Imagine your beloved grandfather dies of an illness and soon after you fall ill yourself. Your family members are whispering about the curse on your mother’s side of the family and every day you get worse. Then one desperate, lonely night, you remember what your grandfather said about the family’s guardian who lives in the family shrine. Soon a tall, brooding man with trailing blond hair, dog ears and tail, and a sour attitude appears in your room claiming to be able to eat the curse inside you. This is the beginning of A Strange and Mystifying Story. This man claims he’s been working with the family for generations to cure them of the curse, but Akio must first name him, as has every previous generation. In a panic, Akio chooses the name Setsu. To find the source of the curse inside, Setsu has to touch Akio. This of course leads to more touching and soon, complicated feelings.

Much of this manga is very typical for the yaoi, or “boys love”, genre; one partner is aggressive sexually and emotionally distant but has a soft heart, while the other is timid, but fierce in his emotions. The first sex scene appears within the first 30 pages of the book. Despite that, it doesn’t actually show us much beyond a lot of bare chest and leg, with a mere suggestion of other things. The artist sidesteps actually naming body parts. There are some moments where it can be argued that the sex is not entirely consensual. Although common in the genre, it can be uncomfortable to read.The plot quickly moves past these moments, focusing more on Akio’s denial of his feelings for Setsu and how that manifests itself.

The line work is very light and almost feels like a sketch, lending the story a general sense of delicacy. The art focuses on conveying characters’ emotions primarily with facial expressions and does it well. Backgrounds and details are kept simple. What we do see generally lends itself to understanding the scene. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell which character is speaking, as the artist doesn’t use strong directional cues with speech bubbles. This is especially true in high-emotion scenes, when the speech bubbles overlap more and it’s not as obvious based on the bubble’s relative location to a character.

While the story is entertaining, it jumps around in a jarring way and has an unusual layout of chapters. In the first volume, the main story ends on page 136 and we have 34 pages of an unrelated short story, then another one, then a six page mini-comic between two side characters from A Strange and Mystifying Story. Volume two jumps between flashbacks and the present, then has a short story at the end involving Setsu’s past. It’s a confusing narrative choice and makes the story feel more disjointed than it is otherwise.

I don’t feel comfortable strongly recommending this title. If you already have a yaoi collection in your library, this would be a solid addition.However, this would not be my first choice to start a new collection. This manga is currently in print through its publisher, SubLime, which has an ebook version that can be added to Comixology or downloaded as a PDF directly from their website.

Availability is almost always a concern with print yaoi, as it tends to have short publication runs and the binding and paper don’t tend to last well over time. A Strange and Mystifying Tale can currently be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online retailers.

A Strange and Mystifying Story, vols. 1-2
by Tsuta Suzuki
vol 1 ISBN: 9781421595955
vol 2 ISBN: 9781421595962
SuBLime, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 18+

  • Shannan

    | She/They Teen Services Librarian, San Antonio Public Library

    Features Writer

    Shannan waffled between English professor and librarian as career choices for all of college; eventually librarian won. She is a Teen Services Librarian with the San Antonio Public Library. When not running TTPRG games for their teens or teaching them how to bake, she's doing what she can to promote comics to anyone who will listen. At home they're likely deep in the middle of their latest cosplay project or watching B movies with her husband, while generally pushing the cats out of the way.

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