Erotic manga and anime is not known for being gentle; it has inarguably earned its reputation for raunchiness. If you have a sexual fetish, Japan has no doubt animated it along with a few you didn't know existed. It might therefore surprise manga fans when they learn that Manga Sutra, Katsu Aki's "handbook" for sexual beginners, is a humourous and mostly harmless collection of experiences that stars a cast of endearing characters.
Makoto and Yura are two newlyweds paired up through a matchmaker. Their situation is somewhat unique, both still being virgins at twenty-five years old. Their first night together as man and wife dissolves into nervousness and confusion as both are unsure about what's supposed to happen beyond the basic principles of what goes where. The manga follows the couple (primarily Makoto) as they slowly discover each other and act on sexual advice from their experienced--and pushy--siblings.
Manga Sutra doesn't have a very expansive central storyline, but Aki assembled the manga with the intent of it being an entertaining handbook for people in Makoto and Yura's situations. The first volume still covers a surprising amount of ground as the two learn that sex isn't meant to be a strict and serious paint-by-numbers act. Between topics such as mutual masturbation, oral sex and (a prevalent one) premature ejaculation, each chapter deals with realistic problems virgins wonder about but are afraid to ask at the risk of scorn from their experienced peers.
Keep in mind that Manga Sutra isn't necessarily formulated to re-kindle your smoldering marriage or anything dynamic like that. It's still best suited for entertainment purposes, but the good news is that it does its job extremely well. Makoto and Yura are a sweet and devoted couple, and it's actually refreshing to read a story that doesn't feature lead characters who sexual Supermen. Of particular note are the antics of Makoto's parents, from his perpetually nervous father pleading with his kids to stop talking about sex in front of the family shrines to his pinprick-eyed mother giving Makoto a stiff thumbs-up when it's time for him to lose his virginity.
There's also a small subplot involving Yura's sister, Rika, on a quest to find "The One" amongst her endless sexual exploits (many of which are relayed to Yura in the form of advice). The outcome is pretty obvious, but thankfully its presentation is subtle.
Even if you're the descendant of Don Juan and you've conquered half the earth's female population, Manga Sutra is still a must-read. Everyone has to start somewhere, and they often do so with flailing clumsiness. If nothing else, Katsu Aki's transcription of those awkward nights will bring back embarrassingly cute memories. Volume one retails for $19.99.