Saturday, June 2, 2012

Wild Rock (manga) by Kazusa Takashima

In case you're not familiar with Blu, it was the imprint under which Tokyopop published BL manga (or boys' love, yaoi, or whatever the most commonly used fan term is now - trying to look up the proper terminology just made me more confused). The back of this manga indicates that it is rated "Mature."

I did a bit of searching, and it looks like there's an extra, involving a slightly older Nava, that was never included in Blu's release of Wild Rock. Or at least it's not in my volume.


This manga is set in prehistoric times and is composed of three stories.

"Wild Rock"

This is the longest of the stories. Yuuen is the heir to one clan, while Emba is the heir to another. Both clans have been warring for some time, and Yuuen's clan keeps losing game to Emba's clan. Knowing that something must be done, Yuuen's father comes up with a plan. He instructs Yuuen to dress and act like a girl, seduce Emba, and, er, somehow use this to the clan's advantage. I'm not entirely clear on the details of this "plan." Anyway, it seems to work, and the two young men fall for each other. Yuuen, however, believes Emba has only fallen for him because he thinks he's a girl. Feeling guilty about lying to Emba, Yuuen calls off his father's plan...but then Emba visits Yuuen's clan and reveals the things he had been hiding from Yuuen. This story has a happy ending.

"Innocent Lies"

This story takes place further in the past and stars Yuuen and Emba's fathers (oh yes, the two have a history together). Yuni (Yuuen's father) gets angry after some of his clan members complain about having to put up with him just because he's heir to the clan. For some reason, this prompts him to try to find an oath flower (a difficult-to-find flower that young men give to women they'd like to propose to). Unfortunately, he gets injured by a trap set by Selem (Emba's father). Yuni doesn't know, at first, that Selem is the heir to an enemy clan. As Selem takes care of Yuni's injury, the two young men gradually grow more attracted to each other. Unfortunately, their respective positions mean that they can never be together. This story has a bittersweet ending.

"Child Rock"

This story is a bit of fluff for those who want to see how Emba and Yuuen's relationship has worked out. Emba's brother now has a child named Nava, and Emba and Yuuen are bathing him before taking him back to Yuuen's brother and his wife. Yuuen's brother is apparently clueless and has no idea that Yuuen and Emba's relationship is anything other than symbolic.


I originally wrote up a longer, more detailed explanation of what prompted me to buy, read, and review this, but it morphed into a giant rant about libraries, collection development policies, and the dangers of saying "we don't collect porn" without bothering to define the word "porn." So I'll just move on to the review.

Before rereading this, I vaguely remembered it as being little more than an excuse for hot caveman sex. Now...well, I was kind of right, although there wasn't as much sex as I remembered (a grand total of two sex scenes, which take up a fairly small percentage of the volume). There isn't much plot, and what there is doesn't quite make sense. But still. The result is kind of sweet, and, while I think I'm a little more critical of it than I was when I first read it back in grad school, I liked it overall.

If for some reason you pick this up for the story, you may be disappointed. I still don't understand why Yuuen's father's very first suggestion for how to deal with Emba's clan was for Yuuen to dress and act like a girl. First off, why was seducing the clan's heir the best way to go? Second, why Yuuen? Oh, and why did it never occur to Yuuen that Emba would have noticed he didn't have breasts when they hugged? Later, when Yuuen and Emba are married in order to unite the clans, I wondered about the way clan inheritance worked. Would Yuuen and Emba still be expected to father children? Could Yuuen's brother's son become the next heir instead? Then, during “Innocent Lies,” I wondered why Yuni and Selem couldn't have gotten married to unite their clans, the way Emba and Yuuen did. I suppose I could make something up about Yuni and Selem's fathers starting the feud and therefore not being as receptive to uniting the clan...but that would be pure speculation, because no answers are given in the volume itself.

Do you know why I read this back in college, though? It wasn't the story that caught my attention. I saw the front and back cover illustrations, and I was hooked, just like that. (Um. The humor and general sweetness of the stories helped, too. Yes.)

Takashima sticks with stereotypical character designs. Yuuen and young Yuni have slight builds, and Takashima emphasizes this by having Yuuen dress as a girl. Yuuen has a fairly gentle personality and is more suited to taking care of a wounded Emba than hunting. Young Yuni is more combative and maybe a bit bratty, but still designed to be cuter than, say, Emba or Selem. Emba and young Selem both have more muscular builds, even though they're supposedly about the same age as Yuuen and young Yuni. Emba is quiet, capable, and protective, while young Selem seems similar, only maybe a little more easy-going.

When I first read this, I hadn't read much like it before, so the character types didn't seem quite so stereotypical to me. During my reread, the stereotypes were more noticeable, and it bothered me a little that Emba and young Selem were so much more capable than Yuuen and young Yuni. This was more clearly shown, I think, in Emba and Yuuen's story.

Every time Yuuen tried to hunt, he had to be saved. In one instance, his lack of hunting ability and knowledge of how to protect himself got Emba injured. As far as I can tell, the only useful things Yuuen got to do were bandage Emba's injuries (which he indirectly caused) and charm Emba with his gentleness and pretty face. At one point, Yuuen's brother says “Women have it too easy! Not having to hunt... They live a nice, easy life.” There is nothing in the volume to disprove this, since women show up rarely and the only demonstrated “task” they perform is bear children. If you think of Yuuen in the role of “woman,” then there's a little more data to work with...but it's still disappointing stuff. Emba seemed perfectly fine with Yuuen sitting around and doing nothing but admiring him as he hunted, and he didn't mind giving Yuuen some of his game as gifts.

Getting back to the stuff I liked about this manga... I didn't know it when I first read Wild Rock, but I got lucky in the way the relationships played out. Both of the sex scenes are consensual, hurray! “Wild Rock,” my favorite of the three stories, is very sweet, and I was glad that it ended happily, even if I was left wondering how clan inheritance was going to work. Even though I didn't like “Innocent Lies” as much, I loved the bit where Yuni gave Selem the necklace that marked him as his clan's heir. It made for an even better reread of “Wild Rock” - keep an eye out of the little moment when older Yuni notices the necklace wrapped around older Selem's wrist!

Another thing I liked about this volume was its touches of humor. Takashima didn't take things too seriously. I loved that older Yuni and older Selem very much knew that their sons were in love and did not just have a symbolic marriage...while Yuuen's brother was completely, utterly oblivious. I also admit to laughing a bit after reading the re-write of the first scene, although I'd argue that Yuuen caused Emba far more trouble than Emba ever caused Yuuen.

Overall, this manga is a pleasant bit of fluff that happens to have a couple on-page sex scenes. Even several years later, I still like the visuals and find the romance between Emba and Yuuen to be sweet. I just wish that Yuuen could have had a chance to demonstrate at least one useful skill.


There are an extra couple pages that re-do the first scene of the manga: instead of killing the big cat that was about to attack Yuuen, Emba gets swallowed whole by it. Poor Emba. There are also a few sketches throughout the volume, as well as an author's note about each of the stories.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • ElfQuest (graphic novel series) by Wendy and Richard Pini - The series is also set in prehistoric times, at least initially. There are several different species in this series, including humans, elves, and trolls, although the elves are the series' focus. Those who liked Wild Rock's romance, occasional action, and setting may enjoy this series. If you have problems finding the various volumes, you can read the whole series online. From what I can tell, it's all legally and freely available to read.
  • Only the Ringer Finger Knows (manga) story by Satoru Kannagi, art by Hotaru Odagiri - "Child Rock" made me think of this series, which has a somewhat similar moment. This is another BL manga, although it contains no sex, only kissing. Story-wise, it's pretty different from Wild Rock, but its sweetness and slight angsty-ness means it may still appeal to fans of that manga.
  • Junjou Romantica (manga) by Shungiku Nakamura; Junjou Romantica (anime TV series) - I don't know how easy it is to get the manga, which is many volumes long and was published by in English by Blu (which unfortunately means it's out of print), but the anime is very much available. Those who'd like another series with strong adherence to BL physical character types may want to give this a try. Like Wild Rock, it also has some comedic elements. I haven't read the manga or seen the anime, so I don't know what the sexual content is like, but I think it may be similar to Wild Rock (on page/screen, with sex scenes in the manga likely being more explicit than sex scenes in the anime).
  • Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi - World's Greatest First Love (anime TV series) - The manga was licensed by Tokyopop, which means it's probably now stuck in license limbo. From what I can tell, Tokyopop never released any volumes of it before the company went belly up. The anime, however, can be watched in English-subtitled form via Crunchyroll. Those who'd like something else that mixes humor, relationship angst, and romance and adheres strictly to uke/seme personality and physical appearance conventions may want to try this. I've written about the anime.
  • Princess Princess (manga) by Mikiyo Tsuda; Princess Princess (anime TV series) - If you'd like more manga with forced cross-dressing in it, you might want to try this series, which isn't quite BL but comes close. It's a series about an all boys' school that has a special Princess system, whereby the prettiest students dress as girls in order to inject joy and feminine beauty into students' school life. If you don't take it too seriously, it's a funny series. I've written about the first volume of the manga.

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