I've been meaning to write about Koiwazurai Shibito
's "Ai no Poltergeist" (Love's Poltergeist) for quite awhile now. This compact 32-pager is quite simply one of the best BL yomikiri I've ever seen in Hanaoto
This is so mostly because of the story. It's about a young man named Naru who, ever since he was a kid, can see ghosts. He's especially enthralled by the ghost of the bishounen in a hakama that hangs out beside his grandpa all the time, but said ghost never even registers his presence. Until grandpa finally kicks the bucket, that is--and then all of a sudden the ghost has a vendetta against Naru and the rest of his family. It eventually comes out that the ghost, whose name is Masaki, was grandpa Osamu's one-time lover during the Taisho Period. But Osamu ultimately gave into social pressure and got married to a woman, leaving Masaki to mourn...and to eventually be killed by his own parents, who disapproved of his lifestyle. Masaki, by the time Naru has a close encounter (in the bathtub) with him, is mad with rage and despair; he thought that after Osamu died they'd finally be reunited. He was mistaken, and at first he tries to take it out on Osamu's descendants, but luckily he gets the consolation prize: Naru, who looks like Osamu and fell in love with the ghost at first sight. Naru swears that he will not leave Masaki ever, and the two "live" happily ever after.
Need I point out that the Masaki x Osamu backstory relationship echoes the sort of BL that was popular a long time ago, that of the Impossible Love that can only end in Death? While the Masaki x Naru plot is your usual Happily Ever After modern BL? Combining the two, however, works eminently better than either plot by itself. Not only do you see how the genre has evolved, but you see clearly the psychic stakes and the potential for ostracism involved for anyone who wants to live a homosexual lifestyle in Japan. (You'll definitely shed a tear or two for Masaki.) Also, I was both surprised and pleased by the conversation between Masaki and Osamu once Masaki realizes Osamu is dating a woman. After a big fight, Osamu admits that he's scared (not to be the good, heterosexual son). This is waaaaaaay deeper than your usual BL manga circa late-2008, and it feels very real. Koiwazurai doesn't do gay identity here, but she jumps headfirst into a painful side of some gay men's reality.
The artwork of "Ai no Poltergeist" is quite distinctive looking and probably not to everybody's taste. Some angles are especially poor, and the mangaka never quite manages to decide whether she is drawing BL romance or vintage horror. The two styles don't mesh well. This clumsiness is perhaps not surprising; Koiwazurai hasn't done much in the way of professional work, so she is still very much preoccupied with honing her draftsmanship. She has done Bleach
doujinshi, though. (I would say, in light of that last fact, that the ghost theme and the choice of costume are not coincidental, but that's neither here nor there.)
All in all, Koiwazurai Shibito's work is both humanely compassionate and viscerally intense. It's a most unusual combination, but I like it. She is definitely one to watch out for, and I am eager to find more of her work to read.