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.
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.
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.)