Miscellanea and Ephemeron
07/11/2006 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Clan of the Nakagamis"
Review by Tom Good
Right from the start of this story, I felt I was in unfamiliar territory, and not only because I was a straight guy reading a yaoi manga. It was also because the narrative conventions I've come to expect from romantic fiction seemed to have disappeared. For example, most straight romances would feature a lot of uncertainty and angst (at least in the beginning) about how the romantic leads really felt about each other. But these two guys, Haruka and Tokio, seemed to be obviously crazy about each other from page one. So I began to wonder where the dramatic tension would come from. Perhaps a love triangle? But no plausible rival for either guy's affections ever materialized. Well, they are a teacher and student in a gay relationship, so I figured that the main plot must concern the danger of being found out. This is indeed what the story claims to be about, but the truth is more confusing.
When Tokio takes Haruka to meet Tokio's family, the Nakagami clan, they both talk about their fear of discovery and their need to keep their relationship a secret. But they never really convinced me that this was a very serious issue. One might think that as a teacher, Tokio would question whether it was really alright to go out with a student, and fear for his career if the secret got out. But he never seems consumed by soul-searching or worry, he only seems inconvenienced by not being able to be more open about his personal life. So the story becomes more of a "meet the parents" scenario, where Haruka has to cope with encountering the odd Nakagamis.
Tokio's brother Kijinojyo is a transvestite and manga artist. Tokio's father Gokurakuchota looks about the same age as Tokio, and his grandfather Mitsuru looks younger than both of them. Mitsuru really looks about 10 years old at most. In this story, a character's real age is not reflected in his appearance; in fact there is probably an inverse correlation. Tokio is supposed to be 26 and Haruka is supposed to be 18, but Haruka is both taller and older-looking than Tokio, who looks about 16. In some ways this makes their relationship seem more innocent, since Tokio does not visually appear to be an older teacher taking advantage of a student.
I may have been looking for realism where none was intended: Clan of the Nakagamis is kind of a wacky comedy, with strange and silly plot twists like a jewel-thief caper episode that parodies Batman and Robin, and an adventure that begins with the discovery of an alligator in town. In another story, two guys meet for a romantic rendezvous, and when they finally see each other naked, the scene abruptly cuts to a shot of them fishing and comparing the size of each other's fish. Gags like this make the book a pretty funny read, and I think it will entertain yaoi fans. And while it didn't convert me into a yaoi fan, it didn't scare me off either.
The Wapshott Press
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