Reviewed by: aoi_aka
Published digitally and in print by: SuBLime Manga
Read It or Pass It: This four-volume series is very pornographic and kinky. If you like porn and are not shy about it, this is for you. I read this a few times before reviewing it.
Summary for volume 1: Architect Motoharu Maki is hanging out at the construction site ogling a particular hunky, well-toned construction worker when he is unexpectedly reunited with his lost cat, Shinobu. The reunion is all thanks to Kouta Ohki, a foul-mouthed young ironworker who found and cared for the lost cat. Unfortunately for Kouta, this act of kindness led to his eviction! When Motoharu agrees to take in young Kouta, will he be able to tame this feisty stray? Includes a bonus Play Boy Blues side story. —taken from SuBLime’s Punch Up! Vol. 1 entry
Review: It doesn’t take long to meet the main couple, Motoharu Maki and Kouta Ohki, genius architect and hard-working construction worker, respectively. And it takes even less to know what type of man Maki prefers. He likes them tall, dark, and handsome. Ohki is none of those; on top of that, Ohki is only 19, as opposed to Maki’s 31.
Maki and Ohki dislike each other and it’s obvious in the first chapter there’s no love lost. Things start to change once they start living together and time goes by. Ohki starts to show his vulnerable side. Maki finds this cute, but at the same time he only has sex in the head. So even though Ohki is not really his type, Maki starts to develop feelings for the younger man.
The person who pushes them together is Ohki’s boyfriend. Ohki is betrayed by the man and he’s at an emotional low. Maki is there to pick up the pieces. They have sex for the first time and now that they’ve crossed this threshold, there’s no going back.
You would think that after they get together, they can ride off into the sunset. It’s not that easy and that’s what makes this series so good.
We have two guys who are two dimensional, but as the reader, we witness their insecurities, failings, kinks, snotty tears, happiness. They grow together and meet all these challenges together.
One of the running themes throughout all four volumes is Ohki’s lack of pubic hair. In Japan this is called “paipan” which is slang for no pubic hair and Maki doesn’t miss a chance to bring that up with either Ohki himself or his co-worker Hisashi. The best thing is that it doesn’t get old. Kano-sensei can not only draw porn, but she can also write good dialogue and comedy. Imagine the following: The first page on this particular chapter has panels with growing vegetables, cactus, and a sleeping kitty. The next page is this dialogue:
Maki: Kouta, you’ve got quite the green thumb. You make all sorts of things grow. All sorts of things. It’s wonderful.
Ohki: Would you shut up already?
Maki: So why can’t you get anything to grow down here?
Ohki: I have!
Maki: Like that little bit counts.
Punch Up! Volume 1, Act 2
That scene was funny because Maki is once again teasing Ohki for being paipan, but he’s comparing his green thumb to his lack of any hair down where it counts. We have a bit of comedy and porn because they’re not really in the kitchen talking about Ohki’s green thumb.
A problem that I found with Maki was his constant flirting. A couple of times he forces himself on somebody other than Ohki. It really doesn’t go very far because in one instance he’s interrupted and in the second, he stops. By this point he has fallen so hard for Ohki that he doesn’t feel right doing something that will make Ohki cry. Despite all this cheating, Ohki forgives him.
Which brings me to the next point that bothers me about this story. Every conflict Maki and Ohki have, they resolve it with crazy sex. And I think it’s a sad thing that it’s Ohki who initiates it most of the time. It reminds me of the desperate partner who thinks that sex will keep their partner around. This is rooted in the abandonment issue Ohki has. He thinks he can’t demand much from his partner or they’ll dump him. He’s grasping at straws so Maki won’t leave him.
Maki is also afraid that Ohki will leave him for somebody else who will satisfy him physically. He’s more than happy to oblige since he’s a pervy old man. The problem with solving conflict with sex is that they don’t get their feelings across. These guys spend all four volumes doing this over and over. All we can do is watch them and hope things turn alright.
But they don’t really turn alright. Ohki gets into an accident at the construction site where he works. This causes him to regress to being a 15 year-old boy and it creates all sorts of new problems for our lovebirds. Despite that, they pull through everything and by the end of the series, they do get to ride off into the sunset, happy and in love with each other. All the insecurities have been resolved. Maki will continue to be a skeevy perv and a flirt, but now they’re both sure in the other’s love.
Art: I’m not going to sugar-coat it. Kano-sensei does delicious sex like no yaoi mangaka out there. Some panels resemble straight hentai. The kind where the bottom is splayed open and you only see the top’s outline . We don’t get cross-section penetration illustrations, but sensei is very good at showing erect penis without the white/black bars or phantom blobs. Her censoring is very clever. She seems to draw outlines, veins and bumps in a way that you can still see them through the tones she uses and the bodily fluids she draws. SuBLime made it very clear on their website that they didn’t censor Punch Up! It is obvious that Kano-sensei draws like that and there’s no need to do the usual censoring Japanese publishers do.
Localization: SuBLime released the first volume July 2012 and they were still working out how the PDF files read. Starting with volume 2, I noticed an improvement in navigating the PDF file. The right and left sides of the page had arrows that you could click to either go to the next page or go back. Without those arrows, it was a bit hard to navigate the file. The software for PDFs needed tweaking every time I opened a PDF, but having those arrows was very convenient. The contents page was also clickable. If you wanted to skip straight to a certain chapter, all you needed was the contents page and clicking on the chapter would take you directly to it. The very last page of the file that contains SuBLime’s social media information is also clickable. Or you can click on the button to take you back to the contents page if you want to peruse a particular chapter. The first volume didn’t have any of these goodies.
Something that I found very distracting was the flipping of the names from the Western convention to the Japanese convention. For example, Ohki’s first lover is formally introduced to Maki by a client. The man’s name is Yuya Fukazu. He gets a profile page in volume 2, page 152. But in this introduction in volume 3, page 22, Fukazu says, “Fukazu Yuya. It’s a pleasure, sir.” Not a big deal in the bigger scheme, but still distracting because Japanese surnames and given names are not as easily identifiable as Western names.
Conclusion: Read this if you haven’t. The only reason you shouldn’t read it is if you dislike explicit stories. Maki forcing himself on two characters shouldn’t set off any triggers since he doesn’t go through with the action. If that still bothers you, stay away. As I said before, the sex is delicious, the art great, and the story one of the best. I keep going back to this series as much as I can.
Disclaimer: I was not provided with free copies of all four volumes of Punch Up! I paid for the copies I read and keep them on my iPad for reading at any time.