It’s easy to forget that not all pornography comes from Japan. In fact, some hentai mangas are drawn in other countries and in languages other than Japanese. From time to time, anyway. Today I’m looking at one such manga made right here in the good ol’ US of A (unlike the lucky senpais, I’m not Japan-based), Shady Dealings by gy.
Shady Dealings is a collection of western eromanga artist gy’s stories, including an all new follow-up to the “Karma” chapter, published by FAKKU. I normally credit FAKKU with translating and uncensoring these mangas, but gy’s work is in English to begin with and we don’t censor our genitals in America so this time it’s all about collecting the stories and publishing them in a handsome book to grace your shelves or serve as a conversation starter on your coffee table.
Shady Dealings features two main stories: the titular “Shady Dealings” and “Red-Light Academy,” each with four chapters and covering 132 pages. Then there’s “Karma,” its new sequel “Karma Rewind,” and three one-shots that round out 233 pages.
Most of the stories, including the main two, feature some kind of exploitation as the primary theme of their sexual relationships. “Shady Dealings” is the story of a young woman who sells her body to make ends meet. Tired and jaded, she cynically trades sex for money, as well as offering sexual favors in lieu of rent payments to her landlord whose appearance I can’t help but associate with a certain fast food icon.
Then “Red-Light Academy” is about Takeda Nana, a student newly transferred into an elite girls’ school that covers all expenses in exchange for, unbeknownst to Nana, prostituting its pupils. The four chapters detail Nana coming to terms with this arrangement and ultimately quite liking it.
Despite these exploitative stories being kind of sad to start with, they do have happy endings. Nana enjoys having sex in school, our “Shady Dealings” heroine ends up in a loving relationship where she’s able to appreciate sex as more than a currency to be transacted, and so on until I felt warm and fuzzy feelings over all of these beloved characters and the outcomes of their stories.
The primary theme I tease out of gy’s works here is that of sexual liberation. All of his stories are centered on women and their relationships with sex, and even the ones that start out in a problematic situation ultimately take charge of their sexual identity and satisfy their own needs and desires therein.
What this means is that the heroines of gy’s stories have pretty strong characters and personalities. Makiko of “Shady Dealings” is a jaded survivor, Nana of “Red-Light Academy” is a naïve virgin coming out of her shell. Contrast these with “Rebel Girl’s” Akina, who is a sexually aggressive, independent woman not afraid to ask her neighbor to eat her out and you get a sense of the range of characters Shady Dealings portrays.
Now you may have noticed with names like Akina, Makiko, and Nana, all of gy’s stories are set in Japan. Makiko gives her prices in yen, Nana’s classes are organized like an anime high school, and Akiko’s apartment building is the same low-rise style you see in any piece of Japanese media. The comics even read right to left despite, again, having originally been written in English. My only guess as to why this is is in homage to the Japanese eromangas that have so strongly influenced gy’s work. To put another way, they’re arranged right to left because that is the weeaby way.
“Golden Week,” one of the oldest stories in the collection, even has –chan honorifics and an oji-san. It certainly captures the feeling of reading a fan translated eromanga, but it feels a little silly when you know it was written that way to begin with. I suppose that’s why it’s only in the one chapter.
As for gy’s art style, it is very distinctive and characterized by what I would call imperfections. While many mangakas are known for drawing one particular body type, whether it’s thick girls, slim and busty girls, girls with giant torpedo tits or what have you, gy draws a range of body types, none of which match the classical “ideal.”
gy’s heroines are either petite and bony, thick and flabby, or very pregnant. There’s a lot of pregnancy here. It’s not really my thing but it’s got an audience I know.
There are also lots of thigh gaps. gy clearly likes thigh gaps.
This ability to take the imperfections of the female body and make an erotic art style out of it is very impressive. It contrasts with other mangakas like Akitsuki Itsuki, whose work I’ve reviewed before, where the focus is more on the face. gy’s faces are not as powerfully expressive as his very uniquely drawn bodies.
Now getting creative with bodies does have its risks, and some of the older chapters in Shady Dealings have a panel here and there where the anatomy looks kinda wonky.
But by and large, the unique flavor of Shady Dealings, the expression of western ideas of sexual liberation into the context of Japanese hentai manga, and gy’s striking art style, make up for the shortcomings I mentioned. Shortcomings I believe mostly stem from earlier iterations of gy’s style that have come a long way from “Karma,” the oldest chapter, to “Unstable,” the newest.
And let me tell you, I really like “Unstable.”