Scanlations courtesy of the Dangerous Pleasure Archive. Quotations below come from both the Dangerous Pleasure and Amrai translations, accessed via Google Drive and Mangahere.cc respectively.
Those that are familiar with Suzuki-sensei’s body of work (or at least the works translated or scanlated into English) will remember Shiomi-san as Mitsuya’s co-worker/supervisor in Sangen Tonari no Tooi Hito.
In that manga, Shiomi is your typical office worker who doesn’t know how to mind his own business about the personal lives of his colleagues. And while he does make an impression in the scenes in which he appears, Shiomi is the definition of a background character whose role is to provide expository info and have small convos with Mitsuya here and there to move the plot along. He doesn’t seem to be (or even want to be) super social with the people in his workplace besides wanting to know all the hot goss.
Merry Checker picks back up with Shiomi as our protagonist, but this time around we get a peek into his life as the blogger “Shio,” as in “salt.” We quickly learn that he’s so nosy about everyone (while also not giving enough of a shit to hang out with them) because he uses them as content for his blog, where he intensely close reads the lives and behavior of anyone and everyone. In his own words:
Regardless of how interesting the person is, it’s my hobby to speculate about people.
I don’t even know how many times I’ve read and reread this manga the past few weeks; it was my only real hope for coming up with a blog name that wasn’t completely garbage. And omg people is Shio truly the coolest fucking uke in the yaoiverse bar none. Rediscovering my love of this man has quite literally staved off my seasonal affective disorder this year.
The only real difference between Shio and myself is that his blog gets thousands of hits every day.
By far the best shit about the protag, though, is how direct he is with those around him and the fact that he clearly lives a very rich inner life--the root of why I love him so much. I could gush about Shio for literal years, so my long-winded ass is going to jump into the summary first before the structure of this post goes to absolute shit. The window below will start on the Plot Summary tab, but feel free to navigate to my actual review if you've already read this manga.
If I have to tell you there are spoilers, I don’t even know what to fuckin’ say....
We open up with Shio at work, turning down the office goukon for an IRL meetup with his blogger buddies. After Mitsuya judges him hardcore, Shio leaves for the day, hops on the train and--shocker--people are acting up on public transit. Some dumbass kid almost careens right into Shio, but outta nowhere an absolutely massiveyaoi hand springs forth in a manner that bodes seriously ill for Shio’s butthole down the line.
The owner of said yaoi hand is a fucking leviathan (i.e. tall as fuck), but turns out to be a gentle giant with a soothing effect on those around him. After saving our main man from public transpo kids, everyone in the train car is smiling and offering to help each other out… being the cynic he is, Shio is like “wtf is this shit?”
Whatever--Shio gets to the rendezvous point for the IRL meetup and three dudes are already there. They’re waiting for the last person, “the net’s current darling,” Miya-san, who runs a blog where she shares snippets of her YA novel and generally acts cute.
I guess tits or gtfo never hit Japan because no one demands proof that she’s actually a woman online and everyone daydreams about how cute/pretty she must be. Shio peeps the giant dude from the train again and has an epiphany: MIYA-SAN IS A MAN. He’s right--Miya is the train dude. Chaos ensues.
Shio ends up crashing at Miya’s place and wakes up in bed with him. Unlike the common “holy shit we accidentally fucked” BL trope, the two aren’t nude, they actually didn’t do anything, and neither tries to manipulate the other into thinking something happened. Shio is shocked to discover that he’s not creeped out by sleeping in the same bed with Miya, which foreshadows how shocked he is that he actively likes Miya as a person and wants to hang out with him all the time.
The men strike up an IRL friendship, which mostly involves going shopping together and renting videos to watch while they get shitfaced at Miya’s house. Each time Shio stays over he wakes up in Miya’s bed the next day, even after they openly talk about how Miya is in love with him. Shio actually starts to catch feelings, too, but he has an amazing poker face and comes off as a super easy going straight guy who’s chill about another man’s crush on him. In reality, he was already feelin’ Miya romantic-styles for a minute.
One night, Shio decides to take their relationship to the next level because his seme isn’t exactly the type to play offense. To heat things up, he starts acting bitchy about how Miya “probably treat[s] everyone this nicely.” When Miya asks Shio if he’s bothered that he’s nice to other people, Shio prompts a makeout sesh by saying:
I’m not going to say something I know you’d read too much into.
In other words, “it does piss me off, but I don’t want you to think I’m in love with you or anything (even though I am).”
Happy end: the two have sex and start going out.
My Busted Opinion
Okay, so this isn’t my absolute favorite BL manga or anything but holy shit is this manga fucking good. Not only does our uke have the best personality (i.e. mine), but he’s a megane hottie and successful career boy for whom mhio. Miya is an endearing seme with many funny moments who has the good taste to be a Shio fanboy as well:
Ever since I became a writer, I’ve been a fan of yours. I went to IRL meetings like a groupie, and ever since I met you, you’re all I can think about.
Sure, Miya pales in comparison to Shio as a character, but this is something he seems to be pretty aware of himself. I have no real complaints.
In a genre that is sometimes oversaturated with plotlines that depend on sexual assault or dubious consent to bring our heroes together, it’s nice to have mangas like Merry Checker to fall back on when you’re in the mood for some heartwarming and fully consensual man on man action. There’s nothing I love more than a romance that blooms from genuine friendship, and my god does this deliver.
These two men are refreshingly honest with each other and their misunderstandings (usually caused by Shio freaking the fuck out that he’s openly showing affection for another person) last only a few minutes at most. After having sex for the first time, which Shio initiates under the guise of being drunk, he makes sure to clarify that their night together wasn’t a meaningless fluke:
It’s embarrassing if you think that it happened just because we were drunk. I’m in love with Miya-san. I love you, so I’ll go out with you.
Even though I love the mutual honesty here, without a doubt my favorite thing is how honest Shio is with himself throughout the story:
The truth is, I am not at all good at showing my true feelings. I bet I’m hard to deal with. If I got married, my wife would cheat on me and say stuff like ‘I could never understand you, I was lonely.’ Oh, I’m sure... The truth would be that I was the one who was really lonely. Such a cliché.
Does everyone hold onto these kind of fears and anxieties, and face them along with someone else? I think that I’m fine by myself, and in truth I really am... There are countless things that I want to hide and don’t want to say out loud, but if it’s you, then it’s okay.
While I can only wish I was as cool as him overall, the way Shio thinks about his own feelings and personality genuinely does remind me of myself and makes me feel really seen in a good way. I’m a very solitary person who is easily embarrassed by affection and sexuality, but I do love passionately and am very direct about how I feel all the same. I don’t and have never really had a romantic partner, but I do feel some relatability with Shio’s emotional arc in how much I love my friends and the lengths I’m willing to go to express that love.
Truth be told, the internet angle of this story be hittin’ right, too. Who doesn’t appreciate a modern love story whose final romantic beat is plugging your lover’s real name into your phone contacts?
That’s good shit right there, even if listing a contact under their real name in my phone is a sign of my utter lack of affection for that person IRL.
Initially, I was just going to review Merry Checker out of necessity, to eliminate any questions about my blog’s name in advance. Since rereading this manga, the final exchange between Mitsuya and Shio has made choosing Merry Checker for my inaugural blog review take on a bit of a deeper meaning:
Shio: “Didn’t you say last time that you left a page of your youth unturned?” Mitsuya: “I’ve entered the adult stage of my youth.” Shio: “Sounds fun. An adult’s youth, huh...” Mitsuya: “You seem to be having fun as well, senpai... Your adult youth.”
As someone who has wanted to start a BL review blog for literal years, finally hunkering down and going for it is a big deal for me, no matter how low stakes it is in actuality. So, if anyone else is reading this, thanks for helping me usher along my adult’s youth. I’m having fun!
Additional thanks to B00merang Artwork for the Windows XP icons used in my navigation, as well as EGG RAMEN's Simple template for showing me how to fix the position of the Windows XP background without repeating it.
The following resources were also used while writing the code for this review:
This review was originally posted to WordPress on November 15, 2019. Post content was converted from its original format and made viewable to netizens as version 2.0.1 on February 20, 2022.
Version 2.0.1 includes light edits and removal of one inline image deemed non-essential. Long story short, I was struggling to wrap text around figures in the tab div while managing their viewport size in this CSS.
XP.css was adapted for use here on February 19, 2022 with further edits completed on June 1, 2022. See Credits tab above for more details.
P.S. I look more like Shio's hand-drawn picture of girl!Miya than Shio IRL.