Aoi Akira’s Hidoi Otoko… I’m not even sure why I read it when the cover makes me think of shota; I don’t like shota. My bias is pretty strong and will color everything if I let it. I suppose I was attracted by the title and blind to everything else. I thought hidoi meant cruel or terrible, so I was probably excited about that. Aoi Akira’s title uses kanji (酷) and hiragana (い) for hidoi, while the hidoi in Minase Masara’s Hidoi Otoko (the manga that exposed me to the term) uses katakana (ヒドイ), but they both return “terrible” when using a translator. However, according to MangaUpdates the alternate title for Aoi-sensei’s story is Unchanging Man. A slightly less impressive and somewhat inaccurate description of the seme, Eiji, but his actual character sort of made up for the confusion.
The spoiled sprite Tsubasa looks too young and not just because he’s next to Eiji, but it is, in part, due to the bow (it annoys me) and… well… that he is indeed young. It would be different if all her characters were drawn as poster boys for youthful exuberance like Yamamoto Kotetsuko’s, but that is not the case; she definitely knows how to draw mature males. My aversion to shota aside, the story isn’t bad; I get it, but I don’t believe it. I just can’t see any moderately-adjusted adult taking an intimate relationship with a child seriously, so the story didn’t have as much impact as it would have if Tsubasa was at least 16 when they started dating and had actually matured along the way. And if Tsubasa was 16 then, Eiji would have seemed more like a man interested in a teenager rather than a creepy oji-san catering to a brat. Not that the distinction between the two is any kind of deal breaker.
Eiji entertains Tsubasa, but is still sleeping with other people to quell his urges, so I don’t believe he’s all that devoted to the kid. Through future instances and rewinds, the story illustrates how he actually is, but the creep factor does not lessen. Even though Eiji holds back on penetration, he’s still feeling the kid up. And so the creep factor persists. Added to that is the fact that there really is nothing appealing about Tsubasa. I think he’s even immature for 16 and that just makes me question even more what a 35 year old man wants from someone 19 years his junior. What’s even stranger is that Eiji’s companions realize that Tsubasa is, in fact, a kid and they just accept it. He may see him as a some sort of talisman to soothe the savage beast the story hints at him being, but is that enough to justify the corruption of a minor, even in yaoi? If it’s just going to be about nakedness and sex, I’d rather the mangaka just make it what it is and stop teasing us with the pretense of a potentially good story. On the other hand, I think it’s clear that if the potential was replaced by an unapologetic sexcapade, it really would be a story about a creepy oji-san catering to a brat.
And the bow. No one else in his school wears the neck piece that way, not even the girls. It’s such a small thing, but in the context of the people around him, it stands out as a sign of adolescent femininity and that just takes us right back to Eiji being a creep. This saddens me because, with the exception of his attraction to (and sometimes interaction with) Tsubasa’s character–as I see him–Eiji is my kind of seme. Responsible, scary, possessive, mean, and (arguably) devoted. I know that one of the best things about yaoi is that it pushes a lot of boundaries and turns taboos into totems, but characters like Tsubasa should be seen as the one of the few bete noire of the genre. Apart from the hole they have into which a seme can plunge, they have no redeeming value.
Insofar as the way the main characters were written, I can neither endorse the ending as truly happy one nor envision a blissful continuation. Since Eiji claimed Tsubasa while was he was yet untested, in contrast to his own life experiences, Tsubasa’s opportunities for growth were immediately stunted, consequently making him the unchanging man. Eiji’s plan to be with Tsubasa until the end of time will burden him with a partner who could never be his equal. Tsubasa already has an unresolved complex about his usefulness to and compatibility with Eiji and when he comes to realize that Eiji’s indulgence is nothing more than a hindrance to overcoming his real or imagined inadequacies as a partner, he too will be burdened. There is always the possibility that Eiji could provide a very nurturing environment in which Tsubasa could gracefully mature, but nothing in the story hints at that and as a matter of fact, Eiji’s voiced desire to clip Tsubasa’s wings (nice play on words, the mangaka’s, not mine), only supports my assertion.
Why am I so riled up? It is simply because this could have easily been a really good story, but I think the mangaka traded character development for a cheap thrill. The age gap is still creepy, but if Tsubasa was sensitive instead of childish and had the mannerisms of a more sophisticated or, at least, a level headed teen, I might have been won over. But the fact remains that Tsubasa’s playing on a level he hasn’t trained for and Eiji’s fondness for him seems unmerited; thus their intimacy exists as a mere attempt and I am left wanting.
Hidoi Otoko is not a complete failure. There are a few moments and subplots that are almost as good as the relationship between the main characters is bad. Any moment that includes the line, “Show me your penis!” is one for the books. And, ignoring the moments leading up to it, there is a really awesome page in chapter 4 that made my heart skip a beat. I’ve seen something similar in a few other stories, but it would be great if more semes exposed themselves with such intentions. I’ve lived enough life and read enough yaoi to not be all that surprised, but under the right conditions, some moments can still catch you off-guard.
If you don’t look too deeply this could be considered a pretty decent story, but it’s hard for me not to. So, I can recommend this for any one that likes yaoi, but I can’t say that it properly tickles any particular fancies.
Story: 3.0 | Artwork: 3.5 | Re-readablity: 3.0 | Final Score: 3.2
I would like to have read more by Aoi-sensei, but this is seems to be the only title available.