Tatsuyuki may be the son of a yakuza head and destined to take his place one day, but that doesn’t mean he has an easy time or enjoys his place in life. He fell for a man who left him; now life has no joy and Tatsuyuki just wants things to be normal, like they were before Minori. His father sends him to Fukuoka, to the yakuza branch there, to try and help him get his head back on straight. One night of drinking and partying leads him into the hands (and very strong arms) of a beautiful dark haired boy with glasses and a whole lot of trouble.
Before we talk about anything else in this manga, we need to talk about the fact that Fourth Generation Head covers some difficult topics. There is discussion of sexual abuse of minors, women forced into sex work, and one of the characters chooses to offer sexual favors as a way to repay a debt that borders on abuse. The second topic is only touched on briefly, but the other two are discussed/shown several times in the manga, so that is something to consider before reading or adding to a collection. There is also the usual occasional non-consensual moments often seen in manga of any genre that involves sex, but thankfully these are not frequent and are brief.
That being said, Fourth Generation Head is actually very good and avoids a lot of the stereotypes of the yaoi/boys love(BL) genre. At first, Tatsuyuki and Nozomi’s relationship feels uncomfortable and toxic, but it evolves over the course of the manga into something very sweet and supportive. They embrace their pasts and open up to each other, almost like a slow burn story in reverse. We have the first sex scene starting around page 18, with a short scene a few pages before at a sex work establishment, but the sex gets sweeter and more affectionate, less just lust fulfillment, as the story goes on. Tatsuyuki even seems to go back to accepting his role as the next yakuza head by the end of the story, making his power his own to use as he sees fit.
Fourth Generation Head has fantastic art; it’s clear Scarlet Beriko has worked to refine her style. The panels are never static and there aren’t really any moments of confused action where the reader has trouble understanding what is supposed to be happening. Every character is visually distinct, like Tatsuyuki’s slightly pointed ears and Nozomi’s large, detailed eyes. Even Tatsuyuki’s assistant/caretaker, Mr. Asoda, who we only see a handful of times in the manga, is distinguishable from the generic bodyguards he’s usually accompanied by. Proportions are very distorted in everyone’s bodies, but that’s also very typical of this genre, as it’s done in a way to accentuate hands and torsos/hips.
A side note: the summaries found on sites like Amazon mention that Tatsuyuki is questioning his sexuality, but aside from a brief scene in the beginning, we don’t have extensive agonizing over whether it’s okay or not to be with another man by Tatsuyuki. This is also refreshing, as this is often a trope in yaoi; one character lamenting that they are abnormal or telling their partner that they should be with a woman, often almost any time they have sex. One character does make periodic mention of being like both a man and a woman, or that he doesn’t know what he is, so that might be how Beriko circumvents this particular trope. That character is drawn in corsets and/or skirts in some of the chapter dividing art as well, and it’s unfortunate we don’t get more discussion of this character and gender because otherwise the chapter art could be uncomfortable, given the character’s past.
As far as recommending Fourth Generation Head, I definitely suggest it for libraries that already have a BL collection or are looking to build one out. It’s not just the standard story, and it’s well written and drawn. From what I can tell, this is a one shot story, so there are no further volumes to collect, though there are other stories by Beriko set in the same universe. This makes it easy and hard for collection development, since if this volume is lost there won’t be a volume missing from a series, but readers who enjoy it won’t have a sequel to look forward to.
Fourth Generation Head: Tatsuyuki Oyamoto
By Scarlet Beriko
SuBLime Manga, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Mature