Yaoi Review: Brother by Yuzuha Ougi

Brother (Yaoi)

Art and Character Design: Some nice detail in certain panels and fairly good expressiveness for the characters. In general, the erotic art is fine, but the anatomy gets a little weird at times with arms and legs of often extraordinary proportions. The leads are definitely bishonen, heavy on the androgyny — especially the uke, whose face and expressions often made me think of that woman from Profiler. Some cute chibi characters, though.

Characters: The younger brother is the seme. He is defined as tremendously beautiful with extraordinary talents by nearly every other character with almost Mary Sue like repetition. (He is also frequently described as looking and acting older than his age, which is certainly true — throughout the book, he never felt like any twelve or seventeen year old that I’ve ever met.) He does really seem to be in love with his brother, though, and he’s willing to show it, so he is not unlikable. The older brother (and uke), on the other hand, is hyper-emotional, dramatic, insensitive to the needs of others and reactive. His over-reactions, over-dramatizations and misunderstandings provide most of the conflict. Other characters are mere sketches (although there is a younger sister it would have been fun to see more of.)

Plot: Plot? What plot?

Romance: The characters are clearly into each other. A lot of lip service is paid by our narrator — the older brother uke — to the joys of finally finding a partner. And there are a few sweet moments. But the attraction seems to be mainly chemical and thus was difficult to care that much about, especially considering how unsympathetic one of the partners is.

Sex: You know how I’ve said in my other reviews that “sex ain’t the reason to get this book”? Well, guess what — if there is any reason to get this book, the sex is it. The characters have lots of it, nothing is censored, and in addition to the standard couples activities, you even get explicit solo action more than once. Have you been craving a yaoi book where you get to see actual wee wees instead of glowing cones of light? Brother’s got you covered.

Overall: On the plus side, you’ve got a hot set-up (dude, they’re like brothers!) and explicit sex. On the negative side, you have an unsympathetic lead, unnecessary and uninteresting conflict and a very superficial treatment of a provocative topic. It’s a DramaQueen publication so I really wanted to like this book, but frankly, even if you’re just looking for sexy, good times, you could do a lot better.

Rated by the publisher for ages “18+”

Plot summary from the publisher’s website:

Momoki Asuka and Momoki Yui are two step brothers who were the best of friends until an unfortunate incident one summer’s day. Ever since then, Yui has avoided Asuka at all costs, even going so far as America to study.

A super tennis star, Yui no longer needs a big brother, so where does that leave poor Asuka? What happens when brotherly love transforms into something more?

So this is my second DramaQueen book — and apparently the first book they published. From the start, it’s clear they were delivering a quality physical product and, as with Challengers, the fit and finish of the book is excellent. However, unlike Challengers, character, plot, romance and, frankly, fun are sorely lacking.

I’ve already discussed how annoying the uke, Asuka, is. (There’s a scene towards the end of the book where a character slaps him in the face for no good reason. I feel this should have happened more often.) The truly unfortunate thing is that he is also our narrator — and narrate he does. He comments about his feelings and what’s going on and what he’s thinking about what he’s feeling about what’s going on — it gets exhausting. Especially because this guy is clearly his own worst enemy, conjuring up fears and suspicions that cause him to repeatedly treat his brother coldly and cause himself tons of angst.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I certainly am a believer that we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to making a relationship work, but here one is left with the impression that he goes through these contortions solely because the writer needed an excuse for more pages and more make-up sex, since what there is of actual plotting is fairly thin.

Even though this book is clearly yaoi — and thus has its own conventions — I can see how someone might be tempted to apply the “gay porn” label to it. Much like porn, it’s all about the set-up and the sex, everything else is fairly irrelevant. And here’s the set-up — they are brothers, stuff happened when one was twelve and the other was seventeen, as (mostly) adults they become lovers and the younger one is the top — ladies, start your fantasy engines now. Any interesting conflicts play themselves out in the first two chapters (for example, one of the character’s starting hurdles is impotence — it’s a yaoi book, what are the odds that’s going to get fixed pretty darn quick?) Once they start having sex in Chapter Two, what conflict we’re offered is trite, angsty, often driven from implausible misunderstandings and forced. (“When we’re not having sex the conversation dies!” “OMG, am I more in love with him than he is with me?” You get the idea…)

And that’s a shame, really. Let’s face it, the set-up offers far more possibilities than kinky money shots and general yaoi angst — our heroes are family members (though not blood relatives) in a loving, romantic relationship. Squick factor aside, there seems to be all kinds of opportunities for interesting conflict. The younger brother appears to have little shame about his feelings, what if he didn’t want to keep it a secret? Or what if they did decide to keep it a secret, but another family member found out? Let’s say they want to become life mates — how will they work that out in a world with such a strong incest taboo?

Now, I get the impression that the author is not unaware of these possibilities — there is a very short end story where the little sister catches them making out — but it feels like Ougi-sensei would rather have the narrator keep reminding us in words that they are siblings, instead of really exploring the ramifications of their choices. (Thus, the little sister easily accepts what she’s sees as simple, non-sexual brotherly love.)

I understand that this is just supposed to be fantasy — so you don’t want too much reality intruding — but if you’re going to go there, don’t just pay lip service, go there. “What happens when brotherly love transforms into something more?” It’s a daring question, and it could have been a lot of fun if this book actually pursued answering it. As it is handled here, though, it’s just a provocative set-up for sex.

That sounds like it should be enough fun in itself. With Brothers, it isn’t.

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