Wednesday, August 11, 2010

King of the Lamp (manga) story and art by Takako Shigematsu

This manga is rated 16+ for a reason, but it's really pretty tame (although you might not believe that, considering the number of times I need to use the word "sex" in this post) compared to some other stuff I've seen with the same age rating.

I picked this one up because I saw the cover artwork and the name of the author/artist and thought, "Hey, isn't that the same person who did Tenshi Ja Nai?" And yes, it is. Not that it's all that hard to do, but Tenshi Ja Nai is one of those series that makes me go all fangirly (I'm a sucker for romantic stories with cross-dressing in them). I had forgotten, however, that Tenshi Ja Nai also had some aspects that made me a little uncomfortable. Had I remembered that, I probably still would have gotten this manga, because it was fairly cheap and because I haven't had enough experience with Shigematsu's works to know if her stories often incorporate those elements that made me uncomfortable in Tenshi Ja Nai.

Now I'm thinking...probably yes. Although I'm sure I would have still picked this up, even if I had known. There's just something about Shigematsu's artwork that sucks me in. I guess she's my manga crack.

By the way, although this manga contains both nudity and sex, the nudity is nearly Barbie doll level (no real detail), and the sex is pretty tame (blushing, kissing, and you know the characters are having sex, but you don't actually see anything - seriously, Shigematsu herself calls this "lukewarm," and she's right).

Synopsis:

This is basically five short stories. The first three are tied together by a single character, the King of the lamp, a former king who was imprisoned inside a lamp for taking 1000 of his country's most beautiful women for his harem. In order to be free of the lamp (and able to start up a new harem), he must grant the three wishes of 1000 girls who summon him. The first three stories in this volume cover the wishes of his 986th, 989th, and...well, I'm not sure if it was ever said what number the third girl was. The last two stories are stand-alones, completely unrelated to either each other or those first three stories.

Like I tend to do with anthologies, I didn't put much effort into listing read-alikes or watch-alikes. There's only a couple, and only because those stories really reminded me of other stories.

"Ryoko's Situation":

Ryoko's not sure what to do. In order to get Kei to go out with her, she told him that, since she's a bit older than him, she could teach him "all sorts of things." There's only one problem: she's a virgin. There's absolutely nothing she could teach him, and she knows it. She's afraid that, once Kei finds this out, he'll dump her. Desperate, she even finds herself buying a supposedly magic lamp. She's shocked when King comes out of the lamp and tells her he'll grant three of her wishes, as long as she's willing to pay for each one. There are three levels of wishes: Plum, which would require she pay him with a kiss, Bamboo, which would involve spending 24 hours with King, and Pine, which would require sex. King's a lech.

Ryoko's first wish is to be more attractive - at the Plum level, all King can do for her is give her bigger boobs. When this turns out not to be the way to Kei's instant affections, Ryoko uses her second wish to turn her boobs back to normal. Not realizing that Kei saw her kissing King as payment for her second wish, Ryoko decides to go to Kei's place for his birthday and tell him the truth. Jealous Kei handcuffs her to his bed, demands that she explain about the guy she was kissing, and starts to force himself on her. When a fire accidentally starts in the bedroom, Ryoko uses her third wish to put it out. King, the lech, says Ryoko can pay him back by being his, which Kei objects to. After King leaves, Kei explains that he knew Ryoko had no experience and had put off telling her because he thought she looked cute panicking about it. The story ends with them having sex.

Commentary:

I enjoyed the beginning of this one the most - it was amusing, watching Ryoko fend off Kei, as he tried to take their relationship to the next level and she tried to keep him from finding out her complete lack of experience. As things progressed, though, I didn't like it so much. Granted, Kei saw Ryoko kissing another guy (good thing he didn't see King licking his way up her thighs), but, you know, Ryoko saw Kei just standing there while some girl squished his arm between her boobs and she didn't cuff him to a bed and act all scary jealous. Why is it ok (or at least forgivable) for Kei to do all of that? Kei lost some major points in my book when he started forcing himself on Ryoko. King might have been a lech, but at least he stopped when Ryoko told him to.

"Mayu's Situation":

Mayu has it bad for Hideaki, a guy who works at her little kindergarten-aged brother's school. Unfortunately, Hideaki doesn't even seem to notice her, he never smiles at her, and he doesn't even remember her name. However, when Mayu ends up with a magic lamp, she finds herself with a chance to get Hideaki to open up to her. At first, she wishes for King to turn her into a little kid, but it turns out that that's a Bamboo wish - King hadn't exactly clarified the payment methods before Mayu made her wish. Luckily, her little brother saves her butt and negotiates a better deal for Mayu. At the Plum level, Mayu can be a kid for two hours and can't let anyone guess her identity. As a little kid, Mayu does some gardening with Hideaki and learns that he had a little sister who used to love sunflowers before she died. Things are going great (other than the fact that Mayu is a little kid and that anything that she might wish to have happen would automatically count as pedophilia) until Mayu gets fertilizer all over herself. Hideaki takes her inside to clean her off and starts stripping off his shirt (inexplicably, his pants are also unbuttoned), at which point Mayu freaks out and runs off.

Back to her usual size, Mayu learns that Hideaki must have worried about kid-Mayu when she ran off. She and Hideaki have a little bit of a moment when Hideaki spots Mayu praying for the sunflowers he's growing in his sister's memory. Later, Mayu visits Hideaki as a little kid again, and he starts to think she looks very similar to Mayu. Unfortunately, Mayu forgets about the time limit and wakes up next to Hideaki in her usual size with her shirt open (I'm guessing that it popped open when she got bigger and had breasts again, and not because Hideaki unbuttoned her while she was sleeping...I hope). Hideaki is upset, accusing her of using a secret little sister to trick him. Saying she must not care what happens to her, he starts to force himself on her (ugh...seeing a pattern?), at which time Mayu panics and ends up turning into a little kid. King appears and says her transformation will be for good, unless Hideaki kisses her (for Mayu's third wish, King kisses her, I guess to start the transformation back, but only Hideaki can finish it?).

Still annoyed, Hideaki kisses Mayu, transforming her back, only now she's completely naked. Which is apparently a signal that it's time for sex, because then that's what she and Hideaki do.

Commentary:

This was my least favorite out of all the stories in the whole manga. Mayu and Hideaki had only one nice little moment while Mayu was actually in an older form (and, by "older," I mean probably high school age, while I'm guessing Hideaki was in his 20's) - otherwise, all the bonding they did was while Mayu was a little kid. And yet, somehow this was enough for Hideaki to decide he wanted her, with absolutely no thoughts about how icky it was that he mostly only knew her in little kid form. Also, excuse me, but he tried to force himself on her that first time - yes, he was a wee bit angry, thinking she'd used her little sister to trick him, but he could have just chosen to throw her out instead. Isn't he supposed to be the adult in this situation? Because, well, he is the adult, and Mayu, as far as he knows, is just an infatuated high school student.

The one person I liked in this story was Mayu's little brother. He rocked. Who wouldn't want a little brother who'd try to bash in his sister's attacker's head in with a frying pan (when King tried to get his Bamboo level payment)? Also, I'd want that little guy with me anytime I needed to, say, buy a house or a car or something. He's the cutest, toughest little negotiator ever.

"Hinata's Situation":

Hinata's perfect guy thinks her dedication to her artwork is admirable. Unfortunately, Hinata's perfect guy is also her older sister's boyfriend, Togo Mashiba, the gorgeous and athletic student council president. After Togo gets in an accident, the only thing that could save his sight is surgery he claims not to want. Togo's mother assumes Hinata is her sister, Yuzuki, which, when Hinata ends up with King's lamp, gives her the idea to wish that she sounded like her sister whenever she's around Togo. At first, Togo is angry and mean because Yuzuki had been cheating on him, but he gradually thaws towards "Yuzuki" as she helps take care of him. For her second wish, Hinata has King take her and Togo to the beach, which she thinks will help his mood some. It's there that Togo tells "Yuzuki" that he plans to have the surgery and wants her to stay by his side forever. Even though she knows it can't happen, Hinata says yes.

The day Togo is supposed to get his bandages off, the real Yuzuki breezes in, after spending Togo's entire recovery time with some other guy. Hinata figures it's over between her and Togo, although she breaks down for a bit and asks King to make her look like her sister for her final wish. King refuses and uses her final wish to turn Hinata's voice back to normal. He also arranges it so that Togo manages to find Hinata. When Togo comes across Hinata, he can tell she's the "Yuzuki" who stayed by her side because of her scent (Hinata smells like turpentine, from art class, while the real Yuzuki smells like trendy perfume). The two confess their love to each other, and the story, of course, ends with the two of them having sex.

Commentary:

Of the three King of the Lamp stories, this one was my favorite. While I wasn't entirely thrilled with Togo's near angry sex scene, he got some sympathy points for being under stress from the accident and learning that Yuzuki had been cheating on him, and he got a few brownie points for being the one to pull back (I don't know if it's why he pulled back, but there's a panel that makes it look like he felt that Hinata was crying, and right after that he pulls away, so I chose to make that connection). Plus, unlike the other two girls, after her initial fear reaction Hinata decided she was going to be a willing participant in whatever happened - so, if something had happened, hopefully it wouldn't have been quite so much like rape.

After that, it was a pretty sweet story, with Hinata taking care of Togo and Togo learning about this new "Yuzuki." I got caught up enough in the story to feel a pang when poor Hinata realized that her time with Togo would end once he had the surgery, and I really disliked Yuzuki. Still, I imagine Togo and Hinata would have never ended up together had he not dated Yuzuki and ended up in that accident - as the "popular, athletic hottie," he had a schoolwide image that Hinata wouldn't really have fit into.

I was glad Hinata ended up with the guy she wanted - not only was Togo more likable than the guys in the previous stories, due to the whole "not acting as much like a potential rapist" thing, I also thought Hinata was the most likable of all the heroines. She was genuinely nice. She was the only one who never wished for more than she could easily pay for (until the end, when seeing her sister and Togo together really got to her), and one of her wishes wasn't even for herself, but rather for Togo. I might have felt iffy about the first story and hated the second one, but I like this one enough that I think I'll keep this manga just so I can have the story on hand for future rereading.

Read-alike:
  • Alice 19th (manga) by Yuu Watase - Can't get enough of stories featuring forbidden love in which a sister is in love with her sister's boyfriend? Then try this one out. The heroine in this one is like Alice, in that she's a bit shy and can't bring herself to tell anyone her true feelings. In her case, unfortunately, all those pent-up feelings and words she can't say cause a lot of problems that she's then got to try to fix.
"I'll Kill You With a Kiss":

When she was just a child, Riko's mother abandoned her so that her boyfriend wouldn't dump her. Riko was found and taken in by Yuu and Kai, two hot guys who work late nights as escorts. Yuu and Kai still look as good as they did the day they found Riko 11 years prior, and, unfortunately, now that Riko is older she's fallen in love with Yuu. She doesn't dare let him know, of course, but she's not sure what to do when Orihara, a popular guy at her school, asks her out.

One night, unable to help herself, Riko almost kisses Yuu while he's sleeping. Before she can do it, though, he wakes up, looking totally freaky and inhuman. He tells her to get out and, after that, he rarely comes home anymore. Riko decides to turn Orihara down (who responds to her rejection by trying to force himself on her - seriously, this is getting kind of annoying), sure now that she can love no one but Yuu. She goes looking for Yuu and finds him kissing a client, a woman who seems to mysteriously lose her memory after the kiss. Kai says some weird stuff to Yuu about how Yuu isn't eating enough and, what with them both not being human, Kai can't take Yuu to the hospital if he gets too weak. Shocking stuff, but Riko is most upset when Kai suggests Yuu sleep with Riko and Yuu responds, "I would rather die than sleep with Riko."

Riko gets hit by a car in her haste to run tearfully away, although Yuu saves her life by sharing his life energy with her. Unfortunately, he was weak to start with - he and Kai are part of a race that survives by feeding off of the life energy of women via sex, and Yuu hasn't been consuming enough life energy for nearly a year. After they feed off of someone, that person forgets they ever existed. If Yuu or Kai fed off of Riko, she would forget them. Riko decides she doesn't care - without her help, Yuu may die, so she refuses to take "no" for an answer when Yuu tells her to go away again. Unable to resist, Yuu admits he'd fallen in love with her and the two have sex. Happily for everyone, when Riko wakes up in the morning, she can still remember Yuu, possibly because Yuu had shared his own life energy with her.

Commentary:

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. On the one hand, I hate romantic stories involving siblings not related by blood. If you think about it, Yuu and Kai should basically be both Riko's dad and brother figures. Throughout the entire story, Riko calls them Yuu-nii and Kai-nii (-nii signifying that they're older brother figures to her), even after Yuu and Riko have had sex. To me, that's just icky.

On the other hand, though, Shigematsu is so good at ramping up the sexy that I found myself enjoying this story in spite of myself. I wondered pretty early on why Yuu and Kai still looked so good after 11 years, and the revelation that this story contained some fantasy elements was nice (I like fantasy and supernatural stories), even though the fantasy stuff didn't quite make sense (if Yuu and Kai feed off of life energy, and Yuu basically focused entirely on Riko by the end of the story, doesn't that mean she would die pretty quickly? not to mention, she's not immortal like Yuu and Kai are...).

I didn't hate this story as much as story 2, I thought it was more interesting than story 1, but it had too much of an "ick" factor for me to like it more than story 3.

Read-alike:
  • Crown (manga) story by Shinji Wada, art by You Higuri - I've only read 2 volumes of this so far, but Shigematsu's story instantly reminded me of this one - Crown also has two hot guys (although only one of them is the main female character's "sibling, but not by blood"), and there were at least hints that there was going to be some forbidden romance between the two sibling-not-related-by-blood.
"Chicken That Flies in the Sky":

Hariguchi is such a potent spirit medium that even people who can't normally see spirits can easily see her guardian spirit. As a result, she's 17 years old and has never had a boyfriend, because every guy she's ever been interested in or who has shown an interest in her has run away after seeing her guardian spirit. The only guy who keeps coming back is a guy who's from the Paranormal Phenomena Research club (try as I might, I can't find a single instance in this story where the guy's name is used, so his name will have to be Spirit Otaku). After finding out that Spirit Otaku is afraid of heights, Hariguchi is sure she'll get some peace if she just hangs out on the school roof, but even that doesn't keep him away. The only thing that gets him to leave is when he tries to offer her a letter and she smacks it away - as he's leaving, possibly for good, Hariguchi realizes that maybe she should try to see where things would go with him. She spots his letter in a tree and tries to get it. On the ground below, Spirit Otaku sees her and thinks she's going to try to jump. He climbs up after her, until Hariguchi assures him that she's just trying to get his letter. Unfortunately, Hariguchi and Spirit Otaku both fall at that moment. Thankfully, they're both saved by Hariguchi's guardian spirit, who also retrieves the letter for Hariguchi.

Commentary:

This story is pretty forgettable. Plus, it's older than all the other stories - it looks like Shigematsu's artwork can only suck me in as it is in its later form. As it is in this story, not so much. It's not really a bad story, but it's not all that good, either. It's just...bland. Additionally, I had "one of these things is not like the other" playing in my head while I read it - this story just doesn't fit with all the rest.

And why doesn't Spirit Otaku have a name? Did I miss it?

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