Otaku USA Magazine
Tales of Teen Love, Manga Style

I don’t have to remind OtakuUSA readers of how in business, even within the confines of the wild and unpredictable world of manga publishing, there is one precept that can be applied to practically every form of marketin— sex sells. Adult content can be found in every form of media from penny-fiction to ukiyo-e. Sexual constructs have fascinated media consumers throughout history and in this era the taboos of romance and sex have been manipulated to the point where anyone, regardless of age, gender and orientation, could be bombarded by sexual imagery.

Readers of this magazine should be familiar with the concepts of yaoi, yuri, and eromanga. Each one has been rendered in varying degrees of explicitness. Each one catering to a unique audience, finely tuned by editors and publishers in order to protect their market share while maintaining and satisfying their readership’s ever changing demands. Their uniqueness is what makes these concepts so successful. Each one can focus on a niche to the most extreme and uncommon fetish. Conversely, what they each have in common is what sets them apart from the latest chapter in manga’s erotic evolution.

While yaoi, yuri, and ero manga can be produced in varying degrees of ambiguity and detail, generally speaking these titles were always created for the reader who was of age. To sell an eromanga magazine to a teen would clearly get a convenience store clerk in trouble. And while ID is not required when purchasing BL at a chain like Animate, the people making the content and those selling it fully understand that a certain level of maturity should be achieved to fully grasp what is in the pages of BeBoy Gold and Comic Aqua. That is not the case for magazines that are considered high teen or teen love by the industry. These comics focus on a demographic that is still in the developmental stages of their sexuality. A recent poll by manga publisher Shogakukan concluded that only a third of their high teen readers are engaging in sex, but they also found that the sex is one of the key factors to why they read the magazine.

The magazine in question is Monthly Cheese! Notorious within the industry as one of the most dangerous manga magazines according to the Japanese PTA and regional police districts, Cheese! does not hold back on the smut. In many ways the publication embraces the attention as it is one of a small few magazines dedicated to the racy shoujo sub-genre that is serialized by a major publishing house. Now, Shogakukan does not publish this brand of comics for tabloid purposes. They feel that there is a viable market that has matured enough to demand something more substantial than their ShoComi and ChuChu lines. Cheese! covers a range of readers that is mature enough to read their hit BetsuComi magazine, but might be a little more fashion conscious, a little more romance curious, and definitely looking for plot devices reminiscent of those seen in soap operas. The magazine features hot looking young men, steamy relationships, and so much kissing and crying that this writer wonders if the characters in this magazine ever suffer from dehydration. Cheese! is an emotional roller coaster and occasionally a train wreck at that. However it does what its readers demand from it by consistently feeding a need for undeniable, passionate relationships packaged in a way that guarantees them big volume and full passion-buckets with every volume (sometimes up to 80 pages a chapter).

The endgame is not to be scandalous. Cheese! is just a vehicle for providing a new standard of romance for young women. Maybe the content can be a little explicit (potentially rivaling soft-core eromanga magazines like Shonen Gahousha’s Comic Young or aesthetic tanbi from BL magazines like Shinshokan’s Dear + many of Shogakukan’s more adventurous artists. Hot Gimmick’s Aihara Miki and Sensual Phrase’s Shinjo Mayu have both worked for the magazine over the years. While the two have been known to create more general shoujo fare for Shogakukan, Cheese! gives them a little more artistic freedom to work in more mature themes to titillate and amuse not only their readers, but each other as artists.

Sex isn’t really the game in Aihara Miki’s latest hit Honey Hunt. While Aihira-sensei has been known to draw steamy stories, this one, while plenty racy, is more of a high-stakes drama fest where the children of superstars try to knock their parent’s star from the sky! Unfortunately, these kids are not mature enough, nor talented enough to come close. Instead, the lead character rises to fame almost entirely based on her connections — whether with her divorced parents (mom is an actress and dad a musician) or the young stars she is rumored to be with. Watching main character Yura squirm in every chapter is what makes this series appealing. It almost makes whatever troubles a real high school teen faces pale in comparison.

In Sakurada Hina’s most recent title Umi ni Shisumu Yakusoku her cast is horizontal more often than they are vertical• Main character Mako has apparently learned everything she learned about love from TV. She quotes an old program by saying, “You can forget and old lover with a new one.•bCrLf Might not sound like a well thought out plan, but this is a girl who wants to get married as soon as she graduates and wants to promise herself to her ideal someone with her heart and body• Sadly even when she is on top of Yoru-kun, she cannot forget• his older brother Yuu! The six years she spent with Yuu still linger. Not romantic seaside kisses nor frolicking in rice fields could make her body forget, but Yoru has to leave before her heart makes room for him.

Finally, in Sensei to, Watashi to, Hajimete from Watanabe Shiho, Hinami-san has her latest first experience with adult love with teacher. And it takes place not only in school, but in the teacher’s office during school hours. Their love is so strong that when other teachers walk in on their lesson, the teachers apologize for interrupting and leave them to continue their work. Oh how lucky is Hinami to be the one of hundreds of girls Sensei chose to be with. Sadly Hinami isn’t the only one who has eyes for Sensei.

Cheese! titles are never very deep. If anything they are either extremely shallow, often exploiting universal stereotypes that have set back gender rights in Japan, or twisted to the point of sadism. Nevertheless, the magazine’s readers need such an escape. Not every girl can afford that leather adidas shoulder bag or the latest Disney Mobile brand phone. And clearly only a few can ever get that hunk everyone in class is drooling over. Cheese! provides enough romance, plenty of characters to hate, and a chance of winning an iPod, a Wii or a Gucci watch with each issue. Yeah, it might not be appropriate for younger teens, but seriously, someone should be checking some of the moe titles that teenage boys are into (or said to be into). Cheese! is smut. It’s an escape and unlike parents, teachers, and education plans it is there on time without fail. Maybe the PTA should do something about what parents teach their kids• or the lack thereof.