26 May 08
Warning! This manga is rated for Mature Audiences (aged 18 and over), therefore this review may contain content not suitable for younger readers.
Update: 3rd June 08
A massive thank you to Phil Reuben of the Leeds Uni Anime Soc for letting me know “Futari H isn’t one of the creators, it’s the original title of the series. Tokyopop renamed it for comedy/marketing value.” Thanks Phil, now on with the (slightly modified) review.
Ok, before I start the review of and Katsu Aki’s Manga Sutra, I just want to quote what Katsu Aki says right at the start of the book (and is repeated about halfway).
“This isn?t just a hentai manga. It?s about love, sex and how-to ? I wrote this with the hopes that it would serve as a bible to those who dream of having the best sex ever! And I really mean that.”
The Manga Sutra isn’t just a book showing characters portrayed in lots of different and intricate sexual positions, in fact the main two characters only embark on three different ones. It is the story about Makoto and Yura Onoda, two newlyweds who meet with the aid of a matchmaking service. Unbeknownst to them they are both virgins at the age of 25, something they discover during their first night of ‘marital bliss’. As their time and experiences together go on, they find out each others preferences, habits, and of course problems. This being the case Manga Sutra has a wide range of characters looking to help them on their way. There is a vast array of comedy throughout the Manga Sutra, and this helps to keep the mood light, yet sensitive as a learning tool. The drawing style also has somewhat of a range, but tends to keep towards a style showing the happy couple in a romantic setting. I did find myself very intrigued by the use of onomatopoeia during the sex scenes. I may not be an expert, but there are some sounds I never expected to hear in that kind of environment (note that the majority of the onomatopoeia remains in its original katakana form).
Makoto Onoda works for a make-up import company. He’s quite shy but often wants to have sex with Yura; much like the old saying about ‘a dog with a bone’, pardon the pun. Unfortunately after losing his virginity he discovers that he had other problems; such as premature ejaculation which often leads to an unsatisfied Yura.
Yura Onoda (maiden name Kawada) starts out working in a travel agency, but leaves after her honeymoon in Hawaii. Yura is a big fan of horror films, quite the opposite of her new husband, but finds the bedroom to be … well, more embarrassing than scary. She takes great pride in her life as a housewife, but is often unimpressed by Motoko’s attempted ‘sexcapades’.
Throughout the story Yura and Makoto are given advice from two experts of the sex world; Makoto’s older brother, Akira, and Yura’s 20 year old little sister, Rika. With at least 31 partners between them (for the record, they’re not together nor have they been), these two pop up at times which could often be construed as most inconvenient; Akira (and his wife, Sanae) even turn up on Makoto and Yura’s honeymoon. Although this could be considered a nuisance, the advice given does prove beneficial to the newlyweds even if a little embarrassing (Yura practicing the riding cowgirl position on a pillow is a scene not to be missed).
As I said there are a lot more characters than I will go through (just to point out that Motoko?s mom?s face is always full of expression), but I have to mention one more. The Manga Sutra contains a bodyless narrator who not only helps you to follow the story, but also offers you some very interesting facts and figures about sex, relationships, marriage and so on. It’s often a very sarcastic character and I found when reading I had the voice of Tom Baker in my head (narrator from Little Britain).
Whilst on the subject of the facts and extra information given out, this is indeed a well researched piece of text, with all information sources given (if you fancy a little further reading). The end of the book is also packed with more information, extra statistics and a small Q&A. Throughout the story there are also plenty of cross-section diagrams showing exactly what is going on so that you won’t become lost (so to speak). There is also information given about Japanese (non-sexual) culture, such as why people might be shouting “Tamaya!” whilst enjoying fireworks. But wait, got a question that wasn’t covered in the book? Well you can get in touch with Dr Manga Sutra through an address given at the back of the book.
If it’s just a bit of hentai you’re after, you’ll probably be disappointed. Yes there’s sex, yes there’re boobies and yes there is a bit of experimentation and semen in peoples hair. But there’s much more to it than a simple porn book. The emotional intimacy between Yura and Makoto keeps the reader involved with the story by urging them to keep going and be the best married couple they could possibly be. In fact, the story alone with the sex toned down to implied events could even work for me. However, that would be denying the whole intention of why Manga Sutra came about; to “serve as a bible to those who dream of having the best sex ever”.
Without a doubt this is definitely a manga you would probably want to avoid reading on a train, with your Nan, or generally in public, that is unless you like being looked down on as “that pervert I saw the other day”. It’s not a book you can subtly hide away whilst reading it either. Not only because of the image of Yura and Makoto embracing on the front cover, but because of the sheer size of the book. With its page size being 6 inches by 9 inches and a spine width of 1 inch, this is a book that will definitely make itself known when it’s sitting on your bookshelf.
On the whole I enjoyed the Manga Sutra a lot more than I first anticipated I would. It’s an interesting, funny and enjoyable read. Whether or not I’ve learned anything from it I obviously wouldn’t say, but I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for the sequel … that is if any non-adult bookshops are brave enough to keep it on the shelf.