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The set-up for this series is unnervingly close to that of its CLAMP stablemate, xxxHolic. We once again have the slightly timid, emotionally vulnerable teenaged boy who has lost his family and is now working for a mysterious shop owner who sends him on supernatural errands. But Kudo Kazahaya is a heckuva lot hotter-looking than Kimihiro Watanuki, and his nemesis/possible male love interest Himura Rikuo is even harder to avoid than Domeki is for Watanuki, because he boards upstairs at the shop along with Kazahaya. Finally, in place of space-time witch Yuuko and her mystical oddments store, we have the demure and lovely male owner of the Green Drugstore, Kakei, who is served by the hulking and hunky Saiga in place of Yuuko's bouncy little supernatural twins.

The Green Drugstore seems to be a thoroughly modern and ordinary place - the kind of establishment that sells everything from condoms to candy bars. At the end of vol. 3, I still have no idea why Kakei has such a connection with the supernatural, but it's pretty clear that he and Saiga are a couple - and frankly, to me, they're one of the major draws of the series. CLAMP has a lot of fun with unlikely role reversals in this pair: delicately beautiful, bespectacled Kakei and tall, threatening-looking Saiga, who wears his dark glasses even indoors and at night, look like they're made for a stereotypical uke-seme set-up - but Saiga is the one who cooks and sews, and Kakei is clearly calling the shots. Saiga otherwise spends most of his time asleep on the couch in Kakei's office, leading the naive Kazahaya to wonder why Kakei keeps him around - despite the fact that when Saiga is awake, he's frequently shown nuzzling Kakei's neck or wrapping his arms around him.

Both Kazahaya and Rikuo have mysterious pasts: Kazahaya can't remember parts of his history, and Rikuo won't talk about his. But clues keep surfacing as they run their errands for Kakei. The mangaka are being terrible teases with all of this - somehow, a number of the errands require Kazahaya to cross-dress - but it's all amusing and decorative enough to keep me interested. There is one major disappointment: the books have no notes of any kind about Japanese culture, not even the usual general information about honorifics and certainly nothing like xxxHolic's notes about Japanese customs and legends.

  Legal Drug, vols. 1-3 (review)

It looks like the mangaka expect us to consider Kakei to be a bit cruel in a catlike way - Saiga makes remarks about it from time to time - but after Yuuko, I am coming to expect all supernatural shopkeepers to be that way! Certainly Kakei has no intention of getting less than his money's worth out of the boys (he pays them a bonus for the successful completion of an errand) and doesn't hesitate to dock their pay for mistakes. He also seems to know a good deal about the boys' backgrounds - more than he's telling them - and what their psychic capabilities are.

So far, we've been shown that Kazahaya can channel someone else's memories and current senses: he can touch inanimate objects and view events that have happened to their owners, and hold someone's hand and see/hear what they are sensing. Both talents put him in embarrassing situations with Rikuo (at one point, sick with a fever, he has to hold hands with Rikuo to watch a movie through Rikuo's eyes because his own won't focus). He also tends to attract the attention of supernatural creatures. It's less obvious what powers Rikuo might have, but he seems resistant to supernatural influences that might affect normal people, and this, along with his size and strength, means that he spends a lot of time pulling Kazahaya out of danger. Rikuo also has odd, striking tattoos in various places on his body.

The third volume is different from the other two: instead of several incidents, we have one long story about Kakei's sending the boys to fetch an artifact at a boys' boarding school in the country. This gives the mangaka a chance to play with school story tropes - including boys getting crushes on each other ("because boys are horny!" as a seemingly innocent-looking bespectacled lad explains to an embarrassed Kazahaya). It also leads to a chance to put Kazahaya in a Chinese glamour girl outfit ... . The end of the book has a little addendum giving a few tantalizing crumbs of background for the situations of Kazahaya, Rikuo, and Kakei - although it certainly doesn't explain everything.

Thanks to fmanalyst for recommending this series!

Date: 2007-12-30 03:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really liked Legal Drug... I'm still a little irked at CLAMP for abandoning the story and basically reworking Legal Drug into the more mainstream, crossover-filled xxxHolic. Recycling is good for the environment, but bad for manga!

Date: 2007-12-30 04:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Nope, that's it... x___x CLAMP is rather notorious for dropping series and then having the same characters/situations show up in their next work. I wish they had just stuck with Legal Drug because I find it more interesting than xxxHolic! Well, I like xxxHolic too, but like much of CLAMP's work, it has a tendency to meander and not go anywhere.

Oh, Gravitation... I know, Shuuichi is such a girl. But you don't read Gravitation for the plot or character development, you read it so you know who the characters are in the mangaka's series of hardcore porn doujinshi. >__>;;;; I guess it gets some points for mainstreaming yaoi, but yeah... why are there 12 volumes?? (more if you include the sequel and all of the related stuff)

Hmm, gay romance manga... or at least manga with a lot of gay hinting... As for English stuff, I've been reading "Black Sun, Silver Moon" by Maeda Tomo lately, and I'm interested in where it will go, both in terms of the plot and character relationships. "Petshop of Horrors" by Matsuri Akino has one of my favorite gay manga couples, "Loveless" by Kouga Yun could use a LOT of work on the plot but the character interactions are creepy in a fascinating way, and "After School Nightmare" by Mizushiro Setona is quite an interesting little psychological story with a hermaphrodite main character... *laugh* I've got to keep up better with what's being released in English, though. I'm sure there's a lot of good stuff.

Date: 2007-12-30 05:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, PSoH is a good one, especially if you like the snarky, bickering-like-they've-been-married-for-years type of relationships. And Fake, I looove Fake! It's good because even without the yaoi, there's a solid buddy-cop story too!

I knoooow... December sucks. But I miss you! I figured people would want a sequel (there's a little voice in my head going "more, more, more!" too!) but your story is as important as the porn and the interruption really makes the end of the story more poignant...
(deleted comment)

Date: 2007-12-30 01:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The only trouble with Fake is the New York setting. An NYPD cop calling another cop Sempai and jumping all over him in a gay glomping frenzy? Det. Sipowicz would be horrified!
(deleted comment)
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Date: 2007-12-30 05:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*raises hand and adds voice to the "you'll probably like Petshop of Horrors" crowd.*

Date: 2007-12-30 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think that's what happens with ANY romance-centric manga...the annoying ones seem to last for eternity, but the ones I latch on to either are really short or have the world's slowest release schedules. The more cliche and "like it because it's this type and really only has surface stuff that's not so great if you look past it" a book/pairing is, the more popular it seems to be.

Date: 2007-12-31 05:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Most romance in manga, where the romance is a focus, tend to cater to the very young who won't look past the surface(like...95% of shojo romance manga and most of the yaoi I've ever tried to read)

The things that actually produce interesting, good canon pairings tend to either have the romance as a subplot, or the romance interwoven so that it's a crucial part of a much bigger plot.

Date: 2008-01-02 08:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, most definately that too. It's why most shojo romance bores me to death. I've only made it through 2 shojo's that were strictly romance. One, Mars, featured characters who had enormous they had to work past, and the other W Juliet, ignored 90% of the normal romance cliches, and instead of endless triangles and dithering and fretting over whether or not the other liked them as much and whether or not to have sex, the mangaka(when she wasn't just doing charming, cracky romantic comedy) looked to things like what to do with their lives, how can they make things work out between them after high school without giving up their dreams, getting their parents to accept them and each other, and their goals, know, things teenagers worry about beyond "Are we ready to have sex yet?" (there's also a shonen romance I love(despite it being harem), Love Hina, that does the a lot of the same)

Date: 2008-01-05 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, if you're going to check it out (which I highly recommend) give it several volumes to catch on. The first chapter was meant to be a oneshot and was, IIRC, Emur'a first published work(definately one of her first) that was popular, so it pretty much immediately got turned into an ongoing. The first few volumes are enjoyable, but more of the "this is a nice distraction from everything else" thing, because it took her a while to get a solid hold on where she was going and just what to do in the long run. But once she got it figured out, it was great. If more shojo romance was like W Juliet, I'd read a lot more shojo romance(sadly, what makes it good scares off most shojo romance readers, because they like their shojo romance to be JUST romance and triangles and dithering and fretting.)

Date: 2007-12-30 03:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It looks like the mangaka expect us to consider Kakei to be a bit cruel in a catlike way - Saiga makes remarks about it from time to time - but after Yuuko, I am coming to expect all supernatural shopkeepers to be that way!

That's because all supernatural shopkeepers ARE that way. If I ever meet one that isn't, I won't know what to do.

Yuuko's just the most awesome of them all(I don't see any others making gods in their spare time, do you?) I was even forced to sacrifice SDK's frontpage banner space to her.

Date: 2007-12-30 05:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh...welcome to them. I think 2 Clamp books is all I can handle for now(though my interest in Clover is reawakened...too bad it's not currently in print.)

Date: 2007-12-30 03:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yay, I've been waiting for you to post about Legal Drug! And you're right -- it's a similar dynamic to Watanuki/Doumeki, and some of the fan fic has the characters discussing just that. (We don't see it in Legal Drug, but at one point early in XXXholic Watanuki buys hangover medicine at the drugstore and meets Rikuo and Kazahaya. Clamp has a number of different seme-uke dynamics in its series, and while there are definitely visual similarities in the couples, the relationship dynamics vary.

Rikuo's ability is a kind of telekinesis that allows him to break things. Also, I'm not sure that Kazahaya has lost his memory, more that he doesn't want to talk about it but slips every so often.

One of my favorite fan fics is here: I'm fairly picky about the Clamp fan fics I read. It's easy for a lot of the fan fic writers to glom onto Kazahaya's innocence or Fai's frivolity, for example, and forget that they're smart and angsty too. They're not idiots.

The thing that struck me about Legal Drug is that Kazahaya clearly ran away from a very sheltered, even smothering environment, and it's that side of things I want to know more about. He never went to school, and it's clear that he never had any contact with anyone other than Kei. He certainly doesn't have any experience with the kind of teasing and bullying that Kakei, Saiga and Rikuo use on him. I think it's that aspect of him that brings out my maternal feelings. I find myself wanting to sit him down and teach him to count to ten before he reacts to those guys.

Date: 2007-12-30 03:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh and I nearly forgot -- that vase that Rikuo and Kazahaya retrieve during the festival? It pops up in XXXholic.

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