Marine Corps Yumi Manga, Volume 4 (まりんこゆみ)

January 23rd, 2017

It’s been a long time since I last reviewed a volume of Marine Corps Yumi and I appear to have skipped Volume 3. This is entirely because I simply could not yet bring myself to deal with it. And, I’m going to be honest, reading this volume was hard. Ana and I had a lot of conversations about in 2014-5.

Author Anastasia Moreno died in July 2015 of a very aggressive form of cancer and pretty much I think of her nearly every day. She was a great person and we had a lot of fun together. I catch myself saying “Dammit, Ana” about 4 times a week when she comes up in conversation. But I know that Marine Corps Yumi was her magnum opus and she’d be pissed that I wasn’t reviewing it. So today, I’m taking a much-delayed look at Volume 4 of Marine Corps Yumi (まりんこゆみ) by Anastasia Moreno and Nogami Takeshi. Nogami-sensei is still drawing the comic, which is still available in Japanese online for free.

Volume 4 is notable to me for several reasons. One, it contains the chapter for which Ana and Nogami-sensei, Tachibana Remi-san and Bruce and I went to a Takarazuka show together. All that punching just to give Japanese Self-Defense Force translator Sawa-san a personality. ^_^ Turns out she joined the JSDF when she didn’t make it into Takarazuka. I applaud that level of uniform fetishtry.

Sawa-san’s greatest moment, though, is when she encourages Donna King to try her hand at translating and Donna turns out to be pretty good at it…although her strategic exercises manuals come off sounding way more like BL novels than anything else. The look on Sawa’s face is brilliant as she reads Donna’s translation of coming in from behind and outflanking the enemy. Ana laughed for about an hour while telling me about that chapter. ^_^

We learn about the different kinds of promotions, as Yumi and her teammates all make Lance Corporal one way or another. Lind’s route is the hardest as she has to go through the exam process, but we all knew she’d get there. We learn about the different assignments the ladies get (except Rita, who was snapped up by intelligence and everything she does is classified.) And of course we get insight on Yumi’s long, exhausting days as an interpreter.

The bulk of the book is about the military’s interactions, both positive and negative, with Okinawans. Rita Fernandez , although she comes from a marine family, was born on Okinawa and considers it home. Her love for the place, and her desire to educate her friends and us about the real and allegorical ghosts of the war is deeply touching. I shed real tears as an old soldier and an exorcist help a wandering soul find his final “at ease.”

And, at last, we meet Yumi’s new roommate, the foul-mouthed, perpetually angry blue-eyed blonde haired predatory lesbian and Yuri fan, Erica Bush. Named after me and a former President, Erica is a terrible human. ^_^

When Ana first floated the idea of a lesbian character with me, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was still enforced. We talked about how to indicate she was gay without her being so obvious that she’d be booted. But by the time she arrived in the narrative, everything had changed and she could just be openly gay. So, yeah. Marine Corps Yumi finally has a lesbian and she’s an absolute asshole. I think she’s hilarious and awful.

Erica macks hamhandedly on Linda, she and Donna can see they are in sympatico yet, on opposite sides of the doujinshi aisles, and she terrifies Yumi. I adore her, as you can imagine. She’s my very first character in homage and I will treasure her forever. 

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9 Man, it’s always a bad allergy day when I read Yumi, my eyes get all teary
Characters – 8
Yuri – 6 Yuri, thy name is Erica!
Service – 5 Equal opportunity for those who like boys and girls this time! 

Overall – 9

Thanks, Ana. Thinking of you again today.



Event Report: Yuri Lectures at University of Michigan

January 22nd, 2017

I have returned from Michigan, for which I have nothing but praise. And from a very hectic few days pre- and post- my lectures. I have a lot of people to thank, so let’s get right on that first. First, my sincere thanks to Jennifer Robertson and the Center for Japanese Studies for having me out to the university and treating me so well. Thanks to Gal, Mary, Matt and Ben for a lovely lunch and to Jennifer, Celeste and Erin for a lovely dinner, both of which were filled with fascinating and wide-ranging conversations.  Special thanks to Nicole for arranging everything. I had a terrific time and hope to visit again sometime soon.

When I came in to Ann Arbor, I had a few hours free before meeting some folks for dinner, and the campus was great for Pokewalking, so I headed off to find the Art Museum. Folks, I have to tell you that the University of Michigan Museum of Art is fantastic. I was fascinated to see that they had an exhibition of Kabuki posters. Some of these I had seen previously  at the Brooklyn Museum, but they had a interesting section on how the onnagata, men who played the females roles,  influenced fashion and femininity. Perhaps more important to us, I also learned about the Shirabyoushi, who were female performers in the Heian period who dressed like men as they danced. (Which immediately called to mind a scene in Saitou Chiho’s  Torikaebaya, in which Sara Sojuu, presenting as a man, dances for the Emperor.) There was a poster of an onnagata dressed as a shirabyoushi, which is a lot of layers of genderfuck right there. A man, dressed as a women who dresses like man. The TV screen immediately next to that picture showed a shirabyoushi dance performed by a kabuki actor. It was fascinating.

This a painting of the most famous Shirabyoushi, Shizuka Gozen. Notice the hat (tate-eboshi), the sword, and the men’s clothes.

The other key learning I had was that fanfic and fan art are, as I have always presumed, both eternal and universal. Among the posters at the exhibition were paintings of popular kabuki actors “as” other things. Much in the way you see fan art of “Disney Princesses as…” a variety of things or people, here are paintings of popular stars “as” legendary sages and in the second picture, as flowers.

So. There you have it. Along with knowledge that kabuki posters were bootlegged, we now have confirmation that human nature is pretty consistent across time and geography. 

The next morning I first attended Jennifer’s Sex and Gender in Japan class, where I walked them through the demographic genres of manga and the wholly unique history of Yuri and LGBTQ manga. The questions were fantastic, genuinely. What a great class! I felt bad I hadn’t brought more books to give away as prizes for good questions ^_^;

The second lecture had an interesting, varied audience, which contained a few friendly faces. I was very pleased to see old friends Jackie S and Jocilyn W there. At that lecture I talked about LGBTQ (Yuri, BL, gay) manga and how pressure from fandom helped it to become a successful niche in manga sales. Again, good questions and loads of nice people.  

After that, I was able to sit with some of the grad students and chat. Mary and I found we were separated at birth and were able to fangirl over Marimite, Sailor Moon and Yuki Kajiura a bit. ^_^

Dinner conversation with faculty ranged from Japan to Amsterdam and back and through many levels of politics and pets. All in all it was a fascinating and enjoyable glimpse into the life of academics, so far removed – and yet so similar – to my own corporate world.

Two last thanks are in order. One to my driver Sayeed, who embodies everything beautiful about the American dream. And my final thanks to Ann Arbor itself, which was both lovely and fun and helped me level up in Pokemon Go. ^_^

I’m going to go do some more research on the shirabyoushi now.  ^_^



Out of the Office, Onto the Streets

January 21st, 2017

Today, we march.

The Women’s March on Washington, and all the Sister Marches in all 50 states and dozens of cities internationally, have issued a comprehensive and progressive political platform and today I invite you all to get out and join your voice to others’, be seen and heard in your city and state.  If you cannot march, you can still be active in support.

Please consider joining a march near you. We need to be seen by the whole world resisting this push towards fascism and the undermining of American democracy by people who do not care whether we, our friends and family, live or die. I’ll see you out on the streets today and back in the office tomorrow.

 



Yuri Manga: Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san, Volume 5 (犬神さんと猫山さん)

January 19th, 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed Kuzushiro’s zodiac animal-themed high school gag comic. It’s not because it isn’t good, or that it hasn’t been funny. It’s just that Volume 4 wasn’t all that Yuri. It’s not that we don’t have Yuri couples – Student Council President Torao Mari and her Vice President, Ryuuzaki Otome, and Nekoyama-san’s older sister Tamaki and her lover Hebizuka Sawako.  

However, Volume 5 of Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san, (犬神さんと猫山さん) ratchets up the Yuri in a couple of places. Primarily the fraught relationship between Souma Sakura and Inori Mayo. Those two alternately fight verbally and physically throughout the volume, all the while skirting  the very real attraction between them. By the end of the volume they have at least acknowledged their mutual attraction even if it’s still going to be rocky.

The titular characters, Inugami-san and Nekoyama-san also go on a date, to a cat cafe. Suzu finds herself having a lot more fun playing with the kittens than she expected and she and Yachiyo find themselves moving ever closer to an actual romance.

And even with all this going on,  these two major shifts in dynamic are not the most interesting thing in the book.

I’ve referred to Aki as everyone’s keeper before and the splash page illustates this in a fairly servicey manner, with Aki in a sexualized pose and the rest of the cast in miniature draped around her. Throughout this series, she’s come off as grounded and slightly removed from everything. Not in this volume, where suddenly we see a bit deeper into Aki and it turns out she’s got very  a pretty dark center. I like it on her. And, she casually mentions, in the course of nothing particular, that she’s bi. Aki takes the lead on being the most interesting character in the series so far.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7
Character – 8
FanService – 6
Yuri – 7

Overall – 7

All I ever ask from gag comics is that they are amusing. Almost  despite itself, this one is also telling a story. Who’da thunk it!



Western Comic: DC Bombshells, Guest Review by Jen Yoko

January 18th, 2017

It’s Guest Review Wednesday and today we have a double fistful of joy at introducing you to a new Guest Reviewer, but long-time friend of Yuricon  and Okazu (and me!) Jen Yoko! I am ecstatic as heck that Jen has brought us her look at a book that I’ve heard a lot of good things about. Please offer her your undivided attention. The podium is yours, Jen. ^_^

Have you ever wondered what WWII would be like without our iconic male super hero protagonists? No? Why would you? I’m sure it has never crossed your mind. It has never crossed mine.

In DC Bombshells all of our favorite heroines from the DC universe have taken arms to help fight in the war against the Nazis.

When you begin reading the first issue, you are introduced to a 1940’s version of Batwoman. You see her dressed in a baseball outfit similar to what you would have seen in that time period.  The artwork made me feel that I was watching an old 1940’s film. From the way she speaks to her mannerisms, I became immediately reminded of the old films that I would watch with my family on Turner Classic Movies as a child.

Batwoman, aka Kate Kane, is still a lesbian in this universe and is living with Maggie Sawyer, her lover. They didn’t change or hide anything because of the time period. Instead the writers took a different turn. She blends in.  Which to me I found strange, frightening and refreshing.  When Amanda Waller visits Kate, she immediately recruits her into the Bombshells. This is where the story takes off.

You begin to see the journey of not just Kate Kane but almost EVERY FEMALE in the DC universe. It begins with Wonder Woman and how she helped fight alongside the USA, then shifts to Super Girl and Star Girl, to Catwoman, Harely Quinn and Poison Ivy along with so many more!  Each story fits smoothly into each other and does not falter, even in later chapters. I’m not saying every single story is gold, but you want to know what happens to each character and what sisterhood and connection they make with each other. They are now sisters in arms.

War, no matter how you slice it is still horrible, even in a fictional world. In this DC comic I was swept away by something I honestly only considered as pin-up piece in a comic shop. The stories are refreshing and empowering . It imparts a little something for everyone. It is easy to purchase and is available on Amazon or at any comic book shop.

Ratings:

Art – 7 It varies from chapter to chapter depending on the story but it makes the comic that much stronger. There are also several tasteful pin up girl images of each character.

Story – 8 It’s riddled with diversity and adventures that don’t overwhelm you. Not your typical save the day stories.

Characters – 8 Each character is from a different country and some have different accents. You fall in love with old characters with a new twist.

Yuri – 8 There are a several relationships in this book that took me by surprise. Batwoman isn’t the only leading lady of love. Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are a couple along side a few other female characters that I was unfamiliar with.

Service – 8

Overall – 8 DC comics went out of their way for once to make our leading ladies truly shine. You finally see what you have wanted to see in an all female action comic that has been made in North America. With a market overflowing with male leads this makes you wonder why their aren’t more stories of women like this in US comics? I wish I could have read this as a teen growing up. It’s inspiring. 

Erica here: Well…wow! I’ve added it to my Amazon cart, along with Love is Love, the DC and IDW tribute to the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. Thanks, Jen, you just sold  a book! ^_^