Otaku USA Magazine
A Strange and Mystifying Story [Review]

Akio Yamane’s cursed bloodline means he’s destined to die young, and no sooner does his grandfather kick the bucket then the curse kicks in. But Aki’s grandfather also left him one last gift: a petrified tooth. With it, Akio accidentally summons the smoking hot wolf guy Setsu. A bored family guardian, Setsu amuses himself by granting a wish to those who summon him. Setsu says that Akio’s illness is caused by a disease demon, and he can kill off the demon, one bite at a time. Of course, drawing the demon out of Aki requires intimate physical contact.

A Strange and Mystifying Story was previously published in English by Juné but cancelled before the fourth and final volume. As an older book, it follows the old yaoi cliché of the protesting uke who vows he’s being violated but is totally in love with the hunky seme. It’s an annoying trope that has faded out of yaoi in recent years and some readers may find it off-putting.

A lot of the fun of ASAMS comes when Aoki’s work life collides with his home life. Aki works at the municipal art museum with an old friend of his grandfather, Director Minamura, who knows Setsu from way back and dispenses racy dating advice to the shock of his younger colleagues. While it at first appears that Aki and Tetsu are bound to end up together, by the end of Volume 1 is seems like Minamura and Tetsu might be on the way to a May/December romance of their own. Rounding out Volume 1 are two short stories, one about a teacher/student relationship and the other a period piece about an engraver who finds a runaway servant in his house. Both are solid shorts, but they definitely look older and less polished.

The art isn’t as slick as in some newer manga, but all the characters are visually distinctive and details like age are clearly drawn; thankfully, Minamura does not look like a hunky 20-something who is supposed to be in his 50s. The hot and heavy scenes are kept vague, focusing on close-ups of body parts that are impossible to discern with any certainty as well as the faces of the manically grinning Setsu and protesting Aki. Overall, it’s a decent book with good art and some very entertaining side characters. Give it a try of you miss the old days of deep-in-denial yaoi romances, or if you need that one final volume to complete your Juné set. Bonus points for new and improved covers.

publisher: SuBLime
story and art: Tsuta Suzuki
rating: M

This story appears in the April 2018 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.