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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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04/26/2008 Archived Entry: "Yaoi review: I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone: Shameless"

I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone: Shameless
Story: Shiuko Kano
Publisher: 801 Media LLC
ISBN-10: 1934129127
ISBN-13: 978-1934129128

Review by Cat

I was quite pleased to receive a 801 Media copy of I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone: Shameless because Shiuko Kano is known for providing blatantly sexy and lanky guys; tongue-in-cheek approach in storytelling; generally intense and explicit portrayal of sexual situations, and good times.

Not only that, many male characters in her works are famous for putting 'C' in cockiness, 'T' in testosterones, 'M' in machismo, 'Z' in 'zest for life', 'H' in humour, and sometimes, 'F' and 'U' in attitude.

Sometimes her characters are such a larger-than-life kind that they tend to overshadow the actual stories. However, Kano has provided solid good stories that are, regardless of explicitness in sex scenes, genuinely poignant.

Then again, she's also provided stories that seem to be high on crack in disguise of comedy. Basically, you can't quite know what to expect from Kano. OK, you can usually expect mad sex, certain personality types, pure eye candy, and, er, more sex. But what kind I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone: Shameless will be? Well, it's both and yet, neither. Here is how the story goes:

23-year-old construction worker, Kazuya Sakai, appears at 17-year-old student Masashi Ezumi's house with intention to ask the girl of his dreams out. Surprised and irritated that this construction worker would be interested in his sister, Masashi scornfully informs him she isn't interested in poorly educated guys, which Kazuya clearly is.

With that massive dent in his pride, Kazuya decides to earn his high school diploma before he can seriously approach Masashi's sister, so he asks the elite student for help. Masashi quickly and coolly agrees to become his tutor in exchange for one thing: Kazuya's body. Kazuya - Kazuya being Kazuya - quickly agrees, not realising what it really involves. Once this realisation finally breaks through his hard skull, Kazuya's life gets turned upside down.

Meanwhile Masashi thinks he's had all it figured out, he slowly becomes aware of his growing feelings towards Kazuya as well as his deepening self-dislike. He feels even more confused after seeing Kazuya in a compromising position with work friend, Mogi Kousei. That's when his life gets upside down as well.

Both have issues to work through as well as some growing up to do, but it doesn't stop them going at it like bunnies in heat as well as providing some comic relief moments. But still, how will it all end for them both? Can two strong-headed (and occasionally, pig-headed) guys ever find happiness with each other?

So, how I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone: Shameless is? I'm not sure, actually. It depends on what you look for.

There's one thing that is definitely clear: it's shamelessly and consistently explicit, even for a typical Kano work. It's all sweat, heat, and sheer lust. Unfortunately, in a way, it's backfired because it occurs almost every time Kazuya and Masashi meet, which makes it somewhat tedious and at times (and shockingly), almost boring.

I have to say it's not typical of a Kano work. It seems as if Kano did it to keep the somewhat weak storyline going. It's indeed a weak story. It's basically finding out whether Kazuya will ever obtain his high school diploma; whether will he ever wrap his head around the concept of homosexuality, and whether both guys figure out what love is all about.

But at least there are some interesting conflicts and comic relief to enjoy. I quite enjoyed Kazuya's general idiocy and Masashi's density (… does this make them an idiot couple? They aren't, but at same time, they are) because, I suspect, it provides a break from seeing them going at it with each other.

Art-wise, it's classic Kano: it's very easy on the eye. Kazuya is a fair-haired, short and pretty guy with a sheer working-class attitude and personality. Meanwhile, Masashi looks every bit as what he is: an aloof, tall and dark-haired elite student. It's sheer eye candy all round. Even female characters.

This is the first time I received a 801 Media book. The first thing I noticed was the publisher's name: 801 Media. I was initially intrigued and then, I realised it may be an inside joke: 801 can be pronounced as 'yaoi'. Cute. Second thing I noticed was the book package.

It's the nicest I've seen, especially when comparing with other publishers' book packaging. Well, at least, it's the most comfortable to handle. The overall tone in its colour insert is the nicest I've seen, too. I haven't seen that shade of skin this good before. Nicely done. I'd say the overall production value is excellent.

I suppose, at the end of the day, I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone: Shameless isn't one of Kano's best works as I have seen better from her. But it has its moments, which has to be counted for something. I especially like Kazuya's obvious respect for women, which is quite a rarity in the body of Kano's works. I think she's aware of this because in one scene, she has Masashi tossing a teasing comment about feminism at Kazuya's head. It's quite cute and funny.

All in all, I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone: Shameless can be a fun read if read with moderation. This book makes me look forward to reading Maybe I'm Your Steppin' Stone: Loveliness, which features the story of Mogi Kousei (who appears in this book as Kazuya's construction work friend).

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