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)
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.

Click to read the selected highlights (lowlights?) of Haou Airen! Or don't, you probably have better things to do. )

So yeah, this manga is creepy, gross, and horrible. Don't read it unless you share the author's fucked up set of fetishes.
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)
Prompted by the MG Project, I've been buying and reading a lot of shojo manga lately. This is unusual for me because I usually approach reading shojo with the same caution I'd use when defusing a bomb. However the Magical Girl genre tends to be on the friendlier, less brain-bleach-necessitating side of shojo, and indeed I've been enjoying myself a lot as I plowed through assorted volumes of Sugar Sugar Rune, Shugo Chara, Sailor V, and Mermaid Melody.

Then I read Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne and I was like "Oh yeah, that's why I hardly ever read shojo. BECAUSE IT IS FREQUENTLY HORRIBLE."

I picked up this title because I'd heard that Arina Tanemura's work tends to be among the more angsty, dark, and subversive in the Magical Girl genre, and KKJ in particular had some later plot twists that really intrigued me. And Tanemura's art is quite good, even if her art style is the most terrifying goddamn thing I've ever seen. It's like shojo on steroids. THE EYES. THEY ARE TOO BIG.

Having finished the series, I find KKJ frustrating because it's such a mixed bag. In fact, I'll break it down:

As a Magical Girl story, it's quite good.
As an epic womance between a magical girl and her muggle bff, or between a magical girl and her mascot mentor, it's also pretty good.
As a het romance, it is freaking awful.

At this point, I'm going to dive into spoiler territory because I can't rant properly otherwise.

KKJ as a het romance — making me throw my book at the wall a lot )

In short, the het romance portion of KKJ is up to its eyeballs in everything I absolutely despise about shojo, which really soured the whole experience for me.

This post is getting long, so next time I'll talk about all the things that KKJ does right, especially in the vein of Dark And Subversive Magical Girl Narratives and Ladies Talking To Each Other And Being Ambiguously Gay.

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