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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/12/2008 Archived Entry: "Yaoi review: Say Please"

Say Please
Story and art: Kano Miyamoto
Publisher: Deux Press
ISBN: 978-1934496176

Review by Cat

For me, there are three interesting things about Say Please:

1. it's the first from Deux Press that I had.
2. it's the first Kano Miyamoto title published in English that I had.
3. Say Please is the only Miyamoto story I haven't read. Or so I thought.

When I began reading Say Please, I thought, "It seems familiar..." A bit of investigating has unearthed a nugget of info: Miyamoto's 2004 work is originally called Please. Her body of works is so huge that it's almost impossible for me to keep track of her stories, let alone remember all these titles. However it's two years since I read it, so I had largely forgotten what the story is about, which is a good thing.

But when I saw that the characters of the main story were Sakura and Ryoichi and that Ryu the main character of an oneshot included, I wasn't keen on continuing with the read because I thought they might be part of Kano's sprawling storyline that spans roughly ten years, which her devoted fans named 'the Rules universe'.

So named because of the heart in this universe: the three-volume story, Rules, which largely revolves around the lives of four major characters: Hikaru, Atori, Yuki, and the legendary Tooru.

From here on, Kano produces many spin-off stories and side stories that bring out the gritty details of their lives: their pasts, some incidents to explain why they are what they are or want to be, and other people - including Ryu of A Bird at Sea, A Door in the Sky, the oneshot from this volume, Say Please - that directly affect their lives.

I do not like reading stories out of chronological order. I'm the kind who's willing to wait until a series - if it's heavily depended on a time-line to make the story works - is completed. I once waited three years for a two-volume series to complete because I knew the second volume takes place before volume one. That's how inflexible I can be. But when I ordered a copy of Say Please, I mistakenly assumed that it wasn't part of the Rules universe. Mostly because I thought no publisher would want to publish such a large amount of works related to this universe. (Hey, I'm largely new to published English manga, so I'm still learning, all right?)

Further investigations reveal that it's only the Ryu story that is directly related to the Rules universe and that, chronologically, his story is the beginning of the Rules time-line. Also, my original belief that Ryoichi of Rain was part of the central universe was due to me confusing him with a certain Rules character who has a similar name. Actually, I think Kano used this name like, four times in her body of works, but I digress. Yay! With that in mind, I carried on reading Say Please.

Say Please consists a four-chapter story, an oneshot, and a gag-like short.

The story of Sakura and Ryoichi: Rain, Come Inside, Play With Me, and Dreamscape

The story opens with 27-year-old taciturn Sakura Shinji in a generic hotel room with Ryoichi, an easy-going, pretty 21-year-old 'Boy' (male prostitute). A polite conversation about the rain and Ryoichi's goofiness spark something inside Sakura, which somehow has him asking for Ryoichi's phone number. Soon Sakura hires Ryoichi to live with him for a week during summer school holiday. From there their client-boy relationship evolves to something possibly more. However, there are some things that stand in their way. Such as Sakura's past love, ability to communicate and his career as well as Ryoichi's own issues regarding Sakura.

This four-chapter story spans over six months that chronicles the developments of a relationship between Sakura and Ryoichi. Basically, there isn't much to the plot. It's pretty much along the line of "getting to know to you; defining our relationship; please learn to say 'I love you' to me; and finding and adapting to a new phase of life". But it's a character-driven story that revolves around a series of seemingly casual conversations. That's what makes it work. For me, at least. And somewhat.

It's quite hard to sum up my reaction toward this four-chapter story because a) I have seen better from Miyamoto and b) I don't have it in me to poke holes at it because, comparing with other stories available on the shelves, it's such a low-key story that basically goes with the flow. I mean, how can you poke holes in a slice of life or rather, something that's, despite its low-key intensity and slow-burn angst, so laid-back? You just can't. Well, I can't.

So there isn't much to say about the story as a whole. It has its moments of humour, sweetness, tension, and vulnerability. Sex scenes are somewhat strange because it would be categorised as "yaoi" as these are somewhat graphic and yet, have the feel of "shounen-ai". I think it's due to how they manage to hold level-headed conversations throughout this kind of sessions (there are two or three brief sexual situations). It's almost clinical, in a way, but not so that it seems cold. Conversations dominate the story, so almost everything else including sex take the back seat. Even so, I'd categorise this story as "light yaoi".

I suppose it's so low-key that it makes it forgettable, but it's poignant and "real" enough to make it unforgettable. Yeah, it's basically a sweet story where you'd root for both characters to figure it all out with fewest difficulties as possible. Frankly, if it wasn't for Ryoichi who's so likeable that you cannot help but like him, the story would be pretty much average. However, comparing with other manga in English available, it's something that those who want more than just sex, comedy and romance from BL manga that we have these days will want to read.

Actually, it's worth getting for those who want something different.

The story of Ryu: A Bird at Sea, a Door in the Sky

Seventeen-year-old Utsumi Ryu has just moved to a coastal town where he still doesn't feel fit in. He's tense that people might find out about a life-altering incident in his past because he knows their discovery will drive him out of the town to another place, like how it's happened many times before.
His unexpected brief encounter with a dog introduces him to a Japanese-speaking American writer who eventually introduces Ryu to a way that could help him to come to terms with his past and to an entirely new aspect of life. And a possible way out of Ryu's current situation.

Urgh. I dreaded reading this because it left such an impact on me that I never read it again. That was two years ago, though, so I thought perhaps it'd be different this time round. Is it? Let's put this way: yes, but for wrong reasons. The original is much more powerful than this version.

It might be just me, but I think it's largely due to Deux Press's decision to remove all traces of Ryu's legendary kansaiben. It's a distinctive Japanese dialect that many mangaka and film makers like to use in their works. Kinda like how it is with writers, cartoonists and filmmakers for the Scottish accent (it's a Glaswegian accent, actually, but it's mostly recognised around the world as 'Scottish').

I suppose the removal makes reading easier to bear, but I think it has lessened the depth of Ryu's alienation from his peers. It makes Ryu's awkwardness and asocial attitude hard to understand or sympathise with sometimes. Also, Deux Press hasn't left anything to show American writer Stephan's habit of switching between English and Japanese, which is a shame because it could add to the confusion and sense of the 'them and us' mentality that might be the reason why Ryu allows himself to get close to the American, just enough for them to end up in a sexual situation that I'd classify as 'light yaoi'.

The removal has basically made the story average. Or rather, yet another angst-filled story about a boy and his struggle to come to terms with something emotionally affecting. I think readers who aren't familiar with the Rules universe, let alone the story of Ryu, might find this story poignant enough to consider it a good read. So I think, in this case, ignorance is bliss.

A brief return to Sakura and Ryoichi: Close Encounters
Sakura and Ryoichi attempt to handle this replica of an ancient figurine that Sakura found at work.

It's so short that I can't say any more than this: it amuses me. It's a short, sweet in a dorky way, and funny take on a goofy situation. It also contains an Easter egg of some kind, e.g. Miyamoto's long-standing interest that appears in some of her works. That itself makes this fun.

All in all, Say Please is not one of Miyamoto's strongest works, but it makes a worthy addition to any BL reader's collection for two solid reasons: comparing with what's out there, it's an above average work and especially through Ryu's story, it's part of the Rules universe where it could hook you and never let you go.

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