LGBTQ Comic: Sugar Town

October 18th, 2017

Hazel Newlevant is an award-winning queer artist whose work has been mentioned here before. Some years ago I picked up If This Be Sin by her and I knew she was a talent I wanted to keep track of. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to her newest work, Sugar Town

Before we get in to particulars, there’s a really important thing I need to be clear about: Sugar Town is…nice.I wanted to tell you that upfront so when I describe it, you’re not stressed out, looking for the conflict. There isn’t any. You can just relax and enjoy the comic and not be waiting for the boot to drop. 

Sugar Town follows the meeting and relationship of Hazel and Argent, two poly women, at a club in Portland. Argent is a sex worker and has other female lovers and Hazel’s got a great guy, Gregor, waiting in New York for her. And none of this is a plot complication. 

In fact, there is no plot complication. Hazel and Argent meet, dance, celebrate Hazel’s birthday together, and fall for one another, to a backdrop of all the other pieces of their lives being pieces of their lives. It’s all very nice. Really. ^_^ 

Newlevant’s art has a soft, warm, squishy feeling. You can imagine what embracing Argent or playing with Hazel’s hair feels like. No hard lines here, it’s all cake and tears of joy. Sugar Town is a great comic – exactly what I expect from Hazel Newlevant.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Characters – 8
Story – 8 It’s “girl meets girl” without artificial drama.
Lesbian – 10
Service – 2 on the principle that some people think like that

Overall – 8

It’s worth reading Sugar Town, then handing it around to all your friends and saying, “Look, we can just have this. It’s perfectly okay.”

You know what I’m doing this week? Working though a HUGE pile of manga and comics with great LGBTQ content. Isn’t that amazing?! I’m so happy….

Thanks very much to Hazel Newlevant for the review copy!

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LGBTQ: Dates Anthology, Volume 2

October 17th, 2017

In Summer 2016, I had the pleasure of reviewing the historical fiction anthology, Dates. Well, it was such a hit that editors Zora Gilbert and Cat Parra started working on a second collection. Today, we’re looking at Dates Anthology, Volume 2.

The sequel was even better than the original. The mix of prose and text appealed to me. You may know that I have, for many years collected doujinshi put together by groups of people in Japan. One of the features of these privately published journals (or “coterie literary magazines,” as the online translators like to say) is the mix of text and comics. Like ‘zines, doujinshi give creators a way to express their work in any media that suits them. Switching back and forth from text stories to comics gave me a chance to change the pace and tone, so that I didn’t just read this through without stopping to enjoy a bite here or there.

In general, I found most of the stories to be good and a surprising number were excellent, with a pleasant diversity of time, place, ethnicity, perspective and voice.  The stories were strong – many of them focusing on gender presentation, gender roles and gender identity, as well as sexuality. I quite liked Gwen C. Katz’s “The Ibex Tattoo” and “Flowers in the Wind” by A. D’Amico hit me just right.

The art was tighter than in the first volume, too. A number of the stories did wonderful things with the art. Marie-Ann Dt’s “Inkblot” and Nicole Figer’s “A Bard’s Tale” really piqued my interest with their art styles and Effie Lee’s “Kantha was just lovely from beginning to end.

Putting together an anthology is always hard. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little on the one side or the other to get the thing to print. Dates 2 doesn’t seem to have had to make any such sacrifices. It’s a really good read from front to back. I can’t think of a story I didn’t enjoy – that’s pretty amazing. ^_^ Like it’s predecessor, Dates 2 was crowdfunded (a campaign to which I contributed right away) and is available in print and digital formats. As a backer, I also received bonus comics and wallpapers all of which will find a place in my image collection.

All in all a very satisfying anthology.

Ratings:

Overall – 9 

I’m absolutely thrilled to see more great work from the folks at Margins Publishing!

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Yuri Manga: Yuunagi Marbled Complete Volume (夕凪マーブレット完全版)

October 16th, 2017

Yuri manga artist Momono Moto is well-known to us here on Okazu. She’s working on my current favorite story in the quarterly Galette magazine, “Liberty”. But in the meantime, she also has the honor of creating the first collected volume from Galette Works, the publishing team behind Galette.

Yuunagi Marbled Complete Volume (夕凪マーブレット完全版) is a collected volume of one of Momono-sensei’s doujinshi series, from beginning to end. 

The cover, like all the Galette covers, is beautiful, with a light, prismatic polka dot pattern over the image, giving the cover the feel of watching water or flower petals sparkling in the light.

Ena is a typical highschool student. She’s out walking her dog when she sees a girl about her age, standing on the ocean’s edge. The girl turns and mouths a word. Ena is convinced that the word is “Sayonara.”

The next day, that very girl is a transfer into Ena’s class. Although she is aloof and hard to like – and there are rumors about her – Ena befriends Nanjou Mishio, that girl from the water’s edge. 

Ultimately, Ena and Mishio start to have feelings for one another, although their relationship is complicated by truth of Mishio’s past, which included an affair with a teacher and an attempt at suicide. But they make it past that.

Ena and Mishio graduate and move to Tokyo and completely by accident run into the teacher who was Mishio’s former lover.  Mishio finds that there is nothing left tying her to Rika, and she and Ena end the volume by visiting the ocean, together.

Ratings:

Art – 8 Slick and professional in every way
Story – 7 Good without being compelling.
Characters – 7 Mishio is another Simone/Sachiko/Mei, while Ena is every Resine/Yumi/Yuzu ever. I’m not saying I’m tired of classic beauties who mope….except yes, I am. I’m tired of mopey leads.
Service – 1 On principle only.
Yuri – 8 This is Yuri 101

Overall – 7

Yuunagi Marbled Complete Volume is a fairly typical Yuri story, but tightly told, and well-drawn. If schoolgirl stories are your boom, this is a very good example of the breed. Nothing new in this plot, but all the pieces were well-put-together. For myself, I’ll be waiting for “Liberty” with bated breath. ^_^

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LGBTQ Novel: Apparition Alley

October 15th, 2017

Where were you in 1997? I was just on the cusp of my interest in anime. I was devouring lesbian mysteries- not because they were good, per se (and many were not) but because I could stand in a large bookstore like Barnes & Nobles or Borders and look though them in the newly minted “Gay & Lesbian” sections. 

Borders was a real game changer, if you remember. Barnes & Nobles took up the spaces and, seemingly, the stock of the Waldenbooks and B. Daltons and Coles that had left gaping holes in the malls of New Jersey. But it wasn’t until Borders stepped in, wanting bigger spaces near the malls, that the landscape changed for gay and lesbian readers. There was, for the first time, a “Gay & Lesbian” section. Admittedly a hodgepodge of fiction and non-fiction, self-help, coming out narratives and other miscellany. But it also had gay and lesbian literature. And pop culture. And mysteries. 

I was reading mysteries in the 90s. Mysteries that starred adult women with sardonic attitudes and who weren’t (always) obsessing about men. Kinsey Millhone, V.I. Warchawski. and the like. And I had discovered Naiad Press, a publisher of lesbian novels and their openly lesbian private detectives: Kate Delafield, Carol Ashton, Caitlin Reece, Virginia Kelley. I ate that shit up. 

One day in the early 2000s, I suddenly realized that every single lesbian detective was an alcoholic and had had a stupid affair, breaking up their current relationship and all the straight detectives had terrible taste in men and I walked away from mysteries. 

In that 20 years a lot has changed. Progress, regress and digress, as I like to say.  I thought I’d step backward and see if there were any chapters left from that era I hadn’t read. To my surprise.,there were. I’ve read mostly everything written by Katherine V. Forrest. Heck I wish her a “happy birthday” on Facebook these days. But although I’d read all the other Kate Delafield novels, I had apparently missed Apparition Alley. Why not?I thought.

Kate Delafield is a detective in the LA Police Department. She earned her position in the bad old days of extraordinary sexism and homphobia, by being 5 times the cop the men were and by being as tightly closeted as any human could be. When we meet her in Murder at the Nightwood Bar, her partner is a viciously racist, homophobic and misogynist dickwad, typical of the LAPD force at the time. By the time Apparition Alley takes place, LA police have been radically overhauled twice – once after the Rodney King beating and again after their overt corruption and incompetence seen nationally in their handling of and testimony during the O.J. Simpson case. In Apparition Alley, the LAPD is trying to be a better police force…and a lot of officers are unhappy with it.

The case is typical of a Delafield case. One thing leads to another and the subplot is – always – about the dangers of being gay in th LAPD. But Apparition Alley also addresses the issues inherent in coming out or being outed in the late 1990s. Kate is, in the course of her investigation, given information that could out hundreds of LAPD employees at all levels. What she does with that information was not at all surprising to me, but it made me wonder what I might do in her situation. 

I’m not always opposed to forced outing, I’ll admit. If a person is in a position of  being able to cause real good or real harm to LGBTQ people and chooses to use that position to be overtly homophobic and harmful, I’m not going to feel bad if they are outed. Homophobic pastors and politicians caught with rent boys, for instance. Oh well, cry me a river. But the situation becomes more complicated as we go through the list. How about a gay cop, whose partner with seniority is violently homophobic? Do they risk their job, possibly their life, to come out? No…but what if they are complicit with gay bashing by that partner in order to protect their secret?  It’s easy enough to say, “well, they should come out” or “get another job” when one is not deeply embedded in a culture that supports and encourages homophobia.

But, then, we are all in that culture right now, aren’t we? Outing is a viable threat, still. My goal is to see this become a world in which it no longer has any power. 

Ratings:

Overall – 7

I want to like Kate Delafield, but in this volume you can really see her hitting a wall. She’s become the old guard that my generation had to crawl over because they had become too terrified to change, until AIDs started picking them off. And, sadly, she will share the fate of so many other self-loathing lesbian detectives in future novels.

Which is why I chose to review this today. Not just because of nostalgia, but because we are again on a cusp of being a society that encourages shame and fear of consequence. Only it’s 20 years later, and we’re (obviously not for me, anyway) going to be shoved back into the closet. 

So….what do you think about outing public figures? I’m genuinely interested to know what you think.

 

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Yuri Network News – (百合ネットワークニュース) – October 14, 2017

October 14th, 2017

LGBTQ Comics

It’s an exciting time to be a fan of queer comics isn’t it? Award-nominated comic creator Hazel Newlevant has just released her newest book, a bisexual, polyamorous love story, Sugar Town. You can buy it directly from the artist at the link.

And this week the news broke that blockbuster crowdfunded black lesbian love story Bingo Love, written by Tee Franklin, with art by Jenn St-Onge, and colors by Joy San has been picked up by Image Comics. This is huge news that is both good and bad. Good, because maybe mainstream comics companies are starting to understand the sales power of diverse comics, but also bad, because let’s face it the Bingo Love team had to do all the work upfront to “prove” that sales power. If there hadn’t been a blockbuster Kickstarter and massive press, would Image have cared? Think about it.

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Yuri Manga

Crunchyroll News has a report that Ichigo Mashimaro will be getting an 8th volume in November. This manga has never actually stopped running. It just gets very short chapters in Dengeki Daioh magazine every few months.

 

Yuri Anime

Crunchyroll has added Dragonaut – The Resonance to their catalog. Check out Katie’s review of Dragonaut on Okazu to see if this older series is right for you!

Nozomi/RightStuf plans for a Shinobuden Ninja Nonsense Blu-Ray release has been pushed into the early part of 2018 according to Crunchyroll News.

 

Other News

Well, I am a bad obsessive otaku. Apparently Ogata Megumi went and crowdfunded a 25th anniversary album of anime songs and I missed it completely. /hangs head in shame/ But the news is still worth sharing because the crowdfunding campaign was for a world-wide release of [animeg 25th], which will include the previously-reported version of “Moon Revenge” sung by Ogata-san and Katsuki Masako, who was Sailor Neptune’s voice in the original anime. So, sorry I missed the campaign, but you can bet I’ll be getting that album when it hits. Oh, and you may wonder how I learned of it. Studio Canopus, is the circle name of the woman who draws the ultimate Haruka and Michiru art. Mizuki-san gets them righter than Takeuchi-sensei did. Mizuki-san posted the news on her blog and a bit of art she had done years ago for a Uranus x Neptune story called “Moon Revenge.”  I really just wanted you to enjoy all the exclamation points and screaming in the post. ^_^ 

Youjin Lee takes a look at the literary legacy of the creator of the Tale of Genji in Murasaki Shikibu: The Japanese lady who created romance for April Magazine.

It’s worth tipping our hats in the direction of master mangaka Takahasi Rumiko, who is turning 65 this week, as her 35th volume of Rin-ne hits the stores. Crunchyroll News has a selection of the birthday wishes she’s received on Twitter.

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!

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