“ Genre: Graphic Novels / Comics / Author: Tarako Kotobuki / Paperback / 224 Pages / Book is published 2008-11-17 by Tokyopop Press Inc „
It should have been one of the happiest days of his life as a major personal milestone: turning 16 and getting his driving license and a scooter. Sadly, for Norio, this happy moment quickly turned into a waking nightmare. Testing his new scooter in the family's garden, he accidentally accelerates at speed (sans helmet) into a brick wall. What quickly followed was darkness, and the vision of himself crossing the River Styx, where his dead relatives were waving a welcome sign. Thinking of his short life, he panics. He can't die a VIRGIN! That would be TRAGIC! So, he jumps overboard and makes a swim for it. When he wakes up in hospital, he thinks he is in the clear. Except his dead grandpa is there, holding a cat and saying, you used up one of the nine lives. Eh?
If that's not bad enough, every time he looks at other people, he sees them as animals. Most look like monkeys, but he also sees bears, snakes and other such hallucinations. Telling his parents gets him sent to a psychiatrist, so he shuts his mouth about it. It's not easy though, as these animals keep groping and pawing at him for some reason! When an upper classman suddenly hands him a stack of notebooks filled with his thoughts on why he loves Norio, he doesn't know quite how to respond, especially as the mild mannered fellow looks all the world like a big brown bear in a school uniform. If that is not bad enough, he gets dragged off by yet another upper classman into a bathroom after being told he is parading around naked and defenceless. What, what? Argh...he just gave me a facial with WHAT?! Worst day EVER!
Tokyopop's Blu Manga imprint brings us Tarako Kotobuki's eccentric Boy's Love manga, Sex Pistols (renamed as Love Pistols due to obvious reasons). The fantasy element of the zooman linage of humanity is far fetched enough as it is, but one that can be readily stepped into. It is a testament to to the skill of the mangaka however that as the reader is swept along into Norio's tale of utter confusion as he finds himself a Missing Link and much prized as a mate to any zooman, it fails to jump the shark once the male pregnancy card gets played. You read that right. Male pregnancy. She even has an explanation for how they artificially manage it, and it is as logical as the rest of the zooman mythos, so one bimbles along happily with it.
It's madcaply funny on the surface, but the emotions and inner messages actually run pretty deep. It looks at the milestones of growing up, discovering true love, raising a family, prejudices and much, much more. Since it is a Boy's Love manga though, don't be so surprised when all the romance is between the guys. It's not too heavy on the sex though, but there is some present. It is all tastefully done, though it is explicit enough that the title carries a parental advisory and a mature 18+ rating with plastic shrink wrap around it.
Art wise, Kotobuki's drawings stand out as much as her story idea does. Large, angular males (and occasionally females) with disproportionally large shoulders and hands stand along side ultra petite and cute faced males and females. It is not displeasing to look at, actually being eminently suitable when the transition is made to showing the animal forms, particularly with Madarame's jaguar form. Her females run from the attractive to the horrifically plain, but unlike many BL manga, this is not to distance the viewer from the female roles in order to champion the male x male pairings, but to display lineage and the normal variety we see everyday in people types.
What about presentation by Blu as a book, though? Translation-wise, I did not find much fault. Kotobuki's original Japanese prose is translated into English well enough that it flows naturally and without confusing the reader. Even the honorifics are handled well, which is usually a real bugbear issue of mine. The paper quality is not the very best, but it is standard trade paperback quality, so acceptable. The ink doesn't rub off and the graphic artist who handled clean up after retooling it for the translation process did a good job as there aren't any overlaps with text and speech bubbles, ink blots, or other issues. Blu even left the colour colour frontispiece art intact, when it is not unusual to see that turned into grey scale and put on normal paper due to printing costs. This doesn't seem to have affected the price much as you can pick this up as brand new paperback from major manga outlets such as Amazon for roughly £5.50, which as far as manga goes, is a really good price as many titles sell for over twice that. Sadly, Tokyopop don't offer an online reading service, nor do they sell manga for e-reader platforms such as the Kindle or Sony e-reader, so paperback is the only option one currently has.