Yuri Manga: Comic Yuri Hime, March 2014 (コミック百合姫)

April 23rd, 2014

CYHM14Comic Yuri Hime (コミック百合姫), having been split into 2 magazines, reattached and made bimonthly, has now regained the bulk it previously had as a quarterly. At about 640 pages, surely there will be something for most Yuri fans at this point.

The March 2014 issue begins with Amano Shuninta’s new series, “Ayame 14″ – a classic “coming of age” story. After many moths of dealing with college students, I wonder if this return to middle school life is a relief or a burden for her?

This issue is a veritable treasure box of tropes: sisters (real and half); dojikko; tsundere; and poor communicators of a dozen kinds, 4-koma, etc. Checklisters and moe-fans will be happy. For the rest of us there’s still some very interesting features.

Minamoto Hisanari has a story, and what a story. It could have been the most fabulous story ever, but fell short of the mark to make a point that didn’t need to be made.  ”Sekai ha Yuri de Ochite iru” begins with “Yuri” marriage being made legal in Japan. Not “lesbian” marriage, not “same-sex”, not “gay”. “Yuri” marriage. In a cute scene, the newscaster immediately proposes to the weatherwoman (who says yes.) As women all over Japan are getting married, protagonist Aki proposes to her lover Shuko….who says no.

The point Shuko makes is that, of course she wants to get married to Aki, but not now that it is a fad. She wants to wait until Japanese collective faddishness passes and it’s just for people who really mean it.  Well, okay, but you broke Aki’s heart when you said no, and was making a point really more important than marrying your wife?

The final chapter of “game” by Takemiya Jin (collected volume is out next month) finds Morico unhappy at being forced to play pretend for Becky. Until, somewhat predictably, Becky realizes that it’s Morico she’s in love with after all. An end that, for all its predictability, left me feeling better than Minamoto’s story.

I am SOOOOOO conflicted about “Bousou Girlsteki Mousou Renaiteki Suteki Projec,t” but I console myself that Beniko feels the same way about being trapped in a story that appears to be trying to be all the stories ever all at once and is managing to handle them all unconvincingly. The best moment is Beniko breaking down over giving a hoot about Aoi and Aoi responding calmly – “I’m your partner, aren’t I?” with “aite” as partner, which means, like, the person one is best suited to be matched with. Aoi is right, Beniko and she are indeed suited to one another.

Morishima Akiko’s “Yurrip-chu” comes in with a second vignette about a girl who wants to be one thing and is required to be another. This time we follow the tall, “princely” group member, Sayaka. I’m not sure if their producer is a genius or an idiot, making everyone be something they’re not.

Tanaka Minoru’s “Rock It Girl” is quirky as always, but for a brief chapter, everyone is in a good mental place, well, except terminally low self-esteem Kaname, but Seira’s right on that, yelling at her ’til she snaps out of it.

Something weird happened in “Yuri Danshi.” Hanadera stopped being the lead for a bit. Fujigaya heads to a book shop and is imbued with Hanadera’s Yuri power when trying to convince the bookstore to create a dedicated Yuri section. For once, I actually liked the chapter. ^_^

Ratings:

Overall – 7

There were, as always, many other stories, some good, some bad, some…um, unmemorable. ^_^ But overall a decent volume with some conversation-starters, at the very least.

The May Volume is already on sale, so get your copy today!

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CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges , and Best Practices

April 21st, 2014

Quickie personal note – I haven’t had a lot of free reading time in the last few weeks, so my apologies for the slowdown in reviews. Next couple of months ought to speed up as I spend less time with actual people. ^_^.

In 2011, I was approached by Charles Brownstein, Exec. Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which was handling more and more legal challenges to manga in schools and libraries,  to edit a book for them on the topic of manga. I was working with JManga at the time and had my hands full, so I regretfully said no, but suggested the amazing Melinda Beasi, Editor-in-chief of Manga Bookshelf instead. Thankfully, Melinda said yes, and as the next few months played out, she and Charles pulled together an amazing team of manga journalists and reviewers to create CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges , and Best Practices. I’m immensely honored to have been a part of this project and I wanted to take a moment to talk about it with you.

The book begins with a solid, short overview of Manga, Anime, OEL/Global Manga, Manwha and Manhua by “Manga Critic,” Kate Dacey. This is followed by an extremely informative discussion on Shounen Manga written very entertainingly by Shaenon Garrity. I’ve been steeped in manga history, but both these chapters had something to teach me – a strong opening from this book.

Sean Gaffney of A Case Suitable for Treatment, also on Manga Bookshelf, handles the chapter on Shoujo manga with solid scholarship and his usual sense of the big picture, while Ed Chavez of Vertical Press brings his encyclopedic knowledge to the incredibly broad topic of Seinen Manga. Shaenon then deals with the least-familiar genre here in the West, Josei and later Boy’s Love. I was able to contribute chapters on Yuri and Doujinshi/Scanlations.  The book wraps up with a detailed discussion of challenges both librarians and teachers might face in regards to manga, penned by Robin Brenner of No Flying, No Tights and Shaenon Garrity, as well as a comprehensive list of resources for defending against challenges to manga in classroom or library.

The stand-out quality of this book is that it is clearly and simply written. Anyone without the slightest background with comics or manga will be able to understand the admittedly foreign concepts presented. For readers with a familiarity with manga, there is a tremendous amount of information you may not have seen or heard before.  As well-read as I am about manga, I learned quite a bit reading this book – and I really enjoyed myself reading each chapter. The slight differences in tone and handling of the material felt more like a panel at a con, than being lectured to. It’s all very approachable and personable, as are the people who contributed.

Ratings:

Overall – 8

This book is an important defensive weapon in the toolbelt of educators and free speech advocates. In addition, it’s a good read and solid source of history and info about manga for fans everywhere. We did good. ^_^ Purchase of this book does raise money for CBLDF to assist them with free-speech issues  and defense of comics and manga, so get two copies – one for you and one for your local library!

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Yuri Network News (百合ネットワークニュース) – April 19, 2014

April 19th, 2014

YNN_MariKYuri Anime

YNN Correspondent Elizabeth F. has this excititng tidbit to share – the live Sailor Moon/NicoNico Douga event will be streamed live on NicoNico Douga on April 27. “Live” means about 3AM Eastern Coast US time, so I have no intention of being awake when this streams. I’ll read the news when it’s posted. ^_^  The remainder of staff – and cast – announcements will be made during the event. I’m pretty sure that the voice cast will be all new, it’ll be interesting to see who they choose. ^_^ (Note: I expect this will be in Japanese, unsubtitled.)

Unrelated, but fun, here’s a Sailor Moon/Avengers mashup that I quite liked. Bonus points for the great costume designs! (Also for the mythologically sound pairings.)

YNN Correspondent Griznak has written in to share that fans of Sakura Trick can get merchandise that explicitly labels them as Yuri fans.

A mere 2 weeks left for the 3rd and final Dear Brother DVD set. It’s time to put what you can down on the table! Every dollar helps, seriously. ^_^

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Yuri Manga

Griznak also wants to let us know that Polish manga publisher Studio JG announced that they’ll release Moringa Milk’s Yuri manga Girl Friends in Poland during the second half of 2014.

Comic Yuri Hime July 2014 volume (コミック百合姫) is up for pre-order and so are a passel o’ Yuri Manga: Nagakura Keiko’s Torotoro Himeawase (とろとろ・姫あわせ), Imura Ei’s Innocent Noise (イノセントノイズ),  Momono Moto’s True True (トゥルー・トゥルー), the second volume of Tanaka Minoru’s quirky rock band love story, Rock It, Girl! (ロケット☆ガール) and a new collection by Takemiya Jin, game.

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Other News

As far as I’m concerned, this is the top news of the week – Uehashi Nahoko’s second Balsa novel, Yami no Moribito, will be adapted to a manga.  I reviewed the English-language version of the novel in 2012. Of all the Balsa novels, that one was quite probably my favorite and I very much look forward to the manga!

Save the date! May 7–8, 2015 the Queers & Comics LGBT Cartoonists’ Conference will be held in NYC at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Award-winning Sci/fi author Jim C. Hines has been a vocal supporter of diversity in SF/F and has been promoting essays on his blog about (lack of) diversity in genre fiction. All of these very excellent essays are now available as an ebook called Invisible. Available in multiple formats, including Kindle for only $2.99.

Damien Walter took on a similar topic at The Guardian, when he posited that Science fiction needs to reflect that the future is queer.

Yuri  no Real‘s Makimura Asako and Higashi Koyuki (of the Disneyland Japan same-sex wedding)  have a video channel on Nico Nico Douga dealing with queer issues. (In Japanese)

Asahi, one of Japan’s leading newspapers, ran an article supporting LGBTQ education in Japanese schools. (Also in Japanese.)

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That’s a wrap for this week! 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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LGBTQ Manga: Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや) Volume 1

April 16th, 2014

The Heian period was a period of intense artistic creation in Japanese history. Like the Italian Renaissance or the Chinese Tang period; the cycle of life quality for the well-to-do hit a high and with it came the leisure and drive to create. So much of what we in the West consider “Japanese” culture flourished in that period. Mostly everyone is familiar with Murasaki Shikibu’s famous serial, the Tale of Genji. Fewer people are familiar with the ambiguously comedic/tragic/erotic Torikaebaya, which would probably translate to something like “If only they could switch.” You may recall this story from the 4th season of Maria-sama ga Miteru, in which the Yamayurikai’s school festival play is chosen around Yuki and Yumi’s uncanny resemblance.

When it was announced that veteran manga artist Saitou Chiho, the creator of the Revolutionary Girl Utena manga, would be working on a manga adaptation of the Torikaebaya  (とりかえ・ばや), I was downright ecstatic. Saitou-sensei has repeatedly shown interest in trans* characters and this manga deals not with one character or two who merely switch clothes, but who are entirely suited to the gender expectations of the opposite sex.

The story follows two siblings with the same father and two different mothers, born on the same day. The daughter is active, lively, good at sports, rhetoric and other masculine pursuits. The son is retired, shy, good at music and other feminine skills. Circumstances conspire to allow them to switch clothes – and lives.

I have not read the original in either translation or Japanese and before I even read the manga, I realized that my only encounter with the Torikaebaya was as a comedy, when the Lillian and Hanadera Student Councils had some fun with it. But, I wondered, was it actually a comedy…or a tragedy? As it turns out, we don’t actually know the answer to that. It has been interpreted as comedy, tragedy, social commentary and erotic romp by varying critics in varying ages. That actually made me more interested in it than before! We don’t know what this story is, how cool is that?

Saitou-sensei has specifically set out to treat this story as a story of transexuality. This is stated plainly on the cover and the relationship between gender roles and one’s sex is explored within. The daughter, Sarasoju is painfully aware that she really is not suited to be a girl, and her brother Suiren, likewise, really would do so much better as a girl. They switch clothes and roles and as far as I am in the first volume, their father is complicit in this, having just introduced his “son” to the Emperor.

I have not finished Volume 1, but I know that Sarasoju will play her part as a male well, but that that will not stop her from falling in love with a man, or having intimate relations with him. Her pregnancy is a major part of the original story. But she will also be married to a woman, and in one of the two versions of the tale (known as the Ima Torikaebaya Monogatari), both she and her brother end the tale in functional homosexual relationships.

I’m frequently asked for recommendations on trans* manga, and I usually don’t have much to offer, as trans folks are not well represented. This book will be going on my short recommendation list.

Ratings:

Art – 9 Gorgeous, but how could it not be? Saitou Chiho-sensei doing Heian period. Duh~
Story – 8 I’m intrigued, fearful, hopeful all at once
Characters – 8 Not bad, actually. Dad’s not a bad dude, and Sara and Suiren are sympathizable
Service – 4 Nudity, not nakedness
LGBTQ – 4 We meet them just as their self-identity is forming.

Overall – 9

Saitou Chiho-sensei’s version of the Torikaebaya may well become my go-to version of this Heian classic. Here’s hoping!

If you are interested in a garbled version of the story and a mixed bag of scholarship, here’s the Wiki entry on the Torikaebaya. It’s rather less helpful than I had hoped.

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Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Manga, Perfect Edition, Volume 5 (美少女戦士セーラームーン)

April 14th, 2014

Volume 5 of the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Manga, Perfect Edition,  (美少女戦士セーラームーン) is amazingly chock full of…everything. New characters, secrets, cool moments, and, at last!, the Outer Senshi gather.

Yet again, the days of peace and tranquility after the defeat of the Black Moon are few. Usagi can be forgiven for wishing they’d continue. She and her friends are (or should be) studying for their high school entrance exams, when strange things start happening around town, all centered on a mysterious, elite school. In the meantime, Usagi is fighting off the arrogantly seductive famous race driver, Tennou Haruka, and is jealous to see famous violinist Kaioh Michiru flirting with Mamoru.

Total digression – some years ago I was staying in Tokyo on Tennozu Isle and suddenly realized that I was in the exact building where Haruka’s apartment would have been! There is a real Tennozu Isle, but no Kaiozu, Meiozu or Mugenzu.

Once again, I find myself flipping back and forth between anime, manga, musicals, and random media as I am reminded that both Haruka and Michiru are not particularly likable when they appear in the manga (unlike the anime, where they are captivating.) Haruka is way more genderqueer in the manga and I’m reminded again that Michiru and Haruka really are quite obviously a couple. It’s a little boggling to imagine in 1998, some folks just could not deal with the obvious and created elaborate fantasies to rewrite the narrative. (And, oh the drama when Takeuchi-sensei answered a fan’s question at Anime Expo and said they were lesbians.)

When Pluto comes back, she’s visibly different. Chibi-Usa recognizes it immediately. This started an interesting discussion, as I commented that seeing Pluto return after ostensibly dying in an earlier arc, might have clued Uranus and Neptune to the fact that maybe everything they thought was absolute might not actually be so. Of course, no one considers this. The oldest character in the book is, what, Setsuna at 23?

Outers and Inners are set against one another – even after the person they acknowledge as their future Queen asks them to work together. Kids. Sheesh. Can’t tell ‘em anything. ^_^

But all this is set aside when first Sailor Saturn awakens and right on top of that, Mistress 9. Poor Hotaru, there’s so many people inside her head.

Ratings:

Art – The art is and always has been so wildly inconsistent as to practically be unratable, but boy can you tell when a color page is an artbook piece or a Nakayoshi color insert.

Story – 8 Best arc of the series, still.

Characters – 10 I love the Outers unconditionally.

Yuri – 9 Haruka and Michiru are so so so a couple.

Service – 4 Bits actually are service-y here and there.

Overall – 8

As Sailor Moon goes, this volume is a nail-biter. Which is to say I said “Yay!” a lot. ^_^

Thanks to Okazu Superhero Jye N. for his sponsorship of today’s review!

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