Retentive… probe… etc.

March 1, 2008

I can’t really call Kei Azumaya’s All Nippon Air Line: Paradise at 30,000 Feet (Juné) a good comic, but there are a lot of things I like about it.

It’s a yaoi comedy about a company that takes gay friendliness to new heights. (I apologize for that, but there are so many puns in this book that there’s something of an infection vector.) Proudly known by its acronym, A.N.A.L., the all-gay airline is dedicated to customer service and to the pleasure of its all-male, all-gay employees.

This is no mere flying brothel. The thing that strikes me most about the book is how sex-positive it is. Aside from one unfortunate short where a straight pilot is “persuaded” to sign on with the airline, everyone gets to pursue their own tastes, whether it’s a beautiful boy, burly jock or balding salaryman. The employees are so cheerfully randy and the passengers so appreciative that it’s easy to buy into the spirit of the proceedings.

There isn’t much in the way of proper characterization. The short stories and jokes are built almost entirely around the playful juxtaposition of types and tastes (and the incessant A.N.A.L. puns). Azumaya pulls off enough of the jokes that the underdeveloped cast isn’t really that much of a detriment.

The best bits involve ambivalent passengers winding up on an A.N.A.L. flight by necessity or accident. My favorite featured a recent college graduate traveling with his amateur manga-ka sister on an athletically themed flight. There’s nothing unexpected about the story’s outcomes, but the execution is smart and ultimately rather sweet.

Most of the collected works are doujinshi, self-published comics, and those origins show. It feels more like Azumaya is riffing for a friendly audience than creating anything for the ages, but that’s part of the book’s charm. She’s playing with yaoi conventions in ways that assert that sex can be fun and travel can be glamorous. It’s a nice change of pace.