Review: Hitorijime My Hero (anime)

I started this 12-episode show while pet-sitting for my parents and just finished it last night (before leaving to pet-sit for someone else). It’s based on a Japanese yaoi manga series, but this will just be looking at the anime. Because of the lack of sexual content, I’d place this more as a “boy’s love” story or just plain ol’ romance.

Overall this was a sweet/cute story following four guys (two couples) along with their friends. It was an interesting watch, but it didn’t entice me into “just one more episode” until the last four. Part of this is because while the couples aren’t already established as we start, there is a certain sense of “finding” a relationship that was already there, which removed a lot of the emotional build-up between the characters. (Also the first episode confused me as one character’s hair color changes with a time skip and I mistook him as someone else.)

I will warn that the one couple includes a guy who is in first year HS (roughly 16, I believe) who ends up with a teacher (his friend’s older brother). I’m guessing the age gap is 10 years, which in itself is reasonable but at that age can be problematic for viewers. However, the anime does a good job of handling the age gap problems (as well as addressing student-teacher issues*) and their relationship is sweet rather than sexual, as far as we see.

I hope this show is an indication that more yaoi is moving away from the horrific tropes that make up this genre–while it does include many of the traditional motifs of earlier yaoi, it avoids making the relationships entirely physical; there’s no on-screen sex, if they are having sex at all; and while seme/uke visual tropes might be invoked, there is a stronger sense of actually having consent…which yaoi often ignores. There are a few scenes which are callbacks to the time before consent, but overall it’s much improved from…well, pretty much anything from the ’90s and early 2000s.

If you’re a fan of the genre in general, this is worth a watch as long as you don’t go in expecting the reluctant uke and the domineering(/rapey) seme. The dramas are cute, although very low-key; the final arc hit my emotional notes especially, although your mileage may very. There’s a sprinkling of humor mixed in, the dub was well done, and the art for the most part was enjoyable.

While it didn’t blow me away, I can definitely see myself watching this when I want a sweet relaxing show to play in the background.

* The show brings up the student-teacher issue and has it as a dramatic point, although I’m not sure it really resolves it satisfactorily – unless the last few scenes imply something I missed.

Announcing Re-releases

With the closing of Less Than Three Press, I had to decide what to do with the titles I’d had with them.

For one, it was easy. Ties That Bind released in April, and it didn’t take much thinking to want to get that out again as soon as possible. It should require minimal editing and work, and I spent some time today loading it on Amazon and on Smashwords – I’m not to the point where I can make accounts with ALL the individual vendors – so hopefully by Monday it will be back for people to buy it! (Links will be updated then.)

Sharing a Pond was a harder decision. It came out four years ago, and I’m not the same author I was then. But I LOVE that cover and I love that book, so I didn’t want it lost to the Couldn’t-Be-Bothereds. The decision was made.

I’m reading through Sharing a Pond and fixing it up a bit. Now, this isn’t a complete overhaul – all the major plot points and dramas still unfold (unless I get farther in and realize Past Me was a fool) – but I am smoothing out the language a lot, and cleaning up issues I realized in retrospect (or were kindly pointed out to me). Mostly minor actions/language that made certain characters seem a bit more like jerks than I’d intended. The story is the same, I’m just adjusting a few things with four years of knowledge under my belt.

The re-release of this title will depend on how edits go and how the publishing process goes in general (I’m going to make sure it’s available in print as well as digital).

In some ways this process is very eye-opening. The edits I’m making, while not major, are rather extensive. It really shows how I’ve improved as an author* in the past few years, and I think I’ll be prouder of having this new (nearly identical) version on shelves.

It also makes me wonder in four more years, how I’ll feel looking back at the writing I’m doing today.

* I will admit that Sharing a Pond was written while I was still recovering from a brain injury, so some of the language issues could be related to that – none of it was nonsense, but my mastery of English was no what it could have been.

Taking a Breather

It’s been a long, long while since I had a really relaxing weekend (where I relaxed rather than slipped into a unproductive puddle). This weekend was one of those weekends. I’m still flipping out about the writing funk, but I’m using the time to do things rather than obsessive over it too much.

  1. As mentioned prior, I’m re-reading Sunshine by Robin McKinley. It’s been a while since I read for pleasure and actually found the reading to be an intense pleasure. I had begun wondering if I’d lost enjoyment of reading. This has reminded me that maybe I do still love it but I’m not picking books that really grab me.
  2. I watched a ton of anime (only 2-4 episodes of each, which is how I consume most things)
    Yakitate!! Japan – This show is very much a precursor to the more modern Food Wars, and it suffers a little from me having already seen Food Wars and the humor being dated. It’s sub-only, and really slow, but kind of enjoyable if you just go with the flow.
    Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing – I probably should have rewatched the first series, but this does stand alone. I generally don’t like anime with a ton of young girls, but this handles it well, has them be strong and mostly not annoying, and while slow-moving, it’s involving politics and war, so is fitting (and matches the first series in this).
    Magical Girl Raising Project – I’m really enjoying this, although before recommending it, I’d warn that it’s dark! Viewers of Madoka Magica will probably find this a natural fit, although I’m enjoying this more, as the writing feels tighter and the characters more enjoyable/relatable to me (possible because we get more variety).
    Spice and Wolf – I’m not particularly in love with this show, although I’m only two episodes in. It doesn’t fall into the “naked wolf girl” problem (thankfully), but it does suffer heavily from talking head syndrome (which is a neat trick in a visual medium!). I think my issue is that the guy is okay and the goddess is on the other side of okay, so I’m not really engaged in them, so their talking heads are boring and talking at me rather than inviting me to contemplate with them.
  3. It’s really expensive to have 1 niece and 2 nephews with the same birthday and then an honorary nephew born the day after (5 years later). I got a lot of shopping done. My wallet wept 😀 (And that had nothing to do with the oh this yarn is on sale, I swear).
  4. A good chunk of my weekend was spent reading the Changeling: The Dreaming core book and plotting. And then replotting. Painting stones. Rereading that one section. Wondering if I actually know how to play games at all, really.

I’ll get back to editing and writing in serious form soon enough, I hope, but this was a much-needed break from reality, where I got in touch with my roots.

On Openings: Sunshine

I’ve been mired in a bit of writer’s bog, and one Nano thought led to another, and I was reminded of a story I wrote that probably needs completely redone. It’s a vampire story (sorta), so I decided a reread of one of my favorite vampire stories was due. The book is Sunshine by Robin McKinley, and since I read it pre-concussion, I remember absolutely nothing about it except liking it and there’s vampires. (I forgot she was a baker, that’s how much I forgot.)

This is only discussing the first ten pages or so (before the first scene break), which if you haven’t read the book, can probably be found in an online excerpt.

What’s interesting to me as a writer, is that McKinley does a few things that if this were submitted to a writers’ group, might be marked as no-nos:

  • the first seven pages are blocks of text (no dialogue)
  • these seven pages are pretty much an info dump

And yet it works for the story, and as an entertaining read. Because while the reader is being given lots of information (her job, her boyfriend, her family…and more about her job), there are a lot of hints of things to come, and it works more to paint a picture of her world rather than just dump the information on the reader’s lap. But it’s a fine line, which McKinley succeeds in toeing. Obviously if you read the blurb, you know this is supernatural/vampires. If not, the first scene hints of this with “cockroaches the size of chipmunks” and “Other law” then hinting a bit more with “Voodoo Wars” and “bad places around the lake” before the very last word is “vampires.”

Not all of the first scene would be considered info dump, but looking at the parts that could be considered that (if not masterfully handled) shows how it can be done.

  • Hint at something more than is being presented
  • Have the information dump contrast with the something more (ie, mundane info when there’s something supernatural lurking in the background)
  • Use the info dump to introduce the reader to the narrative voice/tone of the story, weaving in information about the character’s personality while seemingly just presenting facts.
  • Make the information interesting on its own, but not quite interesting enough that the reader wants the story to be about that.

At least those are my thoughts on it. If you’ve read (and enjoyed) Sunshine, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the first scene and what works/doesn’t work for you!

Random Is Good, Right?

A while back I had an idea for … something, and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to develop into anything more than these few paragraphs, so I thought it’d be fun to share with you!


Black ooze seeped under the door. With it came a sharp, bitter tang that filled the air. Evelyn stared at it, entranced, until the scent crept into her mouth, bogging down her tongue. She scrunched her nose, stepped forward–mindful of the puddle–and pounded her fist on the door. “Kira! Kira, you better not be making a mess in there!”

The ooze shrank back under the door, leaving only its stink behind. 

Evelyn sighed. “Kira, what are you doing?”

No answer. 

Evelyn rolled her eyes. “I’m coming in!” 

She turned the handle and pushed the door. It creaked as it slowly swung open, the light from the hall doing little to break through the dark murk of the room. Evelyn sighed and reached for the wall just inside the door. “Kira, I’m going to turn on the light.”

“No!” Kira’s husky voice was pouty and petulant. “No light.”

Evelyn restrained another sigh. “Why not?”

The darkness slithered back, and the light from the open door was just enough to show a mass on the bed.

She stepped into the room, eyes on the bed. “Kira?”

Kira sighed, and the bedsprings sagged with the weight of the emotion. 

“Kira, what’s wrong?”

More slithering, and the shadows lurking deep in the corners and along the far wall faded, until the room was cast in the gray glow of a dark room lit by the light from the door. Evelyn waited, not wanting to intrude in Kira’s space but also running low on patience–and restraint on another sigh. “Kira.”

“I’m ugly,” Kira said, choking on the words like a sob was trapped in its throat.

Evelyn’s heart broke. “Oh darling, no, you’re not.” She moved into the room, mindful of the shadows spilling across the floor. By the time she sat on the bed, Kira had pulled its shadows in even tighter, making a dense physical form for Evelyn to side her arm around its not-quite-shoulders. She gave a little squeeze. “You’re perfect just the way you are.”


Hope you enjoyed this random little thing!

I need the happy ending

Lately I’ve been trying to read outside the romance genre more, which has been an on-going thing from last year, but it hasn’t seen rousing success, and while part of it is just me not sitting down to read, another key road block is that, well, I’m reading outside the romance genre, and in the romance genre, I’m guaranteed a happy ending.

It’s not that I can’t read stories without them (I have in the past, at least), and it’s not like general fiction/fantasy/sci-fi don’t have happy endings a lot of the time. But in this day and age (hah), where it’s cool and edgy to have dark, unsatisfying endings, I’m incredibly cautious of proceeding. Not because I don’t see the use of some of these types of books, but rather, when I read, I experience the emotions of the book, and if the book is going to be depressing, then it’s likely to trigger a depressive episode, and who wants that?

Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much of this roadblock is in my head (again, because I’ve read LOTS of non-romance stories with happy endings), but I know it’s kept me from finishing Left Hand of Darkness and The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion (which is a novella and I really have no excuse).

A little voice in my head is yelling at me to just read some romance, let myself off the hook, and get some reading done rather than tie myself in knots. But I’m so bad at letting myself off the hook.

We’ll see.

Anyway, I have a horse show this weekend, so wish me luck!

Bonk: unarousing

Having read Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, I was interested in what she’d bring to the table when talking about sex. Well-known for her humorous footnotes and glib commentary, she tends to make what could be dry reading into an enjoyable experience.

While Bonk continues the humorous footnotes, glib commentary, and accessibility of content, overall the books fell flat for me. Part of it I think maybe attributed to Roach’s age (she was 52 at year of publication), the fact that the book is 8 years old (and research even older), and–as she points out many times–sex research is difficult to fund, find volunteers for, and explain to your dates. Obviously any research is limited by these factors.

My biggest issue is that the book (as likely the research does) focuses almost exclusively on sex between a cis man and a cis woman. Obviously Roach can only present research that’s available, but a few too many comments throughout made me concerned that it’s not just lack of research but lack of author looking at said research. Aside from mentions of Kinsey’s work, there’s very little about homosexual sex, and almost all of it is shoved in the last chapter, where it discusses a study from 1976, and–without any further research–Roach discusses how obviously heterosexuals caught up to the gays in talking about sex, so thank goodness for that. (The point being that talking about sex will lead to better sex between the participants, but she makes a 40-year leap without any thing to back her up.)

I won’t hold against her the complete lack of discussion about trans individuals, as there likely is limited research. However, if there is limited research, it seems like it should be important to point out, especially when discussing things related to the brain, arousal, etc.

Obviously Roach has to toe the line between producing edu-tainment and paying the bills, so is likely to play to the largest audience, especially if she has pressure from her publisher to do so, but overall I found the book lacking. Anytime the discussion wasn’t strictly medical/scientific, it felt like she was giggling behind her hand, especially at anything that wasn’t heterosexual vanilla sex. My suggestion: It’s worth loaning from the library, but not buying a copy.