Saturday, August 04, 2007

[Review] Sanami Matoh -- Fake

Since I've been a bit slack about contributing recently... :-) I've been reading some yaoi manga, partly as writing research. The most recent batch was the Fake series.

This is a yaoi manga series about a pair of New York cops, mostly UST over the course of the seven volumes, but consummated in the final volume. But there's more than the sexual tension to sustain interest, as there's a good chunk of plot in there as well.

Randy Maclean arrives for his first day at his new assignment to the 27th Precint, and is promptly teamed with Dee Laytner, mostly because their Captain wants both of them out of his office right now. Dee is loud, casual, and over-friendly -- starting with noticing that Randy has black eyes even though he's blond, asking if he's part-Japanese, and then insisting on knowing Randy's Japanese name. And from then on it's Ryo, not Randy. Dee's not someone the quiet, reserved Ryo would have expected to like, but there's something about Dee that makes Ryo feel comfortable. And the feeling's mutual. They may have been partnered purely on whim, but they make a good team.

Dee is openly bisexual, and openly interested in Ryo -- mostly as a joke to begin with, but gradually becoming a lot more serious. By the end of the second volume Ryo's realised that Dee's interest in him isn't a joke any more, but he's not quite sure how he feels about it. He likes Dee, a lot, but he's also always thought of himself as straight. As the romance plotline develops, Ryo's no easy conquest; more or less tolerating Dee pouncing on him but pushing him away if he goes further than Ryo's comfortable with. And for a long period he's not even comfortable with Dee kissing him. But there's a strong bond of friendship between them, and rather than simply freaking out about Dee's passes, Ryo actually thinks about how he feels about Dee. For several volumes...

If that was all there was to the series it would be too thin to sustain seven volumes, but there are also strong storylines about their jobs as cops, and about their personal lives apart from the potential sexual relationship. These storylines interact with each other, and one of the notable things about this series is that while the early volumes appear to be mostly independent stories, there are details and characters which are later shown to be part of an overall story arc. This means that each volume is a satisfying read in its own right, with closure for the two to four stories included in the volume; but the series as a whole is more than just a string of unconnected episodes, and forms a complete story overall.

The series does require a lot of willing suspension of disbelief, given a setup with a New York police station full of openly gay cops, and a writer whose knowledge of New York police procedure is somewhat scatty. But it's well worth putting aside a desire for realism, as this series has humour, interesting stories, solid plot development, and rounded characters.

As for the sexual content, the guys are hot, and the UST is played very well, with Sanami Matoh doing more with a kiss than some manage with full-on sex. When it does finally get to the sex, it's plausible, and very hot. I was also pleased to find that while Dee can be very pushy, he accepts that no means no -- unlike much yaoi manga, there's no rape for titillation in this series. And there's a satisfyingly romantic ending. It's sweet, and maybe even soppy, but the guys have worked for it rather than being handed it on a plate.

The art is good, although there's a fair bit of heavily stylised art which isn't to my personal taste. What *is* to my personal taste is that the men are pretty, but they're still depicted as adult men, both physically and emotionally.

If you're looking for a yaoi manga that has both romance and action plot, you could do a lot worse than try a volume of this series to see if it's to your taste. Ideally you should read it in order, but the first few volumes can each be read as a standalone if necessary.

Fake series from Amazon US:

Fake (Fake), Vol. 1 (Fake) | Fake Vol. 2 | Fake Vol. 3 | Fake Vol. 4 | Fake, Vol. 5 | Fake 6 (Fake) (Fake) | Fake, Vol. 7

Fake series at Amazon UK:

Fake: v. 1 (Fake) | Fake: Volume 2: v. 2 (Fake) | Fake: Volume 3: v. 3 (Fake) | Fake: Volume 4: v. 4 (Fake) | Fake: Volume 5 (Fake): v. 5 (Fake) | Fake: v. 6 (Fake) | Fake: Volume 7: v. 7 (Fake)


veinglory said...

I liked Fake. Although after 34 issues the static nature of the relationship made me lose interest. (I want you/no I can't etc) Does that change later on?

Jules Jones said...

Reading the manga series (20 episodes over 7 volumes) over the course of a couple of weeks, I did see the relationship change, although it's slow. It takes Ryo a long time to get his head around the fact that he's attracted to Dee, and a lot of the romance plotline is about the fact that it's slow.

It's finally consummated in the seventh volume. Ryo's put in a position where he is has to interact socially/professionally with Leo, the Mafia hitman who killed his parents. He gets sufficiently stressed that he heads to Dee for comfort, and ends up deciding that it's time he came to terms with how he feels about Dee.

Except of course, they're still on a job, and the next morning Ryo leaves early to get back to work, and Dee's left wondering if Ryo thinks it was all a big mistake. Since they're busy on a *big* case, they have ample opportunity to not get things sorted out.

But they do get things sorted out by the end of the volume, after some misunderstandings that are perfectly reasonable under the circumstances, rather than Too Stupid To Live.

If I'd bought it just for the yaoi aspect, I'd have been rather peeved, but it's a pretty good cop buddy story as well.