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BL Minute: Futekiya Reviews!

It’s been a while since I’ve made a blog post, but thought I’d do something quick and fun! Around Christmastime I got myself a Futekiya subscription out of curiosity, since while I have read quite a few original LGBT themed and BL webcomics as well as various fanwork and fanfics, I’m not really that versed in original BL manga. I’d also seen the ads and various mentions around on twitter, and liked the idea of a site that had access to a lot of different series officially was a neat idea. While I can’t say I used it a whole lot over the past couple months–I initially read the free samples available of stories, and then did the monthly subscription–it was cool to check out and see work from various creators I probably wouldn’t have known about beforehand, so I thought I’d share some thoughts, both on the site itself as well as the various series I ended up reading. 

(contains some nsfw topic discussion)

Regarding the site overall: It’s very neat and easy to use. It doesn’t have an app, but it is mobile-browser friendly (I downloaded a separate browser for my phone Dolphin, mostly for reading browser things separate from my regular one, just to keep things separate from my usual chrome)There seem to be a decent variety of series of various lengths, although they are definitely (from what I’ve seen) more on the short side, from one shots to series of a couple volumes, so they are pretty good if you’re looking for fairly quick reads. The browsing aspect lets you choose from a set of categories and tags depending on what you are interested in. There is also a rating system of peppers that show how “spicy” each story is, which I found amusing, if maybe a little vague. Maybe I’m a bit spoiled by the overly detailed sorts of tags on places like ao3 that go into more detail about the content of what stories are, in comparison to the genre and sorting tags that I felt were more general here, but I understand that’s more a reflection of my own expectations than a specific value judgement.

That being said, I am curious why the tag for “dubious consent” seems to be a general blanket tag which also includes pretty clear non-consent, which I don’t understand isn’t a separate tag. I understand that it’s a common trope in the genre and I’m certainly not against the usage of tropes itself in fiction (will go into that below when I review some of the works I listed), but it was a bit jarring in some cases due to I guess my own expectations and general understanding of what dubcon/noncon content consists of in works I’ve previously read and created. Some works do include more specific  warnings in the summaries of the work for some heavier content, but overall it’s not the most consistent, so…. heads up for people who may be interested in the service and checking out the works itself. 

Also, while I understand that the site is intended to more be a hosting library for published works, and thus different than a site like say, Tapas or Webtoon which are more about web-specific content that prioritizes engagement, it would’ve been nice to have sections or a unified place where one could see reviews and comments from various fans discussing the works or leaving their own comments, so prospective readers could possibly check out to see if they’d like it or not. I can also see how that could end up being a very bad idea without strict moderation so I don’t blame Futekiya for not implementing something like that, but for me personally, part of enjoying a work is checking out what other people think of it and seeing various discussions and responses to it, and it’s a bit hard to find that kind of reviewing community directly. 

Some more preface to contextualize my mini reviews: while I guess I technically am a “fujoshi” (i.e. being a woman who reads m/m content) I’m again as mentioned earlier, not super versed in original Japanese BL conventions and genres, nor in what the common understandings of fujoshi/BL fan and creator atmosphere is like from a Japanese perspective.  Also I’m from an American, English-speaking background both in regards to my comics and fiction knowledge so my interpretations and takes on the stories will probably stem from that as well. 

In general, I feel like the stories I tend to enjoy the most are ones that had some interesting worldbuilding in the background of the story, whether in terms of a more fantastical setting, or in just establishing the world and context that characters and their relationship were existing in. I get that for fairly short series, it’s hard to do a lot of establishing quickly, but it’s nice when it does exist! Also, I am personally very drawn to more bold and distinct visual styles, especially things with strong linework. I feel like in manga and especially more romance/BL style stuff I tend to (personally) see a lot of styles that are more delicate linework, which can be very aesthetic and beautiful, but not really what I end up being automatically drawn to. 

So! Into the stories themselves! If you’ve read anything of this blog (or know me in person at all) you know that my favorite hobby is OVERTHINKING even for things that are probably not necessarily meant to be super deep or anything, because its FUN, and thus there will be plenty of that below. These aren’t necessarily recommendations, but more like, thoughts I had on the stuff that stood out to me the most. I kind of feel like the summaries/reviews kind of outline the warnings etc already, but I note them anyway since as I mentioned above I found the site’s tagging to be rather unspecific, so they’re probably in some ways less “warnings” and more like what I reacted to specifically. 

Inoue and Karasuma. If i had a nickel for every time I read a BL where a main character had asthma and it was serious and not a joke, I’d have two nickles. which isn’t a lot but it’s weird it’s happened twice.

Wanna Try Dating Inoue? by Fujitobi
This was one of the early ones I had seen recommended around, and was a very sweet high school romance read…set in a world with both humans and animal people! The characterizations were fairly simple, but it was cute and had an interesting emotional conflict. The first part of the series is about the main couple, but the last chapters introduce new characters who then become the focus couple, which was a bit surprising but interesting to spend more time in the particular world. It was very cute, and I liked the art style a lot, so I checked the mangaka’s page and read their other published work on the site…

Izumo and Ryuta from “Faded Picture Scroll”

Faded Picture Scroll by Fujitobi
Faded Picture Scroll is set in a much more specific fantasy world, which I was initially very intrigued by–the story is kind of episodic with each chapter the main couple in question dealing with different supernatural challenges, which work really well on their own as individual episodes, but it also all serves to building up to a larger plot as well. I’m always down for a well thought out plot and world alongside a very sweet relationship, so I found it one of the most satisfying stories I read because of it. As a fan of the “they met before but alas, one doesn’t remember…or DO THEY)” trope, it definitely delivered as well, along with very pretty fantasy costumes and environment.

Ok the cover image cracks me up because it’s very aesthetic and beautiful but it really gives off “awkward family photo” energy and I love it

Marriage to the Wolf by INUI hana

A rabbit clan member is sent to marry into a wolf clan in exchange for his family being provided for, and while his new family are all very accommodating and welcoming, his new husband to be is mysteriously distant. I’m always very intrigued by arranged marriage stories, as well as stories with fantasy-animal aspects to them, and this series definitely delivered! The plot and worldbuilding of this series was very interesting and I’m sad that this wasn’t longer, especially since the epilogue included more author’s notes about the rest of the family and world they inhabited. What I like about arranged marriage stories is that usually a lot of attention is paid to the social structure the characters inhabit, and how that affects them as they go on their journey to genuinely caring for each other and becoming family. Because of that maybe some folks may be more disappointed that there is less romance and more frustration early on, but I found it interesting and enjoyed the story. Also, the artwork is very intricate and beautiful, with a lot of lovely attention paid to the clothes, which is always a plus. 

Warnings for bestiality (sort of) as there is a brief scene where characters have sex while one is in animal form and one is in a humanoid form, for a Tam Lin-esque kind of sequence, so heads up. 

The one thing that irks me about Futekiya I guess is that their graphic design for the English titles look so weirdly tacky compared to the Japanese ones… but ah well.

The Beast and I by Hana

Just to post the summary from the site itself: “On a particular continent of half-beasts, all are born as males, and half of the population become female once they mate. Ouga, the future king of the beasts, selects Nico as his mate. But, Nico has not experienced his change yet. Is there something troubling their relationship?” Chain reaction of typical gender thinky thonks aside it was interesting seeing the relationship between the leads as expressed through their sexual relationship, and for a fairly short, single chapter work it condensed a lot into the story which I thought was neat. It would have been interesting to see explored as a longer story and dig more into the society that had been set up, but it worked well as a smutty short. Overall, I feel like the summary very much describes what it is on the tin lol

You know sometimes you read classic literature for the plot and themes and then get blindsided with the sex scene. Here it was reading for the sex scenes and then getting blindsided by Intense Emotional Plot and Themes

Metro by HONGO Chika

Due to the cover I thought it was going to be a fairly straightforward smutty story about guys having lots of dubious public sex in different places. And while that wasn’t ENTIRELY wrong, it also ended up being a very touching plot about overcoming fears and obstacles both in regards to grief, self-destructive behavior, and sexuality. The main couple ended up having very distinct personalities and had really interesting narrative contrast to each other, and I appreciated that a lot, and their ending was very sweet. It’s not the most unique memorable story ever but it was a very nice read with some good smut and soft emotions, which was surprising but very welcome. 
CW: student/adult age gap, non consensual touching at first, but all the sex scenes themselves are consensual (and very feelsy??)

Including this entire page because I love this art style SO MUCH. the crispy black. The contrast. the Composition. the Unsettlingness of it all. It’s one of my absolute favorites

My Little Inferno by Asada Nemui

Main character Hitoshi lives a mundane boring life until he runs into Mah, an apparent criminal hacker who barges into Hitoshi’s house, is like, “I live here now,” and basically takes over from there. The story is very bizarrely odd to me in that the plot has many dramatic elements, being basically about Mah upending Hitoshi’s life–sexually assaulting him, dragging him into his weird criminal hacker drama with his ex–but all these individual elements kind of happen in the midst of an almost painfully overwhelming experience of everyday, boring life. It’s intriguingly unromantic, even as the characters admit they are drawn to each other, and the interactions have afterwards overall feel less dramatic and more almost comically mundane in a kind of cursed-domestic kind of situation. This kind of dissonance I feel was very odd, and while I can’t say I completely loved the story, it did have a very unique kind of mood, and is one of the series that has ended up standing out to me overall. A big part of this has to do with the art style, which is absolutely fabulous–the lineart has really toothy and satisfying texture to it, with thick expressive lines and bold black shadows, and has a sense of aggressiveness to it which I find very appealing and fitting for the type of story it tells. This thread review by mudasquared on twitter I felt gave some interesting context and analysis as well, and I’m curious to check out other works by this mangaka in the future. CWs: non-con as mentioned and later dubcon. The sexuality in this series is just overall really…weird? I can’t really put my finger on it but there’s an unpleasantness to it but aside from initial depiction of assault, more like in the sense of mundane irritation than the usual dramatic emotional reaction that I am more used to in stories. It’s a strangeness that the above review goes into a bit more.

Where is the Yuri….

Bonus: The end notes of this series were WILD in that Hitoshi’s mom, a minor character in the manga itself, is given an entire backstory about being a bisexual mountaineer grieving the loss of her girlfriend in a tragic accident but also developing feelings for her coworker, which honestly is a lot more interesting to me than the main plot of this series, but was interesting to see.

The symbolism in the title and the cover is worked very well into the story!

Lotus Flower in the Mud by Tamekou

Incest content for me can be kind of hit-or-miss in terms of whether I’ll be intrigued or feel turned off, but I thought Lotus Flower was very intriguing in the psychology of the characters and the complex relationship between the brothers. The conflict between characters whose exterior and interior appearances may not necessarily match up to how outsiders perceive them was the most interesting part to me. The ways in which the brothers are basically given the opportunities to pursue separate paths and partnerships but continually and ultimately are drawn towards each other in a relationship that other characters definitely and uneasily comment on the fucked up nature of their dynamic. The art style is very neat as well–on a personal preference note, it was a bit confusing in the beginning because the brothers’ appearances were (understandably) very similar so I had trouble telling them apart at first, and also the fact that while the story takes place over a long period of time they kind of continually have a more young-ish look that personally put me off a bit. Overall though, I loved getting into the characters’ heads and seeing the story and relationships progress in its wild direction. 
CW: incest (duh), non-con, depictions of sex work early on. As mentioned above the characters also look young-ish but also idk if its less the young-lookingness but just that they do have a bit of a creepy look to them overall.. which fits the vibe of the story very well but still subjectively unnerving.

Ok one thing i DONT like about many Futekiya covers is that the Graphic design leaves a lot to desire…what is this it looks like a weird 80s-90s cheesy movie poster. Which isn’t BAD, it’s hardly the worst offender, but I do not like that font at all. It’s only missing actor names superimposed over the character heads

Marquis De… by Syundei

This doesn’t really have anything to do with this story itself but I was reading this and was like “why does this series art style feel so familiar…” and then I was right! it’s by Syundei, the author of the cute BL volume “Go for it, Nakamura!” which I found really amusing. Also I learned that they have an entire new series out that looks very dramatic and I do need to check out at some point.  Anyways, this short is about a teacher who gets blackmailed into a sexual relationship with a bullied student who asks him to act as the “sadist” in the relationship, and it all goes downhill from there. Once again a short and quick read with some predictable but satisfying twists. Nothing stood out that precisely to me, but I do like the mangaka’s art style a lot and the contrast between the cute, retro look of the characters and their messed up situations is something I generally do enjoy. 

CWs: aside from described above while it is fiction and a little bit on the silly side it is one of those “weird and kind of silly views of what BDSM is” lol which took me out of it a bit, but otherwise it’s very much a “exactly what it says on the tin” sort of story 

One-Winged Angel by Harada

This was one of the first I had read from the preview, and knew a little bit of the mangaka by reputation, and was not disappointed in the slightest! A bit personally surprised I guess it is listed as BL since I probably could have read it as a completely non-romantic mystery-supernatural story and not really known it was as such, but I enjoyed it a lot. There were some very powerfully composed pages that took my breath away, and while it definitely delved into some darker subjects, there was a gentleness and quietness to the story throughout. It was extremely artfully done and a very solid, if emotionally heavy story. 
CW: suicide, suicidal thoughts, some violence. While as I mentioned before I didn’t really get romantic vibes from the main two characters and it is not really sexual, the main  between an adult man and a (presumably) teenager.  I’m not sure if the ending is supposed to be framed as…happy or not? It depends on the interpretation. 

Last Thonks:
One amusing thing about reading these is how well, due to the length the stories usually have the characters jumping to the romance or sexual parts a lot faster than in the more long-form slow burn type stories I tend to be used to, which for me is a bit of a whiplash, but also definitely makes some sense given the audience. I find I kind of prefer longer series that have more development since I like getting to know characters longer before getting to relationship aspects, which is why works like “Faded Picture Scroll” which had more exploration of a plot. In some ways I don’t really think this site is the best suited for me, because of that, since I’m not really someone who easily jumps from different stories because of this.

Another thing I noticed is that in a lot of these stories the theme of economics and class tended to come up a lot, usually as just a simple way to create conflict in the story, but it’s just something I found very interesting. Usually I’m used to seeing stories that are a bit more escapist, and the romance or sexual aspect is kind of a part of that, but there were definitely a lot of stories that juxtaposed very fantastical sex and romance with painfully mundane depictions of the woes of career pursuit, poverty, or frustration with future economic prospects that I guess are derived from various “relatable” life frustrations. The struggle is very obvious and centered in the woes of the main character in stories like “One Room Angel,” and even for series set in more fantasy settings, such as “Marriage to the Wolf,” the initial arranged marriage is something arranged specifically as a kind of transaction–the main character is married off in exchange for food and provisions, after all. Not saying this is intrinsically deep or anything, as most stories overall that exist, romantic or not, rely on conflict as plot device, and economic conflict is something that is very real and present in a lot of people’s lives and a driving force, so it makes sense, but I feel like people more versed in this particular strain of overthinking may find it interesting thing to explore. I have an inkling that it probably relates to the Kotani quote I referenced some time earlier of “in order to free yourself, you must first be tied up,” concept–that seeing characters having frustrations with the world through expectations or systems they’re caught up in, makes the catharsis of them freeing themselves either literally, or through sexual or romantic relationships or fulfilment, more satisfying. But that’s just a thought. If anyone has links to an academic paper or meta that specifically focuses on, idk, economic or Marxist analysis of BL stories or whatever I would be very amused to read it.

Overall, it’s a neat site with a very good variety of stories–I feel like discoverability is a little difficult if you’re someone with more specific tastes, or who isn’t already familiar with the styles of the different creators. When it came to choosing what I wanted to read I literally just clicked on what covers looked interesting to me at the time as well as some of the general tags I thought were interesting, but otherwise there was fairly little to go on. I’m sure that more hardcore BL fans have probably already discussed a lot of these in depth already with each other, but I hope that this can at least possibly be helpful or interesting to people who may also be casually curious. I’m glad that there is an official way for these stories to be licensed and available in fairly affordable ways for English language readers, and hope that there can be more in the future!

At the time of first writing this I had intended to cancel my subscription since I hadn’t been using it as much, but I forgot to do so for March, so I may end up just reading more things anyway.

If you use Futekiya, do you have a favorite series, or a favorite creator? What are you usually interested in when seeking out original BL stories?

Author: maiden theory

I'm just a Bird whose intentions are good

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