Category Archives: anime/manga

FFF 17: Undercover

a Mobile Suit Gundam Wing fanfiction drabble

Duo resurfaced a little over an hour and half later, fully dressed. Though he was covered from the neck down, including thin gloves that reached up to his mid-forearm, it was clear the clothing had been chosen for him, and it had been hastily assembled. The shirt was different but still long-sleeved, and his combat boots were of the combat variety, not for dancing. He had a tousled look that Heero remembered seeing just after Duo’d woken up and hadn’t had a chance to rebraid his hair. The boss was nowhere to be seen, but Heero didn’t take that as a free pass.

It suddenly occurred to him that this man, this man they’d have to take out at some point in the near future, had almost certainly seen Duo with his hair down, a privilege that had been Heero’s alone before this mission, at least as far as Heero knew. Though it had never been anything but friendly between them—Heero suspected that Duo thought that Heero was asexual, or, at the very least, wholly uninterested—Heero had gone undercover with the long-haired man enough to see his hair down once or twice. It didn’t happen often, despite being in such close quarters for long periods of time, and Heero savored it.

Now, he had to share that with… this guy. He frowned, despite himself.

Duo sauntered over to the bartender near to where Heero was standing. Heero knew that Duo knew where he was and that he was listening closely.

“Gimme something hard on the rocks, will ‘ou?” he asked.

“Christ, man,” the bartender crowed, “how do you talk down the boss like that?”

Duo shrugged amiably. “’e likes me, I guess.” He paused and then continued lecherously, “An’ I like ‘im.” He grinned, and she laughed. She set a rocks glass of dark liquid in front of him and he took it, swirling the alcohol around the ice before taking a tiny sip.

“I gotta head off, love,” he said after a minute of staring at nothing behind her.

“You look tired.”

“You mean I look like shit?” he asked wryly, though there was no menace in it.

She laughed. “I guess, if you want to put it that way.”

“Thanks, hon. That’s just what I needed to hear.”

“Boss is keeping you busy, then?”

“Yeah, more than my beauty sleep allows.” Duo smirked to show he was joking, and the bartender laughed again. He made no move to leave.

“You know, he really is better now that he’s got you,” she said after a minute.

“’ou think so?”

“Yeah, definitely,” she assured him. “He used to be so… much like a pimp.” She said the last word with disgust, and Duo’s face darkened for a second, but he covered it with another sip of his drink. “Now he’s more…” the bartender continued without noticing, “more like a father doting on his children.”

Duo couldn’t help a short bark of laughter, and Heero’s frown deepened. The long-haired man slapped a five on the counter and stood to leave. “Glad to help y’out,” he said.

“It’s on the house, honey,” the bartender said, “you know that. You’re the favorite, after all.” She grinned at him.

He pushed the five toward her and stepped back, “An’ I wanna stay that way, so just consider this a tip. It’s not even really from me, y’know. ‘ere’s more where that came from.” He winked conspiratorially and she blushed, accepting the inferred excuse, and slid the money from the table into her apron pocket. If she noticed that he’d barely touched his drink, she didn’t say anything when she took it from the counter and emptied it into the sink.

“See ‘ou later, love,” he said, pushing away from the bar fully. He turned without waiting for a response and walked past Heero, dropping something on his way by. Heero put a boot over the scrap and watched the other man leave without otherwise moving. After a minute, he stooped and grabbed the paper. He put it in his pocket without looking at it and left the club from a different entrance.

Outside, he walked three blocks before pulling the scrap from his pocket. In Duo’s slanted handwriting, it read: 7TH & WILLIAMS 0330

Heero looked at his watch. It was 3:00 AM. Seventh Ave. and Williams Blvd. were just a few more blocks down, so he took his time, walking out of the way in case someone connected him to the club tonight. (No one would, he knew.)

———
This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

Maelstrom 5-8

Remember my review of Maelstrom 1-4? Well, I’m back in honor of Anime Expo this weekend (!) with the rest of the story from Yaoi Prose. As with the first four chapters, Maelstrom is by Yamila Abraham with illustrations by Himitsu Studio.

Please note: this story is explicit yaoi. If you don’t know what that means, find out before you continue. (After all, you might like it!) Generally speaking, yaoi is not-safe-for-work adult material, though that’s not always the case. Maelstrom, however, is most definitely NSFW. But… it’s not like there are many pictures that make the hot sexy times blatantly obvious, so maybe you could get away with it? Depends on your workplace, I guess. You be the judge.

Maelstrom 5-8 coversAnyway, here’s a quick rundown of the last four chapters: Malstrum and Demetri manage to escape from Flurry (the primary antagonist in the first four chapters), but the world is at stake because its leaders are cracking down on the working conditions and worker assemblies, and Malstrum is the only person who can rally the workers and lead a revolution! Things just went from local to global in an instant, and Demetri begins to realize that he’s going to have to support Malstrum more and more behind the scenes, especially now that he wears Malstrum’s brand! Unfortunately, Li Gang—the acting ruler of the world and the second half’s primary antagonist—has other plans for Demetri, and suddenly Demetri finds himself kidnapped and tortured at the worst of times. Even though Malstrum manages to rescue him (eventually, and not without hardship), the finale —a clash between the leaders and workers of the world with Malstrum and Demetri smack in the center of it—promises to blow everyone out of the (metaphorical) water.

So, did I like it? Well… yes, but… It’s always like that, isn’t it? “Yes, but…”? I had high hopes for the second half of Maelstrom, but I think it only partially delivered. It’s not like I found a giant flaw with the narrative, story, or depictions of sex, but it was a bunch of little things that—when they combine—prove to be the story’s downfall. A thousand tiny paper cuts, if you will.

I think (and I’ve thought with many Yaoi Press stories) that Maelstrom could do with a good editing. Spelling errors and misusing words (the repetitive misuse of the word “construe” when I think the author meant “contort”, for example) really drew me out of the story; that’s unfortunate because it’s something that so easy to fix, relatively speaking.

That being said, I think that it was really brave of Abraham to take on such potentially divisive material (corporations versus unions, a government versus its people) in something that’s basically intended (I think) to be fluff. I want the story and intermingled plot lines—muddying the water is absolutely fine by me, as long as the author knows where to take the readers at the end. That doesn’t mean tying up loose ends, either, necessarily; it just means I want substance with my sex. Speaking of which, there’s plenty of sex (ooooh la la!) and Abraham does a great job putting us, the readers, in the heads of the characters and making it sexy at the same time.

But—and here’s where I find the other paper cuts—I noticed two things that bothered me. First, almost all the characters from the first four chapters—excepting the main characters and possibly one minor character introduced near the end of the first half—are no where to be found in the second half of the story. There’s a brand new set of characters that go with a brand new set of circumstances. No longer are Malstrum and Demetri just trying to run a single mine and fend for themselves; now they’re trying to organize an entire world of workers to fight for workers’ rights. It’s almost like they’ve leveled up and they’re fighting the boss battle now, and if I look at it that way, it kind of makes sense, but I was expecting more of a continuity of characters from the first half of the novella to the second.

I tend to believe that when a story is weak, an author will either add a character and/or move the characters to a different location so that the plot can move forward (even though it doesn’t actually develop that way). I’ve done that kind of thing in my own writing, and it’s not good writing. And, regrettably, Abraham adds characters and changes locations multiple times in Maelstrom.

Second, the end is a classic deus ex machina, and I’ll be honest here—it was kind of a let-down. After all the work, after all that struggle, all Malstrum has to do is bow before the high queen (Li Gang’s mother, no less) and present his case politely and… wa la? Everything’s fine now? The queen admonishes her son and immediately puts new rules into place to help protect the world’s workers and… that’s it? I’m not saying the story shouldn’t end there, but why did it have to end with a deus ex machina? I mean, really.

Overall, I liked the second half of Maelstrom, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as the first half. I really connected with the first four chapters, but the last four didn’t hold up to the hype in my own mind. But I will say this: if you’re just in it for the sex, this story’s the genuine article all the way through. To each his (or her) own.

Maelstrom is available on Amazon Kindle; you can get a Kindle application/program free for your computer even if you don’t own any e-reader or iPad-type device. And! You can read free previews of chapters 5 and 7 before you buy. The last four chapters (5-8) are just $2.99 each. Chapter 5 is roughly 21 pages; chapter 6 is almost 20; chapter 7 is 22 pages long; and the final chapter is a double-header (no pun intended haha), clocking in at 39 pages! Note: I don’t own a Kindle, so I read Maelstrom on my computer; if you read it on your own e-reader, it may be formatted differently and actually end up being even more pages.

Maelstrom 1-4

So I found out last week two weeks ago (sheesh; where did the time go?) that Yaoi Press is returning to printed graphic novels and

I. AM. SO. EXCITED.

Seriously. I am so excited about this. I thought it called for a review of a great Yaoi Prose story, Maelstrom by Yamila Abraham with illustrations by Himitsu Studio. I’ve got the first four (out of eight) chapters sitting here waiting to be written up, so here we go!

First things first, as usual: Maelstrom is explicit yaoi. If you don’t know what that means, find out before you continue. (Who knows, you might like it!) It’s generally not-safe-for-work adult material… but that’s never stopped me from reading the like at work, so if you have an awesome workplace and/or an office to yourself, it might not matter. ^_^

Maelstrom 1-4 coversAll right, so: a quick summary of the first four chapters. Demerti steps off the ship onto Secren—a Wild West-esque mining planet devoid of women—and immediately experiences a disconcerting-yet-heated attraction to a man standing on the platform. Demetri’s straight, but—as his computer translator, Brainbox, tells him—Earthlings on Secren are struck with Lightning just as often as natives are. Determined to remain a Celibate, Demetri ignores the man, Malstrum, and heads deeper into the planet to set up his own mining operation. Complications arise (of course), and Demetri finds himself fighting for his own life (mostly unsuccessfully) until Malstrum, once (but no longer) the most successful mine boss on the planet, shows up to save him. Their attraction deepens until Demetri can no longer deny his feelings and he submits to Malstrum. All this while holding down a mining operation, finding miners to work with them, divvying up scarce rations, and warning off roadside bandits.

A few lines from the fourth chapter are my favorite so far. After Demetri submits to Malstrum, he expresses his disgust at other men who can “stick with a fucking rapist” and Malstrum points out that Secren isn’t as nice as Earth. Demetri says that if rape is what works on Secren, then fine, but when someone rapes an Earthling, it can destroy him (or her). Malstrum gently corrects him by saying,

Everyone wants to be the alpha. It’s a joke in the beginning. Eventually they want to mate and fight each other to decide. It’s kind of agreed on, you know? If I beat you, you’re getting fucked and I’m the alpha. If you beat me, I’m going to have to take it…

No one wants to beat their lover half to death. Lightning ends up being a curse. You know that’s what you’re headed for, and it kills you. When you see those few guys who say, ‘I’ll take your brand. I’ll be the beta,’ it’s so beautiful it makes you cry. Everyone celebrates. The beta becomes the hero. Everyone’s jealous of the alpha. And they have the best marriages. No strife between them. No resentment.

I read that and thought to myself, “Yes! Thank you! Exactly!” and I was so angry that chapter 4 ended shortly thereafter because it meant writing up this review before I could continue reading the story. Gah. (Haha; is it bad that even when I’m reading porn, I still want a good plot? Is it obvious by now?) And yes, there is some heated loving going on between Malstrum and Demetri, so explicit yaoi lovers have no fear: the hot guy/guy sex is definitely there. (Woo, I made a rhyme!)

In any case, I highly recommend this story. It’s one of Abraham’s better ones, in my opinion, and completely worth the (inexpensive) cost. You can even read free previews of chapters 1, 3, and 4 before you buy so you know you’re getting quality.

Maelstrom is available on Amazon Kindle; you can get a Kindle application/program free for your computer even if you don’t own any ereader or iPad-type device. The first chapter is roughly 25 pages for just $1.49; chapter 2 is 29 pages for $2.99; chapter 3 is also 29 pages for $2.99; and the fourth chapter is 28 pages for $2.99.

Hopefully I’ll be able to review the second half of Maelstrom soon. I haven’t actually read chapters 5-8 yet, so I’m looking forward to finding out what happens with Demetri and Malstrum. (Also, more sex!)

12 Moments 11: #02

This entry is part of 12 Moments in Anime 2011.

#02 is finally having found out, after years and years (I’m not kidding), that that one anime “that wasn’t Utena was actually Dead Leaves! Thank two excellent Retro and Pandy cosplayers and some random con-goers at Anime Expo who knew the film better than I did. Now, here’s the Japanese trailer. And yes, it’s about as bad as it seems.

12 Moments 11: #03

This entry is part of 12 Moments in Anime 2011.

#03 is TokyoPOP closing down at the end of May. Not a happy moment for me in 2011, but “a moment” nonetheless.

TokyoPOP published everything from Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon to Get Backers and Mobile Suit Gundam titles (including Gundam Wing) to Junjou Romantica (under their BLU Manga imprint). They moved manga from “a comic book thing” to “a book thing” by helping to create space on Borders (RIP) and Barnes & Noble shelves for manga and other comics.

I don’t know much about the drama with Stu Levy (TokyoPOP’s founder and CEO), but as a casual manga reader who was happy to see new manga on the shelves in bookstores, TokyoPOP’s demise was a terrible loss for me.

Rest in Manga Peace, TokyoPOP.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

12 Moments 11: #04

This entry is part of 12 Moments in Anime 2011.

#04 is “dragon/prince”… which is the title I’ve given to the untitled story that may in the near future become a manga-style comic drawn by the lovely Sammi herself!

Sammi had a booth in Artist Alley at Anime Expo this past year (2011) and on her table along with a lot of her great work (Piper’s Promise, anyone?) was a little sign that read something like “Like to write BL? Let’s make a comic together!”

Character sketch by Sammi Guidera
Sammi drew an excellent character sketch after chatting
with me about the story for just a couple of hours!

So, I took down her information and after the convention, I emailed her with an email that probably turned out to be relatively awkward, but she looked past that, thankfully, and we met up for tea in August to hash out some ideas. And then I got to writing!

Hahahaha, at least, that’s the idea. I’ve got a basic story in mind, but I haven’t gotten it all down yet, but I’m trying to time it so that she has enough to start illustrating with before the Next Big Convention… or whatever.

I have to make it priority or it will fall to the wayside. (NO! I’m actually excited about this story! I’m not letting that happen.)