This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Kabukicho Bad Trip. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to BDSM, sexual assault, drugging, and being outed as it appears in the manga.
Toru is a top-rated host. That's not surprising, seeing how attractive and personable he is. However, he can't give all of the credit to those things. In fact, most of his success comes from his unique ability to read minds. Using this ability, he sways the masses and becomes one of the most popular hosts in Kabukicho. Of course, he could have any woman or even man if he wanted them, but Toru doesn't want just any person. He wants Mizuki Hikawa.
Mizuki is a popular and equally attractive male model, and Toru is obsessed with him. He is so obsessed with him that Toru uses “Mizuki” as his name while hosting. But Toru does his best to keep it under wraps, even going so far as to travel out of his way to pick up magazines with him on the cover. On one such occasion, at a convenience store, Toru runs into Mizuki – literally. They end up falling over each other and, in turn, start talking. It turns out Mizuki needs some help getting to a shoot, and Toru is more than happy to be his knight in shining armor.
After all of Toru's help, Mizuki makes an effort to keep in touch, and the more they meet up, the more Toru can see into Mizuki's private thoughts. Of course, Toru is beyond pleased that Mizuki is attracted to him. What he isn't as pleased with is that almost everything Mizuki imagines or wants has to do with BDSM and absolutely dominating Toru. Though scared of this new territory, if it means being with Mizuki, Toru is willing to give everything a try, and he does mean anything.
The art is gorgeous. Not only is it gorgeous, but it is also super consistent. I don't feel like the cover art does the artwork as much justice as it could. It is still very nice looking, don't get me wrong, but compared to what is in the work itself, it is so much better. So, if the cover art even slightly tempts you, just know it is even better inside. As someone who is pretty particular about art (I've dropped series due to art style, if that tells you anything), I think this is worth every single penny just because of the quality of the artwork. Also, as a side note, this review is based on the series with the special edition second volume. I have not read the non-special edition variant of the second volume, so I can't speak to the differences.
Enough about the artwork, though. Let's talk about the story. I get the feeling this was initially meant to be a single volume. The end of the first volume depicts a future where Toru does actually get his nipples pierced (love that, kinda jealous) and is living it up with his lover Mizuki. It also appears that Toru might be tanning more. Not positive about that, as it could just be depicting a flush or just the choice of shading. However, when the second volume starts, there are no nipple piercings to be seen. This is intentional, as the second volume begins somewhere between Mizuki and Toru getting together and the end of the first volume. I say this to warn anyone who plans on picking this up because I am not going to lie: I was hella confused when I first went from volume one to volume two. I was desperately missing our nipple-pierced Toru. It clears up pretty quickly, but still worth noting.
Now, whether the second volume was intended or not, I am so glad we got it. The first volume is definitely all about Toru exploring the BDSM world and accepting Mizuki for everything he is. The second volume still has some of that, but it hones in on Mizuki's emotional wants and fears alongside Toru's. While we did get some of that in the first volume, Mizuki's fears and worries are much more pronounced in the second volume, and they take a much heavier toll on Toru since Toru now has to worry about his relationship with Mizuki threatening Mizuki's budding career as an actor. It's also such a pleasant surprise to have them publicly announce their relationship and not try to hide it after being outed. I am really happy that we got to explore more of the emotional side of their relationship after the sex exploration we got in the first volume.
On the topic of sex, there is lots of it, and it is hot. I usually hate dirty talk in most sex scenes as I just find it awkward and corny, but something about Mizuki's character just makes it work. I am also a huge fan of BDSM, so getting that dominating dialogue from Mizuki during the sexy scenes is everything. This is a really fun mix of sex and emotional exploration with both volumes, and it's definitely worth seeing. The mind reading is a nice addition, but I wouldn't say it is that huge of a plot point past learning that Mizuki is attracted to Toru and wants to dominate him.
Will this break into my top ten? Probably not. While there is some emotional exploration and some fluff, it isn't all that revolutionary. Like I said before, the mind reading is a fun addition and does add some spice once it is revealed to Mizuki, but not much else is done with it, which is probably due to the length of the work. However, this is super, super sexy, especially if you are into full-blown BDSM. I highly recommend this as a sexy, sometimes cute, quick, and beautiful read. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Have you read Kabukicho Bad Trip? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!