Big Changes

Holly says “Hello! And why aren’t you writing right now?”

I’m planning on several big changes for this site soon. There will be more sections added for reviews, articles, and other offerings. I plan on making this a little more active. It seems I say this and nothing happens, but I assure you it’s a lot of planning in my notebook and new posts will be coming soon as well as new stories and more insight and upcoming publications.

So far on the horizon you can expect:

  • Unbridled the second edition and new cover. I’m finishing up edits for this.
  • a camping themed short story
  • NaNoWriMo 2020 project – Hello, Professor – a new romance!
  • Articles on self-publishing, design and mindfulness
  • more reviews!

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these crazy times.

Cheers,

H.K. Rowe

Review – Gakuen Heaven (anime)

I figured since this journal is so quiet I at least should do some reviews of things I’ve watched or read. One of the things that I’ve been doing in all my “free time” other than writing and freelancing is make some progress on my queue, specifically anime, which I’ve been obsessed with since junior high (a long long time ago). I started watching the anime Gakuen Heaven on Amazon Prime, free to subscribers and 13 episodes long.

Gakuen Heaven on Amazon Prime

The perk here is Amazon Prime has a lot of free Anime to watch from Retro Crush, a digital rights company that has a lot of old school anime, some of it I grew up with and am happy to revisit.

I had never seen Gakuen Heaven, but I’ve started to really get into the M/M and BL community, whether it’s manga, novels or TV and movie series. And this month being Pride Month, it’s even more fitting to celebrate LGBT+ stories.

Back to Gakuen Heaven – this is about the anime ONLY. I know there’s a manga and RPG but I don’t have access to them, so I’ll stick to talking about the anime. This is about the Japanese audio and English subtitled version, as they did not have the dub available.

Amazon rates this as 13+ ages, so it’s not as explicit as some Yaoi anime can be. I see this more as Shonen-Ai (boys love) so the romance is mild and fluffy. As with most Shonen-Ai anime, the formula is pretty typical. It’s an all boys school, so there are no female characters. None. There are effeminate boys that could be considered girly, obviously the “uke”(bottoms) label, and there are dominate “seme” (tops) males.

The main protagonist is Keita Ito, who is an effeminate boy with large blue eyes, wild reddish-brown hair, and is shorter than most of the other boys characters. He’s specifically of the “fandom bicycle” trope, though he does have interactions with other guys that are interested in him or flirt with him, but his true love interest is obviously his childhood friend Kazuki Endo. There are other boys that don’t care for Keita in the beginning, but quickly he wins everyone over, even the scheming twins who antagonize him and basically just throw barbs at him and eye daggers. They don’t really do anything other than kvetch that he’s even at the school.

Keita is invited to attend Bell Liberty Academy (BL Academy, get it? Har har) in the middle of a semester. Bell Liberty is known for only accepting exceptional students that have a particular talent, whether it’s computer science, arts, or sports. Keita is completely ordinary. He is an average student and doesn’t have an specific talents. The only thing that may be considered his talent is that he’s “lucky” because he does get into certain dire accidents and comes out of them completely unscathed for the most part. However, he is still offered to attend by a mysterious “Chairman” of the school. With good reason, other students that have talent start to wonder what the motivation is to accept such an average student to their school.

Kazuki Endo is Keita’s dorm neighbor and immediately he dotes on Keita and wants to spend time with him. The two go to breakfast together, as well as dinner, and Kazuki watches him to the degree that he’s in love with Keita, even before he comes to the school. We find out later that Kazuki is actually the “Chairman” and he’s busy doing a lot of meetings and dealing with board members who don’t believe he’s fit to take the position. The Chairman relies on the Student council who is headed by the King, who immediately warms up to Keita as well.

In a short time that Keita is at Bell Liberty, he amasses some powerful friends, some of them who make passes at him immediately, like Nakajima (who is far too creepy and makes Keita visibly nervous) to Naruse, the tennis captain, who immediately claims ownership of Keita, is overtly lovey dovey with him, and calls him “Honey” and tries to force him on dates. Naruse comes on strong, but he’s not creepy, just an obvious lover boy. Keita tries to rebuff him kindly, and even cool and calm Kazuki gets angry when Naruse is around trying to advance on Keita.

Kazuki is the most doting (boy)friend. He’s possessive of Keita but it’s more enduring than excessive. SWOON.

There are other characters, quiet and reserved, who open up or have personality shifts because of Keita. Keita is a bit of a Gary Stu, but Gakuken Heaven, though obviously formulaic of BL anime, does not take itself too seriously.

Even the supposed danger Keita is in does not last for long, as his long line of student council or pretty boy friends come to his immediate rescue, or Keita wins them over with his charm – Jin Matsuoka one of them, whom was intent on slitting Keita’s throat at one point.

The unfortunate thing with the Jin Matsuoka arc was it was tacked on the end. Jin wasn’t around much throughout the whole series, but he appears in the last two episodes as someone who believes Keita is responsible for his lover being in a coma as the both of them had the same virus, but Keita was “lucky” and came out of it unscathed in childhood whereas Hiroya, Jin’s lover, is in a coma. Of course at the end, Hiroya comes out of it and wakes up to Jin, and everything is hunky dory. The story wasn’t really fleshed out well at all, and Jin’s hatred of Keita seemed to come out of nowhere.

Obviously the MVP story arc is the best, with the boys uncovering the corruption of the Vice-Chairman who wants to expel Keita to get at Kazuki so he would resign as Chairman, because the Vice-Chairman and his skeevy board member allies don’t want some punk kid in charge of the school.

Keita and Kazuki join the MVP contest, where more is revealed about Kazuki to Keita, and Keita, for whatever reason, starts to remember Kazuki as his childhood friend who made a promise they would go to school together. The two win the MVP contest, with Keita solving some of the riddles and helping the twin boys that hate him out when they are in danger. Even with the Vice-Chairman’s interference of hiring goons to take out Keita during the contest, Keita and Kazuki win, with a little help from their friends of course. Nakajima and the King specifically come out of the shadows to rough up the goons who try to taser them, and even Shunsuke runs over a couple of goons with his bike, unknowingly. Like I said, everything comes out perfectly for the heroes and the Vice-Chariman is fired and shamed for all his shady dealings.

Kazuki finally confesses to Keita, and during a meteor shower, they snuggle and share a kiss. It ends with all the other characters enjoying their own happiness and watching the meteor shower too. And also during that meteor shower, Hiyora wakes up from his coma to Jin, and they embrace, and Hiyora appreciate’s Jin’s long hair, which he grew out no doubt for him. It’s a feel good ending, and the two main boys get together. There’s kind of a hilarious epilogue in the morning where Keita is coming out of the bushes frazzled and running late to his classes, blaming Kazuki. Kazuki winks at him, and it’s up to the viewer to assume whether they did more than kiss the night before.

(they totally banged)

Okay we know you got some, Kazuki.

It was a cute anime story. I liked the 13 episode format, and there was no drawn out drama or stupid misunderstandings, which I’ve come to like in anime. I’ve seen enough anime with big seasons and multiple episodes that just draw stuff out and I just can’t get into that. It was a feel good ending, the anime boys are pretty to look at, and there’s some good humor throughout the plot. Nobody is really in danger and even the coma boyfriend of the evil school doctor comes out with a win.

I wished there was a little more development of Jin/Hiyora but other than that, I think they treated the reveal of Kazuki’s true identity to Keita in an appropriate way.

If you want to watch a cute, boys love anime with not a lot of uncomfortable explicit scenes, this is for you.

Disclaimer: I pulled some of these images from the web on Google. If any of them are yours I’d be happy to credit. Thanks!

Monday Blogs: Giveaway & Book Review

Happy Monday, everyone!

I am still reeling from NaNoWriMo and catching up with my never-ending to-do list. I do plan on setting up a more regular blogging schedule at the beginning of the new year, but until then my posts will be a bit random like before. For now…

Tomorrow (which is my birthday) I am kicking off my Goodreads Giveaway for Unbridled. I will be giving away five FREE signed copies of my book. So you’ll see an official post for that tomorrow when it begins. I hope you enter for a chance for a free book. Who doesn’t love free, right?

In other news, I’ve been reading a lot, and normally I don’t do much reviewing of books because it seems like everyone does that, and though it probably is a good skill to foster in the indie-book world, it also depends on time. So normally I don’t have any sort of structured time for that, but when I read a good book, I feel I should share – whether it’s an indie author or not.

amandapalmer_theartofasking

The book I read recently is The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Amanda Palmer was the former lead singer of the Dresdon Dolls, a bit of a cabaret punk band. She is an independent artist now and makes music regularly. Amanda Palmer is known for taking the music world by storm with her Kickstarter project and other advocacies, and I’ve been following her career for a while and just love her spirit, her engagement with fans, and her wisdom in art and music.

I don’t have a lot of free time to read much anymore, so I was amazed how enthralled I was by her book and finished it so quickly. I’m partial to biographies anyway, but sometimes I┬áread them and it takes me forever, but not Amanda’s book.

I read it with ferocity, absorbing her stories, her biographical accounts, her romance with Neil Gaiman, and her struggles with asking people for help and then her art itself. Sometimes it felt like a self-help book, that I could adopt some of her wisdom with my own life and struggles. I know it probably wasn’t supposed to be like that, but once you read some of her own wisdom, you feel that her words are adaptable, and they make you think.

Especially when it comes for asking for help and receiving gifts. I feel like that can be a struggle for people, myself included, in getting over your pride and asking people for help, whether for money or goods, and when you do, as Amanda did, you see the sense of community and collaboration that is born from that. It was really touching to read about that, to see all her friends and fans come together in a unifying spirit to help.

I also enjoyed the concept of making art, how making art “is not hard” – and I guess I can see that as a more liberal sense of the concept, where if you make art for the public and someone, even one person, appreciates it, it’s a success.

If you’re a fan of Amanda’s work, I definitely recommend the work. If you’re intrigued by her, I’d look into her music and get a sense of her and then if you like her, totally pick up her book.

Here was my review I posted to Goodreads:

This book was so amazing I couldn’t put it down.
I began reading this and felt so connected to Amanda through her words, her snippets, and her stories. I was moved to tears many times that I was reading so furiously that I didn’t even realize I was crying until my cheeks were wet.
Such a powerful, moving book, that there were several parts of it I just absorbed with abandon, and other parts of it I just felt I understood her and nodded my head with what she was going through, explaining, or feeling.
It felt like a random, almost-self help book on and FOR artists, but it’s not that, (or is it? I’m not sure), it’s everything Amanda. That’s how much you connect with her when you read this book. I’ve never actually met Amanda in person, but once you read her story you feel like you’ve always known her and loved her. (But I want to meet her one day, because wow, what an amazing human being she is…)
Wonderful, wonderful book. It’s the best book I’ve read this year for sure.

Enjoy! See you all tomorrow to kick-off my Goodreads Giveaway!

Cheers.

H.K. Rowe