Jealousy GN 1

4 weeks ago 15

Jealousy may be published under Viz Media's SuBLime BL imprint, but unlike most other titles in that line, it isn't a romance. It has characters who are in love with each other, yes, and lots of fairly graphic sex between two men, but to put it in the same category with even creator Scarlet Beriko's other works is like saying that Fairy Tail and Drops of God are the same because they both have male protagonists and involve alcohol consumption by one or more characters.

As readers of the creator's Fourth Generation Head: Tatsuyuki Oyamato may have guessed, Jealousy is spun-off from that title, which in turn is spun-off of Minori no Te (available in English translation on Renta!). You don't need to have read either of those books to pick this one up, and in fact having read Fourth Generation Head may make readers more reluctant to read Jealousy, because the main character of this series is the villain of that one: the man who rapes Tatsuyuki Oyamato. You may recall that in that story Uichi mentions having been Tatsuyuki's age when he first met Tatsuyuki's father, Akitora; that twenty-four years later he's still trying to get Akitora to notice him, to be with him, does not suggest that Jealousy will have anything approximating a happy ending. More important is the fact that readers may not be keen on learning the backstory of a particularly cruel character.

Although Uichi is younger and getting fairly badly used himself, he's still firmly up to the same sort of attention-getting tricks that he used in the previous book. As Asoda, a member of the Oyamato family who knew Uichi in school, notes, he's always been like this – too clever for his own good but not quite smart enough to make any of his schemes stick. That's how he found himself playing Russian Roulette with an author who loses the game right as Akitora and Asoda are coming to shake him down, leaving Uichi tied up over the bed, the scene of their first meeting. Uichi falls hard for Akitora almost immediately, and soon thereafter begins his campaign to both get admitted to the Oyamato group and win Akitora's affections, or at least his body. As in Tatsuyuki's story, Uichi gets himself into plots too deep too quickly, and often without the result he's angling for, causing himself a lot of pain along the way.

Pain is something that seems inextricably tangled with pleasure for Uichi, however. He knows that what he's doing is dangerous (knowing it's wrong may not quite compute), and a piece of him likes that. He's reckless in a way that suggests that he's missing any sense of personal danger or regard for other people's feelings if it means that he'll get what he wants. Remorse doesn't appear to figure into any of his thoughts and he's really only interested in reaching his own goals, consequences be damned. How sex factors into this isn't entirely clear – he has a lot of it, and definitely isn't above using sex as a means to his ends, but how much he actually enjoys it as opposed to seeing it as a form of currency isn't always clear. It's this that gives Jealousy's first volume something that really sets it apart from other romances, BL, non-con, or otherwise: although there are a lot of sex scenes, most of them don't appear to be all that sexy or for the purposes of titillation. Instead they show us Uichi's relationship with his body as currency, giving us more insight into why he would do what he did in Fourth Generation Head: it's always been about what he can get out of it rather than the act itself or physical pleasure that comes with it.

All of this combines to make Jealousy a difficult read at times. Even without the knowledge of the first book it's clear that this is about an unhealthy obsession, and flashforwards (or rather, pages set in 2017 instead of 1989; it's actually more accurate to say that the majority of the book is a flashback) show us that years later he'll have a daughter but no wife and no Akitora, largely negating the possibility of a happy ending to the story. Instead it's about the chase, the race Uichi can never finish and his desperate, barely acknowledged need to belong to someone. He mentions at several points about not wanting to go back to his family; the implication may be that when his parents realized he was gay they threw him out, a tragic start that propelled him into the life he's busy ruining.

If Jackass! was your introduction to Scarlet Beriko's work, it should be apparent by now that that was an unusual story for her, more sweet than scary or sad. Her art remains beautiful, especially in how she draws graceful lashes on the eyes and a variety of male body types, but this is not a series that is going to work for BL readers across the board. If tragedy is your flavor of romance and you aren't put off by reading about the villain from SuBLime's previous release of her work, or you just like to watch a trainwreck in slow motion, this is worth picking up. But don't just grab it because you enjoyed her previous work, because this is not a book that's going to work for all readers.

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