I Heart Ukes

I was planning to post this for Valentine’s Day, but The Experiment From Hell which we are working on ran overtime and I didn’t have any brain cells left over afterwards. (Our multichannel is broken, so I had to pipette 750 samples individually. My thumb still hurts.) So this is a slightly belated Valentine’s Day tribute to ukes. In the spirit of the holiday I tried to keep it upbeat and non-ranty (I’ll write up the ranty version someday).

I love Boys’ Love for a number of reasons, but one of the major factors is that it is an unquenchable font of ukes: slim pretty androgynous ukes, perky femmy ukes, shy nerdy ukes (shy blushing neeeerds, drool…). Seme types are a dime a dozen (most het shoujo / josei romances have one), but ukes pretty much only show up in BL or BL-teasy stuff. It kind of burns me that there aren’t more stories with heterosexual uke types, but as long as there is BL I can cope.

I really, really appreciate that BL does not assume that men are obligately masculine, or that (for the female reader) being attracted to men obligately means being attracted to masculinity. Shoujo (and to a lesser extent josei) does this too, but not to the same extent: even if the male half of a het romance is an outright crossdresser, there always has to some way in which he is more masculine than the female lead. And that always, always, always, has to include what happens in bed; I guess the idea of a woman topping a man is just too transgressive, even for a category of media that’s heavily invested in genderbending. In BL, because both of them are guys, the uke (and sometimes the seme) is freed up to be fully, unreservedly feminine in a way that apparently can’t happen in a heterosexual romance story, and I love it for that.

Someday I will write up a post about the (shy, nerdy) ukes who I particularly love, but today I will highlight a couple of BL manga in English where both guys are uke types, a pairing style I always enjoy. There’s not that much of this kind of couple out there in the first place, and only a few have made it into English, so they’re worth pointing out.

After_I_Win_coverAfter I Win, Kaname Itsuki (Hoshigarimasen! Katsumade wa, initially serialized in HanaOto; English version Juné, 2007.) Two shy, awkward boys at a boarding high school become roommates. Hiyori likes Kasumi, Kasumi likes Hiyori, but they are both too shy and awkward to admit it; blushing ensues. In the afterword, the author enthuses over her love for “yuri-ples” (which I’d bet a dollar is an attempt to translate “homoyuri”, which appears to be the preferred Japanese term for this type of pairing).

This book is one of my long-time favorites. Some reviewers have complained that the guys are still shy and awkward after having a sexual encounter, as if having an orgasm in the presence of another person instantly confers suavity and grace. These people are idiots, because the shyness and awkwardness are THE BEST PART. Also, polished art with cute boys with long pretty hair. The side story at the end hints at an older-guy / teen relationship that is kind of creepy, but thankfully it doesn’t go very far.


Cafe_Latte_Rhapsody_coverCafé Latte Rhapsody, Toko Kawai (Originally serialized in Magazine Be x Boy; English version Juné, 2010.) Cute perky bookseller Hajime gets crushed on by big scary-looking college student Keito. Keito, despite his intimidating glare, turns out to be a shy mushy cupcake who just wants to hold hands and snuggle. Little guy perks at big guy, big guy bashfuls at little guy, gratuitous cuteness ensues. I love this one; it’s sweet and adorable like a handmade chocolate. If you like blushing cute guys and WAFFY romance, definitely pick this up.

Page from Café Latte Rhapsody

Flutter_coverFlutter, Momoko Tenzen (Originally serialized in Craft; English version Juné, 2012.) Asada in sales gets assigned to work with out gay hottie Mizuki in planning, which sends Asada into a tizzy because he’s totally obsessed with Mizuki for reasons he just can’t figure out. Mizuki, as a Cool Beauty type, is an obvious pick for the uke, but Asada is so flustered and blushy around Mizuki that it could have gone either way right up to the moment of consummation. In the afterword, the author explains that she was initially intending to write a seme x seme story, but it turned into uke x uke instead. The art on this one is not so great; Tenzen tries too hard to make the guys cool and mature-looking, with the result that they have tiny heads and eyes too far forward in profile. It does hit all the emotional targets, though, and they make a cute couple.

Page from Flutter