Oh blessed Guest Review Wednesday, how I love you. We welcome back Mariko S with the third of her review series taking a look at Kishi Torajirou’s Otome no Teikoku, Volume 3. (オトメの帝国) (If you’ve just joined us do check her reviewe of Volume 1 and Volume 2!) Mariko is really hitting her stride here, so take it away!
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached our cruising altitude and the captain has turned off the “Fasten Seatbelt”sign. I didn’t realize when I was first reading it, but, revisiting Otome no Teikoku V.3 for this review, it is obvious to me now that this was the volume that brought me from casually interested to fully invested in these stories. As I was making notes, I found to my surprise it contained no less than four especially memorable chapters that I described using this pattern: “The ______ chapter!” Let’s talk about them!
The very first chapter in the book gets us started with a huge bang. This chapter is a showcase for one of Kishi-sensei’s unique talents – depicting fantastic eroticism with non-sexual situations. Mio’s hair has grown out, and is starting to cover her ears. As they talk about it and Shizuka-senpai demonstrates how she should tuck it behind her ears to show them off, she finds that Mio’s ears are incredibly sensitive. Shizuka begins to caress and tease them, and Mio responds with achingly believable pleasure – not the “I’m gonna come!” silliness like in the Ai and Chie karaoke chapter of volume 1, but the giddy pleasure of being touched in a good way by someone that you desperately want to go further. From personal experience, I will agree that ears are a vastly underestimated place for good touching. ^_^;
After a little teasing, Shizuka gives Mio the chance to reciprocate and do “whatever (she) would like” to her ears. Mio’s choice? She claps her hands over her senpai’s ears and blurts out a bold, gushing confession of love. Shizuka acts like she does not know what Mio said, but I’m not so sure!
The “Dentist” Chapter!
A perfect example of the type of unconventional vignettes that make this series stand out, this chapter is a wonderful window into the relationship of Ayano and Miyoshi. Miyoshi has some cavities and needs to go to the dentist. Ayano goes with her, and at first is just ribbing her about it and taking a little schadenfreude at Miyoshi having to do something that she doesn’t want to. But as she watches Miyoshi go through the procedure and sees the very real pain she is experiencing, it stops being funny and Ayano sympathizes deeply with her. Ayano tearfully hopes for it to end soon, but of course when it’s over can’t admit to Miyoshi how deeply she was affected by her friend’s suffering.
The “Home Date” Chapter!
The buildup to this chapter is just as delectable as the thing itself. All of Ai and Chie’s chapters are fantastic in this volume. First, we have a cute chapter of the two flirting adorably over Chie’s hairstyle – overheard by Ayano and Miyoshi, they declare with certainty how obvious it is that Ai and Chie are in love (using “恋” which specifically refers to romantic love).
The second years then all get together at Miyoshi’s to celebrate Christmas in the Japanese style. At this point, the big group chapters have become real highlights, because they feel so lived-in. The camaraderie and fun really feel like something girls might actually do, not moe stereotypes of girls’ activities. For the gift exchange, Ai ends up with a toy model of a battleship, which Chie promises to help her build.
We next see Ai dwelling fondly on the memory of their promise to build it together, daydreaming about how it might go when they do, stressing over how to invite Chie over, and finally Chie’s adorable enthusiasm to get started when Ai finally musters up the courage to ask. Which leads up to… the home date! A full chapter of love-love goodness ensues. Eventually, laying quietly in Ai’s lap while she builds the model, Chie remarks that if they were in a movie, this would totally be the point when they kiss…
The “Family Restaurant” Chapter!
The final chapter, involving Yuu and Mari, is a perfect bookend complement to the first chapter in this volume. It’s achingly erotic without being at all sexual, and clearly shows the intoxicating control dynamics of their relationship. It is one of the sexiest things I can remember where everyone is fully clothed.
Yuu and Mari get a lot of chapters this volume, and one of the things that gets set up is Yuu’s (understandable) annoyance with Mahi-Mahi. She tries to maintain her refined and controlled demeanor with them, but the spastic force of the twins is utterly alien to her. Mari, much more easygoing, has a much easier time handling them. At New Years, we get to see a vulnerable side to Yuu – she does not do well with crowds, and clings to Mari. They run into Mahi-Mahi, who get separated by the crowd and are helpless without each other. Mari comes to the rescue, but has to leave Yuu alone to do it. Yuu is peeved by this, and Mari expects a “punishment” for it…
… Which finally comes when Yuu suggests they go to eat at a family restaurant after school. They get a booth in a back corner, and the games begin. Yuu slowly and confidently pushes Mari’s boundaries, playing her like a beloved instrument. Mari protests, because it’s her role to protest, and feel the naughy embarrassment of complying with her girlfriend’s demands. Eventually she gets so worked up, she does something without being told, which breaks the spell of the moment and ends the scene, but allows us to see the sweet side of their interactions as Mari is terribly amused at Yuu’s puffed-up “outrage.”
I think it’s important to note that, while Yuu acts very immaturely at times, that’s ok – she is, after all, a high school girl. Equally important is that Mari is not helpless, or a victim – she is a healthy, well-adjusted girl who is independent, has many friends, and good self-esteem. She takes pleasure in following Yuu’s orders, none of which ever cause her real pain or put her in danger. Their S&M games are a big part of, but not the entirety of their relationship and identities.
What Else is Going On?
There isn’t a particularly long arc this time, but a couple of chapters (including the aforementioned Christmas ones) have all of the second years together again, goofing around. The service factor is *way* down this volume, mostly limited to an Ayano and Miyoshi chapter where Miyoshi makes up a game that’s just a silly excuse for a lot of groping. The debate club continue as before, horsing around while Nononon flubs her attempts to be cool and win Yumimi’s attention.
Honoka and Alicia continue their odd couple antics, getting into a drawing contest which leads an agreement to collaborate on a comic, despite Honoka’s naked attempts to get Alicia to go away. We meet a new character, Shizuka’s graceful, beautiful, refined, and admired friend and classmate, Kaoru. Mahi-Mahi do silly cute stuff involving bunny pajamas. Nao does Nao stuff, indulging her perverted tendencies various ways. Onoda does Onoda stuff, fretting over how to act and whether people will like her, and misreading social situations.
Finally Shizuka and Mio get a couple more chapters, where Mio works up to and eventually gets out her full and honest confession, which, to her surprise, Shizuka is receptive to. There’s a little unrealistic service, but you can really feel Mio’s aching desire, awe, and fear as her dream comes true.
One other interesting thing I wanted to point out is Kishi-sensei’s impressive ability to utilize different art styles for different purposes. Not just chibi characters vs. realistic ones (which he does, too) but the use in Honoka’s story of completely different aesthetics. He typically includes examples of panels of BL manga that Honoka has “drawn,” which appear in a believably amateurish-yet-talented hand-drawn way. Alicia’s drawings similarly show up as very detailed, American comics-styled muscle men that look completely different. Later, even more styles will show up. I think it’s a credit to one’s artistic talent to be able to be so versatile.
The Yuri factor should no longer be in question. There is no dismissing the love in the Ai x Chie, Shizuka x Mio, and Yuu x Mari pairs.
Art – 9
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 8
Service – 4
Overall – 8
Thank you Mariko! I love how your reviews have a unique style and can’t wait for Volume 4!