License Request Day: N.Y.N.Y.

Hey, did you know? It’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month! The President of the United States said so! We can’t marry in most states or openly serve in the military, but other than that, June is all ours, bitches! (In fairness, I have no desire to do either, but I would like the chance to decline both and have it mean something.)

NYNY1In the spirit of celebration, I’ll devote this week’s License Request Day to a title I first heard about in Paul Gravett’s essential Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics (Harper Design): Marimo Ragawa’s N.Y.N.Y. Here’s a bit of Gravett’s description of the book:

“It follows the lifelong relationship between Kain Walker, a New York cop who has hidden his homosexuality, and his younger blond boyfriend, Mel Frederics, an orphan with a troubled past. Ragawa portrays the strength of their devotion to each other as they face the challenges of coming out, of sexual jealousy, and of living as an openly gay couple.”

NYNY4If you’ve read any of my thoughts on Saika Kunieda’s Future Lovers (Deux Press), you’ll already know that this paragraph amounts to catnip for me. I just can’t resist yaoi where the protagonists are grown-ups with lives and where sexual orientation actually matters.

Ragawa is probably best known among English-reading manga fans for Baby & Me (Viz), one of the earliest Shojo Beat releases. It follows the ins and outs of a young boy who must help his widower father care for his toddler brother, and it’s got some really moving bits in it. (It’s also got some silly, horrifying bits that will have your hand twitching towards the phone to call Child Protective Services, but it’s fiction, so you shouldn’t have a problem stopping yourself.)

N.Y.N.Y. was published in Japan by Hakusensha, which has given the world such gifts as Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket (Tokyopop), Bisco Hatori’s Ouran High School Host Club (Viz) and Kentarō Miura’s Berserk (Dark Horse). I note this only because I wanted to mention those three books in the same sentence. I’m having a little trouble pinning down precisely where N.Y.N.Y. was serialized, so if anyone has any pointers, I’d be happy to update with the information. Updated: That didn’t take long! Commenter Sean reports that N.Y.N.Y. was serialized in Hana to Yume, which has been the fertile soil for a number of impressive titles. Updated again: Commenter JennyN notes that the book has been published in France by Panini Comics, which led me to find that it has also been published in Germany by Planet Manga. Those might be the same company; I can’t really tell.

But back to my original point, it’s always nice to see some yaoi that’s got some real-world roots. (I think so, at least.) So come on, manga publishers! Don’t violate the spirit of LGBT Pride Month! Give us the four-volume N.Y.N.Y., or at least announce it!


P.S. Not that I’m anywhere close to running out of titles to feature, but if anyone would like to do a Special Guest License Request Day, I’m totally open to that. Contact me if you’re interested.

9 Responses to License Request Day: N.Y.N.Y.

  1. Sean says:

    New York New York was in fact serialized in Hana to Yume, the same magazine where you can find Fruits Basket (and Skip Beat, and Please Save My Earth, and Here Is Greenwood, and SA, and I Hate You More Than Anyone…). Ragawa recently had a very long shojo series, Shanimuni GO, end after 30-odd volumes.

    It’s not that much of a surprise – HtY has grown more conservative in the last 7-8 years (with the evolution of its sister magazines Bessatsu HtY and The HtY to push stuff off to), but used to be pretty edgy.

  2. JennyN says:

    I read N.Y.N.Y. some years ago – it has, naturally, been translated into French – and remember thinking that it would be interesting to see American reactions to an English version, because in many ways it’s such a very Japanese take on its subject. For instance, the mother of the policeman hero is worried about his coming out as gay not because of what (as a foreigner) I imagine would be the more usual reasons such as a strong evangelical faith, but because she fears it will harm the family’s social standing. Or there’s another scene – the funeral of Kain’s Jewish colleague – where one of the cops present remarks that he didn’t realise there was such a large Jewish community in New York. It’s hard to believe a policeman in any city, let alone NY, would have such a poor understanding of its ethnic makeup – if you’re used to living in multi-racial and multi-cultural nations, that is.

    OTOH, Ragawa does look seriously at the implications of coming out, gay marriage, etc. It isn’t all hearts and roses round the door – Mel is genuinely damaged by his traumatic past in the way the “bad boys” of standard yaoi stories aren’t; being gay does not automatically make you a hero and martyr and straight characters wrestling with their own prejudices and preconceptions are allowed their integrity. I get the feeling that in many ways Ragawa was using the superficially “freer” American situation to ask her own compatriots to think seriously about gay people in society, and what the future might bring in Japan as well as the US.

    ps: Oh, and the very last chapter *will* make you cry.

    pps: Plus something which gives me the giggles – in the author’s commentary at the end of one volume, Ragawa describes her research trip to the Big Apple itself, INCLUDING the photo she took of two genuine (reasonably good-looking) NY cops she persuaded to sit – rather uncomfortably – on a bench in Central Park. I have a feeling they didn’t realise quite what sort of comics this no doubt politely enthusiastic Japanese lady actually *wrote*….

  3. This manga sounds fantastic, and I’m completely with you on preferring yaoi where the characters are “grown-ups with lives and where sexual orientation actually matters.” Though I would also say I prefer stories where sexual orientation doesn’t matter (or is completely ignored) over the ones where it’s all about the lure of “forbidden love.” I’m not sure either of those is really more offensive than the other, but I really prickle at the forbidden love thing.

  4. […] week’s license request from David Welsh: N.Y.N.Y. Publishers, start your […]

  5. David Welsh says:

    Totally agreed on the “forbidden love” category, Melinda. I’d rather see a story divorced from any kind of identity reality than go that route too. Though I guess it’s fair enough in a period piece if it reflects the period’s standards.

  6. David, yes, I can see how that would work in a period piece, and I think there are modern cultures in which it would be more appropriate than in ours, too. I think, though, that what I’m pricking at most of the time is a sense that this is the *author’s* point of view on the subject, or the sense that it is being portrayed in that way specifically as part of the appeal–suggesting that straight women are attracted to yaoi for that reason. Which might actually be true, but I kind of don’t want to know that. Or at least I don’t want to see it pandered to. If that makes sense. 🙂

  7. davidpwelsh says:

    It makes total sense! And I concur.

  8. JRBrown says:

    So as you noted, NYNY is available in French; it’s out of print but pretty well represented in used copies. I got my hands on volumes 1 and 2, and I’ve got to say, so far I’m not all that taken by it. Volume 1 is very 90’s Darker And Edgier, with extremely unpleasant things happening to sweet naive uke Mel so that his policeman partner Kain can rescue him and/or angst about how he can’t protect him. (Also, Kain is extremely jealous of Mel but keeps on having casual sex with random passerby himself, which lost a lot of sympathy for me.) Volume 2 is a half-and-half mix of 1) Mel being traumatized by his horribly traumatic backstory and 2) an extended and rather heavy-handed homily on why Homophobia Is Bad. I’m still planning to pick up Vol 3-4 with my next international splurge; I hear that there’s some sweet domesticity in the later volumes, but also a Serial Killer With A Grudge, so I’m suspecting Mel is going to get stuffed into a refrigerator again…

    Unless things pick up considerably in the last half, I’m not putting NYNY on my must-translate list. If you really want to see helpless innocents dealing with the aftermath of unspeakable abuse, the go-to source is Moto Hagio’s epic A Cruel God Reigns. For slightly klunky social relevancy I’d prefer to see Akisato Wakuni’s Tomoi series (which isn’t any less melodramatic, but the melodrama is a bit more plausible).

  9. davidpwelsh says:

    Ew, I hate “You touched my stuff” storytelling. Thanks for the warning!

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