inside the ring tensions and ego grow around the both of them for you see through all the competition inside the ring is scripted and played out for the audience what happens backstage is very competitive. From working out the upcoming story arc for the show to who gets the belt next, there are those who think they are more deserving of certain perks than others and this becomes very evident when Synn is taken into Renegades stable. But the biggest of these issues come up when it is decided that Synn will be winning the belt from Renegade. This one decision pisses off many of the older wrestlers who have been with the company longer than the newbie.

To add fuel to this fire there is also the problem with Synn’s friend Rae from grassroots who makes it very clear he does not like Renegade and outright tries to poison Synn against him with rumors of unspeakable acts between Renegade and his former wrestling partner. This makes Synn very wary of Renegade and even makes him lose trust in him just as they are getting close, but that is seriously that is all I am going to go into about this story because the final act is just too good to spoil.

So we have a battle of egos between all these wrestlers that shows some of the worst of bad sportsmanship. When the ego takes hold and someone begins to think they are so self-important that they can do anything well that is when we can see some of the worse behavior in people and characters. Now one could argue this can be seen in Renegade with his unwavering obsession with Synn, but for the most part, he really does seem to keep his ego in check. I mean let’s just say there is more gossiping amongst the wrestlers going on backstage than in an all-girls high school. This undermining of each other really makes for what seems like a toxic workplace, but this is what happens when you have so many big egos working together and this isn’t something that just happens in a sport like pro wrestling.

We see it time and time again in the news. Some big sports star is accused of some outburst out in public, whether that be a sexual assault charge, a brawl in a club, pub or some other night spot, caught speeding in a high power vehicle or even turning to drugs in their downtime. Their feeling of self importance and ego has been blown so far out of proportion that they seem to be in this state of mind where they think the law does not comply to them or they think that whatever code of sport they play for it’s ok the club will cover their asses so they can play in the next big game. It is a sad dark side to the professional sport.

I want to end this post on something a little bit lighter however and it is also something wrestling related. Growing up in the nineties I was a huge fan of pro wrestling with my siblings and mum. We use to watch the Monday night wars every week and being in Australia neither one (that being WCW and WWE) aired on the same night so we got to watch both. About ten years ago I lost interest in pro wrestling to the point where I had to watch it every week. But I do believe that a lot of my likes and dislikes today was shaped by watching wrestling as a kid and a couple of years ago, 2015 to be exact I got to meet one of my childhood heroes at a convention over here called Supanova!

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Yep, that is yours truly Mistress of Yaoi herself with none other than Jake the Snake Roberts! Yes he was before my time of watching the wrestling in the 90’s but he still showed up as a special guest now and again and I always loved it! And below you will see one of my favorite moments from his career. Also, I must warn you, if you don’t like big snakes, you may want to not click on this video on how he cleared the ring during Royal Rumble 21.

Now that I have had my fun I will turn you over to Matt, who I am sure will have another awesome post for you to read in the near future!

Notpia – Yaoi Manga Review

manga review, yaoi

Warning the following manga I am reviewing is NOT SAFE FOR WORK and most likely NOT SAFE FOR LIFE either. If you do not know what guro is, do not look up this manga. 

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Many have asked me every now and again what is the most disturbing yaoi I have come across and without a doubt that award goes to the anthology manga Notpia and part of that could be because this manga was my introduction to the world of Guro. A little lesson in Guro is needed to fairly warn any newcomer to the more depraved side of manga if you see this tag and are not a fan of gore or violence then just stay away from this stuff. I was in my late teens when I first came across snippets from Notpia on various websites, I was not mentally ready back then for what I saw. In recent years, however, I will admit I have become a fan of Candy Gore and I think a lot of this has to do with how unrealistic Candy Gore is.

Guro or Eroguro is a ‘grotesque’ form of pornographic artwork depicting the most extreme of sexual imagery and is not limited to scenes of murder, torture, and death with a sexual nature. It is what you get when you mix snuff with porn and it is a dark and disturbing rabbit hole that almost mentally scarred me when I first discovered the genre over a decade ago.

downloadNotpia itself is anthology collection of ‘yaoi’ stories about pretty young boys and older men that entails murder, necrophilia, bestiality, pedophilia and at times a combination of all four. I suppose now one might see why something like Killing Stalking does not disturb me. I came across this manga by accident many years ago and feel I must write this ‘review’ as a stern warning to all yaoi fans… Just stay away from this one, and this is not some challenge to go out and read this just please please do not read this manga… seriously Boku no Pico is less scarring than this manga.

 

Kotetsu Dining – Yaoi Manga Review

manga review, yaoi

Kotetsu Dining is a quirky yaoi manga, to say the least, but it is a quirky story with a lot of heart at its core as well. Telling the story of the mysterious Hyuuga, a self-proclaimed masked pro-wrestler who has an actual tiger’s head and tail and his air-headed roommate Akaru who works as a male host. These two seem to be from completely different worlds except for the fact they live in the same apartment together, will there differences keep them apart or perhaps there is something more between these two young men?

Before I continue this review I suppose I should give mention to the ‘tiger’ in the room. It becomes obvious to reader very early on that Hyuuga is not wearing a mask, but he is not a ‘furry’ either… he just has a tiger’s head and tail, the rest of him is very human, so if you were worried this is a furry story well that really depends on your definition of a furry. For me, a furry tiger character would be something like this…

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1 (1)But as I stated Hyuuga is not like this and the rest of his body is a human male and you get to see proof as that as the story of this manga continues. Perhaps it is because of this that Akaru continues to believe that it is a mask. I will admit he’s level of naivety and airheadedness can border on frustrating at times, that being said one thing quickly becomes clear, he really does care for Hyuuga something our tiger does not seem used to. The manga is not without any faults however and it’s the biggest fault for me is its abrupt ending. just as things feel as they are moving forward the story just ends with no real conclusion

An amusing slow-burning romance between the two keeps me coming back to this manga and if you are looking for something a little different but still has all the tried and true tropes of a yaoi manga then this manga is a nice change of place. It is nothing groundbreaking for the genre but not everything has to be, sometimes you just want to sit down and read something that makes you go aww so sweet and for me that is this title.

 

Thirsty for Love – Yaoi Manga Review

manga review, yaoi

If you are looking for a fluffy yaoi story, look elsewhere. If you don’t want to read a yaoi manga that involves a sexual relationship with a female classmate as well as a male then don’t read this manga. If you are looking for a manga with an emotional pull that deals with the emotions of sex, sexuality, coming of age, death and the grieving process then maybe Thirsty for Love is a manga worth reading for you, just keep that box of tissues close by for this one.

11Orie Nakano is not sure what he loves more, his classmate Yuka or sex with her. When he finds out he is not the only one in a relationship with Yuka and that his beloved sempai is leaving the basketball team things only continue to get worse as he finds out the kind of girl he is in a relationship with and even perhaps how much emotional turmoil he can really take when he finds out Yuka is on her deathbed. Out of all the manga I have read over the years Thirsty for Love has one of the most realistic stories of death and grieving I have ever read and that is a real strength of this manga. Another is its characters as many of them could have come across as horrible people but as you read on you find out the reason why certain characters act the way they do and grow a real sympathy for all of them, even Yuka which I honestly did not expect on my first read through.

The loss of a loved one is never easy on anyone but when that loss happens at a time in our lives when we are still figuring out who we ourselves are, it can be even harder to understand those emotions. Each of the boys in the story goes through grief in a different way which is awesome to see because the feeling of grief is different for every person. Some people’s emotions reach a boiling point and they explode, others bottle everything up and others they just completely emotionally break down. From love to denial, anger, sadness, acceptance and every single emotion in between the three boys who loved Yuka ultimately find comfort in the one thing they all have in common, their love for her.

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For all the praise I have given this manga however, it is not perfect. My biggest complaint I have with this story is the whole second half, especially the final resolution that feels very rushed. I get the feeling this story would have worked better as a two-volume manga instead of one and I found myself wondering if it was originally planned that way with how out of sync the second half feels to the first, it just as I said feels rushed. The character of Orie’s sempai especially feels like a bit of a one-note character compared to the other two boys which is a shame because he did have potential to be a really interesting character but he just keeps spouting the same line to Orie constantly throughout the story’s second half and then has a change of heart that really does not feel earned in the end.

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A story of emotional turmoil and ultimately finding a way to just feel normal again after a tragedy Thirsty for Love is a manga I consider an emotional journey that will draw you in and remind us all that at the end of the day we are all nothing more than human and will one day have to face the fear of death; whether that be our own mortality or that of our loved ones and that it is OK to fear and grieve no matter how painful that might be.

 

He is a God on a Mission – Priapus

bara, manga review, yaoi

priapusZeus is not happy with the state the world is in, he is disappointed with humanities disposition for conflict, war, and cruelty so he wants to put an end to the human race. The only problem, this Zeus does not like bloodshed (I say this because if you are familiar with Greek mythology, well Zeus was not this kind) so he leaves the task of eliminating the human race to Priapus the god of fertility and harvest.

Priapus declares open season on the male population for himself and makes his decision. I’ll just make it so they never breed again and make every single man gay for me! (Of course, practically we know this will never work, but as you read the manga you will find yourself rooting for this sexy god!)

If you are looking for a politically incorrect hilarious romp of a bara manga you will thoroughly enjoy this read, maybe even as much as Priapus enjoys himself and others, though I don’t think anyone can enjoy themselves as much as our god of harvest.

cbt9hntukaacwltPriapus comes from the artist known as Mentaiko, their artwork can go from muscular pretty boys all the way to burly, rugged and of course hairy men. The third of which is more popular within the bara fandom which is aimed mostly at gay men.

Also on a side note, I must warn all readers… if you are not ready for hardcore bara and do an internet search of Mentaiko’s work, whether it be through a search engine or on a site like Tumblr, you might want to turn on the safe search.

THIS ARTWORK CAN AND DOES GET VERY HARDCORE!

23902538_mPriapus takes an almost comedic parody approach to the bara genre however and that’s why I love it, in fact one chapter even parodies a popular magical girl anime that is sure to get a good laugh out of certain fujoshi as it did for me, I lost it laughing when I realized how far they were taking the joke. They did not just run with it they went full steam ahead with a very fun and messy conclusion.

This manga is yet another title not for every yaoi fan but if you want to further explore the world of Bara there is no better place for your second or even third step. If you are just curious about bara and not quite sure if it is for you I would recommend reading  Miscreant Next Door as it is a better first stepping stone into this different erotic side to the male on male fandom. It might not be for you, but maybe you are just curious as to what other fans enjoy.