Kabukichou BAD TRIP; 5/5 stars would go again

[Kabukichou BAD TRIP provides a novel look into relationships that differ from the norm, consequences, even what dating a celebrity could bring into your life, all in a fun, not too dark twist on a raunchier BL. Thorough exploration of the male lead getting into a healthy BDSM relationship is an added benefit, the humor is also a strong point!]

This trip was good enough for me to go twice, so take my word for it, when I say that the manga’s phenomenal art and fun characters really draw you in. Right off the bat we learn that our male lead, Tooru, has probably the best skill a host could have: mind reading!

Every millimeter matters!

That’s the first of his two darkest secrets. The other one, well… he is a massive fan of a model! Who might it be? None other than the male love interest of course, Hikawa Mizuki. Tooru even picked his host name at first, thanks to glancing at his picture in a magazine and becoming a fan almost immediately. Countless fans have dreamed about running into their idols while going about their daily life, well for Tooru that soon became reality. Even on sweltering heat and the AC not working, and his agent being late, Mizuki treated Tooru kindly and the latter offered to drop him off at his destination. Much to Tooru’s dismay he soon outed himself out as Mizuki’s hardcore fan, nevertheless, the two continue to interact. The attraction seems mutual enough, Tooru not really dwelling on his sexuality too much. What’s there not to like, your celebrity crush sitting across you at a restaurant after so nicely asking you out? Surely making eye contact and peeking into his mind to see if he might feel the same won’t hurt, right?

Oop, there we go

To Tooru, who’s deathly afraid of scary things and avoided violence all his life, that’s a bigger issue than maybe being gay and it makes sense. The guy fainted in a movie theater upon witnessing a torture scene, and his crush wants to give him nipple piercings, after all. Priorities. Nevertheless, they take it slow at first. Mizuki doesn’t want to do things the “normal” way, but he doesn’t want Tooru to run for the hills the first moment he gets a chance.

The thing that really sticks out with this couple is how much they communicate, even when compared to regular BL couples, like boy do Tooru and Mizuki talk a lot and discuss their feelings. No more “one party decides and the other one goes yeah if you want to”. Tooru actually researches things? He’s genuinely curious of this big part of Mizuki’s life, so he does his homework diligently, which is funny considering Mizuki just sits there all like “you could literally just ask me? I am right here….?”. Consent is naturally an integral part of this story, not only for their relationship in the bedroom, but also regarding Tooru’s mind reading powers. Even if he doesn’t flip a switch to do it, Mizuki makes use of his blind spots (literally) both to spice things up, tease him and make cute surprise gestures later on in the manga.

Your Honor, they’re in LOVE

One of the big two conflicts in the manga concerns none other but their status in the relationship. The vague “one is a sadist and the other a normie” status doesn’t hold for long and soon enough the two are forced to either compromise in some way or go their separate ways. Mizuki doesn’t want to get hurt again if he’s just curious, Tooru doesn’t want to keep hiding things from him (like the big supernatural abilities part, or worse, why’s he professionally also ‘Mizuki’) and decides to go all-in (within his limits and taking time) and take the plunge to make Mizuki happy.

Surprisingly enough Mizuki doesn’t go full on STOP mode on Tooru’s line of work, considering his obsessive tendencies. Seems like more people should be, Mizuki is a supportive attentive partner to Tooru first, and everything else (still) after that. Going against the whole “I kinda want to lock you up and make you depend only on me” trope of actually doing it, looking at you Amnesia, Mizuki wholeheartedly supports and celebrates Tooru finding a new job, albeit worrying about him working too hard.

Kabukichou BAD TRIP doesn’t shy away from people’s perceptions of what’s normal and not. This couldn’t be shown more clearly in Tooru’s friends and a bit more vaguely in Mizuki’s exes. Tooru’s friends don’t really get what the heck the two get onto, nor do they really probe all too much, they support Tooru later on, showing their friendship outside of just the work boundry, and and show their understanding of the reality of the situation. Mizuki’s exes (with one exception) demonized their differences, calling him all sorts of names and demanding a break up. One notable exception is his ex girlfriend who’s also into BDSM, but it didn’t work for obvious reasons, so she stuck around as his friend:

Life is hard sometimes

As for Tooru’s big journey, it turned out pretty nice. He didn’t become an M overnight as some might lead you to believe is possible, but he did learn a lot about both himself and Mizuki, as it turns out he’s quite into a lot of things if Mizuki gives him praise with his sweet smile, so this whole arrangement and relationship of their, is pretty lovely and a functional two way street. Let’s move on to the other big conflict of the series that is a bit out of their hands.

Both Mizuki and Tooru could be considered somewhat famous, albeit on a little different terms. Nevertheless, the job of model/actor is considered way more prestigious than say that of host, which is the only real experience that Tooru has. After an incident Tooru goes on to search for a new job, not wanting to cause Mizuki trouble if it ever goes out that a) they’re dating and b)Tooru used to be a host. And he’s quite right on that. Despite what the host job might actually entail, people’s perceptions of it are largely negative. I’d even go as far as to say that the various company interviews he goes to, demonize it in their mind in a similar way to Mizuki’s exes. Therefore a lot of ex-hosts are sort of stuck in the loop of opening new businesses themselves, since no one else wants to hire “night workers”. The public perception is of course no better. When news do eventually break, fans are notably disappointed and Tooru gets swept away by their thoughts in his desperate attempt to distance himself to keep Mizuki and his reputation safe. The importance of having a strong support system gets him time to think everything through, even if his train of thought was steadily going for “Mizuki hates me now cause I ruined his career”, but not like Mizuki would ever just let him break up for something stupid as other people’s opinions:

The last big plus of the manga, which you must already have noticed is the art. Characters are lively and expressive, building a solid foundation of the humor I’d like to call “this is expression is so real it’s hilarious” and “look at him get scared and jumping two feet in the air”. It’s funny, it’s angsty, it’s sweet, really horny, but most of all it’s a must read!

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