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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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06/04/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga commentary: Only The Ring Finger Knows"

February 9, 2006: UPDATE ON THE NOVEL!
The Lonely Ring Finger (Pre-Order*)
Only the Ring Finger Knows Novel
Author/Artist: Satoru Kannagi, Hotaru Odagiri
ISBN: 1569709041
246 pages
Dimensions: 4 1/8" x 6 3/4"
Release Date: Mar 15, 2006
SRP: $8.95
More info! or Leave a comment!

*Powells has the description wrong, but everything else is right.

End of update.

EDIT 070105: I don't know if it's been announced elsewhere, but Isaac Lew of Digital Manga told editor Ginger Mayerson today at AnimeExpo that the "Only the Ring Finger Knows" novels will be published in May 2006. Lucky us! Thank you, Digital Manga!

Only the Ring Finger Knows
by Satoru Kannagi
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing

Commentary by Lene Taylor

Why Is Yuichi Kazuki So Mean?

Doesn't that sound like a Japanese country-western song, or maybe an indepdent film title?

This commentary contains plot and character information that might be considered spoilers. Please proceed at your own risk. Or come back after you've read the manga. Thank you. ED

Only The Ring Finger Knows is my first exposure to manga/yaoi, and I'm so pleased that it's first-rate! Of course I'm probably not understanding more than half of it, but what I do understand I like. A lot. The artwork is beautiful (one you get into the stylized portrayal of boys that look like elves) and the text is a cool wonky cross between Speed Racer and Love & Rockets.

But I digress. What I want to know is: Why Is Yuichi Kazuki So Mean?

I know, I know, he's embarrassed about the fact that he loves Wataru Fujii - another boy, gasp! - and doesn't know how to show it. He tries to hide it under a cover of being cool and distant. I went to high school, I understand this stuff. But he is mean beyond just covering up his feelings - he's cruel, repeatedly cruel, in ways that seemed designed to provoke Wataru to violence (and he actually does slap Yuichi). So is this some Japanese cultural thing I don't get? Problems in translation? Or is Yuichi just a budding sociopath? To wit:

On page 30, Yuichi calls Wataru "a dummy" for not understand why his (switched) ring doesn't fit; on page 31, he says "It's creepy being paired up with a guy", thus insulting both himself and the object of his desire. On page 44, he insults Wataru's looks by saying "Carrying that big package makes you look even smaller." Of course, we the audience realize that Wataru's size - he looks like he's a good six inches shorter than Yuichi - is part of his appeal to this arrogant alpha male. The same thing happens again on page 55 when he says that the wrapping paper of the package Wataru's carrying suits him: "The floral gift wrapping is a nice, feminine touch." It gets worse on page 56 when Yuichi asks him "You sure you aren'tfunny that way?" Wow, isn't that the pot calling the kettle gay!

The sociopathic stuff starts on page 56, when, after leaning in really, really close to Wataru, and murmuring his name in a very seductive way, he says "I just wanted to see how you would reactWhat, did you think I was gonna kiss you or something?" This is classic mind-fucking. Yuichi gets his love-toy all worked up with a blatant come-on, and then backs off and denies it ever happened, denies that he even had any naughty intentions. And he ends this little scene by demanding that Wataru address him as "sir" (which I think is the difference between "-san", the standard form of address, and "-dono", which is much more respectful - somebody please let me know what the original Japanese is).

The final straw comes after Yuichi finally kisses Wataru (and a wonderfully drawn kiss it is, too) and Wataru pushes him away, thinking it's a joke. Well, wouldn't you, after all that abuse? Yuichi decides that if he can't have Wataru, he'll just start dating his little sister: "She's pretty cuteand I like 'em stubborn. On top of that, the fact that she looks like yousounds like fun." Wataru, naturally, hauls off and pops him one. It's the only thing that shuts him up.

They do end up together in the end, but I gotta wonder - why? Sure, Yuichi is beautiful and rich (and presumably hung, although we don't see that), but will love really change him? Won't he just continue to run this relationship however he wants? There's a little hint of this at the end, when he kisses a somewhat anxious Wataru right on the street - with a very firm grip on his wrist. Oh well, maybe Wataru just likes being a sub. I for one would like to read the novels and find out.

Interesting cultural note: Bells in Japan don't go "ding dong", they go "kan kon". Who would have guessed?

And now for the original review of this book.

Review by Ginger Mayerson

Why older women should read yaoi manga redux.

Warning and Full disclosure: I'm forty-four years old and I've just started reading yaoi mangas and I'm hooked like a bass. Furthermore, I know there's a lot of yaoi theory out there and not only have I read none of it, I intend to read none of it. So what you read here is purely my impression of what I found thoroughly enjoyable about Only the Ring Finger Knows, which wins the wacky title of the week award, and what I found a little squirrelly about it. Frankly, once I got into it, I loved it, I really loved it. I reviewed another yaoi manga, Passion, earlier and will be using some of that text. So yes, I know I'm repeating myself, but no, it's not senility (yet).

When I was twenty-nine I made a point of reading my first and only Barbara Cartland romance. I read it because I didn't want such a thing to pollute the purity of my thirties (my twenties were beyond redemption). I think I read it in an evening, mildly enjoyed it and forgot all about it until I read Only the Ring Finger Knows this week and was reminded of it, because this manga is as sweet and as full of improbable events as the Cartland novel. But I liked Only the Ring Finger Knows much more.

Plot synopsis from Digital Manga: "At Wataru Fujii's high school, it's all the rage to wear paired rings with the girl you love. Wataru wears one though he is single, and one day inadvertently discovers that his ring pairs up with that of tall, handsome and smart Yuichi Kazuki, the senior classman idolized by the entire school. Though Kazuki has a reputation for being kind to all, when dealing with Wataru, he is strangely harsh. Their paired rings somehow draw them together and the two alternately clash and attract, as they must sort out their budding feelings for each other."

Plot synopsis from Mayerson: "He hates me, he loves me, he doesn't love me, he's a guy, I'm a guy, I hate him, I love him, he loves someone else, I can't eat, I can't sleep, how am I ever going to get over this and get into Tokoyo University? Oh wait! Maybe he. . . he, um . . " Etc. It's adorable! I wish there were more of this. I understand there are novels, and if they were translated into English or even French, I would buy them and read them and obsess on them, too. If anyone can go to Satoru Kannagi's site, which is in Japanese and tell him this, I'd be much obliged. If anyone can also tell me why the author and artist's blood types and sun signs are on the dust jacket, I'd be much obliged to know that, too. Kind of a nice, but odd (to me), touch.

So, unlike Passion, Only the Ring Finger Knows is aimed at the sixteen and over crowd of girls, I assume, because I wonder if guys would get it at all. This yaoi manga is full the sweetest smooches I've ever seen between two guys who look like girls. And what causes me to stare at these kisses is that, although I am far from an expert on how men kiss each other, it seems to me that Yuichi and Wataru's kisses are more like the way a gentleman kisses a lady: his hand lightly under her jaw, more for support and direction, but never dominating, grasping or scary. Whereas the male kisses I've seen in films and books, usually one guy has the other guy's skull clamped between his hands, as if to fully restrain him, and were the other guy, with luck and dexterity, to liberate himself from such a kiss, he would need to spend some time in a neck brace later on. So, every time Yuichi kisses Wataru (and Yuichi is always the active partner), I think, "Gee, how nice," and what I think might happen in a sequel is between me and my fevered imagination. But what are yaoi mangas for if not to give a woman something to think about?

I find it interesting that Only the Ring Finger Knows is aimed at sixteen and older girls, which is about the age, maybe a little earlier, when girls begin to wonder what's really going on with boys. And vice versa, but girls (as I recall) really try to figure it out starting around age sixteen. I think that a book like Only the Ring Finger Knows would throw a pretty serious curve into that process because the main characters are much prettier than most boys that age, hell, they're prettier than most girls that age. And although the plot is more rational and better executed, and the main characters are more masculine than in Passion, Yuichi and Wataru are still not behaving in any way I've ever seen real boys behave. Maybe real boys do obsess about each other and maybe they do kiss each other that way, but, unlike Yuichi and Wataru, who indiscreetly smooch in parks, schools and in the street, maybe other boys just hide it better. I also don't know what the social customs in Japan are on such things; Only the Ring Finger Knows might be firmly in realm of fantasy, of which yaoi is probably an established part.

Anyway, I thought it was cute. I remember being struck by a line somewhere in Brideshead Revisted where some woman explains that boys grow up to be happier men if their first love is another boy (whether they ever act on it sexually or not). That fits beautifully with Only the Ring Finger Knows, except you want them to stay together forever. Come to think of it, that's also what I wanted for those two guys in Brideshead Revisted, but I digress.

For me, the appeal of gay erotica has always been seeing men allowing themselves to be vulnerable to and tender with each other. Yaoi throws that off kilter because the men do look like girls and what I assumed to be the passive partner really looks more feminine than the already feminine men around him. But I got over that very quickly. However, this dissonance, lack of realism, detail, and, well, a certain amount of logic set up a space for mentally reframing the action in a more suitable way. At least that's what I did. Yes! I obsessed on a yaoi manga, I admit it, I freely admit it.

The format throws an uninitiated Westerner off kilter, too, the book is read right to left and thank you, Digital Manga Publishing, for the handy-dandy diagram on what seems like the first page, but turns out to be the last page, explaining how to read the damn thing. Once I got the hang of it, it still felt weird, but that weird feeling kept me on my toes, so I really paid attention to what I was reading. This book can be read more than once, mainly because it can take one or two readings just to stare at the drawing and get the hang of the format, another reading just to take it all in, another reading to really focus on who's speaking to whom and in which panel, another reading to puzzle over what the hell might be going on here, and all the readings after that just to mull it over.

So, you know, life is sometimes very stressful and sometimes a grown woman needs something to relax with after a hard day in the world. I would recommend Only the Ring Finger Knows, not exactly a literary valium, but not unlike a literary glass of mid-price Chablis. Enjoy!

Edit November 23, 2004: I guess this isn't yaoi, according to this and a few other things I read that finally convinced me, it's Shonen-Ai. Apparently Shonen-Ai is "boy's love" and yaoi is gay porn. It's good to learn something new everyday.

EDIT June 24, 2005: Hey there, yaoi lovers, don't miss the fabulous Lene Taylor's wonderful podcasts on Only the Ring Finger Knows and Desire. They're great!

Replies: 4 comments

Ah, Lene, you are the sunshine of my life, illuminating all the dark corners I didn't even realize were dark.

I dunno; based on the manga, I once thought Yuichi was a really nice guy, but he was driven to act like a jerk by his sexual conflicts over Wataru. Now I wonder. The only way to really know if he's going to be a good lover and be good to Wataru, who is the real hero of this story, is if we can ever read the damn novels! Here's the petition,, the more people that sign the bugger, the better chance we'll all have that DMP will take pity on we poor suffering fans and publish the novels. Until then, I can only wonder if Yuichi Kazuki will mellow out and live happily ever after with Wataru. Or will Wataru dump him and find somebody much nicer. Or something. I don't know about anyone else, but I NEED those novels, and NEED them badly.

But, anyway, Lene, thank you for this commentary. Some of these things were bothering me and I'm glad to seem them so well thought out and on paper, so to speak. I know you're probably wishing this was yaoi, but it's actually Shonen-Ai. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it

Original review:
Petiton entry:

Posted by Ginger Mayerson @ 06/04/2005 11:11 PM PST

I Like your article and agree about Yuichi being a little mean... he's still cool though... i for one am only about 14 and read the manga while some houswives read it > - <; i also love the drawing style, that's all!

Posted by Akira Watashi Denjiro @ 06/09/2005 03:06 PM PST

If you're still wondering 'Dono' can be translated into 'lord' in japanese at least that's what I remember <3. I've bought Only The Ring Finger Knows and LOVE IT!!! I almost missed this baby while looking throught chapter thinking 'They wouldn't have yaoi/shonen-ai here would they?' I was soo glad that I found this title it's UBER AWSOME!! -^_^-

Posted by Destini @ 07/18/2005 03:14 AM PST

I just got その指だけが知っている and I really like it. I'm not all that into shonen ai and all, and was creeped out when I read the back (or saw the front for that matter) but it was pretty and after reading about half I was soooo interested.
Wataru is my fav and after reading and really looking at Yuichi's facial expressions again I can see his inner conflict over being near Wataru.
DMP is doing the novel, so I'm really wanting them now. Too bad it is in Feb... Looking on the Jap amazon site I think I saw that the authors have either up to 3 or 4 novels published. I hope DMP does bring the 3rd and 4th ones to America too. They can't just end on the 2nd one!!!!

I like this, why can't Legal drug be this appealing?
その指だけが知っている (OTRFK is good!)

Posted by Me @ 12/26/2005 11:51 PM PST

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