I have to appreciate the risks taken by Viz/Sublime in bringing this title to the West; it flouts so many Western conventions and is a title that is very much rooted in Japanese culture. The themes here are uncomfortable and especially in this volume, the sex becomes extremely graphic even when it still ends up being more of a tease/prelude to the act. By volume 4, Kurose’s actions do become much more explained (Note: there isn’t one person with a mental illness in this title). In order to further the impact of the story in future volumes, author Takarai takes the two to a much more forceful and darker place first. But yes, most Westerners will understandedly back away quickly by the end of this volume even if the plot isn’t to support the plot (as with other titles in the genre like Crimson Spell).
Story: Shirotani fights a war within himself. His desires war against the cold hard logic of a heart that had been hardened in the past: the manifestation of his mysophobia. As Kurose continues to push boundaries, he will use a slow but determined assault on closing physical boundaries in order to eventually open up emotional ones. Shirotani is conflicted over Kurose’s ebb and flow of attention and doubts himself and ability to appeal to another person. And in one night, boundaries will be crossed as sensuality is used as a tool to seduce.
Obviously, I’ve carefully worded the above summary. The sex, such as it is, takes up most of the book. There has always been a cultural more in Japan that sexual partners who say no are doing so to be missish (which is considered more attractive and not as accepted in Western cultures) or because they don’t know their own mind; in other words, desire trumps all obstacles and a person will have sex with a rock if it looks sexy enough. It can lead to some very inappropriate places, unfortunately, in Japan (e.g., pedophilia) and perhaps here. This is contrasted with Western cultures which are more and more emphatically stating that no means no. So the question of Kurose ‘healing’ Shirotani as an excuse for pushing beyond boundaries becomes very complex and your view on this will likely be a decider if this series is for you (well, that and your interest in graphic M/M sex). Ten Count isn’t a story of love so much as codependency.
As always, the art is superb and perfectly captures the ‘stillness’ of their characters’ outside appearances in contrast to the turmoil underneath. With this volume, we begin to see more of the enigmatic Kurose’s point of view – in little throw away lines that become more significant by volume 4. So yes, this is a series that will divide readers – if they decide to continue past volume 3, the sex tones down a bit as the focus is more on Kurose and why he pursues Shirotani. And yes, being a Westerner I was both ambivalent and uncomfortable with this Volume 3 read.