Asterisk: A delightful (yet painful) mix of my favorite tropes

Volumes: 1

Mangaka: Torino Shino

Publisher: Futekiya

For all those that voted in my poll and voted for older uke/younger seme, thank you because I’ve been meaning to review this title for months and as they say: life happens. This trope winning reminded me that I not only wanted to review this title, but I wanted to re-read it as well. Two birds, one stone and all that. As such, this review will be a mix of what I recall my first impressions were on the first read, as well as I how read/felt on the second go.

When I first got my Futekiya membership, I went through their library and I kid you not, added all their titles tagged with “megane.” This was back before I knew I was into older uke/younger seme so when I saw the first few panels and double checked the tag, I was apprehensive.

Chapter 1

Now, as I’ve said before, I love age gap. Clearly from the whole older uke/younger seme bit, but context matters for me as well. And at this point we don’t know how old exactly either character is; just that Sawa (megane) is in college and that he’s tutoring a promising ballet dancer, Nanao.

I think what helped me reconcile this gray area is the fact that (spoiler) Sawa is the uke. It subverts the dynamic in a way that creates the angst that drives the plot (and we all know I love me some angst💦), as well as filling each chapter with the tension between these two men.

Sawa also isn’t the kind of older uke that tempts the seme, at least not on purpose😏 If anything, Nanao is the one who tempts Sawa to finally cross that line.

The first time reading I definitely felt Nanao was a bully, and that colored my reading of him, though I still found myself loving their story. In the moment depicted in the second panel, Nanao suddenly realizes that Sawa is in love with him, or at the very least is attracted to him. And he realizes this shortly after his girlfriend at the time rebuffs his sexual advances (i.e he’s sexually frustrated). So of course he pushes his luck because he already knows that Sawa isn’t in a position to say no.

Chapter 1

On my second read however, I noticed a particular moment a few pages before that reshaped the above moment between them (though Nanao definitely does push it a little too much). But if you ask me, Nanao falls in love with Sawa here.

He admits moments before this panel that that none of his past girl friends bothered to see him perform, much less give him a positive review. But, his immaturity keeps him from understanding his feelings , which becomes one of the major themes of this story.

Their relationship turns purely physical and even on my second read, I wanted to strangle Nanao because Sawa loves him so completely. Even as he (Sawa) knows that he’s being used. And just when Nanao becomes pretty unlikable, right before his big debut, he snuggles into the scarf that Sawa gave him🥺. And this moment, no SFX, no thought bubbles, is just… so fraught with emotion and tenderness!

At this point, on both reads, I was rooting for them to end up together. Though Torino-sensei definitely ramps up the angst and longing to a thousand so it’s truly an unexpected ride that throws you up, down, and side to side.

I think what also contributes to the tension and emotional nature of this work for me is the art style. Sensei has so many beautiful and painful moments that add so much more to what initially seems like a (young) seme bullying the (older) uke.

Chapter 3

I don’t want to give the entire story away so I’ll leave you with some gems before giving the final verdict: there is a (12!!!!) year time skip and let me just say, those years were very kind to Nanao. And the spicy scenes are pure art, filled with desire and unrequited love (or is it? I’ll let you be the judge of that when you read!)!!

So, if you don’t mind the gray area of when these two start their tumultuous relationship, and enjoy age gap, megane, a story steeped in angst, and of course older uke/younger seme then look no further than Asterisk! I’m glad that I read Sensei’s work a second time to really appreciate the subtle moments between Nanao and Sawa in their decade+ long relationship.

My only complaint is that even when you realize it’s likely that Nanao has fallen in love with Sawa early on (opinion), he is manipulative in a way that’s nearly unforgivable. Maybe it’s because I sympathize with Sawa a bit too much. My other minor tiff: Sensei didn’t give us more!

Rating: 8.7/10.0

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