Hello peeps! Today’s pick is from a one-shot collection of Harada. The artist released two collections; Positive and Negative, each focusing on positive and negative aspects of life and Piercings is a part of the Negative collection.
I’m not exactly good at knowing what’s popular or not. There certainly are regional differences; a title that is popular in Japan doesn’t necessarily have to be popular in another country. There’s also a certain type of gatekeeping, especially in printed media, people in publishing companies decide which title will be picked up or not. They may or may not factor in reader demands, market research, or what is circulating in social media. And these all, still, may fail big time at painting an accurate picture on popularity. Why am I suddenly talking about popularity, you might ask. I was just thinking how I’ve always known Harada’s name for some reason or saw them being talked about in the BL circles, but the artist has only 4 works licensed in English while the artist has around 40 titles released overall, Gintama doujins included. (Please read as: I want more!)
However, while I’d like to think the BL genre itself has had an undeniable positive impact on me over the years, I don’t frequently come across an individual title that leaves me staring at the ceiling the whole night and I don’t mean it lightly. It’s also no surprise that two of these rare titles are from Harada. The other one was One Room Angel, which I felt the need to review urgently after finishing. Today’s post may get long and rambly as well, please blame it on my enthusiasm. Images are slightly NSFW. Enjoy ~
Title: Piercings, in the Negative anthology.
Author & Artist: Harada
Release Year: 2016
Licensed? (Y/N): Yes, on Renta!
The story is narrated by our nameless protagonist, who is working as a masseur in a massage parlor; I’d like to call him M. One day on his table lays a man called Usui, a neat and tidy office worker. He is taken aback by the shiny piercing on Usui’s nape and unconsciously touches it, which leads to a conversation on his piercings. M asks the usual ‘outsider’ questions: doesn’t it hurt? Isn’t it a hassle having to constantly hide them because of work? He doesn’t seem to be the type to get piercings, so why? As Usui answers all of the questions one by one and continues to show the other piercings he has hidden away under the layers of everyday clothing, these pieces of glistening metal transform into a means of exploring what is concealed under the layers of skin and trace out the private past of the other. Will the admiration of the initially baffled M continue to grow, or will he uncover something that he’d prefer remain hidden?
From here on there will be spoilers, you can skip to the last paragraph if you’d like to avoid them.
⚠ spoilers ⚠
While normally these posts spoiler-free, I couldn’t keep it in me this time. One-shot being short is one reason, but how enamored I am with Piercings ever since I laid my eyes on it is the real culprit. I even had a review of it called “Beauty and the Void” sitting in my drafts ever since 2017.
What I find exceptionally remarkable in this story is how a simple accessory becomes a visible signifier of all things invisible in a relationship. M feels drawn to otherwise average Usui because of the piercings that adorn his slender and pale body. As their relationship progress and they become lovers, his infatuation only grows, and this hidden side of Usui that only M can see during sex only heightens the feeling of exclusivity. M knows Usui’s piercings are not done in a studio and he accepts Usui’s suggestion of getting one by the hands of his lover. We watch Usui piercing M’s tongue while he’s inside Usui and it’s presented in a very ritualistic manner.
This mirage in M’s mind dissipates into the air when Usui reveals that his piercings were all done by his ex-lovers and M was the first one who let Usui pierce them. The fact that those details M near-worshipped were, in reality, parts that he shared with other men suddenly become unbearable. When M comes to his senses, he finds himself trying to rip Usui’s piercings off as now they seem so loathsome. When asked, Usui refuses to take them off permanently, saying piercings are a part of him.
⚠ spoilers over ⚠
Piercings is a story of jealousy, obsession, and what kind of complex forms love can take. Snooping around, I’ve read that the language Harada uses is very different from their other works, and Piercings is written in poetic prose. If that’s the case, which would make a lot of sense and would fit the story perfectly, the translation seems to be lacking in poetic descriptions. However, I’d like you to take this with a grain of salt since my Japanese level can hardly account for N5.
Harada breaks the usual storyboarding style when the story demands it, and overall, this one-shot is so aesthetically pleasing, and its visual narrative is so strong, it made me think that even without the words Piercings would still be able to convey its meaning and be one of my favorite stories ever. I hope I was able to paint an accurate picture and convince you into giving it a chance! While I only talked about this particular story, the other one-shots are as good and interesting.
Take care everyone, and see you next week!
A — Ameiro Paradox
B — Blue Sky Complex
C — Coyote
D — Dear, My God
E — Endou-kun no Kansatsu Nikki
F — Full…
G — The Good Teacher
H — Hakujon to Kurobotan
I — Itadakimasu Gochisousama
J — Jealousy
K — Koi wo Suru Tsumori wa Nakatta
L — Love Tractor
M — Momo to Manji
N — Novae
O — Oh! My Assistant