Samhain Publishing, $2.50, ISBN 1-59998-108-4
Fantasy Romance, 2006
While Blood Brothers is published earlier than Soul of the Night, I read the latter first. The lead character in both stories have the same name, Kiyoshi, but I am not sure whether two Kiyoshis are one and the same though, especially since the Kiyoshi in this one behaves like a creature so fragile that a single speck of dust falling onto his skin will cause him to shatter into pieces. He makes the other Kiyoshi look like a macho man who wrestles polar bears for fun. Nonetheless, there is a possibility that they are one and the same as well since this story has an open-ended ending without any traditional happily-ever-after closure. I suppose that only the authors will know for certain whether the two stories have the same Kiyoshi. I check their website but can’t find any answer there.
Now, let’s talk about Blood Brothers. My god, it is so wildly sentimental at times with Kiyoshi being such a gasping, shivering, quivering, and trembling mess that reading this story puts the fear of the heebies in me. I have to tamper down the impulse to check if I have grown chest hair while reading this story because it is really that saccharine.
Sakurai and Kiyoshi have only each other now that the world doesn’t love them and they have no one else. Sakurai is the protective one while Kiyoshi is the one who is always lying on the floor, constantly in a state of pitiful hunger, thirst, or arousal. Kiyoshi isn’t a person as much as he is this… this… thing that is a constant cry for help and attention. Just reading about Kiyoshi fluttering in weakness or desire like the most fragile of porcelain butterflies is enough to make me feel exhausted. He needs, no, he demands constant care and babysitting all the time. More power to Sakurai for being strong enough to love such a parasitic baggage, really. Someone has to and I’m glad it doesn’t have to be me since I’d have forced Kiyoshi to wear a hair suit and dropped him at the SPCA a long time ago.
Needless to say, Sakurai is also Kiyoshi’s lover in some nearly-incestuous homosexual relationship since they consider each other blood brothers (or, more specifically, a young man and the albatross around his neck). Then one day a vampire named Kuro shows up. Kiyoshi gets jealous when he realizes that Sakurai would rather put his hands and mouth all over Kuro’s body instead of pampering and taking care of Kiyoshi all day long. Kuro starts italic-speaking to Sakurai, italic-telling him not to fight the hunger in him or something like that. Can the whole blood brother thing survive Kuro’s presence or will Sakurai wise up and kick the parasite Kiyoshi to the curb?
Now, I can’t say I am that familiar with yaoi since all those bishies in Japanese cartoons give me the creeps so I have no idea if it is really normal in yaoi to have one partner so drastically helpless and pathetic that he all but flops to the ground unable to walk if the dominant ultra-masculine partner isn’t around to carry Madame Bishönen here. The authors aren’t above abusing ellipses to make the characters speak in an even more cringe-inducing helpless or pleading manner. Sometimes I feel like I’m reading the long-lost secret slash fanfiction of Barbara Cartland, I tell you.
“Sakura-kun?” Kiyoshi’s eyes fluttered open. “I was supposed to help you today… I’m sorry-“
Between that and Kiyoshi’s repeated calling of “Sakura-kun!”, “Kuro-sama!”, “dai-dai!“, and more, I may end up developing a Pavlovian reaction where I automatically cringe whenever I see the word “Kiyoshi” on a page. It doesn’t help that I keep hearing these phrases being uttered in a typical high-pitched female anime character’s voice in my head but maybe that’s just me.
It’s a pity that the authors feel that they have to make Kiyoshi such a melodramatically weak, helpless, pleading, and pathetic character because there are some deliciously fiendish scenes of vampiric habits here that are wasted in a story that tries to ennoble Kiyoshi late in the story. The problem with making the constantly fluttering Kiyoshi so weak and helpless is that any attempt to ennoble him comes off as yet another example of that useless fellow being unable to do anything. His favorite words, after all, are “I’m sorry”, usually with ellipses for added effect.
Sakurai and Kuro are pretty decent characters in their own right but with Kiyoshi constantly clinging to them, they never have much of a chance to be anything more than Kiyoshi’s babysitters until the denouement, which I find supremely satisfying except for one pertinent fact. If you’ve read that story, you may know what I’m talking about, heh.
Perhaps I am unable to understand the true spirit of the bishie or something, but I honestly don’t like these authors’ portrayal of such hopelessly weak and pathetic creatures in their stories. If Kiyoshi is a woman, he’ll be branded as a Too Stupid Omigod PLEASE JUST DIE aberration. But perhaps bishies are supposed to be like this? I don’t know because I don’t actively seek out Japanese cartoons with yaoi themes. Therefore, I don’t know if it’s just me because I don’t get the “true essence” of yaoi or it’s just the authors who are being funny. Any yaoi fans who have read this book, help me out here. Is it me?