The title makes sort-of sense, but makes more sense when it’s written in Japanese. グランド (Grand) and グラウンド (Ground) are written very similarly, with “Ground” having one additional character. So in the title, they scratch out “ウ ” ( ‘oun’ in ‘Ground’) to make it pronounced “Grand”. If it sounds convoluted, it’s because it doesn’t translate well to English.
HUGE TRIGGER WARNING: This manga contains abuse in nearly every way. It contains racist stereotypes. Nudity. Depictions of r*pe and attempted r*pe.
Sen Owari (fun fact his last name means “end”, likely a pun because he’s now in jail so his life is “over”) is a convicted killer, sentenced to 80 years behind bars for murdering the husband of a woman he was sleeping with after he is assaulted. He’s the only Japanese man in the jail known as the “Under Ground Hotel.”
Sen is brutally sexually assaulted and repeatedly fetishized by other members of the prison. One person, Swordfish, the “shut call” (Prison boss) of the jail saves him from his assault, and they become nearly inseparable after that. Sen latches onto Swordfish, giving up his body in exchange for protection from the rest of the inmates.
These two have got to be the most unlikeable, dramatic, and uncharismatic main characters in any BL I’ve ever read. There is virtually nothing likeable about either one of them. Swordfish is a gross caricature of African-Americans, first and foremost. I’m not sure if it’s because of the lack of representation of them in Japan, but even the way he’s drawn looks strange. His dreadlocks (which is what I assume them to be) instead look like long udon noodles, and I doubt the author has ever even seen proper dreadlocks worn on a black man who knows how to take care of them.
Swordfish has a baby-mama that he repeatedly has conjugal visits with in the first volume of the story. He’s extremely rough, crude, and even calls Sen a slur for Japanese people throughout the entire story. He hates “gays” and calls them the F slur as well, despite repeatedly sleeping with other men in the prison.
Now, let’s go to Sen. Sen Owari is only obsessed with Swordfish and nothing else. He wants Swordfish to be loyal to him, but Swordfish is just incapable of that. He is constantly ‘cheating’ on Sen — if it was an open relationship that’s one thing, but Sen absolutely despises this dynamic. He gets little development other than repeatedly being assaulted and running back to Swordfish, the man who manipulates and torments him in this prison.
There’s one scene where Swordfish lashes out at Sen for calling him gay. Thus, Swordfish gets the officers to switch his cell with a man who will definitely assault Sen that night. The pettiness doesn’t end here, however — Swordfish watches as Sen is getting assaulted, and only calls the guards when Sen stabs the other prisoner in the eye in defense.
In another part of the manga, after Swordfish learns that Sen has slept with another man, he has intercourse with him so intensely and horribly that he lands him in the hospital, and doesn’t ever apologize. In fact, it’s Sen who says “I provoked him.” Sorry, WHAT?
Both of these characters are horribly dramatic. We get long pages of them being like “ooh, I lost myself in him” or “i don’t know where he ends and I begin” — typical BL stuff there. And the ending of the manga is ambiguous, but a tragedy nonetheless. It’s clear the author wanted to pen a tragedy from the get-go.
So, in conclusion, if you’ll enjoy a toxic story, you can try and pick up this one and enjoy it for the melodramatic mess of the two main characters. It’s not life-changing, and at some points it’s even laughable, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy my time reading it, scoffing and shaking my head at these main characters.
But again, this manga portrays sexual assault in a horrible light and frequently uses slurs, so read at your own discretion.
(for “Under Grand Hotel” of course.)
What do you all think of this? Let us know in the comments below!