A definite no.
Kunieda Kei’s a fake. Natsuki Ushio’s a little eccentric. It’s not a match that’d normally be expected to work, but somehow Kunieda finds himself entangled with the latter after he accidentally injures him right before Ushio’s got a big project due. Ushio is himself in the entertainment business, albeit as a stop-motion animator, and one who’s unexpectedly hit it big thanks to a viral video; if he can’t use his hands to form his work, he’s in deep trouble ahead of his small screen debut. And that work is for none other than Kei’s TV station… although Ushio somehow hasn’t cottoned onto the fact that the man who injured him and the man who interviewed him are the same person. Is Kei’s awful personality and his penchant for duplicity really catnip to anyone?
…the answer is yes! But should it really be? I’m inclined to say “no”, as while the whole “no one would like my real personality!” is definitely a well-worn trope in romances, this is a singularly bad execution of it. Kei is an asshole. There’s no prettying that up with some lipstick, even he agrees with it; he doesn’t consider that a problem, though, even as he realizes that his inherent nastiness would be bad for his career. He would like for someone to like him as he really is as opposed to for his public persona, but he also has no interest in actually working to be a better person – he just would like to be handed it on a platter. Anything else would be too much work.
So, Kei does get that… sort of. Ushio finds him, inexplicably, attractive, both his shitty self and his edited self. But Ushio’s intelligence is certainly to be called into question given what an incredibly long time it takes for him to figure out that TV man Kei and random asshole “Owari” (Kei’s hastily invented fake name) are the same person, so befuddled is he apparently by some cheapo glasses and a surgical mask. Ushio also turns out to be a jerk, persistently ignoring Kei’s stated preferences during sex; there isn’t a single sex scene which doesn’t involve him raping the other man because he refuses to recognize a withdrawal or consent or an outright denial of consent. And if that isn’t bad enough, his reaction to Kei possibly cheating on him is to intentionally physically hurt him. He’s an abusive boyfriend, and no matter how horrible Kei is, that doesn’t make it okay.
Speaking of the sex scenes… they are pretty bad, mostly due to the previously mentioned consent issues, but also because they are boring; during a phone sex scene, I found myself idly wondering if the NSA was intercepting the phone call or not since Kei was calling Ushio while the latter was in the US. Surely that alone indicates how engaging I found it all.
One thing I haven’t noted yet is Kei’s unrelenting misogyny, or the book’s fervent need to make sure we understand that this same-sex relationship is somehow not gay. Kei makes clear early on that he loathes women in a fashion which he does not loathe most men, as he snidely describes a female colleague as being a has-been since she’s gasp almost thirty! At other points he describes female coworkers as “brainless bimbos” and expresses disgust with hostess club workers for only being nice because that’s what their paid for (somehow his being decent since that’s part of what he’s paid for goes unexamined). And late in the book he says that if he went into politics, he’d make it illegal to refer to women as “girls”… because that’s just gross old women (“harpies”) trying to pretend like they’re youthful still. Yowza! Meanwhile, Kei’s internal gripes about the men he’s around somehow manage to never be about their physical appearances nor does he deride them in sexualized terms. As for the matter of “it’s not gay!”, Kei’s reaction to reading an article in which Ushio is identified as bisexual is revulsion, and even Ushio himself sneers when Kei brings it up, snottily remarking that it was a misunderstanding of an interview in which he said he didn’t have a type, that he wouldn’t necessarily limit himself based on gender. (I probably need not specify that Ushio’s reaction isn’t because he actually identifies as pansexual.) This isn’t just a yaoi in which there’s no sense of queer identity, its one that goes out of its way to reject any such sense.
So, yes, I hated this book! But that shouldn’t be taken as a slam against the crew at Seven Seas who worked on this English edition, who have turned out solid work. This book reads smoothly and it was easy for me to ‘hear’ the differences in voice for each character, something which quite a few English-language books don’t even manage to pull off in their own tongue. There is one niggling thing that bothered me, though – there are quite a few vocabulary choices here which are very much British (for example, “zebra crossing” instead of “crosswalk”), but spelling throughout the entire book is American standard. For me, at least, this made for a sometimes disjointed reading experience. It’s not an “incorrect” choice to go with, but it does seem a bit odd. (Pawing through details about the translator, proofreader, and editors, no one seems to be from the UK, which leaves me even more puzzled over this.)
But, yeah, lordy, this was not a good book. It’s decently-written enough, but the characters are rotten, and in ways that aren’t at all interesting, while the underlying homophobia and misogyny leave an unpleasant aftertaste. I’m glad Seven Seas is showing an interest in licensing BL LNs, but I sure hope they pick up stuff that’s less odious going forward.