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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Revisiting Hoshino Lily

Meet Hoshino Lily: manga-ka best known for her work in the boys’ love genre; born December 17th and has a blood type of A. Also, one of the most controversial manga-ka in her field. Why? Maybe it’s her art. Or her favored type of stories. One thing is for sure: for someone as prolific as Hoshino, something is off about all the hate. As in, she probably doesn’t deserve it – and that is from someone who didn’t like her on first read.

I was inspired by ふう子's post on Hoshino Lily's works of BL goodness to write this post, mainly because ふう子 makes the argument that yaoi doesn't have to be super angsty or cerebral to be entertaining, and that Hoshino's works are anything but generic. Since it is Fujoshi O'Clock Wednesday, I thought I would revisit Hoshino's works, including some works I hadn't read before, as it seemed like my own personal opinion of the manga-ka might have been unfair on first read.

Spoiler warning: Contains slight spoilers for Nurse ga Oshigoto, Blue Eyes, and Alone In My King's Harem. Read at your own discretion!

My first exposure to Hoshino’s BL comics was through the collection of shorts called Alone In My King’s Harem, all rather romantic in flavor. Most of them are based in the fantastical except for two which are about high school boys. And they are all so sweet. When I first read this, years ago, I hated the feminine uke characters but now I can accept them and like them. Besides, what is wrong with a feminine male character? That seems to be the major gripe with most readers, that her male characters could be confused for girls, which seems a bit of gross thinking to me.

All of the stories in AIMKH had one thing in common: a happily ever after. The main couple always managed to get through their respective trouble (and it is usually a difference in class or some outer force trying to separate them). But somehow, it is never boring or trite. Just . . . lovely. That’s because Hoshino actually manages to make me care about these one-shot characters in the span of a few pages. This especially applies to the title story and the happiness of one Hanabishi. Don’t even talk to me about those bloody sugar cubes of his; I’m liable to sob on your shoulder. Loudly.

The next Hoshino piece I looked at was a short doujinshi piece called Blue Eyes, a romance between a prince and a merboy (merman?) stranded on an island together. It’s another sweet piece, the thing keeping the couple together being the young boy’s non-human biology and his inner struggle over whether he should join his people or stay with the man he loves. Hoshino is good at writing couples being torn apart by factors beyond their control – social structures, biology, war, and so on. Plus, I think it has some of the best examples I’ve read so far of Hoshino’s lush art style, especially concerning lips – oh, the lips on these pretty boys, I cannot even begin.

The last Hoshino manga I read – for now – was another collection of short stories called Nurse ga Oshigoto, in which they were pretty much all smut, smut, and more smut. Mmm, tasty smut. I actually haven’t managed to finish this one yet (still waiting for the last two chapters) but it is actually lighter in tone than the King’s Harem volume of one-shots. And did I mention smut? The only real issue I have is that a lot of the sex scenes start off with the ‘target’ boy unwilling but only ‘getting into it’ midway through; it smacks of the fake label that is dubious consent. Still, it is a notable trope in yaoi manga and I won’t hold it against Hoshino so much as wish she hadn’t relied on in so much in one volume.

After reading (and rereading) some of Hoshino’s works, I’m left with one question: why the hate exactly? It could be her feminine ukes or her artwork all together. Maybe it is her stories that are often lighthearted or don’t take themselves as seriously in the end as some of the more hard-hitting BL authors. But those things don’t make her a bad artist, just a different one that the Kazuma Kodakas and Youka Nittas that seem to dominate popular boys’ love manga these days. And she is so good at what she does, readers shouldn’t care about the meaningless nitpicks by Hoshino’s detractors but sit back and enjoy the manga. I know I will.

Here are the Hoshino Lily titles currently available in English for purchase: Alone In My King's Harem; My Only King; Love Quest; Chocolate Surprise; Mr. Flower Groom; Mr. Flower Bride.