HomeComics/MangaMANGA REVIEW | "Kabukicho Bad Trip" - Volume One

MANGA REVIEW | "Kabukicho Bad Trip" - Volume One

MANGA REVIEW | "Kabukicho Bad Trip" - Volume One

It's the age old question: would psychics get embarrassed if they picked up on strangers' dirty thoughts? Well, Kabukicho Bad Trip is here to set the record straight - or rather, what one would do if they knew their budding crush was thinking about super kinky sex over dinner and wine.

You see, Toru Miyama can read minds. It’s not as impressive an ability as you’d think, but it does give him an edge as a professional host in Kabukicho, a famous entertainment and red-light district of Shinjuku. After all, making clients happy is easy when you know exactly what they want to hear. He makes good money, and is never hard up for a hookup.

All that changes when he meets Mizuki Hikawa: professional male model and Toru’s (not so secret) obsession.

After a chance encounter puts the two in one another's orbit, Toru couldn’t be happier. They text and hang out, clicking together from the word go. Mizuki is every bit as charming, funny, and kind as Toru imagined. Everything is going perfectly until their first real date, when Toru manages to peek in on Mizuki’s thoughts… and he’s shocked to learn that Mizuki fantasizes about tying him up and making him cry! Who would have guessed that such a picture-perfect pretty boy had a sadistic streak a mile wide?!



Embarrassed, confused, and a little turned on, Toru decides to dip his toe into the world of S&M to appease Mizuki’s more extreme tastes. Could this arrangement be the start of something more serious than either is prepared for?

What follows is a surprisingly mature yet sexy story about exploring intimacy, trust, and boundaries in a new relationship, with a dash of comedy and relatable drama perfect for BL fans seeking a decidedly adult romance experience. Be warned all who enter here: there's explicit smut on the horizon!

This one's strictly for the 18+ crowd, okay? Capiche? Cool.

Kabukicho Bad Trip is a yaoi/Boys Love series that released alongside Lala’s Married Life late last year, as a part of Animate International's (a fledgling publisher better known for their distribution of anime and video game merch straight from Japan) digital-only debut onto the English manga scene. Unlike Lala, however, Kabukicho is a finished series containing only two volumes, written and illustrated by Eiji Nagisa from June of 2020 to November of 2021.

Given this length, it’s understandable that Kabukicho doesn't focus on telling a deep, narrative-rich story. It’s an avenue for smut first, a character drama second, and everything else a distant third.



And to be clear: that isn’t a bad thing.

Toru and Mizuki are a great couple, in no small part due to the nuances of their characters. Scenes of the two talking are just as engaging as them getting it on. Which is high praise, considering how spicy this volume gets.

Toru reveals his ability to Mizuki early in their relationship; in a setting that's otherwise firmly grounded in reality, his mind reading powers aren't as obtrusive a supernatural element as one may fear. Eiji Nagisa's narrative chops are just as impressive as their illustrative talents: Toru's abilities and his use of them are directly tied to his growth as a character and his relationship milestones with Mizuki.

Toru is flawed; he jumps to conclusions about people, and makes assumptions based on their innermost thoughts without understanding those thoughts. He’s gotten comfortable using his gift to “cheat” his way into people's good graces. He’s a perpetual people pleaser, and a majority of his relationships are superficial at best. He wants a more serious relationship with Mizuki, and struggles to be emotionally vulnerable and honest with him. These mental struggles run parallel with his submissive S&M journey, which is all about relinquishing physical control to Mizuki during sex.



For example, Toru needs to make eye contact to read minds, and halfway through this volume, Mizuki asks to blindfold him. He agrees, and Toru willingly giving up that control - the ability that's given him a leg up on everyone his entire life - and trusting Mizuki to take care for him, is a pivotal moment in their relationship.

Mizuki, on the other hand, hasn't had the best luck introducing his partners to the S&M lifestyle. He knows what he likes and what he wants, but has no interest in coercing anyone into anything they're uncomfortable with. He’ll settle for nothing less than explicit, informed, enthusiastic consent from Toru before they get remotely serious. Such scenes of negotiation and communication are a welcome sight when it comes to S&M fiction; Kabukicho goes the extra mile to de-stigmatize the lifestyle (a far cry from western works like Fifty Shades of Grey) without compromising its main objective: be hot as hell!

This is a very sexy book. Erotic moments are gorgeously drawn, frequent, and varied. Like Lala’s Married Life, Kabukicho is censored (genitalia are whited out, giving everyone what I graciously refer to as "ghost dick syndrome"), so buyer beware if that’s a hang up you have. It's as unobtrusive as censoring can get, and means you can (theoretically) read Kabukicho during your commute. I was never bothered by it, but that comes down to personal preference.



As previously stated, Kabukicho is light on plot. Toru and Mizuki meet, hang out, do the do, and that’s about it. There is a scene of attempted sexual assault in the back half of the volume, between Toru and stalker from his job as a host, but it isn’t lingered upon. It's mainly an excuse to witness Mizuki go on a rampage to protect Toru, which was sweet to see after a majority of the volume is spent from Toru's somewhat insecure point of view. Mizuki is a model with a lot of admirers, and Toru's acutely aware of that fact.

Overall, Kabukicho Bad Trip is a polished, entertaining yaoi story for adult readers looking for a thoughtful, mature, and titillating depiction of the S&M lifestyle in a neat, self-contained story. I’m eager to read volume two, but would be content enough with where volume one leaves its readers. I give it a hearty recommend to anyone looking for an evening read that leaves one a little hot under the collar.

Kabukicho Bad Trip is available digitally only, on most major digital platforms, such as Google Books, Amazon, Bookwalker, and Apple Books.





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A visual novel junkie who owns more books than she does sense, JenQuest is librarian by day, and expert on all things manga, anime, and video game related at night. She has a soft spot for horror, isekai, otome games, and BL titles. Catch her out on Twitter @jenquest_0.