A friend of mine and I were once talking about the value of hands in BL. Yaoi hands aside, we were wondering how there are some writers who value the very action of touching more than anything in BL. Beyond sex and all those things, there are boys love titles where I feel like a hand’s touch holds so much intent and desire. This can be seen in Scarlet Beriko’s Minori no Te (Minori’s Hand), the story of a masseuse who gave so much with a touch.
The Handy Masseuse
I spent quite a while reflecting if I have ever read another BL story about a male masseuse. Seriously. Why hasn’t this occupation been abused in BL manga? Like there are tons of stories involving host clubs and hair salons but Minori no Te felt like the first story I’ve read about a masseuse.
While I use the term masseuse, Shigefuji Minori is technically a licensed chiropractor. The first few chapters introduces us to his clientele, from yakuza brats to celebrities, who visit his office to get their bones in the right place. And then some. When he feels like it, Minori offers a ‘special service’ to his clients in order to help them unwind. This, of course, helps him have a loyal set of clients. And while his clients easily fall into his grasp, Minori also keeps them at an arm’s length. I thought that was a nice cheeky touch. I was set to reading Minori no Te as diary of Minori’s techniques and his clientele. I was game for the hilarity of seeing all his clients submit to his fingers, panting and quivering behind curtains. The title was perfectly set-up as a yaoi title — no peak, no point, and no meaning. I was innit for the ride until Minori meets a client he easily refused.
The love of a masseuse
The second part of Minori no Te followed Minori’s relationship with this new client who turned out to be an old teammate of his. The story unfolds like a silly chase between a mouse and a cat where the two of them find a compromise before Minori manages to ‘escape’ from his client. What happens next was a beautiful revelation of Minori’s motivation as a chiropractor. An unexpected romantic logic in a title that was built on unabashed sexy times.
I felt betrayed. To a degree, I was also embarrassed. HOW COULD YOU, KHURSTEN!?! Haven’t you spent the last three years studying the logic and beauty of girls’ nonsense!?!
Not that I am saying that there is something super intellectual in Minori no Te. It is as wonderfully sexy and entertainingly shallow as other titles in BL. However, I commend this story’s structure, making something more of this sexy masseuse. Minori no Te initially presented itself as a casual hookup and then it offered something for the long haul. Scarlet Beriko wrote a meaningful and sexy love story that made me feel ashamed for expecting so much less of this title. And I was more than happy to feel this shame everytime I went back and re-read this title.
More than ero?
Granted all the lovely things I said and felt about this title, I just love how Scarlet Beriko managed to balance all the schmexy times in this title without making it feel to awkward and weird. I have to commend Scarlet Beriko for knowing her characters well enough to know how to utilise their situations without making anything awkward or out of place. The idea of Minori as a chiropractor/masseuse was BRILLIANT FOR SCHMEXY TIMES. He just touched everyone in all the right places and it did not feel awkward at all. Well, there was a rather forceful moment but even that was calculated as the story needed to rouse Minori’s emotions and memory.
Minori no Te really makes me think about the erotic balance that’s coming in many recent BL titles. There are even scenes that reads and feels like you’re immersing in the moment. A particular panel made me see things from Minori’s eyes which was so well timed given the narrative.
Again, this made me reflect about whether I’ve seen this perspective in BL. Prior to Minori no Te, I don’t think I strongly recall being pulled away from my perspective as an observer and turned into a participant. I strongly recall that I’ve always been the happy voyeur however now, thanks to Minori no Te, even I wondered if there’s any BL where I was taken in as a participant. I’ve seen this technique in H-manga, maybe geicomi, and of course even in mainstream titles. There are even dojin anthologies that makes you experience going on dates with your favorite characters. But BL for me was a world of fantasy that I’ve always enjoyed observing. To be lured, even for a brief moment, a first perspective in a boys love title, was quite exciting and interestingly emotional. Again, kudos to Scarlet Beriko for managing to time that panel so perfectly that I was gross sobbing in feels in no time. And while I think there are titles who manage to pull these kinds of emotions without demanding a first-person perspective from readers, I think Beriko understood why it was so important for us to see what Minori saw.
Minori no Te was like finding a fresh, clean, mint-condition, still warm and melty, double cheeseburger with still crisp fries in a trash heap. When I expected just lovely rotten schmexy times, this rotten fujoshi was given so much more. It is top-grade ‘service’, one that is both trashy and beautiful.