Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Merry Month of Manga Review: PET ON DUTY

Another early and mostly forgotten BL publisher was Boysenberry, the BL spin-off of Broccoli Books.  With works like this to offer, it's easy to see how it was so easily forgotten.

PET ON DUTY (Pet Oshigotochuu), by Nase Yamato.  First published in and first published in North America in 2007.


Mizuki has just lost his job and he's far too independent to go back home for help.  His cousin offers him a solution: Mizuki can secretly stay at his office's dormitory until he can get on his feet.  Soon enough Mizuki becomes the pet of the fourth floor residents, cleaning and cooking for them while they coo over how comforting he is.  There's only one person who doesn't join in: the moody and distant Taro.  Mizuki soon discovers that Taro has a far softer side than he lets on, and he finds himself yearning to become not just the floor's pet, but Taro's in particular.


Pet On Duty is fairly light and inoffensive as a BL work, but it's hindered by paper-thin characters, a weak romance, and a pet metaphor that gets positively pounded into the ground through sheer repetition.

Yamato leans a lot on telling us about her characters instead of showing us how they are.  We are told that Mizuki is proud and independent for his age, even though she conviently forgets this the moment Mizuki moves into the dorm.  It's not like he struggles with being dependent on others or being unable to safely leave the dorm floor.  No, that might have given him something of a character arc to follow.  Instead we're treated to scene after scene of Mizuki struggling to please everyone and passively accepting his situation.  It takes halfway through the book for Mizuki to remember that he can in fact do more than just secretly serve a bunch of businessmen, but by that point he's so smitten with Taro that his need for passive dependence upon others never really goes away. 

We are also told that Taro is meant to be cold and foreboding, forever brooding upon the wrongs of his past.  That sounds perfectly Byronic, but in practice he comes more aloof than anything else.  Even after he supposedly falls for Mizuki, he never seems to warm up very much.  Maybe I'm just biased because he spend a good portion of the book telling Mizuki that pets are meant to be seen and not heard.  The other guys do at least show some appreciation for Mizuki, even if they keep insisting on dehumanizing and patronizing Mizuki by referring to him as their 'kitten.'  With Taro, the patronizing qualities are more obvious and played for romance instead of comedy.  Honestly, I'm not sure which of those is worse.  Oh wait, I know what's worse!  What's worse is when Mizuki finds himself stuck as a waiter in a host club, where the cat simile is made much more literal with some goofy cosplay ears, paws, and bell on a collar.

You'd think that the story would mine the master and pet dynamic for all the kink it could get, but Pet On Duty is surprisingly chaste for BL.  In fact, it's so chaste that it becomes downright passionless, even in the middle of love scenes.  This is not helped by the fact that Yamato pushes the two into a relationship far too fast for anyone to care.  Mizuki and Taro are basically a couple one quarter of the way into the book, so all she can do is keep throwing misunderstandings and interruptions at them until it's time to wrap things up.  That means that in spite of being a couple, these two spend most of the book lingering on problems that could be solved with a few minutes of conversation.  If it weren't for Mizuki's cousin serving as an go-between for the two, I swear that they would have never resolved anything!  The resolution may be a happy one in the end, but it never feels well-earned because Mizuki, Taro, and the relationship between them is so underdeveloped that it fails to kindle the slightest bit of emotion in the reader.  Without that, all you're left with is a bunch of mild fluff and some weird and uncomfortable implications.


At least Pet On Duty can boast some rather attractive art.  The character designs are polished and handsome, even if Yamato is completely guilty of drawing the same face over and over.  It's a shame then that Yamato seemingly does her best to obscure them through some truly messy paneling and composition.  Her pages are practically scattershot in their layout, and she's determined to fill up her panels as much as possible with either giant close-ups or with just a barrage of stuff in-frame.  At least her approach to sex is much more tidy, mostly because she pretty much does everything in her power from drawing anything that would expose a penis.  That means you mostly get a few bits of heavy petting and even then they're over in just a page or two.  It hardly merits the large adult content sticker that was pasted over the cover by the publisher themselves.


Despite the poor writing, handsomely drawn men and questionable cat analogies, Pet On Duty can only a muster a 'meh' out of me at most.  It's gentle, bland, but ultimately forgettable.

This book is currently published by Viz under their SuBLime imprint, and formerly by Broccoli Books and JManga.  The physical volume from Broccoli is out of print, but is currently available as an ebook through SuBLime.

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