The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese has a lot more going for it than just the very unique title. This gay, romance manga by artist and writer Setona Mizushiro breaks a lot of stereotypes of the genre.

In this adult drama, salaryman Kyoichi Ootomo is busted by a private investigator for cheating on his wife. The private dick just happens to be Imagase Wataru—an acquaintance of Kyoichi’s from university. And not just any acquaintance, he’s a gay man who has been been suffering from a bad case of unrequited love for the oblivious adulterer, Kyoichi.

Imagase decides to use his leverage against Kyoich. If he agrees to have sex with Imagase, the detective won’t reveal the other man’s indiscretions. This is a typical plot device in manga. A gay character pursues a straight man and they end up having incredibly dubiously consensual sex. Except, The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese gives readers something that is as rare as gold: A complex, interwoven tale of love, infidelity and a whole batch of (okay, three) female characters with agency! Too often, the characters in gay romance manga seem to exist on a planet inhabited solely by men.

This volume and its follow-up, interestingly titled, The Carp on the Chopping Block Jumps Twice, delves deep into what it means to be in a relationship and how one’s views and actions (or lack thereof) affect a partner.

Kyoichi is an easy-going philanderer. Alternately falling into bed with women and Imagase because it’s the path of least resistance. And Imagase, with the deeply suspicious nature of a private eye, can never feel secure in his relationship with Kyoichi.

Part romance, part couples-therapy, it can be emotionally traumatic reading. Visually, the manga are quite good. These are well drawn. The realistic visuals lack any gag panels due to the more serious, mature nature of the plot. Muzishiro was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2007. They are stylish and explicitly drawn with clean lines, attractive characters and nice background work. 

Some readers take issue with the gay romance manga because it can seem that many of the plots are lifted from teen romances. Which is not all bad. Both genres share a lot of the same tropes and both are (for the most part) written for a female audience. But for readers looking for a dramatic, in-depth story of grown ups dealing with real-life problems in a romance, The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese and The Carp on the Chopping Block Jumps Twice will definitely fill that need.

Please note that both volumes are labeled for explicit material and are for adult readers. They are great additions to any adult manga collection. Interestingly, I wouldn’t consider this a series, even though it is listed as such. Both volumes can be read as stand-alone books and not necessarily in order.

The manga, published in Japan in 2006, is licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment and has been made into a live action film being released this year in Japan.

The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese
By Setona Mizushiru
ISBN: 9781642757590
Seven Seas Entertainment, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: Adult (18+)

The Carp on the Chopping Block Jumps Twice
By Setona Mizushiru
ISBN: 9781642757606
Seven Seas Entertainment, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: Adult (18+)

  • Lisa P.

    | She/Her Library Associate in Youth Services

    Reviewer/Editor

    Lisa is a library professional and part-time comic shop employee in Central Wisconsin.

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