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Review: Black Sun

Manga-ka: Uki Ogasawara
Publisher: 801Media
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: December 2008

Synopsis: “Gerun Fortress – a coastal stronghold along the Mediterranean Sea. Here, two-hundred Monastic Knights make their final stand against a league of 20,000 Middle Eastern soldiers led by General Jamal Jan. Called “beardless” by some, “shameless” by others, Jamal soon seizes the castle and its acting commander, Prince Leonard de Limbourg. The general’s ideas of how to subjugate the enemy do not conform to the typical rules of warfare, however. In quick order, Prince Leonard finds himself stripped naked and forced to perform in front of his own men. Leonard’s humiliation does not end there; now the general’s captive slave, he is brought back to a strange land and presented before His Majesty the Sultan. Will Jamal’s deviant attentions lead to certain punishment for both he and Prince Leonard?”

A battle of thousands versus mere hundreds leaves the commander, Prince Leonard, looking for a way out that won’t leave the castle stained with the blood of his men. In exchange for their safety, he surrenders himself to the enemies General, Jamal Jan. Forced to engage with Jamal in front of the soldiers present there, Leonard is humiliated, then whisked away to Jamal’s home as a prize of war, one that not only spells obvious troubles for him, but possibly for his captor as well.

First and foremost, let me put it out there for interested readers: rape story. The majority of Black Sun contains non-consensual sex between the commander Jamal and his now captive knight, Leonard. Sex scene after sex scene, and though they become less non-consensual in comparison to their predecessors, this is still a book that those who become uncomfortable by the notion should not pick up.

Story-wise, I enjoyed the warring conflicts and cultural overlap that the manga-ka wove into the story, which gives everything a strong setting, yet avoids cluttering itself up with much in the way of politics or diplomacy. I was a little disappointed the scenes with knights battling an invading force didn’t last longer but that kind of messy business had to move aside for a much different, arguably messier business to come.

Jamal and Leonard were decent characters. They made the story, were the story and readers have to at least care a little. Jamal is a cheeky character, confident and a little arrogant. He does want he pleases and who he pleases and I’ve have to say, it’s a super-seme indeed who can so easily turn the tide of a whipping (those who’ve read it will know what I mean)! Leonard is a character I found a little less interesting of a person from a standalone point of view and, with the exception of his initial heroics that landed him as Jamal’s personal boy-toy, I really didn’t understand his shifting motives and direction as the book came to its less than completely conclusive end.

The story certainly lacked much in the emotions department on any front as well so those looking for fluff and love won’t find it. Leonard’s growing acceptance of Jamal’s constant attention is based on the fact the man doesn’t make a habit of reminding Leonard that he’s the General who beat Leonard’s army, and instead likes to force hot, passionate sex on him day in and day out. I’d say worn down probably more than accepted though. Keeping sexing him up and he’ll definitely forget that whole humiliation, defeat-in-war thing!

To the book’s strong benefit, Uki Ogasawara’s artwork is attractive and I found it much more appealing than in her previous English-released work that I’d read. Characters are distinctly designed and strongly drawn, with emphasis on some nice period-relevant detailing on clothes and location. Their eyes were all steely focused, a pleasant change from some of my qualms with her work before, and the action scenes were rendered much better (though some still required a couple rereads to completely figure out what had just happened). And for yaoi readers out there who enjoy seeing lots of male genitalia in their books, there’s lots of it here. In fact, I was surprised at the size and detail, which is certainly not censored, nor the more discreetly sized illustrations of most other yaois. Uki Ogasawara is drawing a story about men and she darn well wants you to remember it.

A notable about this release, for those familiar with 801Media’s release work, is the loss of the dust jacket. Instead the cover is a simple, thicker board fare like the standard manga releases. Personally, I don’t mind the change and understand that costs need to be cut from somewhere. The full colour insert inside the book remains, as does the sharp printing on the front and back covers themselves. The only thing that looks a little off is the imaging on the spine, which bleeds slightly onto both sides when now confined to a smaller space; a very minor qualm in a package that’s otherwise not really negatively affected. Now you can read without any problems with the jacket sliding off or tearing it accidently when slipping it onto your bookshelf (alas in the past…) and you still have a product that’s shiny, high quality and lovely to look at. Don’t get me wrong, I did like the dust jackets, but I won’t lose any sleep over their loss. On the flipside, it’s a shame that the cut in cost for them didn’t equal any cut in cost for us, with this book still coming in at a hefty $15.99 US.

In the end, I have to say that if rape doesn’t bother you, you like seeing the sight of male gentalia at near every turn, and/or you’re a fan of Uki Ogasawara’s work, then you’d certainly do well to pick Black Sun up. If you don’t fall into those categories then this probably isn’t the one for you. It was a pretty entertaining read most in part to its artwork, I’ll give it that, but, for me at least, the numerous sex scenes weren’t nearly enough to make it anything special, short of my intrigue in the sheer difference of attention given to certain details in said sex scenes compared to many other yaois. I did enjoy some of the scattered humour (a bonus chapter at the end is especially amusing), and this is another high quality release from 801Media, but the subject matter itself will definitely leave this title hit or miss with readers as a book that dances on the line of what fans consider yaoi and what anyone else may consider porn.

Review written December 11, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo.
Book provided by 801Media for review purposes

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

Kuriousity does not condone or support the illegal distribution of manga online.
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