Manga Sutra – Futari H Book 3

Review by Ed Sizemore

Volume three starts in familiar territory. Yura is still waiting for sexual satisfaction and her first orgasm. Makoto is still the fastest gun in the East. Unsurprisingly, Yura has gotten bored with their sex life. This manifests itself in her experiencing dryness during sex. So Makoto needs to bring more variety and romance into the bedroom. To further add to Makoto’s troubles, his co-worker, Sugiyama, has become more aggressive in her pursuit of him and desperately wants to have an affair.

Manga Sutra Book 3 cover
Manga Sutra Book 3
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I previously reviewed volumes one and two of this series. I had high hopes for this manga. This is the sex manual that suppose to show us satisfying relations in the boudoir are a result of a satisfying relationship outside the boudoir. That great sex is not just physical pleasure, but also emotionally and psychologically fulfilling, too. Thus, the focus would be on couples in committed relationships. The problem was that Aki chose to focus the majority of his attention on one newlywed couple.

Yura and Makoto are forced to become a generic every couple. In particular, since this really is a series written for men, Makoto has to make ALL the sexual mistakes that men make. There is no progression in either their relationship or their sex life. Even when a problem gets corrected, it doesn’t take them closer to sexual satisfaction, but instead brings them back to the place they were before the problem appeared. This causes Yura to have a very unsatisfying sex life and an equally unsatisfying read for the audience. Aki could have avoided this pitfall if he had chosen to write about three or four couples, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

Makoto comes off as a putz in this manga. We are over a thousand pages into the series and Makoto has yet to seriously address his problem of premature ejaculation. His idea of romance and variety is having sex in unusual places like amusement parks. He watches a ton of porn but still only knows three sexual positions. (Which makes me question what kind of boring porn he is watching.) He only engages in foreplay until he’s ready for coitus, without regard to Yura’s wants or pleasure level. He knows that Yura isn’t satisfied sexually and hasn’t had an orgasm yet, but he doesn’t really seem to care. It appears that he thinks of Yura as a sex toy, cook, and maid in that order. He’s not just a lousy lover, but a lousy husband.

It’s not just Makoto, men in general come across as cretins in this volume. Makoto’s older brother Akira visited a brothel some time in the past. (It’s not clear whether this was before or during his marriage.) He keeps a picture of the hooker in his day planner. Yura’s sister Rika’s boyfriend treats her like a sex toy. His idea of a fun time is to force her to have sex in public places. In fact, his actions at times border on date rape. The new neighbors, married for five years, aren’t having sex because the husband has lost all libido. He shows himself to be as sensitive and caring as Makoto. It’s a wonder that most of the women in this series haven’t turned to lesbianism for emotional, psychological, and sexual satisfaction.

[Johanna here. Ed asked me to chime in with my take from the other side. I feel that the women are even more drippy than the men. They're stereotypically receptive and pliant, even when being pushed into sex regardless of their own wishes. New this volume is a next-door-neighbor and cousin whose characterization is a poor joke. She's a 30-year-old gynecologist who's also a virgin. I had a very hard time believing that someone as interested in sex as she is wouldn't have taken a tumble with someone in all her years. I was also put off by the pushy co-worker of the husband. He winds up in bed with her but no one considers it cheating (or worth mentioning to the wife) just because he was drunk and there was no penetration. And it's disturbing, as Ed points out, that in all this time no one (wife, husband, or author) seems to find it important to address Yura's lack of orgasm. Now back to Ed.]

Part of my dissatisfaction with the series may come from reading it in book form. I get the impression that this manga works better in serial form. Manga Sutra appears in Young Animal magazine, published biweekly. This means in Japan the reader is only exposed to sixteen pages (the length of the average chapter) of the series at a time. Not every chapter deals with Yura and Makoto, so there are times when the serial reader doesn’t see the main characters for a month. By digesting the manga in small doses, the reader has time to forget just how selfish a lover Makoto is, or how badly Rika is treated by her boyfriend. It’s only when you’re reading a couple hundred pages at a clip that the flaws pile up quickly and the male characters are revealed to be such nimrods.

My reaction to the artwork is mixed. Aki is still a competent draftsman. On the positive side, he is no longer using the medical insert illustration as a way to get around the Japanese censorship laws. They actually serve their original function of education about how certain positions work or some aspect of anatomy, usually female. On the negative side, Aki is no longer using sound effects, shadows, or conventionally placed body parts to obscure the female genital region. There are several panels that have full frontal female nudity. (Mind you, there are no corresponding panels of male full frontal nudity.) The women are still not anatomically correct from the belly button to the thighs, instead resembling mannequins. I found these panels disconcerting at best. More than once, I turned the page to some full-figure nudity only to find myself saying, “Yuck.” I don’t think that was the response Aki was looking for. I wish he would got back to the art conventions of the first volume.

I do want to take Tokyopop to task for the production of this volume. Volume three does not have the slip case of the previous volumes. There is still a recipe, but it is not in full color and printed on laminated card stock. Now, the recipe is simply a black and white page of the manga. I wouldn’t mind the changes so much if the cover price had dropped to correspond with the decline in production quality. Instead, the cover price stayed the same, so I’m now getting less for my money.

This is my last volume of Manga Sutra. It’s simply too frustrating a read for me to continue on. I can’t watch Yura continue to silently suffer an unfulfilled sex life and never speak up for her own needs. I want to wring Makoto’s neck for his callousness and general stupidity. There’s so much squandered potential with this series it breaks my heart. I give credit to Aki for pioneering this genre of manga. However, pioneers aren’t always masters of the new landscapes they present. Hopefully, someone else will come along and do it right.

24 Comments

  1. Johanna Says: “New this volume is a next-door-neighbor and cousin whose characterization is a poor joke. She’s a 30-year-old gynecologist who’s also a virgin. I had a very hard time believing that someone as interested in sex as she is wouldn’t have taken a tumble with someone in all her years.”

    Wouldn’t that also depend on how interested anyone else was in having sex with her, not just on how interested she was in having sex with someone? After all, there are horny virgin adults IRL and for non-rapists there’s more to losing one’s virginity than just wanting to have sex…

    Meanwhile, there’s a “For Ladies” spinoff of the series in Japan (see http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/manga.php?id=4925 ). Is that where Aki Katsu wrote stuff about having fun and orgasms during sex with one’s husband, or is it more about how to lie back and think of affording groceries?

  2. Based on the way people are portrayed in this manga, any guy would be happy to have sex with a willing, attractive woman (as she is). You’re right about things being different in real life.

    I think Ed tried the spinoff and wasn’t impressed, but maybe he’ll say more about that.

  3. Ed Sizemore

    SPOILERS ALERT!!! SPOILERS ALERT!!!

    I did read a scanlation of the first volume of Futari-H For Ladies. It was massively disappointing. The new series starts in the second year of marriage for the Onodas. Makoto is still a quick draw and Yura still hasn’t had an orgasm. (Two Years!! At this point I’m willing to call the Pope and nominating Yura for sainthood.) Yura is beginning a diary and the idea is that we are now getting her side of the marriage. We discover that Yura is not happy with her sex life, but puts most of the blame on herself. She’s still not willing to call out Makoto for being a selfish SOB. (Really, someone needs to buy this woman a vibrator and introduce her to the joys of masturbation.)

    Makoto’s gynecologist cousin tells Yura that there is no cure for premature ejaculation; Makoto will always have this problem. What?! It might be true that some men are hypersensitive and so may never overcome premature ejaculation, but there is no indication that Makoto has this problem. Otherwise, countless numbers of men will tell you there are proven methods to improve your control. For Aki to say there’s no hope is irresponsible at best.

    Later Yura encounters Akira, she reveals to him that she is bored with her sex life. Akira’s recommendation is to try new positions. What happened to the book Akira gave them in volume three of the main series. Did they lose it, or just throw it out when they tried all the positions once? The fact Yura and Makoto are back to the basic three positions shows what a jerk Makoto is.

    What you come to realize is that all versions of Futari-H are really about male sexuality and getting women to accept it, as is. Aki wants women to adjust their wants and expectations to those of their partners. If the man wants to be a good lover and make his partner’s pleasure as important as his own, that’s great, but don’t expect it. (Akira’s ability to consistently bring his wife to organism isn’t really for her benefit. It’s so he can brag about what a proficient lover he is.) Honestly, it appears that Aki is saying women don’t have a right to demand sexual satisfaction. They have to take what they get and be thankful.

    The heartbreak here is that the first volume of the main series lead the reader to believe that this manga would be about two co-equal partners learning how to have a satisfying relationship and thus a satisfying sex life. There should be an atmosphere of mutual care and respect. Aki promised us a series about people maturing as individuals and as a couple. But it was the old bait and switch. What we got is a primer on how women need to make all the sacrifices and adjustments. A series that defends the old stereotypes of marriage.

  4. [...] of Papillon at ANN. Ed Sizemore enjoys vols. 1 and 2 of Rosario + Vampire but is dissatisfied with vol. 3 of Manga Sutra, while Johanna Draper Carlson recommends vol. 11 of Nana, at Comics Worth Reading. At The Star of [...]

  5. Ed Sizemore Says: “Two Years!! At this point I’m willing to call the Pope and nominating Yura for sainthood.”

    Sainthood? Hmm…

    From the reviews I’ve read, this situation reminds me less of the Bible than of Barbara Ehrenreich’s reportage Nickel and Dimed. Her coworkers put up with bad working conditions for years as waiter/resses, hotel maids, retail clerks, etc. in order to get paychecks in order to pay rent. Likewise, since Yuka’s a housewife it seems as though she has to put up with bad sex in order to stay married to Makoto in order to live in his place. Now does this mean that Yura’s not a saint or that Ehrenreich’s former coworkers are saints?

    Ed Sizemore Says: “(Really, someone needs to buy this woman a vibrator and introduce her to the joys of masturbation.)”

    OTOH, wouldn’t she still have to have bad sex after that?

    Seems like someone also needs to buy her trade school or university tuition and introduce her to the joys of being able to afford to stop having sex with Makoto. Enduring unsatisfying, uncomfortable, or worse sex is still unsatisfying, uncomfortable, or worse even if one does have fun and orgasms some other times.

    Ed Sizemore Says: “(Akira’s ability to consistently bring his wife to organism isn’t really for her benefit. It’s so he can brag about what a proficient lover he is.) Honestly, it appears that Aki is saying women don’t have a right to demand sexual satisfaction. They have to take what they get and be thankful.”

    Which organisms does he bring her to? I know it’s a typo, but the rest of these reviews leave me wondering if Aki will include men not being considerate enough to consider condoms and women just having to take the organisms they get and be thankful for those bacteria and virii.

  6. Hsifeng, Yuka actually had a full-time job that she quit when she got married. In Japanese society it’s expected that women will become full-time housekeepers/mothers when they get married. However, neither Yuka nor Makoto are in a rush to have kids, there didn’t really seem to be a reason for her to leave her job so soon. I always wonder what she does most of the day when Makoto isn’t there. They live in a very small apartment, so it can’t take more than an hour to keep it clean and she’s not preparing five course gourmet meals either. Yura could easily find another full-time job and be self sufficient. I don’t get the impression the Makoto is providing any degree of emotional, sexual, or economic support to justify her putting up with bad sex.

    As to the second point, given that Yura is committed to staying married to Makoto, masturbation would at least give her some sexual satisfaction. Hopefully, once she experienced a few orgasms on her own she would understand what she’s missing and finally voice her frustations to Makoto.

    To your final point, men aren’t very consistent with condom use in this manga. More than once a women has expressed anger that her partner didn’t use a condom. They do put up the the risk of pregency for the sex they get.

    Honestly, I hope your just being contrarion and not trying to justify the way women are treated in this series.

  7. Ed Sizemore Says: “Honestly, I hope your just being contrarion and not trying to justify the way women are treated in this series.”

    Justify the way women are treated in this series? No way!

    Thanks for pointing out that I should have been clearer! I was trying to mention how the reviews of the series remind me (“how the series reminds me” wouldn’t be accurate since I haven’t read it) of some unjust treatment of people IRL. When you two talk about how lousy the series is, I agree that I wouldn’t enjoy it either.

  8. Hsifeng, thanks for clearing that up.

  9. You’re welcome! :)

  10. I bought the first volume, and though the series had great potential. It was cute in places, and let me peek into a different culture. Their first halting encounters made me remember my own first experiences. But several chapters before they even kiss? Whoa. I’m glad I found your reviews of books 2 and 3; if it just gets sillier and less realistic, then I don’t need to lay out the cash. Thanks for saving me some money.

  11. Ed Sizemore

    The first book is definitely the best book of the series. Glad I was able to help you avoid disappointment and a thinning of the wallet.

  12. Kenshin14435

    Ed,
    Does the third volume have any real education on sex??? I’m just a teen but I have run into times where I wish I knew more a out sex, how to do it, what dangers are involved, etc. So wouldnthis one help me like the first one did or would it be just another waste if greenbacks.

  13. Kenshin14435

    Sorry…on the iPhone……lots of typos.

    “…where I wish I knew more about sex…”

    “So would this one help me like the first one did…”

    “…would it just be another waste of greenbacks?”

  14. If you’re just a teen, then I’m not comfortable commenting on, much less recommending, the contents of an adult book. I’m sorry you’ll have to look elsewhere for an answer to that question.

  15. Kenshin14435

    Sorry,
    I meant I’m still in my teens. I’m 19 years old.

  16. No problem, just want to cover my bases. I don’t want an angry parent emailing the website, because we’re giving advice to minors.

    All the Manga Sutra books have good educational content. However, I don’t know if I would use this series as my primary how-to manual. For a more detailed explanation of the mechanics and techniques of sexual intercourse I would recommend something like the Joy of Sex. Depending on your embarrassment level, you check out a copy at most libraries.

  17. Kenshin14435

    Haha!
    I understand that parents part.
    I work at a public library part time and I get alot of parents coming at me asking me why I let his/her child check out a PG-13 movie or something.
    And since I do work at the library, I don’t see how that could be a problem.
    Thank You

  18. [...] Sutra — From creative sex education to stereotype in only three books. This series had potential to be something different, a sexy yet informative [...]

  19. This series is still very popular in Japan. Aki Started it back in 1997 and it’s still going strong. Last I checked it was at 41 volumes. I’ve been following this series for a while now, mostly by reading the raw copies from the Japan. Many fans, myself included, agree that the early volumes of this series aren’t Aki’s best. That eventually changed however.

    Everyone generally agrees that volume 12 is when the series really started to pick up. In later volumes the cast of characters is expanded and Aki begins to improve and expand the story to include their love lives as well, giving readers multiple points of views from couples other than Makoto and Yura.

    The series also becomes more and more informative over time, Aki always adding up to date information from numerous sources. Covering such subjects as medical conditions, various fetishes, Japan’s declining birthrate, birth control, communication and list goes on. He’s actually been able to gather a ton of valid and worth while material that has turned this series into a useful ongoing sex guide, like he originally intended.

    Even though things may seem stagnant now, the story and the characters really do evolve over time. An example being Makoto becoming less selfish and Yura becoming more spontaneous. These changes happen gradually and naturally over multiple volumes.

    You also mentioned before that one of the problems with this series is that it focuses too much on the sex and not enough on the overall relationship. That is eventually addressed as well. Katsu Aki even recently began working on a new manga called Doku×Koi. Doku×Koi is similar to Futari H in that it is a manual, but different in that it focuses less on sex and more on love, romance and maintaining a healthy relationship. Though I’m not sure if that series will ever make it to the U.S.

    My point is that this series does get better and becomes so much more than what it is in early volumes. Each book actually contains two volumes. Tokyopop combines them into omnibuses. I recommend waiting until the sixth omnibus, which will contain volume 12. You won’t be disappointed.

  20. Ed Sizemore

    Gus, thanks for all the great information and background on Manga Sutra. With all the other amazing manga out there capturing my imagination, I’m not sure I’ll get back to this one. But I’ll keep your recommendation in mind when the series is further along.

  21. First of all its a Japanese Manga which means two things Japanese morals and life styles and two it’s not made to resemble a stereo-type of any kind. It’s about the struggles of life with in a sexual relationship between a married couple. Not to say 10 years into the relationship married of not your not gonna have any problems or be worried about your partners inefficiencies in the bedroom. I think the book did a good job on explaining that.

    I feel its a sexist thing to point out who’s worse off in the book the guy or his partner. In Japanese culture it’s accepted that females are some times treated the same way the book plays out. Not that I’m sexist or any thing.I believe a female should have a voice in the bedroom but most Japaneses married females don’t feel the need to express themselves that way. Sad really so case in point don’t blame the book blame the culture were porn can be bought freely and sex is easy so why would a Japanese guy need a girl with all the sexual simulation they get from tv, games, and movies.

    But why not gear this manga series towards a relationship that is working with hardships, ups, and downs sexually and or otherwise. I feel that this series hit home for me as I was like that a “pre-me” in the bedroom but now I know there are ways to get around that and make it more fun.

    One this I found with this book is why the hell would a Gyno have any qualifications to tell the female lead of this series any thing about a man. Gyno = male or female Dr who specialized in lady parts. a Gyno is not a sex therapist nor would he or she be allowed to give such advice.

    Other then that I have a small issue with the female lead saying she can’t get a orgasm when in book One and Two she is fine and in the anime version they made the guy worse off in some ways.

    Any way if your haven’t seen the anime’s check them out Funtair-H / Futair Ecchi.

  22. Russ,

    Since Yura is the only female in the book not comfortable telling her partner what she wants, it gets frustrating watching having such an unfulfilled sex life. That is the focus of the series, how to have a fulfilled sex life, it’s not sexist to point out the author is failing at his main objective.

  23. Ed, good answer. Russ’ comments make me uncomfortable in how eager he seems to say that we shouldn’t listen to what Yura wants or consider her quest important. You weren’t sexist, but I’m afraid he trends that way.

  24. Russ Says:

    “…I feel its a sexist thing to point out who’s worse off in the book the guy or his partner. In Japanese culture it’s accepted that females are some times treated the same way the book plays out…”

    Accepted by whom in Japanese culture? When one person treats another person a certain way, why should I automatically respect the opinion of the person dishing out that treatment and ignore the opinion of the person being treated that way?

    This reminds me of another case of manga fans and moral relativism:

    TankTreads Said in the “Re: GLO100” thread, ^Ripper’s Anime Page, Sat Jun 19, 2010 5:00 pm:

    “…I know it seems difficult to fathom, but different countries have different cultural mores. In Russia and other parts of the globe, it’s seen as perfectly acceptable to use racial slurs considered highly offensive in the United States…”

    ulysses Said in a smart response, Sat Jun 19, 2010 6:17 pm:

    “…The fact that many people in the country use racial insults doesn’t make it ‘perfectly acceptable'; Russia is sadly notorious for the fact that minorities suffer from daily discrimination and for its high rate of racial crimes. Even the government acknowledges it as a problem and tries to combat racism…”

    Johanna Says:

    “Ed, good answer. Russ’ comments make me uncomfortable in how eager he seems to say that we shouldn’t listen to what Yura wants or consider her quest important. You weren’t sexist, but I’m afraid he trends that way.”

    Good points!

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