Welcome to the latest installment of BL Bookrack! This time, Melinda and Michelle take a look at two titles from SuBLime Manga, The Man of Tango and Sleeping Moon. In Brief: Blue Morning, Vol. 3, Off*Beat, Ch. 14, and Tableau Numéro 20.
Though tango dancer Angie is irresistible on the dance floor (and in the bedroom), he’s never experienced any love approaching his passion for the dance until he meets Hiro, a biracial salaryman who finds himself unexpectedly drawn into Angie’s tango-focused world. Hiro is initially reluctant to become sexually involved with a man, but his growing passion for both Angie and the tango eventually wins him over, introducing him to a kind of warmth and happiness he’s never known.
On the face of it, this sounds like any average BL premise, even down to the reluctant “straight” man, but The Man of Tango is anything but average. Even its looks defy the norm, as the manga features bulky, muscular characters who skew more bara than BL, but given that the artist was influenced by bara legend Gengoroh Tagame, that’s no surprise. More unusual, perhaps, is the story’s fantastic female costar, Bene, whose dream of returning to Buenos Aires is ultimately left for Angie and Hiro to pursue. The self-made family created by the three of them is really at the heart of the story—perhaps even more than its romance—and this isn’t a negative thing by any means. Bene’s presence somehow brings more meaning to everything, including Angie and Hiro’s relationship.
That said, friendship and romance are hardly the volume’s only draw, which is to say that it’s pretty much teeming with sex—passionate, graphic, manly sex—the likes of which are seldom seen in BL, at least on these shores. You’ll find no grimacing, helpless uke here, which dramatically affects my perception of the story’s initial sex scene, in which Hiro is clearly too intoxicated to give consent. It’s a rare BL manga that can overcome my distaste for rape fantasy, but this is one of the rare few. Furthermore, I often complain that sex scenes get in the way of stories rather than genuinely enhancing them, but this could not be less the case with The Man of Tango. Not only do Okadaya’s sex scenes advance the story and the characters’ relationship, but they’re genuinely sexy, which is also surprisingly rare for BL manga.
In short, The Man of Tango is well-crafted, emotionally compelling, and downright hot. Recommended.
– Review by Melinda Beasi
Sleeping Moon is complete in two volumes, which is a little bit of a disappointment, because it definitely seemed at first that there was enough meat to the premise for it to go on a little longer. That’s not to say the resolution is unsatisfying, though I do admit to being more interested in the origins of the curse itself than in Akihito and Ren’s rather rushed romance. Miyamoto-sensei sustains a nicely creepy atmosphere, and I definitely could’ve read lots more about the fox spirit attempting to protect the family.
I also really liked how Miyamoto depicted the home’s resident kitty. He just kind of wanders through scenes, stepping on people who are in the midst of having a conversation, etc. I hate, though, that his whereabouts are not accounted for at the end, and that no one, in fact, seems to care at all about whether he’s okay, given what happens. (How’s that for vague?) Do not introduce us to a cute kitty then not show him all safe and happy on the last page!
Anyway, Sleeping Moon is a solidly enjoyable supernatural yarn. The romance aspect is somewhat lacking, and it’s not exactly the most original story ever, but it’s still definitely worth reading.
– Review by Michelle Smith