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Challengers and Koi Suru Boukun, by Takanaga Hinako

Challengers and Koi Suru Boukun, by Takanaga Hinako published on 6 Comments on Challengers and Koi Suru Boukun, by Takanaga Hinako

Challengers is a four-volume yaoi manga about a dorky sarariman named Mitsugu who meets a dorkier college freshman named Tomoe and falls in love at first-dorky-sight. It’s one of the few yaoi manga I’ve read with a major age difference (Mitsugu is 25, Tomoe is 18) that doesn’t creep me out, largely because Mitsugu seems to have done some reading in the genre and knows the pitfalls. It starts out with the unfortunately common plotline where one guy offers the other a place to stay while being dishonest about his intentions – but Mitsugu realizes this is fucked-up immediately, and instead of sitting around being broody and tragic about it, tries to clear things up. He admits his attraction to Tomoe, promises not to put any pressure on him, and actually doesn’t.

Obviously, Tomoe eventually realizes he’s in love with Mitsugu, too. By eventually, I mean “the beginning of volume 2.” The other three-quarters of the series is sort of an ensemble comedy wherein Mitsugu and Tomoe attempt to be gooey-eyed and domestic while various less-fluffy characters inflict wacky hijinx on them. These include Mitsugu’s pushy best friend and pushier mother, several horrific gay stereotypes (Gay guys are creepy and vulgar and gay bars are terrifying! Mitsugu and Tomoe aren’t really gay, they just happen to be in love with other men! Oh, yaoi manga.), and Tomoe’s homophobic and permanently furious martial artist older brother.

Also, the manga contains much educational information about Americans.

It becomes obvious pretty quickly that Tomoe’s angry brother Souichi is Takanaga’s favorite character. It is obvious because he gets beat up a lot. Like, every single chapter in which he appears. He is also the only character in the manga who is threatened with rape. (No, it’s a yaoi manga, this is incredible.) His best friend/favorite victim Tetsuhiro, a sweet, dorky guy who tries to redirect his rage away from Mitsugu and Tomoe, is secretly in love with him. Obviously, these two will get their own manga. This manga is Koi Suru Boukun/The Tyrant Who Fell In Love.

Tyrant is not much like Challengers. Despite that he and Mitsugu look and act almost identically in Challengers, unlike Mitsugu, Tetsuhiro is not, it turns out, as nice a guy as he looks. (I’m going to cut here.) He rapes Souichi in the first chapter. In later chapters he blackmails him into sex in various ways. There is arguably no sex that lacks an element of coercion for three volumes.

(And I should mention that Challengers had no actual sex scenes, while Tyrant is about as hardcore as the invisible-penises stuff gets.)

Souichi’s issue with gays in the first series was that a teacher had tried to rape him, so his homophobic rants frequently involved the phrase “demons of rape.” His problem with Mitsugu, though ridiculously overblown, is based largely on the belief that Mitsugu was using his position as an older authority figure to manipulating his brother into sex. That he generalizes this stuff to all gay guys is obviously fucked-up, but in this particular situation it’s a reasonable fear, something that Mitsugu acknowledges.

When Tetsuhiro confesses to Souichi late in Challengers, and Souichi remains friends with him, Tetsuhiro claims proudly that he has proved to Souichi that not all gay guys are like that.

Um.

So my problem here is that despite the shit he does, Tetsuhiro is set up as the nice, reasonable one, and Souichi’s rages at him as unreasonable and comical (and Tyrant is still basically a comedy, despite all this). But where Tetsuhiro is concerned? Souichi’s fears are pretty much spot-on. Tetsuhiro is a rapist and a manipulative bastard.

(Note – I am saying “Tetsuhiro” instead of “Morinaga” here, and “Mitsugu” instead of “Kurokawa,” because Takanaga’s seme/surname uke/given-name thing is bugging me.)

6 Comments

wow, this is a really good review, I think I’ll try to find Challengers now since it looks fun and I read Koisuru Boukun ages ago and really loved it.

What you said there in the end is really interesting, coz I remember thinking that and thinking that was maybe the point. That his fears are spot on. And just because Tetsuhiro loves him doesn’t make it ok. (Sometimes when he’s being distressed and crying about withdrawal from Souchiro, all in victim mode, I just wanna yell at him, DUDE you’re BLACKMAILING him! …For reasons in the first place that I seem to have forgotten!) I mean, the manipulation is downplayed because it is manga and it’s comedy and it’s Yaoi and it’s gonna work out ok, but if this was RL and I had the ability to be objectional, I don’t think him reinforcing Souichiro’s fears would be so ok. It isn’t exactly healthy.

That’s what I think. Basically. >_<

Challengers is adorable. (Though I warn you that the art’s nowhere near as polished as is Koi Suru Boukun’s.)

The thing is, nasty power and consent issues crop up in a lot of yaoi, but generally the mangaka never brings up how skeevy it is, sort of keeping it in the realm of fantasy. Koi Suru Boukun is aware that the shit Tetsuhiro does is bad news, but keeps trying to come up with ways to make it okay. And there’s no way to make it okay.

Great review. I never got around to reading Koisuru Boukun, but I did read Challengers and I thought it was adorable in spite of some cliché plot twists. I’ll search around for it just to see what you are talking about.
Its really surprising that she is one of the favorite yaoi manga artists in America because of all those jokes about Americans.
But seriously; Nothing is a bigger kill to my girl boner than rape.

I agree that the rapey bits are completely mood-killing and creepy, but when you take into account that this is a yaoi manga, the fact that he even tries to hold himself back at any point in the manga and, in fact, realizes how much of a big-ass “burden” he’s been (which he does, later on) is more than I can say for a lot of other yaoi stories… and I’m glad the manga touches on the deeper, psycological things that have to do with the shit that goes on, instead of simply skating over it. Still not cool, but in the yaoiverse, it’s still a step in the right direction.

I read this review and the responses and was really surprised as Tyrant is probably my favorite yaoi manga and I personally found Challengers kind of boring. I’m a therapist and I’ve worked with rape victims and I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about the popularity of rape fantasies and this is what I think: The point of a rape fantasy is that it IS a fantasy, and that’s what’s going on in Tyrant from the very first page (even before the first page, as the story starts in Challengers). The absolutely essential thing that separates the fantasy from the horrible actuality of real rape is that in the fantasy, the “victim” wants it. Consciously or unconsciously, whatever social or emotional barriers make it unacceptable. Tyrant is set up to support this fantasy (in a way that very few yaoi bother to do-which is why I love this one.) Souichi is in every way the more powerful character-he’s older, has more status, more physical prowess (he beats on Morinaga every time he get mad through the entire series.) My point being that aside from the initial date rape encounter, he is at every point perfectly capable of saying no. As he states in volume 7, “If I really didn’t want it, I’d just have beaten you to death.” And the idea that Morinaga is “blackmailing” him? Somehow, “I’ll go away and stop doing everything in my power to a)please you and b)get you to have sex with me” just does not cut it as a real threat in my view. Especially because Morinaga’s initial intention is not to threaten, but to try to alleviate the damage from the one really horrible thing he does (ie. the date rape.) It’s only when he realizes that Souichi actually does want him (FANTASY, remember), when Souichi in fact insists that he stay, that he starts calling it “blackmail” to give his uke a way to save face. Which (within the fantasy) is really sweet. I guess that’s about the sum of my response- There is no question that Kurosawa’s behavior would be infinitely preferable in a real world situation, but in a fantasy I much prefer the over-the-top dynamics of Tyrant. Thanks for letting me comment.