Alex Schmidt, $1.99, ISBN 978-1311805393
Contemporary Romance, 2014
The third volume of Learning How to Lose, in Six Easy Steps is the conclusion to the series, so you may not want to read this one until you’ve read the previous two volumes first. This one marks the resolution to the path of happily ever after for Shiwasuda Ryuu and Takahashi Hiroshi, members of two different Japanese boybands.
Where we last saw these two, they have had sex. Oh, don’t look at me like that. Technically, that’s a spoiler, but if you expect no sex to happen by this stage of a contemporary romance story that is neither marked as “sweet” nor “inspirational”, I don’t know what to say to you. For Ryuu, it was all sunshine and fluttering hearts, until he told Hiro that he loves that man, and Hiro fled the scene as fast as he could. When the story opens, Hiro doesn’t answer Ryuu’s calls or anything, so Ryuu decides to do what respectable sex-mad dude in bara would: go all weirdly semi-rape on Hiro in that classsic “you have an erection after I stimulated your pee-pee, so this is a sign that you want to have sex with me, so WE ARE DOING IT NOW!” maneuver that happens in… I almost said ten out ten, but there may be an occasional anomaly to the formula, so let’s be safe and say nine out of ten bara stories out there.
But will Hiro succumb to this classic stunt? Will these two actually have a happily ever after, or would Ryuu gets what he deserves for being a whiny self-absorbed douchebag for so long and end up with only his left hand as his best buddy?
I have to admit, it’s pretty cute the way the author sets up the last few chapters of this story, and I find myself wishing that I’m reading a story of those two samurais instead of just having the main characters play out their roles. I confess that by this point of the story, I’m tired of Ryuu and Hiro. The problem with Learning How to Lose, in Six Easy Steps (Volume 3) is that a bulk of this story feels like a repetitive merry-go-round with the two characters just going through the same pattern of behavior over and over. The whole thing would have probably fared better if this one had been shorter, but in its current length, the story is too easy to put down.
While I initially enjoy watching Ryuu squirm as he gets a dose of his own medicine, being treated in the same way that he has treated Hiro for quite some time, I soon tire of the whole thing due to this constant repetitive behavior pattern. In the same manner, Hiro’s refusal to have sex with Ryuu gets tedious fast, as is Ryuu’s dogged attempts to get him to put out, and these two’s refusal to communicate soon seem like a contrived plot device to prolong everyone’s agony.
I do have some leftover goodwill for these two from the previous two installments, so it’s nice that they are going to be happy together, for now if not forever, but I wish this particular installment has been a more entertaining ride to that point.