DINING BAR AKIRA • Tomoko Yamashita • Netcomics • 16+
Unshaven, alcoholic and perpetually frazzled, Akira is a 32-year-old restaurant employee, working under the paternal supervision of the restaurant owner, his friend Maki. When Torihara, a 26-year-old gay part-timer, tells Akira that he likes him, Akira gets even more nervous and uncomfortable on the job, but gradually he comes round and gets into a relationship with the younger, but more stable man. The plot is predictable and a little lacking in emotion – the characters seem to sort of fall into a relationship without meaning to – but gets plenty of flavor from Yamashita’s penchant for bony, mature guys and her love of black humor and dirty dialogue. (”Let me make it simple for you – I want you so much that I could jack off to you.” “Ack! How can you talk about jacking off with such a straight face?!” “Hey! You guys! Keep it down!”) In contrast to the youthful thirtysomething protagonists of Fumi Yoshinaga’s Antique Bakery, the men here are weathered and weary, and there is much talk about Akira and Torihara’s age difference. (”We’ve got a huge gap in our priorities. Six years worth to be exact…” “Once I turned thirty I felt like the number of options I had for living my life suddenly thinned out.”) Two brief side stories round out the book and show more examples of Yamashita’s melancholy cynicism: “Foggy Scene,” in which teenage Yatsue is in love with his classmate but finds solace in sex with another man; and “Riverside Moonlight,” a short piece about a man who has a crush on his plain-looking coworker.
*** (three stars)
Today’s winner is Stephen H. of Georgia! Congratulations, Stephen! Just five days to go…
Paul U. sent today’s photo of himself concealed behind a tantalizing facemask of manga. Thanks for sending your photo! We’ll send you more manga soon, so you can construct an entire helmet!