If you know anything about me, you probably know that I really enjoy doujinshi. And considering the limited scope of my Japanese linguistic abilities, I enjoy simple doujinshi. Doujinshi that doesn’t require me actually having to read it.
You know, porno books.
But as the years have gone by, my tastes have grown gradually more specific when it comes to both pornography and anime, so finding stuff that hits my sweet spots is difficult. I mean, I see no problem with getting it off to your run-of-the-mill rape book based on show-of-the-hour. Sometimes I like to do just that. But in the end, those books don’t really do much to hit my really specific kinks. I really enjoy anime–and characters in those anime–that tend not to be popular, and as a result doujinshi produced around those shows and characters are a rarity, and often times what we get is rather poor quality stuff. However, sometimes you find an artist who does exactly what you’ve been wanting, and does it extremely well.
Hitomaron is that kind of artist. As a fan of the beautiful young girls in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (I’ve been meaning to write an article extolling the virtues of their brilliant visual design and why they are just so sexy.) Hitomaron’s renderings of them push all the right buttons, where other doujin artists exploring similar territory fail. I first came across his (Her? Their?) work during my travels in the east, and was immediately taken when I saw his (then) newest release–Kagiana Gekijou Shoujo 5–sitting around in Tora no Ana. Further investigation lead to the purchase of Kagiana Gekijou Shoujo 4, and here I am reviewing them a year later.
Once upon a time, internet maestro Shingo (of the now dead Heisei Democracy) made a beautiful analogy regarding character designers whose specialty is adapting designs for anime versions of original works, such as manga or light novels. He compared them to when bands cover songs, and how sometimes you really like certain covers of certain songs. Sometimes you may even like the cover over the original. A similar thing obviously happens in the doujinshi scene, considering how a lot of it is composed of parody works. There are a lot of Zetsubou Sensei doujin that either try to shoot for the look of the original, or take things in their own direction, but very few artists take what was aesthetically pleasing about Kumeta’s and/or SHAFT’s designs and act upon them in the such a way that the result is unique and creative, but still has the same underlying feel carried by the original work.
Much like Kumeta Kouji’s original manga, Hitomaron’s work falls less into the realm of greyscale and more towards black and white. Navy-blue school skirts and collars are rendered in pure black, with white outlines defining any shapes within these dark areas. The wonderfully Japanese black heads of hair that adorn the students are also rendered completely in black, with subtle pure white highlights when appropriate. It is not as if his work is devoid of screentone, though. Screentone is generally used to define shadows on light surfaces–such as the girls’ beautiful white skin–and to lend tone to objects where it would be strange to render them in pure black, such as tongues and private parts.
Where his work shines for me, however, is in the linework. I have always been a fan of really angular line work–a quality found in works by artists such as Sadamoto Yoshiyuki–but it’s not really something one sees very often these days. The up rise in moe-centric content has brought about a style composed mostly of soft, rounded edges, so artists producing works rife with lots of bold, pointy shapes are rather rare. It’s not as if these doujin become cubist pieces, but the quality of the work is not as soft and round as what one usually finds, and has a bit more of an edge to it. Underscoring this somewhat angular artwork is an expert manipulation of line weight, adding an extra bit of edge to the art, and expertly defining the beautiful bodies that compose the student body in Zetsubou Sensei.
The use of these lines is economical, but at the same time bold. A few fast, well placed marks come together to make somewhat simplistic, but at the same time bold and solid forms. This application of line goes a long way in defining extreme facial expressions and poses. Nothing is boring or static. The non-erotic pages–which usually involve some sort of silly conflict–are very kinetic despite being still drawings, and the erotic scenes are especially sensual due in part to this unique application of line. But while the trend in Hitomaron’s art is towards simplicity–much like the original aesthetic found in the Zetsubou Sensei manga–its certainly feels deliberate, and is balanced by large amounts of details in certain areas, such as the characters’ eyes or various articles of clothing.
The one other aspect of these doujin that I find eye-catching is Hitomaron’s abstraction of the human figure. I already said his forms are somewhat simplistic, so it probably goes without saying that this simplicity is a result of a good amount of cartoonish abstraction. The girls have wonderfully skinny, fragile-looking and delicate bodies, slightly big hands, and tiny necks, which are all in some ways cues from Kumeta’s original work. The girls have all manner of wonderful facial expressions, as mentioned earlier. Their expressions during sex are especially effective (this is a big selling point, let me assure you,) looking amazingly helpless and filled with ecstasy. Tears help, too. Aside from the actual character art, there isn’t much in the way of backgrounds aside from the odd establishing shot. The paneling is decent, and provides good views into whatever is going on. That being sex, mostly.
Story wise–and I mean that totally ironically–these books are rather lighthearted. I feel that way too many doujinshi have these really frightening and serious rape scenarios that I can’t really get into, but these books have a pretty good sense of humour, while at the time delivering really erotic sex. Kagiana Gekijou Shoujo 4, which (mostly) focuses around Kaga Ai, uses her accidentally spilling water from a vase of flowers onto a boy’s crotch as an excuse for her to wipe up the water hurriedly–all the while chanting her trademark “I’m sorry!”–resulting in the boy getting a boner, and summarily engaging with her sexually. Kagiana Gekijou Shoujo 5 is simply a competition between Tsunetsuki and Komori over who Itoshiki likes more, and results in a very sexy reverse-rape threesome scenario.
I feel far too many Zetsubou Sensei doujin try to be funny in the midst of sex scenes, which more often than not doesn’t work. These two Kagiana Gekijou Shoujo books do well to balance out the humour and sex, by taking a really cliche porno plot, playing it tongue-in-cheek, then segueing to some really high quality sex. I sadly only have two in what appears to be a series of seven books at this point (it’s hard to tell how many there are, the man doesn’t have a website) but I do plan to get my hands on the rest in my next journey to the east.