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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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08/19/2008 Archived Entry: "Novel review: Sleeping with Money"

Sleeping with Money
By Barbara Katagiri
Illustrations by Sakuya Fujii
Published by the Juné Imprint of Digital Manga, Inc

Review by Ryes

Sleeping with Money is a bit different, in a good way, from the other books in my yaoi collection and that's one of the reasons I enjoyed it.

Tatsurou is a yakuza who happens to have the worst luck. He's dirt-poor, he actually has a conscience (that he can't get rid of no matter how hard he tries), and his yakuza status means virtually nothing in modern Japan where yakuza are no longer at the top tier of society (they're actually viewed as scum and more of a drain on society than anything else).

Because of that conscience that he can't get rid of, he fails to collect money from an old man who once took care of him. He ends up owing his superior several million and to avoid having one of his fingers chopped off, he accepts the help of a loan shark named Sagami. But Sagami has an ulterior motive. He's well aware of Tatsurou's penniless state and doesn't count on ever getting that loan money back. Instead, he wants Tatsurou to pay it all off with his body.

The plot made me chuckle (so did some parts of the story, to be honest), but for the most part, I had fun reading this book. To get the negatives out of the way first, some of the phrasings and translations were awkward, Tatsurou has a limited vocabulary range, and the POV shiftings near the middle gave me headaches. However, those minor things didn't bother me much and I was willing to overlook them since the book itself was enjoyable.

Tatsurou's status was interesting because it's not every day you come across a pathetic yakuza. Usually, the yakuza in yaoi are tough and aloof, and Tatsurou is none of those things. Even if Tatsurou did have the perfect makings of a mob boss, it still wouldn't matter because the yakuza are losing power in Japan. They don't have that much influence any more and they're actually afraid of police officers. That beginning, to me, was interesting enough to keep me reading.

Another source of entertainment would probably be how humorous this book is. Sleeping with Money is not as angsty as other yaoi works I'm used to, and Katagiri actually does attempt to make jokes and poke fun at Tatsurou. Tatsurou has an assistant who is in lust with Tatsurou, which gives rise to some funny dialogues, and that same assistant models and sells used panties online. The name of Sagami's loan company made me laugh, and Tatsurou's pathetic situation is a joke itself.

But the major reason I found this book so fun was because I liked the characters. I'm mostly indifferent towards Sagami, although he does have funny moments during his possessive, sadistic streaks. I loved Tatsurou as a main character. He's got the right blend of vulnerability and tough attitude. I think his character suffers from the flaw of falling in love with Sagami too quickly, but again, I'm willing to ignore that detail when I like how he's portrayed overall. And I absolutely cannot forget about his assistant, Hachi. Hachi is like Joey from Friendsódumb but funny and lovable.

Sakuya Fujii's art is a perfect compliment to the novel. I was surprised that the illustrations didn't have beautiful, willowy characters, but Fujii's style provides the comedic and exaggerated expressions that match the fun, over-the-top personalities of Katagiri's characters.

This is one of the better novels released by Juné so far, and I recommend giving this a try.

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