Yuri Drama CD: Grand Stage, Vol. 2 “Subaru Ryoya” (グラン・ステージ 第2幕 「昴 涼夜」)

May 26th, 2016

GS2RSLast summer I had a chance to listen to and review the first of the Grand Stage Drama CDs. Grand Stage is a series of monologues by otokoyaku (women who play males roles,) of a fictitious musical review troupe called Grand Stage. The first CD followed “Hiou Akito,” voiced by Ogata Megumi. Akito is teasing and playful, very much the way she voiced Tenoh Haruka in the original Sailor Moon anime.

So this year, we’re in Animate in Tokyo and it occurs to me to try and find the Grand Stage CDs, as I know there are a few new ones that were just coming out around then. No luck on my first try. Or my second, but on our last shopping day, as we mosied around the Animate in Ikebukuro (our home away from home when we’re in Tokyo) I looked up and there was Hiou Akito! I’m like, REALLY?!?  So I start looking for the rest of the series.

Wait – let me digress here and discuss one of the many “issues with shopping for stuff in Japan.” Animate is 8 floors, and one floor is all CDs and DVDs, but when I say “floor” I mean the space is pretty damn small for a store. Maybe 1000 sq. ft./section in two sections on either side of the elevator? It’s hard to guesstimate with all that *stuff* in the way. I.e., there is only so much space on the shelves and they tend to favor the current and popular over anything else – and they do a lot of business as pre-orders. So often it’s easier for me to order media and have it shipped rather than try to find it on shelves. Point is, the chances of me seeing the newest Grand Stage Drama CD were astronomical.

And yet, there it was. My wife ran up and asked where the rest of them were (if the rest were…) and lo and behold, on my last day in Tokyo, when I had no intention of buying anything, I blew $150 on Drama CDs. (I wasn’t alone in this, my wife threw $100 at the Bandai Premium Spiral Heart Moon Rod and Bruce ended up buying a Hatsune Miku figurine so large and magnificent that he had to get new luggage to transport her. ^_^. ) So thank you Okazu Patrons for helping me support this awesome Yuri Drama CD series!

The real surprise here is that this series sold well enough for them to make a second series of CDs. I’m pretty happy about that.

Which brings me to Grand Stage, Vol. 2 “Subaru Ryoya”  (グラン・ステージ 第2幕 「昴 涼夜」)  which follows the Grand Stage’s “Phantom of the Opera”, voiced by Toyoguchi Megumi, whom you will know best as Sei in Maria-sama ga Miteru.

The first track is, as it was in the first volume, the Grand Stage theme, sung by all 5 of the voice actresses. It’s perfect and ridiculous and wonderful.

Subaru Ryoya is, as one might expect of a otokoyaku nicknamed “Phantom,,” haughty and aristocratic. “We” bump into her – literally – on the way to practice and she is extremely rude. When it turns out that we are her partner, she is…condescending, to say the least. She informs us that she is a member of a famous kabuki family and her father and brother are both well-known stars. We, uninterested in cultural relics, don’t apparently, care. That someone would be such a uncultured clod but still expect to be her Christine makes Ryoya laugh – for the first time, not unkindly. “What a strange girl” we are!

We spend time with her, make her something sweet to eat, and learn a bit about how she ended up on the Grand Stage. And all the while, Ryoya is softening towards us and our apparently clueless, but confident, personality. By the time we nail the audition, the “Phantom” has convinced herself we have potential to be her Christine, but warns us that the role has sent 13 other singers to the hospital trying to keep up with her.

Obviously, we are amazing and we and Ryoya head out to practice, knowing we will be amazing together.

The final track is Toyoguchi-san singing a solo, “CRIME OF LOVE” the very title of which has me giggling. You can hear it here on the Youtube clip for this CD:

Ratings:

Overall – 8

Although, I have to admit, I kept thinking, “Sheesh, Ryoya is kind of a jerk.” ^_^



Yuri Manga: Otome no Teikoku, Volume 3 (オトメの帝国) Guest Review by Mariko S

May 25th, 2016

OnT3Oh 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 “Ears” Chapter!

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.

Ratings:

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!



Yuri Manga: Only ☆You~Anata to Watashi no Futari Bocchi Keikaku (オンリー☆ユー ~あなたと私の二人ぼっち計画~)

May 24th, 2016

OYTPTGMAYA-e1461416904969Only ☆You~Anata to Watashi no Futari Bocchi Keikaku  (オンリー☆ユー ~あなたと私の二人ぼっち計画~) starts off with a cute-ish premise. What if, the Student Council President decides, girls who are loners are paired up together and this way they won’t be alone?

Okay, this is not the worst premise in the world.

The Student Council has rings made up. Girls inducted into the “Only You” Project are paired off with matched rings. The rings will give them a shock if they get further than 5 meters away from each other and can’t be removed. Oh and they can’t leave the school premises either.

Okay, this is the worst premise in the world.

I mean, in two pages, we go from, kind of sweet, sort of dorky, to coercion and torture and forced confinement? What the…?

From there, the story devolves into mismatched communication styles resolved by screamed confessions and running after one another tearfully.

Of course, friendship is never the point of these pairings. The rings are the dead giveaway. The President isn’t helping girls not be alone, she’s matchmaking.

The couples all get together in the end. I’m sure you’re all as surprised as I was.

mekimeki’s art is competent and moe, as one might expect. The girls are emotionally tortured over things that are never resolved, except that now that they have someone who loves them, it’s all okay. As one might expect.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 5 Predictable, sometimes getting a little too close to creepy
Characters – I remember one character’s name. Of about 8 characters
Service – 3 Not nearly as bad as I feared
Yuri – 2 Yes, but no

Overall – 5

If the lesson “being with someone, no matter how incompatible, is better than being alone,” resonates with you, this book is definitely your jam.



A [Very] Brief History of Yuri

May 22nd, 2016

Here are the full text and graphics I used in my presentation at the Tokyo Comics Showcase, Vol. 1, on May 3, 2016 as part of Tokyo Rainbow Pride. If you have 8 minutes, you can understand where Yuri came from and the why of what you’re looking at.

May 24 update: The video now has a choice of Japanese or English subtitles.  ^_^

If you’d like to use the text and/or graphics for a Yuri Panel of your own, please feel free to contact me!



Yuri Network News – (百合ネットワークニュース) – May 213, 2016

May 21st, 2016

YNN_Lissa

Yuri Manga

Ohkami-san to Keruberosu (大上さんとケルベロスゥ!) by Naraba is a vaguely mythology-themed take on school life Yuri.

The July issue of Comic Yuri Hime hit shelves this week.

Volume 6 of Kuzushiro’s Kimi no Tamenara Shineru (姫のためなら死ねる) is out and wacky as ever.

Toaru Kekkon (とある結婚) by Kumaba Ruri is a fictionalized story of a German-American woman and a Japanese woman living in California who get married.  This is book is being published by Ohta Publishing – the same folks who put out Sweet Blue Flowers. So maybe there’s an ally on staff there, too.

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Other News

Q-POP Gallery in Los Angeles is wrapping up their Revolutionary Girl Utena tribute art show this weekend, so if you’re in the area, get over there and let us know how it is!

Komatsu-san over at Crunchyroll News has this report on an Aria x Amanchu! collaboration event in honor of the launch of the Amanchu! anime.

Comic Natalie has the news that a new Sailor Moon musical cast has been chosen. ANN gives us the details in English. I have to say, I’m going to miss the former cast.

ANN reports that the new live-action Cutie Honey movie site is live. Cutie Honey Tears opens in Japan on October 1. There is a trailer up on YouTube. It looks a tad dark, sort of Cutie Honey meets Orphan Black. ^_^

Aniplex announces Doukyuusei and Puella Magi Madoka Magica box set plans at ACen, reported by Scott Green of Crunchyroll News.

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!