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!
Eric Rupe saysNovember 11, 2010 at 2:46 pm
Glad I’m not the only one who thinks “guilty pleasure” is a weird phrase. Personally, I don’t really subscribe to the idea of a “guilty pleasure” because if you like something I don’t see why you should be ashamed about that. I guess I’d define “guilty pleasure” as something lowbrow-ish that I wouldn’t particularly feeling like justifying my enjoyment of beyond “it’s awesome!” so in that vein I’d say Gantz and Dorohedoro are the only things I’m reading that I’d call “guilty pleasures.”
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 11, 2010 at 2:48 pm
I think that’s a perfectly fine use for the term! Thanks for chiming in!
David Welsh saysNovember 11, 2010 at 2:49 pm
Oh, fun question! Here are mine, with some explanation of why they’re “guilty” for me:
“Hot Gimmick,” by Miki Aihara (Viz): I don’t really need to explain why this one’s guilty, do I? I mean, it’s got two of the most unsympathetic romantic leads in all of manga, but I could not stop reading it and bought each new volume the second it was available to me. Crass, manipulative, utterly regressive in its sexual politics, but in my dark and secret heart, I loved it.
“MW,” by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical): I know that nothing by Tezuka should be considered a guilty pleasure, and I know that he told this story with the best of intentions, but it is way over the top in every regard, particularly in its rendering of sexual identity. Still… I’ve re-read it probably as many times I’ve re-read any manga.
“Fake,” by Sanami Matoh (Tokyopop): As someone who likes mysteries and police procedurals, I should absolutely hate this comic, as it has perhaps the stupidest rendering of law enforcement I’ve ever seen put to paper. I should also probably object to the whole “you know you want it” romantic arc and its connotations of non-con. Still, I’m totally charmed by it and even swoon a little bit. Dumb, chuckle-headed smut! Whee!
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm
Yay! Your inclusion of Tezuka makes me feel less guilty about my inclusion of Yoshinaga.
Also, “Dumb, chuckle-headed smut!”
I have never really been interested in reading “Fake” but now I TOTALLY WANT TO. What does that say about me?
David Welsh saysNovember 11, 2010 at 3:01 pm
It just reaffirms that, in many ways, we are psychic twinsies.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm
You speak the truth.
Kris saysNovember 11, 2010 at 3:01 pm
Nobody needs an excuse to talk about Fumi Yoshinaga!
Though I would love some Yoshinaga MMF love as well. :)
If I had to list series I enjoy reading but aren’t for “work”:
Skip Beat! tops the list. I love reading it over and over again. I’ve also been reading Bride of the Water God with no thoughts of reviewing it.
But if we want to define a guilty pleasure as something I’ve enjoyed but would be a bit embarrassed to admit to:
Black Bird and Absolute Boyfriend…and just about any Matsuri Hino title. Lots of smut without a whole lot of merit. ^_^ Though Hino at least tries to inject something worthwhile, and succeeds in general.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm
I actually need to get around to reading Bride of the Water God for review! Work! GAH!
I didn’t like Black Bird, but I wonder if I should try out Absolute Boyfriend…
Aaron saysNovember 11, 2010 at 3:27 pm
Absolute Boyfriend i”snt bad basically just think of it as a less sci-fi gender flipped version of Chobits for teenage girls instead of twenty something guys.
Kris saysNovember 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm
Aaron has a pretty good description there. I’ll say this about it. It’s cute, and the guys are hot. But the heroine is worthless. The story’s conclusion feels empty, because the girl doesn’t make a real decision. It’s made ~for~ her by circumstance. I felt horrible for the guys in the story, because she basically steps all over them and their kindness. But I absolutely adored the human love interest, her neighbor Soshi, who got me hooked on guys in glasses.
Aaron saysNovember 11, 2010 at 3:05 pm
Ag guilty pleasures go boy do I have some first off their’s my guiltiest of guilty pleasures Kodomo no Jikan wich I absolutely love but always feel a little impure reading it seeing how Rin is always trying seduce Aoki (my favourite and the probably most outrageous being the “calligraphy sence” in chapter two). Then their’s sereis that are just plain desopisble teenage girl wish fufilmint fantasys such as Fall In Love Like A Comic it’s short and has about as much substnce to it as spoonfull of suger but it’s a fun read non the less. then their’s Kanokon fox girl ecchi fan service FTW but seriouslly undenethe all the fan service is a pretty sweet story. Also DearS by Peach Pit wich was one of the first manga sereis I ever bought. I could go on but those are the ones that come to mind most readilly and stike me as truly guilty plesures of mine.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 12, 2010 at 9:40 am
Thanks for weighing in!
Michelle Smith saysNovember 11, 2010 at 4:28 pm
I very seldom allow myself to reread things, though I often want to, because there’s just so much that I haven’t even managed to read the first time yet!
That said, I have for several weeks now been nursing a burgeoning desire to reread Rurouni Kenshin. I think it started when one of the girls in The Dreaming had Kaoru Kamiya’s hairdo, which got me thinking. And pining. Finally, I enlisted the participation of a friend of mine and we’re going to do a massive Kenshin reread next March. Far away, yes, but it’s going to be awesome!
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 12, 2010 at 9:39 am
I have the first seven vols & still haven’t read them!
Michelle Smith saysNovember 12, 2010 at 7:24 pm
Volumes 1-6 are pretty good, but things really get going in volume 7, so whenever you *do* read them, I hope you’ll go at least that far before making up your mind whether to continue.
Aaron saysNovember 11, 2010 at 9:37 pm
As far as Hot gGimmick goes all due respect to Dave but if I may paraphrase the late Dorthy Parker
This is not a Manga to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with
David Welsh saysNovember 12, 2010 at 10:12 am
That’s an entirely fair response to Hot Gimmick, so no worries on that front.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 12, 2010 at 10:16 am
I’ll always treasure Lianne Sentar’s comment on my review of the first VIZBig edition. “It’s like the antithesis to videos you watch in 8th grade health class about loving yourself and self-esteem. ‘He hits you, but he’s hot, and he likes you…so you should like him back, because God knows you’re hard to love! (P.S.–You were probably hit because you did something wrong. Apologize just in case.)'”
judi(togainunochi) saysNovember 14, 2010 at 1:23 pm
This may sound strange, but in my case I think all manga I read are guilty pleasures in a sense. I’ve given up regular fiction to read manga exclusively. Since, I have no friends or relatives who share my passion, I feel shy about talking about it except on the internet. I have a high stress job, and reading manga makes me happy, relaxed and inspired.