Book 595: Tableau Numéro 20 – Est Em

I came across this on Grace’s blog, Books Without Any Pictures, and her description of it being out of the normal for manga pulled me in. It didn’t hurt that it was short stories, which I’ll talk more about later. I requested this one because of the Spanish title and story names. The other I requested from the library was Don’t Be Cruel (#1 & #2), just because…

I was surprised the library had it, but then I remembered that it was yaoi and not bara (like Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It, which is SO much 100% more sexually explicit. This was the first yaoi I’ve ever read and it was interesting and honestly the part that caught me most off guard was the authors mention of her blood type in the afterward – I was like wait WTF?

So I searched and found out from the Wellesley Centers for Women in a great article titled “Yaoi 101: Girls Love “Boys’ Love” that the Japanese believe blood type indicates personality – similar to astrological signs. The article also reminded me that yaoi is m/m romance written by women (with a few exceptions) for women.

Now on to the actual work. The book is a collection of 4.5 short stories: Tableau Numéro 20, Just Not Like A Merry-Go-RoundRasgueadoEn el Parque, and Tableau Numéro 20: Le Visiteur. When I first finished the collection I was only impressed with Tableau Numéro 20, but looking back now I’m writing my recap I can see why they’re all wonderful. Each story portrays longing and desire in distinctly different ways.

The weakest, for me and I think it’s a personal preference because it wasn’t that weak, was Rasgueado. It was beautiful and the passion for music and dance was compelling, but I didn’t connect with it like I did the others.

Tableau Numéro 20 was stunningly heartbreaking, the idea of the subject of a long-lost painting coming to life to share it’s story wasn’t the most original idea, but tied together with the restorers love of the painting, the longing of the subject combined with the longing of the restorer and the tension is incredible. I almost wish Em would’ve left it without the .5 story which added a little to the story, but wasn’t necessary.

The final two, Just Not Like A Merry-Go-Round and En el Parque, both grew on me more than the others. This is because they’re on the opposite ends of the longing spectrum. You have the unrequited unspoken love of Merry-Go-Round that was so endearing and so angst-y without being angst-y, it doesn’t matter who you are at some point you’ve been in a situation like that. Most of us grow to love others, but perhaps carry that torch for the rest of our lives. En el Parque was just perfect in its portrayal of age, true love, friendship across generations, and memory loss. It was just so beautifully written and drawn, with so few pages that it left such a big impact.

Recommendation: From a story perspective – absolutely read this, especially if you love romance/unrequited love stories. And even if you’ve never read yaoi or manga, this is great place to start. I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but it’s short bite size format will tell you if you’re able to read left to right and from the back of the book at a minimum.


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