On midweek holidays like today (link provided for readers outside the US) I find myself clinging to each precious moment of free time, too anxious even to allow myself to get lost in a delicious book, lest the time waste away too quickly. Thing is, between the demands of my full-time day job and the demands of the job I wish was full-time, it’s days just like this that offer me my only real chance to slack off.
With that in mind, I thought I’d use today’s 3 Things to identify some ideal reads for days just like this one–what some might describe as “guilty pleasures.” This is a term I’m frankly uncomfortable with, since I rarely feel guilty about anything I read, but in this case I will use it to draw a sketchy line between re-reads I can justify for “work” reasons, and those I clearly can’t. For instance, though I’m currently re-reading Banana Fish, a series I enjoy very much, this is easily justified as “work” thanks to the upcoming installment of Breaking Down Banana Fish. Other series may still be currently running, allowing me to justify those reads as preparation for discussion of new volumes. Still others may offer “classic” or literary value necessary for my growth as a manga critic.
In short, my “guilty pleasures” can be identified as completed series that I would re-read purely for my own enjoyment, no more no less. For me, that breaks down to Korean boys’ love manhwa and Fumi Yoshinaga. Observe:
3 “guilty pleasures” for a cold November holiday
1. Totally Captivated | Hajin Yoo | NETCOMICS – It’s no secret that I have a weakness for Korean BL, and Totally Captivated is one of my all-time favorites. Here’s a short synopsis from my review of volume six: “Ewon Jung is a 23-year-old scholarship student in Seoul, whose curiosity over whether or not it is possible to have great sex without love (“It was possible.”) leads him to cheat on his boyfriend, Jiho. Devastated and yearning for revenge, Jiho persuades his new boyfriend, a small-time loan shark named Mookyul Eun, to force Ewon into service at his office where he is expected to run errands, clean, and balance the books, all without payment. Unfortunately for Jiho, Mookyul soon develops an interest in Ewon, and it isn’t long before Jiho ends up shunted aside once again.”
Like a lot of the Korean BL I’ve seen published, the story is often violent, but unlike most Japanese BL with an element of rape fantasy, the little blond guy can give as good as he gets. It’s smart, funny, genuinely sexy, and one of the few BL series I keep in my overflowing library.
2. One Thousand and One Nights | Han SeungHee & Jeon JinSeok | Yen Press – Speaking of Korean BL, though I’ve never felt the slightest guilt over my obsession with this series, now that it has completed its run, I have little excuse to revisit it. Trouble is, I just want to. From my review of the first six volumes: “Loosely based on the original tales told by Scheherazade to her mad Persian king, in this version of One Thousand and One Nights, “Scheherazade” is a bookish young man named Sehara who has joined Sultan Shahryar’s harem in his sister’s place, in order to save her from being raped and beheaded like a string of young women before her … It is then that Sehara asks to be allowed to tell Shahryar a story, after which Shahryar may kill him as he pleases.”
Though the overarching tale of Sehara and Shahryar is, honestly, to die for (it’s also a rare BL story written by a man), this series’ real draw is in Sehara’s stories-within-the-story, pulled from various cultures, including those far outside the story’s timeline. Both as a romance and as a celebration of human storytelling, this series is PURE WIN.
3. Antique Bakery | Fumi Yoshinaga | Digital Manga Publishing – Nobody should ever feel guilty for reading Antique Bakery, but until the Manga Moveable Feast finally sets its sights on Yoshinaga (pleeeeeease), I have absolutely no excuse to do so. Still, I’ve re-read this series multiple times, and I intend to do so again. From my review of the full series: “Yoshinaga utilizes all her greatest strengths in this manga, rich characterization, rambling dialogue, and a deep love of food. The descriptions of the bakery’s various specialties is enough to make any pastry-lover swoon (enhanced by DMP’s scratch ‘n’ sniff covers). Her gift for gab brings this corner of Tokyo alive–especially the bakery’s customers, who wander in from all walks of life. Where Yoshinaga really outdoes herself, however, is with her delightful quartet of male leads.”
I love this series for its over-the-top characters, its rambling dialogue, its stunning artwork, and its gorgeous humanity. I could read it a thousand more times. And I just might read it today.
So, readers, what are your “guilty pleasures”? Please feel free to define that however you want (as I have). Respond in comments or in your own blog!