Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gerard & Jacques Volume 1

On a whim, I bought "Gerard & Jacques Volume 1", published by BLU, yesterday at World's Biggest Book Store. I don't have many Fumi Yoshinaga books, but this is because I deem her covers too ugly to be worth a purchase. I was, most definitely, proved wrong!

I think Fumi Yoshinaga's books are well-suited to male readers because her characters share much more in common with gay men than your average Yaoi manga. Even though Yaoi manga is fantasy, Yoshinaga-sensei will present her stories with a realistic quality that will appeal to gay readers.

Rather than being pretty, Gerard and Jacques are expressive and raw men compared to, say, Haruka Minami's doll-faced boys. Jacques is not a bumbling uke, but rather a loyal subject to Gerard and would do anything for him (in Yaoidom, this means sex as well). Gerard met Jacques at a whorehouse, then promptly freed him and took him as his servant. The story gets more interesting as Gerard's full back story is told later on in the book. There is no plot device here that forces these two characters together for no reason. They all meet and develop their relationship logically.

I have been avoiding Fumi Yoshinaga's books, and for that matter, BLU's books, for the longest time now and now realize what I was missing. It was a fast read, but definitely a memorable one. The explicit sex was more meaningful between these two characters, and I really appreciate what BLU was trying to accomplish: a well-written, memorable read for fans of Yaoi, but equally suitable for gay readers as well.

May 9, 08 EDIT: Please do not get the impression that this is a gay men only blog. I wish for Gentlemen AND Ladies to gain insight from my reviews.


  1. "Gerard and Jacques" is one of my favorite Yoshinaga titles. I would also recommend her two-volume series "Ichigenme," about modern-day Tokyo law students, published by 801 Media, and the four-volume "Antique Bakery" (DMP). "Antique" isn't officially yaoi, although one of the most memorable of the four main characters is gay--a "gay of demonic charm," no less--and he winds up running a bakery/pastry shop with the straight guy he had an unrequited crush on in high school. (This premise does not go where you would expect it to if it were handled by a more typical mangaka who semi-specializes in yaoi.)

    Yoshinaga also did another manga, "Lovers in the Night," about a master/servant relationship that takes place around the time of the French Revolution. (This is published by BLU, too.) It's also pretty good, but Antoine is a much brattier and more superficial boy aristocrat (who still has money, in this case) than Jacques, which sometimes made me wonder what Claude, his ultracompetent (and hot) young butler saw in him. (This is eventually more or less explained, but the explanation seemed to have less to do with Antoine personally than it did with other factors.)

    Actually, I'd pretty much recommend anything by Yoshinaga, but some of her manga, such as the excellent "Flower of Life," aren't yaoi at all, despite the somewhat misleading cover copy on the DMP edition of the first volume. (Ditto for "Garden Dreams," although I didn't think that was one of her better efforts regardless of genre.) So if your primary interest is yaoi specifically, that series probably wouldn't be at the top of your list.

  2. @margaret:

    Thank-you for posting a response to this blog. I do thank-you for your recommendations of other Yoshinaga titles. She has a stronger lure for male readers than most Yaoi manga-ka, doesn't she?

    I have read Ichigenme Vol. 1 and it was really neat learning about the Japanese law school setup while enjoying a budding romance.

  3. I think you're right about Yoshinaga's above-average appeal to male readers, since at least two male reviewers that I know of, neither of whom is particularly known for reviewing yaoi, have singled her out for praise. A couple of gay men whom I know through the GLA (Gay League of America) gays-and-comics listserv were also very fond of Sanami Matoh's seven-volume series FAKE, which is about two police detectives in the (somewhat unrealistically-depicted) NYPD who fall in love. (One of the same guys also liked the gritty shounen-ai gang/crime drama "Banana Fish.") FAKE was one of the first shounen ai/boys' love/yaoi series to be translated into English (by TokyoPop--their BLU subdivision hadn't been invented yet), and it was apparently a big hit, with its appealing characters and effectively-handled romance and comic relief elements making up for the sometimes weak plotting and notable implausibility of the crime/police work aspect of the story.