Happy 801, ladies and gentlemen of the rotten persuasion! I hope you are spending this illicit holiday doing what you love best, reading smutty comics in which men enjoy the pleasure of other men. In case you were wondering what dirty little thing you should pick up on this day of days, I have some words about a particular dirty little thing for you. And it’s pretty dirty!
I actually came across Yuiji Aniya through her non-BL work when she was serialized in Erotics F and liked her style so much that I decided to go and check out what she does with the man love. And wow! She just jumps right in. The first story in this collection of various BL one-shots, “Toyed”, is all pumping and thrusting from the first page. So basically, if you are looking for the sensitive, relationship-type stuff that est em does so well, don’t bother with this one. And normally, I prefer those relationshippy, character-driven stories, but Aniya has such a great style and is not afraid to poke fun at things that I ended up really liking this volume.
Kanpekina Shiiku (“Perfect Training” in the English subtitle) collects stories right from the beginning of her career to the present (as of 2012 when it was published. Oh, shelf of unread books! You hold so many unread books!), so it offers a pretty broad look at how her art and storytelling have evolved. You go back in time as you read, though, each story being published earlier than the previous one, so you are actually watching her art and storytelling devolve.
The last full story “Drive,n” is the story she brought in to Opera as a sample of her work when she was first starting out, and they published it as is. It has elements of Aniya’s future style, but it’s pretty rough in terms of both art and story. One guy has a crush on his co-worker, they drive home together, co-worker is kind of a dick, but then they totally make out. But it does have the little humorous moments that really make Aniya’s stuff work for me. Like the co-worker telling a terrible oyaji joke and the protagonist blanches and wonders what he even sees in this guy.
Aniya’s really great at injecting little jokes here and there, even going so far as to poke fun at the world of BL itself in a couple stories. The protagonist of “Raira Raira” is a BL artist himself, writing under a woman’s name. He lives with his childhood friend since he can’t make enough from manga to live by himself. And of course, everyone assumes he’s gay because he’s a BL artist. So he is constantly insisting that he is not gay, but then of course, he is gay in the end. Because it’s a BL story within a BL story.
Then in the last story Otome(n) Juku, which is more like a series of connected vignettes, she highlights some of the silliness of the BL world with male BL fans strategizing about how to get BL without having to actually go to the bookstore and be stared at by all the girls there. It’s really cute and plays around with some of the tropes you see in BL. She plays around with tropes in other stories here, too. Like in the title story, she kind of follows the student/teacher pairing to a logical conclusion: the student grows up. And he resents the fact that his partner is still in that teacher role, so he walks out, leaving the teacher to ruminate on how he was treating his partner like a child, even though he’s all grown up now. This is still a BL story, though, so they get hot and heavy in the end, don’t worry. But it’s fun to see her play around a little with BL standards.
Her art’s come a long way from those early days in Opera, and developed a sense of playfulness similar to her storytelling. Her lanky men with their almond eyes remind me a bit of Asumiko Nakamura, but hew a little closer to reality than Nakamura’s impossibly long limbs and broad shoulders. And she goes from detailed and serious depictions of her characters in one panel to ridiculous overreactions in the next. She plays with the panels, with layouts, and with the visual side of her storytelling in ways that really charmed me. She even occasionally throws in the nose puffs of satisfaction that I so love in Kumota’s work, basically making everything perfect.
So follow Aniya’s lead and take this day to play! Turn some BL tropes on their heads, ship some people who never get shipped, find the secret man love in even the most tenuously nioi-kei stuff, and make all the men around you into BL unicorns, gay for the perfect love interest!
UPDATE: I didn’t even know this had been translated into English! SuBLime, you guys rock!