Forget Stanislavsky or Method, Sanari Jounouchi-sensei's "Onsen" technique is guaranteed to deliver a performance.
Writer/Artist: Sakuya Fujii
Translation: Melanie Schoen
Adaptation: Melanie Schoen
What They Say:
The lover of beginner actor Makoto Aizawa is Sanari Jonouchi, screenwriter and producer behind the mega-famous theatrical troupe Saiho. The first lesson(?) Makoto learned when they met at a hot spring resort had more to do with sex than actual acting! But even though Jonouchi is toying with the obedient and innocent Makoto using dubiously slick, premature rhetoric, Makoto believes every bit of it!
What We Say:
This has June's usual trim size with one of the nicest matte covers June has produced. Jounouchi sensei is seen pulling aside an onsen curtain, arm around an anxious Aizawa holding bathing goods. The back cover shows a seated nude of sensei and a head shot of Aizawa, both of whom look out directly to engage the reader. The color palette is eye-catching. To emphasize the shady implications in the title, "ulterior" is printed in a bright pink distinguishing it from the title's general purple lettering. Supporting the onsen theme, the "o" in "Motives" is cleverly modified into an aqua onsen sign with its three vapors.
June's printers use a variety of papers and this volume uses the rougher textured paper. I prefer the smoother paper used in other June volumes, but this rougher paper does justice to the copious amounts of tone that Fuji uses. Even though the results are not as crisp as I would like, they are clear and distinctive with no muddiness. Included in the volume are the usual DMP adverts and a four page author afterword which includes some character artwork submitted by other mangaka.
Sakuya Fuji's isn't particularly distinctive, but it is very attractive and her men can be very sexy. Panel placement and positioning of figures in and out of the panels is assured and flows well. The figural style is loose and sparse and isolated, and she adds interest by the use of highly patterned and skillfully applied screen tone.
Jounouchi is a dominant and forceful character largely due to his voice and attitude, and the translation/adaptation delivers his swagger and theatricality quite well. Overall, the text reads well with no hesitation or clumsiness.
Sfx are a combination of substitution and subtext with no adverse effects on the artwork.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Celebrated playwright and director, Sanari Jounouchi-sensei, is a habitue of the onsen, which he finds soothing and inspirational. At his latest visit, for which he took care to make a reservation, he is surprised to find a young man bathing in his reserved area. He watches the scene for a few minutes and is appalled when the teary-eyed young man submerges himself in the spa pool. Fearing the worst, Jounouchi jumps into the pool and pulls the young man out of the water. After some recriminations, Jounouchi finds out that this young man, Makoto Aizawa, is an aspiring actor who says that he had been searching for what it would feel like to commit suicide after a failed love affair such as the one he had just been through. Silver-tongued Jounouchi-sensei talks the vulnerable young man into a night of sex as a way to give over his feelings as an actor, as well as a souvenir of "life's greatest pleasure" if he is truly going to end his life.
In the next scene, Aizawa, in a desire to turn his life around after the breakup with his fiancee, picks ups his fledgling acting career and begins to go out on auditions. It's not surprising that his first audition would be for the mysterious man he met an the onsen, Jounouchi-sensei and his Saihou troupe. Jounouchi-sensei is secretly delighted to meet up with his onsen acquaintance and, in spite of Aizawa's inexperience and tendency to melodrama, gives him a small part as a young priest in his vampire drama, "Nightly Flower."
The majority of the story concerns Jounouchi-sensei's lusty, commanding personality and the means he will use to elicit a "performance" out of the naive and trusting actor Aizawa, whether it be public or private. Private instruction is most often at an onsen, where he uses sex to get the neophyte actor to reveal more of himself ostensibly to improve Aizawa's acting, but mostly because sensei just wants to see it. And it doesn't stop there. Jounouchi-sensei does not hesitate to add additional scenes to "Nightly Flower" to indulge his prurient interest. When a hastily added scene of the rape of the priest Aizawa is playing on stage leads to cast "over-involvement", sensei, having seen what he wanted, changes his mind and adds a masturbation scene much to Aizawa's dismay.
For his part, Aizawa is never really certain of Jounouchi's intentions or of his honesty. He wants to believe that sensei is sincerely trying to help him in his acting career. Only when he confronted with one of sensei's former lovers does he realize that he loves the Jounouchi, but the caliber of sensei's former lover only makes him feel insecure and inadequate to be by Jounouchi's side. (His realization that sensei was in a different position in that relationship is amusing.)
Jounouchi-sensei's theatrical reputation is enhanced by the success of "Night Flower", and Aizawa enjoys some of the fame and regard. He gets some congratulations from his former fiancee who delivers them in person with the implication that things could return to the way they were. But Aizawa realizes that the stage and Jounouchi are what he wants.
Volume 2 will tell how well that works out.
The world's a stage and it's a stage all the time for Jounouchi sensei. He lives declamatory style and practically bounds off any page he inhabits. Love interest Makoto Aizawa is ably portrayed as a naive, struggling actor in whom Jounouchi's interest seems to be motivated more out of perverted wickedness than any romantic inclination. (Jounouchi finally admits to another that he loves Aizawa, but I wasn't entirely convinced. I'm not sure that this is a bad thing with this series, since the insincerity suits Jounouchi's personality so well.) Aizawa manages to hold his own as a character, just barely, against such a forceful personality as Jounouchi's.
Today's Ulterior Motives is all about Jounouchi sensei. The plot is serviceable, light and fun. The sex scenes are numerous, not graphic and not particularly erotic. But they are funny thanks to the smooth-talking Jounouchi . As with so much in Today's Ulterior Motives, Jounouchi-sensei dominates it all. He's so much fun that he lifts the title above the average, though one wonders what kind of scenario celebrated playwright and stage director would have produced for himself.