BLog reviews recent boys love, yaoi and LGBTQ+ English translation manga.
Go For It, Nakamura!
Story and art: Syundei
Translation: Amber Tamosaitis
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Release Date: July 3 2018
BL is rarely about real gay boys.
Like, yeah, you have gorgeous, impossibly pretty anime boys giving each other intense, meaningful looks and making out, but they are to homosexuality what Harlequin novels are to heterosexuality. Don’t get me wrong, that’s why my bookshelf overfloweth with BL. It’s comforting and cathartic, and gives me the warm fuzzies. And sometimes the hornies.
And then along comes Go For It, Nakamura! to show that BL can depict what an actual high school boy pining for one of his classmates is like… a gay disaster.
Nakamura Okuto is a sixteen-year-old, artistic, socially awkward, octopus-obsessed, reasonably horny gay disaster. On his first day at his new high school he spots the adorable, bright-eyed, light-haired Hirose Aiki and falls in love at first sight. They’ll probably fall madly and hopelessly in love with one another, Nakamura just has to work up the courage to introduce himself.
Go For It, Nakamura! is a cross between a high school slice of life and a romantic comedy, although the premise that Nakamura can barely even approach Hirose without becoming a quivering, speechless mess makes it different from a lot of BL. Instead of the tension being a buildup of feelings and drama, wondering when Nakamura and Hirose are going to kiss and confess their love for each other, the tension is if he can even speak to Hirose, and if he does can he do so without making a total mess of it. Nakumura worries Hirose may have a crush on the cool teacher, he imagines all the different ways he and Hirose will fall in love, he fantasizes about Hirose and tentacles in one of the few saucy panels. He’s not a passive victim of homophobia. He doesn’t agonize over his sexuality. He doesn’t agonize over the fact that Hirose may not like him back–he’s absolutely sure if he can just find the right approach they’ll fall madly in love. As a recovering high school boy with a couple of the most monumental puppy dog crushes that still haunt me to this day–choices were made, MSN messages were sent, class timetables were memorized–the most charming thing about Go For It, Nakamura! is how perfectly it captures the awkward high school gay boy experience. Teenagers are all hormones and complicated feelings, and a crush becomes all-consuming, over the top and utterly ridiculous.
My favourite of many aspects of the manga is Syundei’s style, a throwback to 90s Gundam– or Evangelion-like art. Thick solid lines, extremely expressive characters, no hesitation to go for the absurd or over-the-top–like the thugs who attack Hirose after he and Nakamura walk home together for the first time, or the imperious guidance counselors doing student conduct checks. But then its the emotional moments of tenderness or intimacy, when the ridiculousness of being an awkward high school gay boy fall away and he’s able to have quiet, intimate conversations with his crush, small truths coming to light.
That’s maybe one of the stranger aspects of Nakamura!, and why it’s as charming as it is to me. It’s a BL that’s aware of BL–Nakamura himself is an avid BL reader–and subverts the tropes for something more human, but without sacrificing the madcap hilarity of a comedy BL, a difficult balance to achieve while also feeling very genuine and lovely. Nakamura himself feels multi-dimensional and dynamic. Sure, he spends the entire manga obsessing over the relationship he desperately craves with Hirose, but he also has other interests, like drawing, or marine biology (or BL…), which helps the character feel real and charming. The payoff is in the quieter, more intimate moments, since you’ve gotten to know this adorable little gay disaster. While Nakamura’s feelings may be unreciprocated for most of the manga (but what about all of it?!), even the smallest of moments come to mean a great deal, because the title says what we’re all thinking.
Level of Problematic: Go for it, shounen ai!; Honestly, one of the best things about Go For It, Nakamura! is that its cute, horny and wholesome in equal measure with little of the problematic sexual politics that pervade BL.
Level of Adorable: Go for it, cross-dressing crush tropes!; If you’re at all like me you will be literally squeeing throughout.
Level of Spiciness: Go for it, tentacles!; Syundei talks in the artist’s notes about how they didn’t think the series would go past chapter 2 so they threw in a brief tentacle fantasy for a little titillation. Good god, I would do anything for a “Nakamura and Hirose’s college adventures” continuation, with extra tentacles on the side, please.