Yuri Manga: Itazura Choucho, Volume 3 (悪戯ちょうちょ)

July 23rd, 2014

In Volume 1 of Itazura Choucho, we met Nanoha and Sakura, two young women in a performing arts school who have an intense relationship with each other and with their chosen means of performing. In Volume 2, each get a coach. Sakura’s is a traditional oni-coach whose demands threaten to tear her and Nanoha apart, while Nanoha faces a crisis with her own abilities.

And, in Itazura Choucho, Volume 3 (悪戯ちょうちょ), it’s all going to come to a head. As the big competition approaches, Nanoha is unable to sing at all, and Sakura has been playing piano at a wine bar to get past the stress of performing in front of an audience. More importantly, she finds that people are responding to her piano-playing  positively.

Sakura forces Nanoha to respond to her feelings, Nanoha admits that not being able to sing makes her feel unable to respond. But Sakura’s playing reignites Nanoha’s love of music and she finds her voice again.

But peace is not yet their lot. Circumstances pull them apart one last time and instead of working together for the competition, they find themselves competing against each other. This time, it’s Nanoha’s coach to the rescue, and Nanoha finds her center. When the competition comes, she stands on the stage and sings, a capella. Sakura is sure she can hear a message for herself in the words. When it’s Sakura time to compete she blows the audience, the judges and Nanoha away with her passion and skill. The butterflies of Chopin’s Butterfly Etude fill the auditorium.

In the final pages, Nanoha and Sakura part, so Sakura can study overseas, but knowing that they will not be parted for long because they love each other.

I wasn’t really sure how to approach this series originally, but  I’m glad I stuck with it. Ultimately, it was more about finding one’s self and understanding one’s own passion than about love, but the love is a pleasant by-product. I came to enjoy the art, which visually communicates many emotions, especially for the performance scenes, although some of the faces started to break up towards the middle of this volume.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – 6
Service – 1

Overall – 8

If you’re interested in checking out this series as a whole, there is a 3-comic set for sale, and for those of you with Japanese kindle access, there’s a Kindle version, as well.

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Yuri Manga: Yurikago no Otometachi (ゆりかごの乙女たち)

July 20th, 2014

For the purposes of classification on this blog, I call Yurikago no Otometachi (ゆりかごの乙女たち) a “Yuri” manga, but it is more properly an “S” story. The volume rides a thin line between pulp and realistic and, surprisingly, manages it quite well.

It is the Taisho period and more and more Japanese men are being drafted into  the country’s war efforts. Tamaki is a serious young woman who has no female friends and, even at the girl’s school she attends, is considered a rich girl, an ojou-sama. She receives a letter from an upperclassman asking her to be her little sister and has to have “S” explained to her.

By chance, Tamaki meets Yukiko, another girl in the same year as she and they hit it off as friends. The upperclassman Takaki rejected comes back to taunt her, but Yukiko steps in and protects Tamaki. Tamaki’s feelings for Yukiko are deepening, although she has no words for them.

Tamaki’s world is shaken when she sees two boys kissing in an alley and even more so when it turns out that the “boys” are two girls who disguise themselves to give themselves the freedom to go to the cinema unaccompanied. The two girls are upperclassman Kinuko and her lover Yoshino from Tamaki’s school.

Just as Tamaki is really starting to understand her feelings, real life intrudes. Tamaki is given the chance to skip a year of school and go straight to advanced education (what would probably now be a junior college) but the war is taking more and more men, and Tamaki will have to leave school, as her father has been drafted.

Tamaki misses her opportunity to tell Yukiko how she feels, and everything is lost in the subsequent life changes. Tamaki sees Yukiko with a young man, a suitor or fiancee’. Tamaki seeks advice from Kinuko, but finds that Kinuko has broken up with Yoshino, because the younger girl is too serious and their relationship cannot be sustained beyond school. As they speak of it, Yoshino runs up to confront Kinuko, followed by Yukiko in pursuit, trying to stop her. Tamaki tries to slow Yoshino down, but finds herself cut across the hand by Yoshino who is holding a knife. Yukiko catches up to Yoshino and is stabbed in the scuffle.

Kunuko’s family pays everyone off to get them to forgive and forget. Tamaki, who has been there waiting for Yukiko to recover has not yet seen her friend. It’s not until that nice young man comes with a gift for Yukiko, asking Tamaki to take it in for him, that she sees her friend. She leaves, but Yukiko wakes, hears her voice and comes out of bed, fever and wound and all. Finally, they see each other again and, even as they admit that they wish they could be together forever, they separate with a patently false promise to meet again.

Tamaki learns that the young man who has worked for her father is off to Hiroshima, and while Yukiko returns to the bench at school where she and Tamaki met, Tamaki leaves, promising to never forget her.

I’m not going to lie, this was a sad book, but it was well-drawn and well-told and, as I say, rode the line between melodramatic pulp and a realistic story beautifully. For something that tells an S story with an overt acknowledgement that the story inside the cradle is not the real story at all, Yurikago no Otometachi is a sad, but extremely well-executed -look at a same-sex romance in an age that had only S relationships.

Ratings:

Art – 8 Clean, easy to follow, pleasantly free of allegory
Story – 8, sad, but realistically so
Characters – 8 (except, perhaps, Kinuko, who seemed a bit forced)
Yuri – 7
Service – 1, on principle only

Overall – 8

I read stories like this and mentally rewrite them set in our current time with a different ending, to make myself feel better. T_T

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YNN on Vacation

July 19th, 2014

Taking the weekend to do nothing and rest. See you next week!

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Pure Yuri Anthology Hirari, Volume 13 (ピュア百合アンソロジー ひらり)

July 16th, 2014


The cover of Pure Yuri Anthology Hirari, Volume 13 (ピュア百合アンソロジー ひらり) is a bit of a tease, as it shows the characters from Amakure Gido’s Shuden ni ha Kaeshimasu, which is over and done with. :-( But it’s still a cute picture.

The lead story by Itou Hachi, “Haru no  Minuet” is a lovely story about a girl who becomes close with a hearing-impaired classmate. I’d love to see more Yuri stories that include issues of ability (and, gosh, folks, if you’re drawing/writing Yuri or lesbian-themed work, let’s get some diversity in there!)

In “Taiyou to Kaze-san,” Yamada and Kaze get to spend the day together in the pool. This series is so sweet it hurts.

I adored Shimano Yae’s “Makoto Gohan” for many reasons, none of which will be surprising. An adult woman, in a long term relationship with another women who communicates her love through food. This is my life and it made me extra happy to see it in manga form.

In Morishima Akiko’s “Shoujo Paradigm” Masami and Midori need to work out just exactly what their relationship is, really.

Morinaga Milk’s “Ohime-sama no Himitsu” takes a turn. As Miu and Fujiwara-sempai decide to give their relationship a real go, Fujiwara’s fans desert her for another cool sempai-type, Hirozawa, since Miu has Fujiwara wrapped up. Fujiwara is clearly happy with their new course, but Miu is starting to think she’s holding everyone back from being happy….This series started out a s bit of fluff, but I think we’ll get at least one solid volume from it, and with the new chapter, I’m really hoping for  two and a decent story. It definitely has potential.

What do you do if the person you didn’t know you liked tells you she has a girlfriend? This is is what Akuta Fumie asks in “watashi no sukina anokonokoto.”

“Under One Roof” continues to roll around in the same scene over and over as Miho comes home to her landlady’s gay friends over for dinner and innuendo once more, but it works for me. ^_^

As always there are many other stories and artists of note in this issue and surely there will be something  that will appeal in this solid Yuri anthology magazine.

Ratings:

Overall – 8

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LGBTQ Manga: Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや ), Volume 3

July 14th, 2014

A lot happens in Volume 3 of  Saito Chiho-sensei’s Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや ).

Sarasojuu’s friend and peer, Tsuwabuki, has fallen for Sarasojuu’s wife, Shinohime. Alone and unable to understand why her husband does not make love to her, Shinohime falls willingly into his arms.

Both Tsuwabuki and Shinohime are overcome with shame and can’t face Sarasojuu, who is, obviously concerned and confused.

And then, Shinohime is found to be pregnant. Sarasojuu is shocked. Clearly, Shinohime is sleeping with another man, and who can blame her. Sarasojuu visits her father, proposing that Shinohime be told the truth, but he puts the cabosh on that, pointing out sensibly that, if the truth were spoken out loud, even in secret, it would spread fast.

In the meantime Toguu-sama is heading to the mountains taking Suiren with her. Suiren probably doesn’t realize it yet, but  we can see Suiren is falling for Toguu-sama, and it’s kind of cute, but of course there’s the whole gender thing complicating matters.

Toguu-sama allows Suiren to invite Sarasojuu to the mountains to accompany their party. In the mountains, the two siblings meet the master of the mountain, Yoshinomiya who instantly sees who they truly are. Returning home, Sarasojuu “forgives” Shinohime and eventually comes believe that the father is Tsuwabuki.

In the capital, the Mikado learns of a city warehouse that is not releasing rice to the people and decides that what they need is the return of Yamato Takeru, a hero from the ancient epic Kojiki, to enact the Mikado’s will.  (As an aside, Yamato Takeru is known to have hidden by disguising himself as a woman. This indicates to me that Saito-sensei is having some fun with this story, about a boy who is really a girl (physically), who is playing a boy dressed as a girl.)

Sarasojuu and Tsuwabuki perform their roles and the warehouse is opened (shades of Mito Koumon there, honestly, with the officials overturning their sake bowls in shock at their appearance.) Afterwards, they are greeted by Shikibukyo-no-miya who blatantly claims Sarasojuu for his evening’s entertainment. To save his friend from this odious man, Tsuwabuki volunteers himself to be the priest’s sex toy. They return to the capital and finally, Sarasojuu is able to confront Tsuwabuki about being the child’s father. Now that the child is born, Sarasojuu offers to divorce Shinohime so Tsuwabuki can raise his daughter. They argue and, as the book comes to an end, Tsuwabuki discovers the truth about Sarasojuu’s body.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 3
LGBTQ – 5 This volume was very Victor/Victoria.

Overall – 9

A lot happened in this volume….and how it will turn out I have no idea. I’m on pins and needles here. I probably won’t get  to Volume 4 for months. Arrghh!

 

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