BLog: Escape Journey Vol. 1

BLog reviews recent boys love, yaoi and LGBTQ+ English translation manga.

81y3ZCAYYULEscape Journey Vol. 1
Story and art: Ogeretsu Tanaka
Translation: Adrienne Beck
Publisher: SuBLime Manga
Release Date: September 11, 2018

Class clown and popular party animal Hisami Naoto is already making friends on his first day of college when he’s reintroduced to his high school ex-boyfriend, Hase Taichi. While they had a tempestuous relationship and an awful, hurtful breakup, Naoto tries to convince himself they can be friends again.

Until they tumble back into bed together once again.

And when things get difficult between them once again happy-go-lucky, Naoto finds himself trying to navigate his feelings for Taichi. Are they friends? Lovers? Can they even be either without it all going wrong?

While Escape Journey Vol. 1 may be standard fare in term of BL plot–two boys struggle to make a difficult relationship work–it’s Ogeretsu Tanaka’s twist on romantic drama that makes it a journey worth going on. I wasn’t sure what to expect after her more recent English-translated series Yarichin Bitch Club (high school sex club with romantic comedy breaking up the horny), other than excellent, sexy art and loveable characters. Even with some of the plot points that I didn’t enjoy, Bitch Club at least always had that.

Escape Journey‘s not a sex romp–even though there’s a lot of great sex scenes, more on that later. While their secret high school relationship started off fun, “slowly being with Taichi seemed less and less fun.” They stopped laughing, they would fight over inconsequential things. Eventually things came to a head and Naoto claimed he was regretting ever dating Taichi who, in turn, claimed they were fuck buddies, nothing more.

As Naoto and Taichi’s lives become entangled once again they find themselves falling into the same habits. While Taichi’s temper and stubbornness has gotten better since high school Naoto wonders if he can ever change to a point where they can grow beyond friends or lovers. As a classmate, a shy young woman, expresses interested in Taichi, Naoto find himself wanting something more than what they’ve been, but wonders if it’s even possible, and what they would call that.

The sex they have is an important facet of that. Haunted by Taichi’s claim that Naoto “is nothing but a fuck buddy I blow off steam with sometimes”, he finds himself resisting their relationship being purely sexual, and the tension that brings. Paradoxically, both are constantly horny and the sex on the page is plentiful (and super fucking hot) without being gratuitous or pointless because we care about their relationship and want to see them happy, emotionally as well as sexually. All this without the drama feeling overwrought. There’s plenty of levity and a cast of adorable secondary characters to balance out the dramatic moments.

One this note, most interesting are the two recurring women, shy Fumi and her friend–and flirtatious, gregarious foil to Naoto–Yuki. Typical BL would have Fumi be an unwitting obstacle to Naoto and Taichi’s relationship before ultimately being cast aside when these dumb bisexual boys come to their senses. While not the focus, Fumi becomes important to their relationship growing, and even grows herself throughout volume 1, which is refreshing in a genre where women often feel vestigial to the sacred, inevitable boys’ love relationship.

Escape Journey Vol. 1 is an elegant, sexy little romance with a lovely message about relationships. Sometimes you’re waiting for someone else to change without realizing that it’s you who needs to grow.

Level of Problematic: Escape problematic politics around sexual assault; another manga with a cavalier attitude towards “no means no”, made all the more jarring that the sex on the pages of volume 1 is mostly well balanced with plot and hot, save a single scene.

Level of Adorable: Escape to the aquarium to hold hands; a master of moe, Tanaka captures adorable moments and exchanges that had me slapping myself with the book at how cute they were.

Level of Spiciness: Escape to the bedroom to take care of your thirsty glasses-character uke; aside from the sex being plentiful and just a delight, Escape Journey is one of the best depictions of gay sex I’ve seen in manga. It always makes me laugh in manga when the top just dives right in… yeah, that’s not how anal works, unfortunately…

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