Yuri Manga: Fujiyuu Sekai Perfect Edition (不自由セカイ 完全版)

June 26th, 2016

In 2012, I read and was traumatized by Kodama Naoko’s Fujiyuu Sekai. It’s one of my most popular reviews, presumably because folks who read scanlations are equally as traumatized and want someone to tell them it’ll be alright.

Well, this hideous monster is back in a new collection, Fujiyuu Sekai Perfect Edition (不自由セカイ 完全版) and things are most definitely not alright.

Reo befriended Meiko back in high school when Meiko was not treated well by her classmates. Popular and attractive, Reo drew Meiko into society. Meiko joined the tennis club in order to be closer to Reo and, as a result, hurt her ankle during practice. One day not long after, Reo offered to walk Meiko home, but she refused because she was getting better. Reo went off and unknown to her, Meiko was attacked and raped.

Now, years later, Meiko is still making Reo pay for it. Meiko is abusive and neglectful, Reo is tortured, and the fact that they get a “happy” ending is only one of the many things wrong with the narrative.

I reluctantly coughed up for the Perfect Edition, hoping that any new chapters would have Meiko abjectly begging for forgiveness or, barring that, Reo walking away and getting a better life. But no. In all my many concerns about the wrongness of all the plot elements in this story, the one  resolution Kodama-sensei went with hadn’t even occurred to me.  Because, god, no.  (I’m not saying that it might not work, I’m saying this story needs to die in fire.)

Ratings:

Overall – 3, down 2 points from the original.

In 2012, I said, “It really could have been good, but it wasn’t.” In 2016, I have to admit that this was just a shitty manga that had no chance of being good.



Yuri Network News – (百合ネットワークニュース) – June 25, 2016

June 25th, 2016

YNN_Lissa Yuri Manga

I know that no one else on the planet cares, but you guys, I saw the most amazing thing at Kinokuniya today! YajiKita Gakuen Douchuuki is one of the three girl-gang series that ruled the 1980s and are my particular obsession, along with Sukeban Deka and Hana no Asuka-gumi. Well…there on the shelves was a new volume of this gonzo girl-gang/medieval Japanese literature mashup, with a light dusting of Yuri! Waaaahhh~~~YajiKita Gakuen Douchuuki F (やじきた学園道中記) is on sale now!

From Ichijinsha, Aoto Hibiki’s gender-bendy school comedy Prince Princess, Volume 2, (プリンスプリンス) wraps up with a surprise ending.

Also from Ichijinsha, the second volume of Sumu to Jigoku no Inferno (住めど地獄のインフェルノ) hit shelves last week.

Stretch, Volume 4 j(ストレッチ) just goes to show you that you can never really predict what weird crap will succeed. ^_^

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Yuri Anime

Funimation has scheduled Yuri Kuma Arashi as a DVD/BD Combo pack.

Other News

ANN has the scoop that a new Rose of Versailles music CD compilation is available in Japan, Restored, remastered with music that has never been available before, this 3 CD set sounds like a blast.

ANN also has confirmation that, yes indeed, the final Read or Die Light Novel will be making it’s way to print. I’m amazed. If you recall, we actually left everyone dab smack in the middle of an arc when the 11th novel ended back in 2006 (mostly because he had wasted 3 novels not writing the story.) ^_^;

Know some cool Yuri News you want people to know about? Become a Yuri Network Correspondent by sending me any Yuri-related news you find. Emails go to anilesbocon01 at hotmail dot com. Not to the comments here, please, or they might be forgotten or missed. There’s a reason for this madness. This way I know you are a real human, not Anonymous (which I do not encourage – stand by your words with your name!) and I can send you a YNN correspondent’s badge.

Thanks to all of you – you make this a great Yuri Network!



Yuri Drama CD: Grand Stage, Vol. 3 “Kazamiya Eru” (グラン・ステージ 第3幕 「風宮絵琉」)

June 24th, 2016

img3-e1439749850146Let it be said and recognized that Inoue Marina is one of the best least-known voice actresses that you have ever heard. I first “heard” her as Lirio in El Cazador de la Bruja, (which is an irony, as Lirio almost never spoke) but she’s probably better known as Gurren Lagan‘s Yoko. We’ve encountered her many times as Cure March in PreCure, Eriol in Nanoha Strikers and my favorite, as Shouko from Maria-sama ga Miteru. Generally speaking, I adore her voice, and I was pleased as punch that she was included in this wackadoodle Yuri Drama CD series as Grand Stage’s “Peter Pan,” Kazamiya Eru.

In Grand Stage 3, “Kazamiya Eru (グラン・ステージ 第3幕「風宮絵琉」) she gets to stretch her voice a little and overplay a uniquely overplayable role…and be delightful doing it. ^_^

Kazmiya Eru, the third otokoyaku of the Grand Stage we meet, is playful and childish, with a boyish charm. She is about to play Peter Pan, which suits her personality, and so, of course, we will be her Wendy.

Eru-kun is disarmingly cheerful and energetic and we respond accordingly. But unlike Akito and Ryoya, she is also deeply concerned with the issue of gender. Having been scouted in New York, Eru maintains she wants to portray a “cool guy” even as she’s bouncing around the room, childlike.

The format of the story is settled now – we meet our potential partner, end up in their apartment, feed them, listen to their story, find ourselves charmed and end up together as the perfect partner. When Inoue-san says, as Eru-kun, “I love you – so much!” in English, with the emphasis almost, but not quite correct, it’s hard to not want to hug the stuffing out of her. ^_^

Then Eru-kun sings her image song, “Flying Boy,” which pretty much wore the Peter Pan analogy threadbare.

The Drama CD includes, as the other’s have, a “signed image” by the Grand Stage top star, images of her in tux and in “street clothes” and this time included a short SS “shousetsu”, i.e., an official fanfic, printed in the CD insert, which was absolutely delightful and ridiculous.

Concerned about our happiness, Eru-kun asks Akito and Ryoya for advice on a birthday date. A limo driven by Akito takes us to the zoo where a Ryoya panda leads us around. We end up the day in a romantic spot, with the other two listening in openly. We are – of course – moved by Eru-kun’s kindness and even more so when she asks us to call her by her real name, Hibiya Hikaru. We and Hi-kun (squee! we have a special nickname for her!) end the day happily, under the benevolent smiles of Akito and Ryoya.

Gosh we’re such softies. ^_^

And as I wrapped up this CD I thought, “I love this series. It’s so goshdarn tack-tastic and full of all the Yuri things, what’s not to love?”

Now I’m super motivated to listen to the others and get the new series asap. If this were an anime, I’d watch the hell out of it. In the meantime, this is, really, truly, the “Yuriest” thing coming out of Japan in ages.

Ratings:

Overall – 10

Squee.

 



Love Live Anime, Second Season (English) Guest Review by Day

June 22nd, 2016

LLSIPS1Annnnddd…..it’s Guest Review Wednesday! Today we have an encore from Day, who wanted a chance to continue to look at a popular idol anime. Take it away, Day!

The second season of Love Live! School Idol Project opens in the wake of the failure of our heroines to make it to the Love Live, but with the future bright as their beloved school’s been saved. Things are looking even brighter, though, when it is announced that there will be a second Love Live held during the school year. Despite some initial doubt, the girls soon plunge into preparations, knowing that with a change to the rules they’re up against the formidable A-RISE if they even want to qualify for the finals.

For the most part, the second season of Love Live exacerbates the first season’s problems, in that it is largely about the bland adventures of some generically cute high school girls rather than about the idol competition it’s named for. Despite introducing a more clearly defined competitive structure, the overall focus is weaker, with time set aside for dire material like dieting. And while characters sometimes acted in ways that didn’t quite add up in the first season, here they become frequently unmoored from anything approaching believable behavior in service of the particular fetishes of viewers. Previously level-headed people like Honoka’s mother and sister behave like there’s a cancer diagnosis when Honoka gains a few pounds, while we learn in another episode that sixteen year old, elite student Maki still believes in Santa Claus.

It’s odd, then, that among all the dreck we get, are the two best episodes in the series. The latter of these is an episode which features one of the idol performances, something which is nearly derailed by bad weather. While intellectually there’s never any doubt that they’ll overcome the obstacles, the show does manage to infuse some sense of tension. It also finally integrates the idol group into the broader school community in the course of resolving the tension, as their schoolmates pitch in to help get the girls to the performance venue on-time.

The other is focused around Nico, who is turns out has been leading a life of rampant lies at home so that her younger siblings think that she’s a very famous solo idol. This has involved Nico resorting to amateur photo-manipulation, and claiming that the other girls are all back-up dancers. While the show takes pains to have it all end with a smile, the whole situation is a bit creepy and works to demonstrate just ultimately how damaging Nico’s flaws are.

But, this leaves us with eleven episodes otherwise. For the most part, they’re merely dull, but there are also sequences, even entire episodes, which are simply horrible. I made reference to dieting previously, and an entire episode is devoted to this when Honoka gains roughly four and a half (invisible) pounds. There’s also the girl who believes in Santa Claus, and a girl who nearly faints when the other girls start discussing their lack of romantic experience and who covers her faces and shrieks when there’s kissing in a movie.

Speaking of which, while the visual fanservice is fairly low, this sort of foolishness in which high school girls were apparently raised in a hermetically sealed, eternally-pre-1950 environment is rampant. And that *is* fanservice, as the target audience is made up of men who demand that their idols, fictional and not, be unworldly and eternally virginal, tainted not even by a passing interest in boys, even as the lyrics they sing often are romantic (when one of the girls suggests writing a love song, everyone gets indignant and claims that they’ve never done a love song before – which is blatantly false – and that it isn’t true to the group).

However… something interesting happened when this franchise made it into English-language fandom. While the usual suspects clamored, a lot of women and girls got into Love Live, including ones who hadn’t previously been into anime. And, of these women and girls, a lot of them are queer. And… I’m one of them! I think the TV anime for the franchise is terrible, but I love the queer fandom surrounding it and the other bits of the franchise like the mobile game. Fans invest a lot of time into creating vibrant personal works that imbue the cast with depth they never are granted in the official canon, and full of expansive possibilities; for me, that’s what makes Love Live worth it.

Yuri for this season is… well. I want to say “higher”, but that isn’t quite it. None of these girls are kissing, none of them are declaring their love, none of them are coming out of the closet… Shipbait is happily provided for those who would ship, but it’s a lot of clattering over gestures that don’t read as particularly queer if you take off the Yuri goggles. I was a high school girl myself not too terribly long ago, and I can tell you that gushing at a friend about their cuteness while trying to encourage them is, if anything, more common among straight girls (an established heterosexual identity means not typically having to personally worry about homophobia, after all). So, sure, this season delivers potato-sharing, declarations of cuteness, happy tackling, etc., but it’s all still firmly in the land of suggestion rather than confirmation.

Ratings:

Art – 8 (the animation gets a slight kick up)
Story – 3
Characters – 6
Yuri – 2
Service – 6 (primarily it’s the pandering to fetishes about purity and ignorance I complained about)
Overall – 4 (but worse than the first season)

Erica here: Well thank you Day, and I agree with you completely that the hermetically sealed virginal idol is irrefutably a form of fanservice. I also agree with Mariko that sex and sexiness are not always service.

In my definition, service is catering to fandom fetishes – like making a the redhead, twin-tailed girl passive-aggressive, when the story would fare as well with her merely being competent and uninterested (and would include less shouting.) It’s “service” in the sense that it ticks off a checklist item for fans and is a form of “just add water” character development for lazy writers. Bouncing boobs aren’t the only form of service in anime.



Interview with Josh Kaplan, Creator of Highway Blossoms

June 21st, 2016

key-art-with-solid-logoYesterday, I had a chance to read through the new Yuri Visual Novel, Highway Blossoms. And I generally found it to be good. Today, we welcome creator Josh Kaplan to Okazu to discuss the game. Welcome Josh!

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Are the any Japanese VNs that inspired HB? And what artistic influences inspire you, personally?
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For me at least, I generally take more inspiration from regular novels and fiction than anything else, if only because I read more books than I do VN’s. In particular, I love young adult fiction, and I think that HB fits under that umbrella. Recently I’ve been devouring just about everything by Siera Maley, and I also love The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer. There’s a doujin Yuri VN by Cosmilica, called Love, Guitars and the Nashville Skyline that is currently being localized by our publisher, and it also includes a lesbian pair on a roadtrip through the US. At the time that we started planning Highway Blossoms, though, we’d never heard of it. I’m looking forward to reading it, though, and the developer of that one is very fun to talk to.

I asked Syon, the other writer and the director for the project, and he said his biggest influence was the anime Trigun, as well as the film and novel Holes.

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Haha, so the whole desert location is sort of baked into Syon’s references then. ^_^

 The idea of the road trip is uniquely American. You’ve said elsewhere  that you’ve been to most of these places. Was it your intention to inspire fans to visit these places? It does seem a bit of  travelogue. ^_^
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I wouldn’t say that it was our intention to get people out and visiting these places, but it’s definitely a happy side effect. Hell, I was getting some wanderlust just as I was writing. We’ve had a number of fans say that they’re inspired to take a roadtrip now, though, and I think that’s awesome. We actually have a couple ideas to reward people who do go out and see these places after they read HB, but we’ve gotta see if they pan out, first.

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You mentioned in the Yuri Nation interview that you’re consuming a fair amount of contemporary lesbian work. What themes did reading/watching that inspire you to cover? I notice, for instance, that Amber starts out the story having had girlfriends already, so that “coming out”, which is so often a major theme in lesbian literature and entertainment is skipped over almost completely.
Is there anything you definitely did NOT want to do in the narrative?
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We specifically wanted to avoid the “b-but we’re both girls” trope that dominates most Yuri media. Not to belittle the difficulty and courage it takes to come out, but simply because there’s a lot of stories that deal with that out there already. Throughout the entire thing, nobody gives a second thought to the fact that the two girls are in a relationship – and that’s how we think it should be. Sadly, we know it’s a little idealistic right now.

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Music is a huge part of this story… do you have a story behind the music you mention in the narrative?
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The music that Amber listens to and talks about were meant to characterize her Grandfather more than anything, and the kind of person that he was. It’s also supposed to set Amber apart a little bit – she’s never heard of any of the bands that Marina likes. But as for those artists having personal significance to us in real life? Nah, not really.

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I thought the sex scene interesting, rather than sexy, per se…what was your thinking behind the way that was handled? 
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Having the sex scenes be a part of character development and not just fanservice was definitely intentional. Especially with the first one – it sets up a lot of important things that happen later. You can also see how Amber misinterprets some of what’s going on or just assumes things about Marina that aren’t quite true. The second sex scene is definitely a happier, lighter one and is supposed to be kind of silly, not just erotic. Both as consumers and developers, we prefer sex scenes that feel like they mean something, rather than just being tossed in there.

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What themes or messages do you hope folks will take away from playing Highway Blossoms?
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Like I mentioned, I think the big theme is simply that “love is love,” no matter who you are or who you fall in love with. Recent events have been a tragic reminder that not everyone is on the same page there yet, but I hope that every day we get a little bit closer to that. There’s also the recurring notion that everyone deserves to be happy, and that you deserve to allow yourself to be happy.

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Any last thing you want to say to fans?

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I’d just like to emphasize that 2016 has been and is a great year for Yuri media in the West. Aside from HB, there have been titles like Starlight Vega, Rising Angels, and A Little Lily Princess, that have all had releases this year. There are also some interesting looking upcoming ones like Alpha’s Adventures. I know that HB isn’t for everyone, but hopefully all Yuri fans will find a new game that they love this year.

I think that’s just about everything. I’ve said it a lot, but thank you! =)

Thank you Josh and best of luck with Highway Blossoms and future projects!