- Apple Podcasts
- Bite Maker: The King’s Omega
- Birds of Shangri-La
- Painter of the Night
0:00:01.8 : Welcome to a bonus episode of stitch talks ish… A manga episode! I treated myself to a largely SuBLime manga haul the other day and I’d like to share the fruits of all of that reading. Every so often, you just have to take a break from the “real world” and spend time doing and reading something you love greatly. For me, that’s largely Boys Love. I don’t actually get to read as much BL as I used to, but I cut my teeth on Love Mode back in the day and I do keep up with what’s being published these days even if I don’t have the time to read it all. I had a rough week a little while ago and, in response, decided to treat myself to some books I’d heard good things about.
So this is a little bonus episode of Stitch Talks Ish where I do a quick sip manga review for the five titles I bought! Please note that I’ll be talking about series with sexually explicit content and violence and definite issues of consent [at best]. Also spoilers… There will be spoilers.
0:01:07.2 : I’ll start with the non-sublime title and then move on to the rest.
0:01:11.9 : The First book that I bought was the first volume of Miwako Sugiyama’s Bite Maker: The Kings Omega. This is original male/female Omegaverse published by Seven Seas. So far, there’s a lot of potential for this series because it is my actual favorite trope slash world building setting [omegaverse], but.
0:01:33.8 : Then I have to negotiate my love of the trope with my annoyance with the high school setting, because this is a josei series – or an adult assumed female audience and has themes to match – but then the characters are high schoolers. In this world, as most fandom approaches to the trope, betas are the most common sub sex or gender, they can never really settle on what the designations are… Alphas are rare. Super beautiful and super powerful. Then omegas are basically an endangered sex or gender, and they’re the only ones that powerful alphas want/deserve. From the jump, it’s clear that Bite Maker is going to play the tropes pretty straight, literally. Omegaverse is a bio and gender essentialist, semi-dystopia. It’s fun for me, but not everyone’s cup of tea, so watching the main character Nobunaga – at 17 or 18 – rant about needing an omega to fill with His seed is fucking hilarious to me because it’s just like I have read worse on purpose in fandom, I’ve written more direct, omegaverse… And then Noel, The Secret Omega, he falls – finds and falls for is adorable, she’s giving me 90s heroine that doesn’t know how beautiful she is, but also hides her true self behind big glasses and braids.
0:03:03.1 : In this universe, betas are irrationally attractive and they’re susceptible to Alpha orders. At the start of the book, one of nobunaga’s beta servants kisses him without his consent because he’s just so overwhelmed by the dude’s pheromones and then Noel’s friend, Iyo goes into full “present for the alpha and offer to carry his babies” mode when she comes hunting for him, because she thinks he’s her soulmate. Omegas are affected by the pheromones, but they’re not subject to Alpha orders. So nobunaga is able to activate Noel’s Omega urges, but he can’t control her. I genuinely don’t know what will come next for this series, the first volume is a little slow compared to other series I’ve read, and I cannot take nobunaga’s alpha supremacist rants seriously. But I do wanna see what will happen next. It’s giving me the same vibes as Pedoro Toriumi’s Black Panther and Sweet 16, a high school setting with a slow to be compelling cast that winds up in stressful sexy situations. Basically, if you treat this like a CW show where all the teens are played by adults, things will be so much easier for you…
Now, on to the sublime stuff.
0:04:24.5 : First, there’s MADK, Basically. The title on the cover is an acronym for the full title Motsu Akuma to Danshi Koukousei – by Suzuri Ryo.If you like ero-guro – which is erotic gore – demons, monster boning, etc, please read this book. I beg of you. Read it and then come talk to me about it. Only the first volume is out in English but it’s so worth it. Let’s get into it:
As everyone knows, I really loved Tokyo Ghoul despite Ishida-sensei’s kind of inconsistent art and definitely inconsistent world-building. So the summary for… The basic summary for MADK is that this teenager, Japanese teenager, Makoto has a deep desire to eat flesh, and he doesn’t wanna hurt people. Or he doesn’t wanna hurt another human being, so he does research and he summons a demon, the demon J into his world. So, you know, in exchange for his soul and his life, he gets to eat this demon. And so the first part of the book, the first like 30, 40 pages, is the summoning and immediate aftermath with Mako like… Just going to town on this demon. And then he hits a point where he does the sex with the demon – calling it that it kind of minimizes what actually happens on the page, but if I were to describe what happens on the page, I don’t think anyone would continue listening, but I will say that those of you in the know, the word “thrussy” is absolutely apt here. I will not explain in any further detail because it is disturbing, but it is apt.
0:06:29.8 : And so after that part of the book is done and Mako, essentially is like, “Yeah, I’m good, I’m done. I’ve had my fill, I’ve had my fun. You can do what you want with me”. He is killed by the demon J and is taken to hell, and there is where we get into the really interesting stuff, because J wants to turn Mako into a demon. It’s very interesting because you think that Mako is this sweet, innocent character at first, he’s very adorable, and you would assume, “Oh, okay, this kid is absolutely, absolutely going to be eaten alive by demons”, and every so often you get a glimpse of Mako’s true self that reminds you who he is and what he’s doing. There are a couple of demons introduced across the series, younger, not younger demon, but older demons with different skill sets, essentially, and it’s very interesting, there’s Fjord [F-J-O-R-D] he’s introduced alongside Datensho. These are two demons that J has in his employ at a brothel that Mako works at as a waitstaff, basically to kind of get a bead on what it means to be a demon and what demons really like, and there’s a moment where…
0:08:15.0 : After the book’s Second sex scene, not as consensual as the first, they’re having dinner, essentially… Or a conversation over dinner and Mako is sitting there and just going through it. Like he’s having the Light from death note, villain, serial killer monologue. And it is the funniest thing I’ve ever read, and I just really love this, I love the book a lot, I’ve been recommending it to people, I bought one of my friends a copy instantly, I was like, “If you like this, for Christmas, I’ll get you both volumes in print”, because it is incredibly… My thing…
I love gore. I’ve been trying to find really good erotic horror books, especially queer erotic horror, and that’s very difficult because most erotic horror and out of manga is very heterosexual, aimed at subjugating women/femmes. It’s not fun. So this book where there is just a significant amount of violence that is very well done and that is very beautifully handled, but it’s also not like “I’m punishing you for being queer, I’m not punishing you for being a woman”, in fact, in the second kind of uncomfortable sex scene2 is a reward. It’s just not necessarily the reward Mako wanted…
I really love this series, and I think that it’s something that everyone who’s into this kind of content or Who read Tokyo ghoul and was like, “Okay, but when does this get sexy? When does this get sexy?” ah – just read it?
After that, I read jealousy Volume 1, which is a prequel to Scarlet Beriko’s “Fourth Generation Head: Tatsuyuki Oyamato”.
0:10:16.3 : This story fills in blanks and serves up some really interesting stories about Rogi Uichi’s early life. I think it’s a dark and bittersweet story with gorgeous art and an unsettling air across it. By the time I’d actually picked this up, I’d forgotten that I’d read the follow up series for Fourth Generation Head so I was kinda coming into it cold so lots of gasping across the first volume.
the flashback is – flashbacks are how this story is pretty much told. Flashbacks are interspersed with scenes from the present with an older Uichi, a kid that’s clearly the Yakuza dude’s daughter and Hachi, the two bit scammer they take in. The way that the series is shaping up, it looks like… We’re gonna find out what happened to the mafia dude, the yakuza dude that Uichi as a young man in his 20s in the 80s, was kind of obsessed with, like willing to put himself in serious personal danger over the sky, and where… ’cause we’re gonna find it. What happened to him? And I’m not looking forward to it because I can already tell the dude died. I just can’t tell when he died, but this series is at seven years, six or seven years after whatever happened in the past.
0:11:48.2 : I really like it. Scarlet Beriko does really gorgeous bodies, really, really great faces. Everybody’s nice, long emotive faces. The plot is fascinating. I love it, I think it would actually be a really good series, like TV series, but no one would give me the money to make it. But it is very much that kind of raw disturbing set up kind of like the wire, it has big… The wire energy. And I love it.
Also, jealousy is the manga where if you saw on social media last year, I think either last year or early this year, where there’s a white guy who’s clearly inspired by home boy who plays Hannibal on the show, Mads Mikkelsen. It’s just a single page appearance, but it’s incredible and definitely funny, and he does fit the part of a mafia dude. I think I really love this series so far, ’cause these are all volume ones I’m going into, so I could change my mind next month when I buy the – buy some more… But I really love the series because Uichi as a young man is just really weird. This is all about manipulations and anger and trying to find your place in the world…
0:13:31.8 : I don’t know, I just really like it.
And so before I go on to review the other two books I read, I do need you all to know that out of all the books I’ve read in the haul, and out of all the characters that I’ve come across, Makoto, from madk and the young version of Uichi are my favorites because they’re so fucked up. I don’t know how to describe it, but these are morally murky manipulative characters who are so hungry – to belong, to have something their own for family to eat demonic flesh and be eaten in return, and Mako’s case – are just so lovely to me. They just are. I don’t wanna be them. Or even be friends with them, but I wanna learn more about what makes them tick. That’s what I want the most, and that’s what I hope I get from future… Volumes of both Jealousy and MADK.
After Jealousy is the first volume of Ranmaru Zariya’s Coyote. My friend Sonia actually mentioned that this was kind of omegaverse adjacent and obviously, I had to dive in. I do love werewolves to pieces and this take on wereWolves is one that I really liked.
0:14:46.5 : Off the jump, I’ll say that if you enjoyed gangsta, the manga and anime series, that was like really big on Tumblr, like two or three years ago with the potential poly triad that I hope will one day be a thing… You’ll probably like this series. It has the same energy, even though the only similarity that they truly have in common is the organized crime aspect, ’cause there are no werewolves in gangsta, just like super powered humans. This also kind of has a similar energy to the dogs series, I don’t remember what the creator’s name is, but it’s the one that also is… Around organized crime.
I don’t know, I just really like that kind of crime family, breaking free from your crime family kind of story. So when I first read it, I thought this was the most familiar of the series, and you’ll see why I changed my mind in a little bit, but the narrative about persecuted werewolves, Josh, who is the Zechs Merquise looking motherfucker in the first part, and he’s the… I guess top, going up against his family for love of Coyote, the fuck or die heat scenario, that’s all very fandom-y and I did enjoy that.
0:16:13.9 : I don’t know, I just think this is a very good series. It’s so stressful. So you’re introduced to Coyote and Josh who call each other, by fake names for most of the book of the first volume. Coyote calls Josh Marlene, like Marlene Dietrich, that’s on purpose, that’s a reference to that… To that actress, and Josh calls Coyote Lily. I don’t remember why, but it is said in the book, and it’s a ships in the night scenario to an extent, with Josh constantly trying to get Coyote to go out with him, Coyote going, No, I can’t… And you find out that Coyote is a werewolf at roughly around the same time that that Josh understands what that means. Because Coyote goes into heat, Coyote goes into heat, and I mean, the fully fannish heat scene. This is another – There are brothels in almost every single thing that I have bought actually, because there’s a brothel here too, there is an intersex sex worker who features in a threesome named or nicknamed Hermes, I think might be herMA, because they’re trying for… To just hammer it in that this is an intersex sex worker, but yeah, I just realized that all of the books that I bought except for bite maker involve sex work and sex workers in some capacity.
0:18:00.0 : Alright, cool. So after that initial sex scene, Josh is like, “No, I can’t do this anymore, I come back to my place. Like now that I’ve had a taste of you, I can’t let you go” and it’s really clear from the beginning of that moment what the relationship between Josh and Cody will be and how it’s gonna be this back and forth chasing desire, chasing this forbidden passion thing. And I really love the experience of reading it, the art is kind of sketchy at points, but then it’s a sharp sudden shift, so you’ll be like, Oh, this is really, really well sketchy, and then it gets detailed. I think my favorite thing would have to be how the sex scenes are very lovingly rendered and the perspectives are not difficult to keep up with either some sex scenes in manga, like fight scenes can be tricky to render, but Ranmaru aces it every time. I also love the language, thanks to the translators deft hand. There’s one point where Josh tells Coyote, “next time I see you, I have something to tell you. It’s not something I want others to know, just you, but for now, let me lose myself in the joy I feel over you coming to see me”.
When I tell you that I swooned.
0:19:28.7 : There are crime and forbidden love aspects of this manga. And again, it’s just a sexy and stressful read, I wanna see where this goes because this has to play out poorly, Josh is the heir to werewolf hunting mafia legacy, lost his parents to werewolves, and then Coyote is functionally an Omega who falls in love with him and has been charged with hunting him in order to end the clash between their… His pack and Josh’s mafia family. This can’t end well.
And then the final book in my haul is also from Ranmaru. It’s the first book in her birds of Shangri la series. This book is again, explicitly about sex workers, it’s set in a brothel, I bought it knowing that I bought it with my fond memories of love mode and Hoshi No Yakata in mind, but also the full knowledge that BL like Romancelandia occasionally drop kicks the ball when it comes to portraying sex work and sex workers in a way that is satisfying and not dehumanizing.
Set in the titular brothel, the story were walls around newbie Apollo, [who’s supposedly straight] learning the ropes to be a fluffer from Phi, the one of the top tier workers in the brothel – and is there a different word for that I’ve said brothel a bunch of times across this, and it just feels very old-fashioned.
But like those two series I mentioned – love mode and Hoshi No Yakata, again – this series kind of focused on a bunch of rules that will obviously get broken in the pursuit of passion. As a fluffer, Apollo isn’t supposed to get his fluff-ee off, fall in love with his fluff-ee or go inside them, period.
0:21:21.2 : And he’d get fired for that, and as you find out across the book, there’s a reason why Apollo supposedly straight dude is at Shangri La and he does not want to leave.
And when I said, I would tell you guys that I would take back what I said about Coyote, birds of Shangri La is a story type that I’ve read repeatedly in other Manga, and I think that Ranmaru does bring new flavor to the tropes. For one thing, it’s made very clear really early on that everyone’s there because they want to be, and that they can choose to do anything, but they chose Shangri La There’s currently no savior narrative like Johns saving sex workers from themselves or the plight of sex work, but I’ll keep an eye out for it because it is possible right now… Well, it’s mostly there is a little bit of Apollo trying to save Phi from himself, but it’s in the context of them both being just ridiculously emotional people, I guess… This is the least unsettling out of the five series I started… It’s softer, more tender or emotional moments as opposed to sexy violence, there is violence here too, to be clear, but so far not between the leads.
0:22:44.8 : There is one moment where Phi is going to town on Apollo that’s interspersed with flashbacks to Phi’s time as a potentially under-age sex worker, and that was a bit tough to go through even though it is super necessary to understanding Phi’s character. I think that it’s comparable in these moments to slices of Banana Fish maybe.
Where the series does suffer a smudge, like a drop for me, is that Ranmaru can do dark skin. Phi is dark-skinned. Probably my complexion at the lightest, but not black characters, it doesn’t drop me out of the book, but the one appearance of a black character in a conversation is not great.
Anyway, I actually like this book a lot, it feels fragile. The sex workers at Shangri La are called birds, but they really feel like butterflies, so slight and easily torn and Phi feels extra fragile. I really just wanna see where this all goes because it’s just way more self-contained and intimate than I expected it to be.
Also a bonus, I didn’t cover it here above previously, but I will elsewhere in the future, if you like these sorts of stories, please go read painter of the night, it’s an ongoing manhwa by Byeonduck, which is being published in English by Lezhin comics.
0:24:15.0 : Main character, Yoon Seungho is extremely my type and in line with Uichi and Mako, but with more trauma behind him.
He’s a sadist more so – these two, those previous two were kind of more masochistic… He’s a sadist dealing with trauma, and he’s just really interesting.
If you need warning for the series, let me know, you need detailed warnings for anything that I’ve mentioned in this. Hit me up.
Thanks for listening to my bonus episode, and I hope you all love the books, I’ve read and recommended. Everything I’ve recommended is in progress, so I’ll speak about them on social media or on my website in the future, just to update all on how they’re going. Please keep an eye out for that. Thank you so much for listening.