Three Views of Yaoi: My Paranoid Next Door Neighbor, Words of Devotion, Can’t Win With You

I sampled three yaoi volumes due out this month, and each took a different approach to the genre.

My Paranoid Next Door Neighbor (Kazuka Minami, 801 Media, $15.95) is all about the sex. Yukito doesn’t want his childhood friend moving back in with his family because their long-ago crush makes him uncomfortable. When Hokuto shows up, Yukito’s discomfort increases when he starts making passes, which quickly proceed to flat-out fondling.

My Paranoid Next Door Neighbor cover
My Paranoid Next Door Neighbor
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An early bathroom masturbation scene sets the tone, although the Japanese style of whiting out the genitals makes Yukito look either feminine or like a Ken doll. Yukito’s also hit on by classmates, and when he expresses dislike, he’s told it’s his fault, because he’s too attractive to enter the classrooms where they hang out without being molested.

Yukito doesn’t trust Hokuto, but he thinks about how his touch feels so good, and he can’t help himself responding to it. Eventually, Yukito accepts that his physical response is a valid sign of his true feelings, and Hokuto admits that his jumping Yukito every chance he gets hides real love. If Yukito was a nurse or secretary and Hokuto the businessman thrown in contact with him, this would be a romance novel, with added explicit visuals of boy/boy sex.

I actually admire the prevalence of the physical scenes, because that seems to me to be an important element of the genre, whether shown or implied, and a source of its appeal. The final chapter is nothing but the two characters getting it on in a variety of ways. By that point, it’s like a reward for both them and reader.

Words of Devotion cover
Words of Devotion
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Words of Devotion (Keiko Konno, June/Digital Manga, $12.95) is much more subtle in mood. It’s the story of two former classmates who room together after graduation. We meet them when another former school member does, and her presence serves as a conduit for our questions as well. Are they good friends? More? When they get annoyed by her jokes about “homos” being trendy, is it because they’re typical boys, or because she’s hit on their true relationship?

Of course, since this is part of the June Manga line, dedicated to yaoi, we already know the answer, but the way their involvement is revealed makes them people first, sex objects later. The two are also, in my opinion, more distinctive than characters in other yaoi I’ve sampled, with their own personalities instead of being indistinguishable but for hair. I found myself wishing for them to be happy together because I liked them, and their spats made them more realistic to me.

A later story flashes back to their first encounter, quite passionate. There’s also an unrelated tale about two boys, in which one falls in love with another after being kidnapped and kept hostage, chained to a bed. Not in keeping with the rest of the book, and not my kind of thing.

Cant Win With You cover
Can’t Win With You
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Speaking of which, there’s a whole volume of that in Can’t Win With You (Yukine Honami & Satosumi Takaguchi, June/Digital Manga, $12.95). This is the kind of yaoi that makes me wonder why there hasn’t yet been a public outcry and a movement to shut down the publisher.

A middle schooler owns a mountain where they’re going to build a new school, although he wants a soccer field instead. When the interchangeable older students show up, they introduce themselves by sexually molesting him, forcibly manipulating him to orgasm.

The problem here is that not only are we told this kid is younger than the high school students (fifteen years old or so), he also looks it. So this is basically a fantasy about rape of a child. Subsequent chapters feature the kid’s tortured feelings about his forced introduction to sex, a scene where another student is blackmailed into giving a blow job to an upperclassman, drugging the kid regularly to dress him up as a girl, and more attempted rape.

I thought it was repulsive, because there wasn’t much of a coherent story beyond the kid sex bits, so there’s no justification for it. I have no idea if this is typical for the genre these days; last time I sampled something similar, there was a transparently fake attempt to claim the characters were at least past the age of consent. Are boundaries looser these days? Has success made them more willing to take chances?

10 Comments

  1. […] at Active Anime. At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna looks at three quite different yaoi titles, My Paranoid Next Door Neighbor, Words of Devotion, and Can’t Win With You! Julie takes an early look at a new title from CMX, vol. 1 of The Key to the Kingdom, at the Manga […]

  2. It’s interesting reading your description of Can’t Win With You, then going to the publisher’s website and how they describe it. I see lots of mention of how it’s cute, boys playing, “OMG it’s teh popular!” and generally making it out like it’s slightly vapid but generally harmless & featuring Cute Boys.

    That’s how the publisher describes something that has molestation of underage boys and attempted rape? It’s this that’s disturbing me more than the molestation itself: if that sort of content is going to be in it, shouldn’t the publisher hint at it? Shouldn’t there be a Mature Readers warning or some other label?

  3. The book is labeled “For Mature Audiences 18+”, but so many of the titles have that rating that it’s hard to distinguish it from material featuring consenting adults. And flagging “child rape” more explicitly would do nothing but get you shut down.

    I’m just wondering where the outcry is from the community.

  4. A random passerby

    Rape is VERY common in yaoi, especially the “seme (man on top) rapes the uke (man on bottom) who at first protests, but comes to enjoy it” scene. There’s even a whole subgenre called shotacon, which includes underage males, kind of like the male version of lolicon. So I guess that the reason there’s no outcry is that the whole yaoi community is used to reading that kind of stuff daily, and treats them as just escapist fantasies.

    It’s not all rape in yaoi, though. There’s also shonen-ai, or non-explicit boy/boy love that’s more romantic than sexual. Examples would be FAKE and Gravitation, though even these have strong sexual implications.

  5. “So I guess that the reason there’s no outcry is that the whole yaoi community is used to reading that kind of stuff daily, and treats them as just escapist fantasies.”

    Except there are elements of American superhero comics, such as dodgy things happening to female supporting cast, that come under the same “used to reading, escapist fantasies” heading. That gets condemned and faces outcrying, and from very well organised blogs belonging to people who read American superhero comics; the fact they’re fantasies doesn’t seem to protect them and sometimes adds to the condemnation.

    Seems odd if yaoi escapes the same fate.

  6. I left a review of Can’t Win With You on Amazon, apparently the first one at that time, and I had very similar feelings about this manga. I like yaoi in general and I do have my favorite subgenres but this particular piece of trash is really aborrhent to me. I never had the nerve to go back and see if there were other reviews since so much made of it being a popular book that I felt like a real oddball protesting it! Relieved that it was not some twisted sense of mine that found it beyond offensive.

  7. The kind of stuff being produced in Japan really is frightening. It dehumanizes people and that really depresses me.

    Anything sexually explicit should not be viewed by anyone, especially if it involves rape, regardless of age.

  8. Oh, that’s going way too far — I’ve read a number of enjoyable sexually explicit comics, from both Japan and America, that I quite enjoyed. All-or-nothing rules don’t take context into account, which is important.

  9. where do i find these books…they seem very interestin

  10. You can order them from the links provided, or from other bookstores.

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