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September 13, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Solfége & Don’t Say Anymore, Darling

It’s a Fumi Yoshinaga double feature today, as I look at two one-shot volumes from Digital Manga Publishing (both published on the Juné imprint).  The first is a bittersweet story of a singer and his voice teacher, Solfége.  The second is a collection of short stories, Don’t Say Any More, Darling.  Both are $12.95 each.

Title: Solfége
Vintage: 1998 by Houbunsha Co. in Japan, 2007 by DMP
Genre: Yaoi, student/teacher romance, music

Kugayama has been tutoring a former choir student in solfége (aural skills, learning how to read and dictate music) to prepare him for a music high school.  Azuma Tanaka is a physically mature, delinquent looking junior high school student, who doesn’t have the intellectual skills for going to a normal school, but enjoys singing.  Unfortunately his mother has a habit of staying out at night, drinking, and bringing home random men.  When Tanaka’s mother falls ill, Kugayama offers to let the young man stay at his place until he gets into music school.  A bit over a year later, Tanaka returns home, leaving Kugayama with a mysterious void in his life…until the boy returns, fleeing his mother’s new man, and begs to stay at his teacher’s house.  Drunk and frustrated, Kugayama takes advantage of the vulnerable Tanaka, and the two enter into a forbidden relationship.  Will it last, or will they be found out?  Will their feelings interfere with Tanaka’s future?

Even though I fell in love with this one immediately, I still remain a bit bothered by all these sexual student/teacher romances in boys’ love books.  Tanaka is 14, maybe 15 or 16, when they start their relationship (basically 10th grade, assuming I read correctly and there’s a year’s passage of time within the earlier part of the story).  Yoshinaga handles it well; it’s not disgusting or ridiculous.  Well, beyond the first actions taken by a drunken Kugayama anyway.  It almost felt like he was trying to teach his student a lesson about coming over to an older man’s house in the middle of the night and promising anything in return for sanctuary, but then got carried away.  After you read about this sort of relationship for the twentieth time, you learn not to get too ruffled over it.  Kugayama’s best asset is instilling a love of music in his students, his worst is the way he tends to use the men in his life…and he certainly gets what’s coming to him.  In any case, it’s a touching relationship (by the end, at least), a little bittersweet, and characterized by Yoshinaga’s usual honesty.

Title: Don’t Say Any More, Darling
Vintage: 2004 by Otha Publishing Co., 2007 by DMP
Genre: Romance, yaoi

This collection of stories ranges from the standard to the truly bizarre.  The title story follows two high school friends, now grown and with lives of their own, Tadashi and Kouhei.  Kouhei is a successful doctor, though still living with his parents, and Tadashi is seemingly an unemployed bum with an unpromising career as a lyricist.  Kouhei frequently visits Tadashi, who lives nearby, brining him food and checking in on his hapless friend.  Tadashi, who is gay, has obvious feelings for Kouhei, which Kouhei brushes off as a joke.  When Kouhei meets a young woman for an arranged marriage meeting, he realizes that everything she does reminds him of Tadashi.  A humorous story and definitely my favorite of the bunch.  “My Eternal Sweetheart” takes a jump off the deep end.  An ailing young teen, starved for affection and bored from being cooped up, asks his brother to create a male sexaroid for his enjoyment.  What follows is a rather disturbing, semi-incestuous sexcapade, that still manages to pull at the heart strings by the end.  “Fairyland” is another strange tale, about a young man who wished away a group of bullying students, but ended up wishing away all life.  When he runs into an older man, he realizes his mistake, but is too late.  “One May Day” tells the story of an older gentleman and his second wife.  An emotionally and physically abused woman, the man desires to take care of her, until he can no longer stand the excessive submissiveness brought on by her past.  The final story, “The Pianist,” tells the story of a washed up pianist, longing for the days when he could get any man he wished.  As he tries to get his old talent back, and his old lifestyle, he is brutally awakened by a young man he attempts to sleep with.  When he meets a troubled young man on a bridge, he finds a new purpose for his life.

This is not my favorite Fumi Yoshinaga book, but all that really means is that it’s the book I like least of a creator I adore.  I am not a big fan of short story collections, which leave little time for any real development.  Yoshinaga manages well enough here, but some of the stories do feel rushed.  A couple of them I’m indifferent about, while a couple of them I would really love to see more of.  Even the strangest stories are so obviously Yoshinaga, and the book is worth a read for any fan of hers.


Review copies provided by Digital Manga Publishing.


One Comment

  1. […] Animemiz on Gintama (Anime Diet) Zack Davisson on vol. 1 of .hack//LINK (Manga Life) Kristin on Solfége and Don’t Say Anymore Darling (Comic Attack) Sean Gaffney on vol. 3 of Twin Spica (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Bill Sherman on […]

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