WARNING: This has YAOI. If you don’t like it, you should probably stop reading right now.
Another thing I should mention so people don’t waste their time reading more of this is that this manga does contain RAPE. Personally, I don’t think it is anything all too graphic, but I know that some people are more sensitive to the subject than others.
Alright, now that that is out of the way!
Sakura Gari (Sakura Hunting) explores the life of Masataka Tagami, a poor student who wishes to enter university in Tokyo during the 1920’s. Early on, Masataka meets Souma Saiki, the son of a noble, and consequently becomes a part of the Saiki Household as hired help while he attends prep school.
So, if you’ve read a good amount of yaoi manga like I have, I am sure that after that little synopsis you are probably thinking hired help=sex slave=surprise, surprise. Thankfully, that is not how it went and that is due in no small part to the mangaka, Yuu Watase! I think that deep down, it is every yaoi lovers’ dream to read a yaoi manga from a popular mangaka who draws well AND creates a beautiful story! Lord knows I was bouncing in my chair when I happened to come across Sakura Gari! Yaoi+Yuu Watase is…there are no words!
Until now anyway.
Sakura Gari is, by far, the worst thing I have ever read from Yuu Watase. If I were to be honest, I really don’t know why she decided to make this. It is so far below her skill level that it is almost unbelievable. Hell, I could probably believe that she was forced to make Sakura Gari at gunpoint rather than believing she actually wanted to!
My biggest issue that I had with Sakura Gari is just for the simple fact that this manga is honestly one gigantic miasma of psychosis. I cannot recall anyone whose mental health was not affected in some way in this manga. Nearly all of the mental health issues can be traced back to one person: Souma Saiki. Pretty early on, we find out that Souma is a “haafu,” a person of mixed descent, and apparently this automatically gives him some kind crazy pheromone super powers because he attracts almost everything that breathes. I am not joking. Souma had some kind of sexual encounter with damn near all of the more prominent characters and the faceless ones in the fucking background. It was just…unbelievable.
Now, this leads me to another problem that I had with this story. Out of all the sex that happens in this manga, a good 80% of it is rape. Souma with his ridiculous haafu pheromones gets raped and then he goes on to be a big raping monster, I mean for fuck’s sake. That sentence may have been extremely crude and insensitive, but that is the impression I got from SG. I understand that when a person is put through such a distressing situation, all kinds of problems crop up, but this wasn’t a case of showing a good portrayal of mental instability, it was just plain unstable. It would have made more sense if Watase had just made all of the characters have an orgy, but I guess that might have been too much(read:sarcasm).
SPOILER AHEAD: GONNA PUT IT BETWEEN THE FOLLOWING PICTURES SO IT IS EASY TO PASS.
SPOILER: Usually, I won’t do really big spoilers, just because it is easy enough to skirt around them, but this one thing in particular IRKED me. Souma raped Masataka. Numerous times. Towards the end, Masataka learns all of the dark secrets behind Souma’s past and seems to forgive him and I also got the impression that he was willing to stay with him AS A LOVER. I understand that Souma’s emotional way of connecting with people has been shot to hell and back, but what. the. hell. Masataka was RAPED. Maybe it is just me, but if I were in the same goddamn position, I would honestly not give a rat’s ass about Souma’s past and how fucked up he is and then have some kind of weird pseudo ‘We’re happy lovers!’ sex! HE. WAS. RAPED. End of the fucking story. There is no fucking rainbow at the end of that one.
The final issue I had with Sakura Gari is probably something that most people might not notice or not care about. What I am talking about here is Sakura. Yes, sakura, the blossoming tree that Japan is famous for with its soft pink petals that gently fall to the ground in a cascade of-yes, those goddamned sakura!!! Going off the top of my head, sakura represents both the fragility and beauty of life. The short span of time in which the sakura blossoms bloom represents how quickly time passes and that we should cherish every moment. The sakura also represents the remarkable resilience and strength that each of us has within us and blah blah blah. What you just read is kind of how I felt every time one of the characters decided to take a glance at sakura or even think about sakura and they did that A LOT! It was just mind numbing. Yes, sakura plays a significant symbolic role, but this was overkill, just like the rest of this manga. Sakura are fragile, beautiful, and resilient, I got it! There, done, good-bye! Did I mention that there is also a character named Sakurako? Did somebody miss Hanami that year?
And you know what’s sad? After all that bitching, Sakura Gari is far from being the worst yaoi manga I have ever read. Sure, the story is horrendous, but at least it HAD a story, which is something that can’t be said of the majority of yaoi manga out there. That is honestly one of the reasons I have always wished for a popular mangaka to write a yaoi. Too bad Yuu Watase shot that down with a sakura bomb. On the honest to goodness plus side, Watase’s art is still very good. Do you have any idea how nice it is to see two men having sex and they both look like men?! It’s fucking fantastic, dammit!
All in all, this was a mediocre yaoi and a damn disgrace given the talented mind behind it. Yuu Watase, what the fuck were you on when you wrote this?