the_sun_is_up: Yahtzee's speech bubble has been censored by a black bar that has the text "horrible things" written on it. (zero p - horrible things)
[personal profile] the_sun_is_up
It’s time for another episode of I Make Really Terrible Life Choices. Because I am, as always, a hopeless masochist. In fact, I’ll just come right out with it:

Haou Airen

Those of you who have heard of this thing are doubtless already facepalming and/or hurling nearby objects across the room. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, I’ll try to explain:

Mayu Shinjo is a mangaka who could be described as the queen of Horrible Brain-Scarring Shojo. I don’t know if she’s the worst, but she’s definitely up there. The lady has got a massive rape fetish and all of her works prominently feature the Bastard Boyfriend archetype. Hell, one of her BB leading men is actually Satan. You know, the Satan? You can’t get any more Bastard Boyfriendy than that! But until now, I only knew about Shinjo's work second-hand, via TV Tropes. Until now, I’d managed to resist morbid curiousity. But then a TV Tropes image link happened and suddenly it was 7 am this morning and I was finally going to sleep after mainlining the whole thing in one sitting.

Which brings us to Haou Airen, which I gather is Shinjo’s darkest work so far. Oh come on, “dark” is an understatement — it’s basically a giant tsunami of ~sexy~ rape scenes glued together with plot. It was licensed and almost got an English release, but was cancelled at the last minute when the publishers found out what was actually in it. Hey, just like Kodomo no Jikan! However I’m pleased to report that reading Haou Airen was only a mildly horrible experience because a) I’m jaded ever since reading Hot Gimmick and b) this manga is actually pretty funny. How is that even possible? One word: MELODRAMA. Even horrifying subject matter can be narm-ified when paired with stupid dialogue and even stupider plotting, and Haou Airen is so overwrought and has so many ridiculously bone-headed plot twists that it becomes darkly hilarious in the sense of “I can’t believe someone got paid to write this horseshit.”

Speaking of plot, it boils down to this: naive innocent ordinary high-schooler Kurumi happens upon wounded bishie Triad boss Hakuron and tends to his injuries. He thanks her by whisking her off to Hong Kong with the intention of making her his mistress. That’s about it. I didn’t read the first 15ish chapters, but I glean that Hakuron was relatively nice to Kurumi during them and the two were kind of falling in love. However, the shit hits the fan in chapter 16 when Hakuron murders Kurumi’s secretly-evil best friend right in front of her, causing her to turn on him and declare that she hates him. So Hakuron has to figure out some way to make her stay with him. You can all probably guess where this is going.



Yep, he rapes her. Holy understatement of the century Batman! What I meant to say was: he rapes her for three days and nights straight. Because he loves her and wants her to stay with him, natch. And I thought Hot Gimmick was bad! And these aren’t fade-to-blacks, either — Mayu Shinjo loves her some explicit sex scenes and lingers on all the juicy details of the raping.

Actually this is the super-depressing not-narmy-melodrama part of the story, because then Kurumi escapes Hakuron’s pad and stumbles around the city and gets taken in by this sweet boy named Kaafai whose family has a restaurant, and I’m like “Wow, this guy is so kind and generous and nice. ... something horrible is going to happen to him, right?” Sure enough, Hakuron quickly catches up to Kurumi and tells her that she should come back to him because It’s Not Rape If You Enjoyed It (which she did). Kurumi starts to go with him, Kaafai tries to save her, and Hakuron sees that the two have developed squishy feelings for each other, so he brings them both back to his house where Kaafai is tied up and forced to watch as Hakuron rapes Kurumi. Christ on a cracker. I guess we can add netorare to Mayu Shinjo’s list of fetishes.

But after that, the manga takes a turn for the stupid. Not long after the Kaafai clusterfuck, Kurumi develops a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome for Hakuron, just like he hoped for. Hilariously, this occurs right when Hakuron realizes that oh crap, if his mafia enemies find out that he’s in love with Kurumi, they’ll totally do horrible things to her and/or use her as a hostage to get stuff from him. To save her life, he has to break up with her, Moulin Rouge style. So we’re treated to a bunch of scenes where Hakuron’s trying to be all “I hate you! I never loved you! Go home, Lassie! Shoo!” and Kurumi’s like “Nope, sorry, you Stockholm’d me for good, I still wuv you.” He even resorts to making her be the mistress of his right-hand man instead. None of this works, partly because Hakuron’s “Lassie go home” act is really unconvincing, and partly because Kurumi is a shojo love martyr and no amount of abuse could make her leave her Bastard Boyfriend.

I’ll just run through the other Hilariously Stupid Plot Points in bullet-point:

-In Chapter 30ish, Hakuron gets knifed by some random mafia guy, so Kurumi donates a blood transfusion to save his life (because of course they have the same blood type). At this point, the two are having a lot of relationship angst stemming from how they can’t be together because blah blah Hakuron’s enemies. So when Hakuron wakes up and finds out about Kurumi’s blood donation, he’s like “Omg now she’s ~inside my body~ permanently!” And then he bites open the skin on his wrist and starts lapping up the blood because ~omg it’s Kurumi’s blood too!~ and even though they ~tragically~ can’t be together in real life, at least they can be together in his bloodstream. And um, in his digestive system I guess. SO EMO, YOU GUYS. SOOOOOOO EMO.

-In Chapter 35, something happened that made me lean back from the computer screen and go “Mayu Shinjo... you’re a hack!

Our lovely couple are having angst because Kurumi slept with Hakuron’s right-hand man, and now she’s being all “I AM THE WORST PERSON EVER, I BETRAYED YOU, YOU SHOULD HATE ME” and Hakuron’s like “Uh, I really don’t mind, because you only did it because you were mad at me for treating you like shit, plus I was the one who forced you to become my right-hand man’s mistress in the first place,” and Kurumi’s like “NOOOOO YOU’RE WRONG, I AM HORRIBLE” and then

then

she trips, falls down the stairs, bumps her head, and loses all her memories of Hakuron, the mafia, and everything that’s happened in the series so far.

HA!

How wonderfully convenient! Because now she and Hakuron can start their relationship anew and be all lovey-dovey without the obstacle of her being traumatized by his constant rapes! Isn’t that great?

And it’s super creepy too — there’s this scene shortly after Kurumi wakes up and Hakuron tells her that they’re lovers and she asks him what their relationship was like and he’s like “Oh yeah, we were very happy together and we never argued” and I’m like “ugghgghgh I need to take a shower now.”

She does get her memories back about 10 chapters later, not that it hurts their relationship any because duh, Stockholm Syndrome.

-In Chapter 47ish, Hakuron flips out when he sees someone else’s hickey on Kurumi’s neck even though he just rescued her from yet another rape attempt by his arch-enemy and why are you getting all surprised by this? And then he takes out a gun, points it at Kurumi’s head (and sticks it in her mouth, in case this scene wasn’t yet rapey enough for your taste), and tells her that he’s going to kill her unless she swears to love him and only him. WTF. And of course Kurumi is like “Dude, I’ve had Stockholm Syndrome for you since like chapter 25, where the hell have you been? This gun shit is completely unnecessary!”

-And then in the end, they’re at the church about to get married when Kaafai shows up and shoots Hakuron dead. Actually that wasn’t stupid, I liked that part.

Some other observations:

-Remember how I mentioned Kurumi’s secretly-evil back-stabbing “best friend” who dies early on? Yeah, she’s the only other female character in this whole manga, apart from Kurumi’s mom who shows up very rarely. I think it’s gross how these rape-and-abuse-fetish shojo mangas tend to act exactly like an abusive partner by cutting the heroine off from developing any friendships, particularly with fellow girls. Hot Gimmick did the same thing — Hatsumi’s only female friend was her sister, who wasn’t very fond of her, and the only other girls in the manga were the clique of bullies who kicked her around at school.

-In addition to all the completed rapes, Kurumi also suffers plenty of attempted rapes. I honestly lost count, but I think it was about 6 times by at least two individuals and one group, with her usually getting rescued by Hakuron, natch. And in Haou Airen, attempted rape doesn’t mean you get let off easy — by the time Kurumi gets rescued, her would-be rapist has usually done everything to her except stick it in, so depending on one's definition, those could also count as completed rapes.

-After Kurumi’s Stockholm Syndrome sets it, her sex scenes with Hakuron get kind of weird. There’ll even be scenes where she’s the one who initiates it or is even pleading with Hakuron to sex her up, and it’s like Mayu Shinjo was thinking “Oh shit, this is a manga for rape fetishists, but now that she’s all googly for him, their sex scenes aren’t going to be rapey enough! I’ll lose all my readers! Ummm, quick, have Kurumi go ‘Nooooo’ and ‘stop’ a few times and look really miserable during the sex even though it doesn’t make sense in the context of the scene.”

-Y’know, even if the sex scenes weren’t all non-con/dub-con, they’d still be pretty unsexy because Mayu Shinjo’s art is kinda fug. Her anatomy needs work and the way she draws female faces is... weird. The eyes are too far apart or something. It’s enough to make me yearn for Arina Tanemura’s Giant Eyes of Dooooom.

So yeah, this manga is creepy, gross, and horrible. Don't read it unless you share the author's fucked up set of fetishes.

Date: 2012-08-27 01:31 am (UTC)
softestbullet: Aeryn and Pilot. (MtH/ you're playing with my heart dear)
From: [personal profile] softestbullet
-And then in the end, they’re at the church about to get married when Kaafai shows up and shoots Hakuron dead. Actually that wasn’t stupid, I liked that part.

Omg, did this really happen? I hope this really happened.

Date: 2013-07-25 04:57 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Nice to see I'm not the only one who enjoyed the scene where Hakuron gets killed. I read this thing in like a day and it irked me how half the comments in that final chapter were girls sobbing for Hakuron's death. I think I was the only one cheering Kafai on.

Anyways, great review, this was without a doubt one of the worst manga's I've ever read. I'm actually planning on doing a "Top 5 worst manga" list and this one would definetley place 1st.

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