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Nijuu Rasen: Awesome crazy melodrama with bonus gay incest [Aug. 9th, 2010|08:54 pm]
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I had a grand old time reading the latest volume of the Nijuu Rasen series by Yoshihara Rieko (5 volumes total so far: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Why? Because it's an insane soap opera with incestuous gay sex between two hot brothers thrown in. The author ratchets up the crazy with each volume, which makes me so happy. If only she'd cut out her really tedious and overlong sex scenes and her utterly ridiculous passages droning on and on about some abstract concept, this series would be perfect. But I've learned to skim the aforementioned bad parts and just get to the good parts (you know, the action that actually advances the plot or provides meaningful character development/interaction).

I ended up doing a quick summary of the entire series just so that I can cackle over the last bit of the last volume. I may have forgotten stuff because I didn't bother to refer to the books, but I think I got the important bits.

Once upon a time, the Shinomiya family was very happy. There was a father who provided, a beautiful mother who took care of the kids, and four lovely siblings. The oldest, Masaki, was gorgeous and smart and perfect and shiny. The second child, Sayaka, was beautiful and strong willed and adored Masaki. The third child, Naoto, was quiet and obedient but didn't easily bend to the will of his stronger willed siblings. He also adored Masaki. The youngest, Yuuta, was indulged and headstrong. One day the family falls apart when the father leaves them. He's had a mistress for years and finally chooses her. The mother refuses to divorce him and he doesn't provide any support (he tries to leverage support for a divorce). The only thing they have is the house. The mother works until she breaks down emotionally and physically. Masaki takes over taking care of the family. Yuuta, mad at everything, becomes a hikikomori. The mother, unwell, thinks Masaki is his father and they begin to have sex. Masaki just can't refuse his sick, confused mother. Naoto finds out, but is gently but firmly silenced by Masaki. Then Sayaka finds out and makes a scene. She lashes out at both her mother and her brother, and tells her mother that she should die. She rushes out of the house and never returns. She goes to live with her maternal grandparents. The mother is found dead the next day, having overdosed on meds. Masaki thinks she just made a mistake when taking her meds, but others (including Sayaka) think she committed suicide.

Masaki becomes a successful model and takes care of Naoto and Yuuta. He finds himself attracted to Naoto and tries to stay away. But one night he comes home completely drunk, and when Naoto tries to help him to bed he rapes him brutally. Afterwards, Masaki decides to embrace his immoral self and seduces Naoto. Naoto is terribly traumatized by the assault, but Masaki carefully draws Naoto in by being comforting and by gently threatening Naoto (I might turn to Yuuta if you refuse).

One day Naoto is met by a girl from another school at the gates of his high school. His friends think she's going to confess to him, but in fact she's come to berate him. She's the younger daughter of Naoto's father's girlfriend. She's been told that the two won't get married even though he's free after the death of Naoto's mother because his kids are against it. She's been taken care of very lovingly by Naoto's father and wants her sister to be happy. Naoto is pissed and tells her off. They have no contact with their worthless father who'd abandoned them to near poverty and couldn't care less if he married or not. The sister is in shock. She hadn't been told anything inconvenient to her sister and Naoto's father. Her childhood friend, a delinquent who'd given her a ride on his scooter or motorcycle, gets mad at Naoto for making her cry. He decides to get Naoto back. He proposes to his really worthless friends that they play a "game." They'll attack guys commuting to good schools on bikes. Naoto is a guy commuting to a good school on a bike. The childhood friend will use the "game" as camouflage so that he can beat Naoto up. A bunch of guys get assaulted, some pretty seriously (paralyzed, in comas, etc). Finally, the guy goes after Naoto but he's interrupted by Naoto's classmate Osaka. Osaka beats the guy up and the guy is apprehended by the police.

Things become big news when the media get wind of the fact that the younger brother of the mysterious Masaki (who hasn't provided any background info to the public until now) has been assaulted by one of the group targeting bicycle commuters. They learn of the Shinomiya's past. It comes to light that the guy who'd been caught is the childhood friend of the sister of the horrible woman who'd broken up the Shinomiya family. Naoto's father has some money problems, but can't get loans because he's been revealed to be an awful person who'd turned his back on his own children. He sneaks into his old house to try to get the title to the house, but meets Yuuta. He tries to act all nice to Yuuta (who'd adored him), but instead of falling for it Yuuta attacks him with a bat and breaks his arm. The media gets wind of that as well. Yuuta had kept himself away even from Naoto and Masaki until then, but he starts to actually talk to Naoto. (Yuuta had refused the meals Naoto had made until he collapsed. Masaki had threated to throw him out--their paternal grandparents had been clamoring for Yuuta for years--unless he did the minimum required for a human being.)

Naoto, in the meantime, is recovering from his injuries including a leg injury. When he's somewhat mobile he asks to go to school. Masaki doesn't want to let him, but in the end Naoto goes to school using crutches. Everyone at school knows about his sad past, but his friends Nakano and Yamashita plus Osaka (who'd actually just been Naoto's fellow class delegate to the student council but now feels a bit responsible for Naoto after having rescued him) treat him normally.

Naoto is asked by the mother of Nogami, a first year who'd been attacked while commuting on bicycyle and had gotten off lightly physically but had stopped going to school because of the shock, to share how he'd managed to overcome his trauma and come back to school. Naoto doesn't think he can be of any help since it's up to the individual to get over their trauma, but the mother is super pushy. Naoto agrees to write a letter to Nogami. He doesn't tell Nogami to buck up or get better or whatever. He just tells Nogami to seek a place of peace. Nogami is moved by the letter and starts to call Naoto's house. He has no courage to talk when someone actually picks up the phone, though, and ends up being a nuisance caller. It's only when Masaki picks up the phone and threatens action that Nogami speaks. He wants to just talk to Naoto. Naoto ends up agreeing to talk to Nogami daily for ten minutes. Masaki and Yuuta thinks Naoto shouldn't bother, but Naoto just can't quite say no. After a while, Naoto suggests Nogami try going to school. Nogami wants to meet Naoto, so he goes back to school. Unfortunately, he'd been gone for so long he's totally behind on school. He doesn't know what's going on. The teachers don't know how to deal with him, so they ask Naoto to sit with him during lunch to provide some comfort. Naoto's friends get mad as it's not Naoto's job to act as some kind of unpaid counselor to Nogami. Naoto doesn't want to do it as it really isn't his place, but ends up agreeing.

One day, when some first years come to Naoto's classroom to call Naoto over Osaka decides to confront Nogami. He tells Nogami that he needs to stop relying on Naoto so much. Nogami gets mad, feeling his supposed "special relationship" with Naoto is being threatened, and stabs Osaka with a pair of scissors. Naoto, who'd been away from the classroom when the first years had come by, hears that Nogami had called for him and that Osaka had gone over to see Nogami. He goes over to find out what's going on and sees Osaka all bloody. He collapses as he has fits when confronted by traumatic events (he'd had a fit when he'd gone to get Yuuta from the police station after the bat incident). Naoto feels horribly guilty about the whole situation, so he goes to see Nogami (who'd also gotten hurt) in the hospital to end things. He tells Nogami (and his pushy annoying mother) that he's not responsible to fix or soothe or counsel Nogami. He should've ended things earlier before his friend had been hurt.

There's a PTA meeting after the stabbing incident that Masaki attends. At one point some random parent tries to get him to comment on the situation. Masaki doesn't want to say anything since Naoto wasn't stabbed or the stabber, but everyone is very interested in what the celebrity has to say. Luckily he's saved from saying something biting by some parents with decency who tell everyone that finding out Masaki's opinion on the matter is no one's business. Turns out the parents who speak out are Nakano and Yamashita's mothers. Nakano and Yamashita only learn about their mothers' awesomeness when they talk to Naoto at school because their mothers were all fangirling over Masaki's gorgeousness. Osaka mentions that his father had wanted to speak out but as Osaka had been one of the participants in the incident that'd brought about the meeting he'd felt awkward. He'd been very relieved when someone else with sense spoke up.

Don't forget that in the meantime Masaki and Naoto are having sex. At first Naoto has a lot of conflicting emotions about the whole situation, what with the two guys and two full-blooded brothers thing. And the trauma of being raped. But as time passes and things happen Masaki becomes a source of comfort and strength to him, as Masaki had been back before the rape. Just with sex thrown in. The sex is very tedious, with lots of typical Yoshihara Rieko style seme acting on the uke. And really stupid dirty talk. Ugh.

Naoto's father is having major money problems, and he can't even get money from his relatives. Naoto's father's girlfriend has been relegated to the "don't want" division at work thanks to the revelation that she's a bad "other woman." Naoto's father's girlfriend's sister (I should've just given them names, this is so awkward ;P) is harassed for being the sister of the bad "other woman" and getting all the money and indulgence from Naoto's father that he'd withheld from his own flesh and blood. She ends up a little messed up in the head. At one point she shows up at the Shinomiya house to tell them that she hadn't set her childhood friend on Naoto as had been rumored. Naoto tries to tell her to just go away, but she ends up collapsing from the mid-summer heat. He and she (and Yuuta) end up at the hospital, the sister because she'd collapsed and Naoto because he'd broken her fall and had been slightly hurt. Yuuta can't believe Naoto had gotten hurt protecting the sister, but Naoto tells Yuuta it'd been so sudden and he'd just acted. Their father's girlfriend shows up and thanks Naoto for helping her sister. She doesn't know who they are. Yuuta and Naoto clues her in and aren't very nice to her.

Sayaka is being harassed by the media and is full of resentment that she's being harassed while her younger brothers are being protected by Masaki. She likes to seethe a lot.

Naoto's father finally figures out how to make lots of money to pay his debts. He'll write a book revealing his side! It creates another furor. Masaki manages to shut the media up by telling them off (he manages to shut many people up by coldly speaking the truth, and his charisma makes people unwilling to fight back especially since he's actually right), so they don't harass him or his brothers. Sayaka is harassed again. She shows up at Naoto's school to talk to him. They don't talk much before she gets really mad at Naoto (for nothing much, she's just really frustrated and annoyed at the world and at Naoto in particular) and smacks him hard and runs off. Naoto's friends are awed by Sayaka's powerful personality and amazing beauty. Because of this incident Sayaka is written off as someone needed to be kept around from Naoto's book, not to mention Yuuta's and Masaki's. Yuuta tells Sayaka off when she calls. He's been told all the family secrets by Masaki (and he knows the big one about Naoto and Masaki's relationship that she, who'd left the house a while back, doesn't know about) and he has a better clue about everything, including Masaki's motivations. Sayaka had expected to be confronted by Masaki and is full of mixed emotions when she realizes Masaki won't confront her. That she's been cut off.

In the meantime, the other Shinomiya relatives are having a hard time of it after Naoto's father's book comes out. He not only bitched about his married life, he bitched about his childhood, dragging the rest of his family through the mud. He's full of resentment and frustrations and angst and pain. Volume 5 has excerpts from his book that are gag-worthy, the dude is such a tool. Naoto's father is delighted by the sales and the money he's making. He plans on writing another book. His girlfriend asks him to set the record straight about her sister in the book as well. They are interrupted when Naoto's grandfather and uncle show up. They'd hired a detective to track the two down. He has no patience with them as they hadn't helped him out when he'd needed it. Naoto's grandfather is so mad he stabs Naoto's father with a handy paring knife. They both end up in the hospital as the grandfather also collapses.

Okay, how awesome is this last development? Every single bad thing that happens (except for the rape and incest between Naoto and Masaki) becomes BIG NEWS. I can't wait to read the next volume to find out how bad things will get!! Also, the father is so seriously deficient in human decency/shame it's hilarious. I wish the author tried a little harder to make him more complicated instead of an entitled selfish jerk, but oh well. Can't have everything, right?

What I've come to really enjoy the most are the relationships between the significant characters. Masaki and Naoto by themselves aren't as interesting, per se, because Masaki is the typical gorgeous, possessive Yoshihara seme who only cares about his uke (though I do like it when he acts more like a loving big brother than a possessive seme because loving big brothers are ♥). But his interactions with the press and other family members in regards to Naoto (and Yuuta) are fun to read. He's just brutal in how he cuts down and shuts up everyone, including his grandfather. At one point their paternal grandfather grouses about Naoto getting himself attacked and opening the whole can of worms. This sets Masaki off and he tells the grandfather off (fairly civilly but very firmly), which makes the grandfather mad and forbid him from coming over to the house again. Masaki is a-OK with never visiting the house, and won't bend to his grandmother's entreaties to let bygones be bygones.

Masaki, Naoto, and Yuuta are a fascinating trio. Yuuta had totally rejected absolutely everyone for a long time, until the bad things started happening. Masaki is very frank with Yuuta, saying that he really doesn't need anyone other than Naoto and that Yuuta will have to choose to make something of himself. He isn't always going to be under Masaki's protection. Yuuta comes to realize that Naoto's regard for him is what keeps him in the "protect" category for Masaki. He starts to engage with his brothers, and his sharp tongue is fun (as it's not directed at me). He's just as brutal (but more cheeky) than Masaki, and as he's the only one who really talks to Sayaka he gets to say all kinds of stuff to her. Good times.

Naoto's relationship with his friends are also great reading. His friends have strong personalities and a good sense of right and wrong that jive well with Naoto (and Masaki and Yuuta). They provide a different kind of support for Naoto (I loved how they yelled at the teachers when they first asked Naoto to effectively babysit Nogami).

[User Picture]From: flyby311
2010-08-10 09:17 am (UTC)
S-sob. If this was in english I would probably happily read this and just revel in it. XD Sigh. Gay incest, media, people getting stabbed EVERYWHERE, people always ending up in the hospital, family drama, it sounds sort of hilarious.
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[User Picture]From: insaneneko
2010-08-12 05:37 am (UTC)
It is hilarious. What new twist will she throw in *this time*!
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[User Picture]From: madamada_chan
2010-08-11 12:12 am (UTC)
If only she'd cut out her really tedious and overlong sex scenes and her utterly ridiculous passages droning on and on about some abstract concept, this series would be perfect. <-- It's so sad how this is so common in BL T__T

But I've learned to skim the aforementioned bad parts and just get to the good parts (you know, the action that actually advances the plot or provides meaningful character development/interaction). <-- But THIS is not *wails*
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[User Picture]From: insaneneko
2010-08-12 05:38 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's true. This author is particularly bad, or it seems that way because the good parts are actually pretty good so I have less patience for the bad parts. :P
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[User Picture]From: x_clamp
2010-08-11 02:12 am (UTC)
amazing O_O. if only there was an English verision of this :(.
But, well, typical gorgeous seme like always : )).
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[User Picture]From: insaneneko
2010-08-12 05:38 am (UTC)
Maybe if Ai no Kusabi (same author) does well they'll tackle this?
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[User Picture]From: britnit
2010-08-11 07:57 am (UTC)
This has been on my to read list, but man, what drama! I knew it would be complicated, but this might be a bit much. I'll probably still give it a try, though. I haven't read anything from this author, yet.
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[User Picture]From: insaneneko
2010-08-12 05:40 am (UTC)
If you want something lighter and less laden down with the bad parts, I'd suggest the Kusareen no Housoku series. It shares many of the same tropes (the author loves her pet tropes) but is overall much better written.
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