Story/Art: Hyouta Fujiyama
Translation/Adaptation: Tomo Kimura
Lettering: Abigail Blackman
What They Say
For breaking the rules and lending a helping hand to his beloved Ryuka, who is en route to the moon, the moon spirit, Ixto, finds himself a jailbird, imprisoned by the powers that be! And far from being understanding of his lover’s sacrifice, Ryuka’s hopping mad that Ixto took it upon himself to make such a drastic decision without consulting him first! Though Ryuka stubbornly continues on to his celestial destination, do caustic words await these enchanted lovers at the end of the quest instead of sweet kisses?!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Tale of the Waning Moon volume four is the final volume of this Yaoi series from Yen Press. Ryuka has been cursed by Ixto, the god of the last quarter moon, to be irresistible to other men. What followed were a series of misadventures where Ryuka tries to break the curse, all the while growing closer to Ixto. The two eventually make love, but soon after Ixto breaks an important rule to help Ryuka and is subsequently imprisoned on the moon by his older, more powerful brother, Izayoi. Now Ryuka seeks to reunite with (and perhaps punch) his lover.
I came to this series at the halfway mark, so while it is possible that I missed some necessary subtext and plot building at the beginning, I was able to pick up the story easily enough. Unfortunately, the story just didn’t grab me. It was an odd mixture of traditional manga characters and memes with almost Jane Austen sensibility and Yaoi themes, and while that has the potential to create something new and interesting, it’s almost like it picked the most boring and predictable parts from each. Moreover, the story also featured an undertone of nonconsensual sex that I found rather disturbing.
The story begins with a tentacle rape scene that thankfully never reaches fruition. Ryuka and Coon seek a magical item that plays a key role in their plan to travel to the moon, but unfortunately it’s guarded by a plant with long, reaching, dripping tendrils. The two are caught in the tendrils while Widow-Sama, a powerful Moon God who is aiding them in their quest, watches. The two scream for help and say things like, “They’re crawling into my clothes!” and “No!” Widow-Sama saves them, but only just in time. The three then return to Widow-Sama’s home where he forces Ryuka to drink sake from his mouth, using it as an excuse to force his tongue down the human’s throat. Ryuka does nothing about this because he told Widow-Sama that he could do anything to him he wanted in exchange for his help. Luckily for Ryuka, Widow-Sama goes no further than that.
Little moments like that run through the story. One could read into this that the story is really Ryuka coming to terms with his sexual orientation. Indeed, I think that this was the story’s intention. However, there are mitigating factors that make this a problematic interpretation and instead make this a story about rape.
Ryuka continually protests these advances by men and their abuses of his body, but in the end he appears to enjoy it. He even professes his love for Ixto near the climax. At first this seems pretty cut and dry: Ryuka didn’t know who he truly was or what he wanted and Ixto had to lead him to discovering these truths. This is all well and good, but Ixto casts a spell on Ryuka that draws the young man to him. In a very real way, Ryuka has no choice in the matter and one could make the case that he was magically rufied. Even if the spell was broken at the end of the story, the damage was already done and there will always be the question of how much free will Ryuka possesses. The manga presents their eventual union as a positive moment, but it’s too tainted.
The story consistently abuses and threatens Ryuka’s body with sexual violence. People read and impose their desires onto his body, but he’s not the only victim. The character Cymric—a moon cat who serves Lord Izayoi—literally changes his body to serve the sexual desires of his master. Halfway through the story we learn that Ixto is Izayoi’s half-brother, and that Ixto’s mother was human. Izayoi fell in love with her, but being mortal, she died. They were never able to consummate their feelings, so he has Cymric changes his shape to look like her so he can have sex with her by proxy.
There exist two issues with this: 1) Izayoi is appropriating this woman’s physical form for his pleasure and 2) he is forcing Cymric to be the receptacle of his frustrated lust and love, negating his personhood and agency and literally erasing and rewriting his identity. While Cymric never says no and never verbally refuses or expresses any concern or damage, there is a definite awkwardness to the scenes where he is transformed into this woman, even a hollowness to his expression, that imparts a sense of awkwardness to an already disturbing scene.
One could argue that what they’re doing is no different than roleplaying, but one key difference here is the power dynamic between the two characters. Cymric is a servant, and Izayoi is not only his master, but a God as well. It’s doubtful if Cymric is even capable of refusing, and when the ability to say “no” is taken away, then the sex act becomes rape.
I do worry that there may be a translation issue or even a cultural misunderstanding in my reading of this manga. This is intended for mature readers, and it may be written as a piece of erotica. If so, then it’s not a type of erotica that speaks to me. In fact, it’s one that continually set off my Spidey sense. Still, even if it is intended to be a work of erotica, that does not negate the problems I encountered with the story. It casts them in a different light, certainly, but it’s an argument that would take far more space than a short review provides. At the very least, I’ll say that this just wasn’t my cup of joe.
Tale of the Waning Moon four ends Ryuka and Ixto’s journey. We learn important secrets about Ixto’s past, and Ryuka comes to terms with who he is and what he wants. However, there were disturbing undertones that set me on edge and made this a disturbing read for me. I’m glad that this is the final volume. Not recommended.
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: B
Age Rating: Mature
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: 24 June 2014