Re-Kan! Anime (English) Guest Review by Alice D

July 1st, 2015

75b2c08e6d279f5975a7ae77168da2881428009461_fullWelcome to Guest Review Wednesday! Today we have a brand new Guest Reviewer, Okazu Hero Alice D! I just love Guest Reviewers, it always gives me a thrill to be able to offer up a perspective that is not my own here on Okazu. ^_^ Take it away, Alice!

Though billed as a horror comedy Re-Kan! abandons the horror aspect almost immediately, for the audience anyway. The show starts with Amami, our main character with the titular “re-kan” (sixth sense) that lets her interact with ghosts, heading out for her first day of school in a seemingly normal fashion. At a crosswalk she suddenly starts hopping across and collapses in the middle of it where Inoue takes her by the hand and half-drags her to the other side of the street. Amami apologizes and explains that it was just a little boy spirit playing a prank. Inoue is confused at first but, predictably, freaks out when she catches a glimpse of it in a street mirror, and thus our two leads meet.

At school we learn that Inoue is terrified of ghosts, has a passive-agressive tsundere personality, and is very much a “grandma’s girl” to the point where her grandmother is, for lack of a better term, haunting her. We also meet Amami and Inoue’s friends consisting of Esumi, a former gangster, Uehara, Esumi’s childhood friend and occult blogger, Ogawa, who loves zombies, and Yamada, who… we’ll get to in a moment. It’s this group of friends that provides the comedy portion of the show through their interactions with each other and the ghosts that show up around Amami. There is also a rather perverted cat who very much wants to see panties, as Amami can apparently talk to cats as well (the link between ghosts and cats I am unclear on) this cat bothers her quite a lot.

As for Yamada, I still have no idea what purpose he serves. He’s the “genki girl” stereotype in boy form: loud, obnoxious, prone to breaking up moments that might otherwise serve to provide development with the Amami/Inoue relationship, and gets punched/kicked/has things thrown at him because of how annoying he is by one of other characters, usually Esumi and/or Uehara (which is suppose to be funny but is more of a relief because he finally shuts up at that point). At least with pervert cat and his quest to see girls’ panties A) he doesn’t show up as often, B) none of the characters really notice that he’s there, mostly due to C) it’s the various ghosts that stop him (which provides some characterization through their protectiveness of Amami and her friends and can be worth a laugh). The show would probably be better off without either Yamada or pervert cat though given a choice between the two I’d take the cat.

The story progresses in usual slice-of-life fashion though with the “twist” of ghosts being part of daily life for Amami who goes out of her way to provide offerings and assistance to them. There is a beach episode, of course, in which Yamada’s older, just as annoying, and slightly creepy older brother makes an appearance, and a cultural festival episode where they meet Amami’s father, who is every bit as scared of ghosts as Inoue is. This leads Esumi to point out the old saying about girls falling for people who resemble their fathers, Inoue reacts to this in standard tsundere fashion while Amami seems oddly happy about it. After this, at least once and episode, Esumi and/or Uehara go fishing for reactions from Inoue by insinuating that Inoue likes Amami a bit more than she lets on.

The best parts though, by far, come when the comedy is left behind, usually when Amami and Inoue have screen time alone. Fortunately they are fairly abundant. It’s in these moments that Inoue can show some genuine human emotion removed from the tsundere stereotype that she is locked into while the other characters are around. Most notably in the penultimate episode Inoue shows up to (nearly literally) kick Amami out of her depression by dragging her around town where they run into various people whom Amami had helped out using her sixth sense, culminating in a tearful almost love confession, but not quite (“I want to be friends with you forever”).

The final episode is a return to a “normal” life where the group goes to an amusement park, accompanied for some reason by Yamada’s brother, and have a sleep-over at Amami’s (the boys have to sleep in the yard). It ends almost as expected with the relationship between Amami and Inoue being an ambiguous ‘they have more-than-just-friends feelings for each other but won’t actually come out and say it’ sort of thing. However, the show closes on Amami and Inoue waking to the realization that they had spent the entire night holding hands and becoming very embarrassed over it. And on the roof of Amami’s house the pervert cat wakes up due to the fuss they’re making, stretches and says “Yuri? Oh yes.” before walking off screen. That parting line is certainly debatable though, it could be an indirect admission from the staff that that is the direction Amami and Inoue’s relationship is headed in or, cynically, since pervert cat could be considered an audience stand-in, it’s not to be taken seriously and is just wishful thinking. Given that the rest of the show has the other characters (except Yamada) providing good-natured ribbings to Amami and Inoue regarding their feelings for one another, I’m inclined to believe the former is the case.

Ratings:

Art – 5: middle of the road
Characters – Varies: Amami and Inoue would be around a 7, the supporting cast a 5, and Yamada a 1.
Service – 3.5: Surprisingly little for having a cat who’s only goal in life is to flip skirts and see panties, though their skirts could stand to be a hand-span longer.
Story – 6.5: (most episodes) 8: (episodes 3, 8, 11, and 12)
Yuri – 5: Most of the cast is aware of Amami and Inoue’s feelings for each other and won’t hesitate to point it out.
Overall- 6.5ish: Nothing to write home about, but definitely worth a watch if you have the time.

Erica here: I probably would never have even heard of this had it not been for you. I always appreciate the extra eyes and ears of the Yuri Network. ^_^ Thank you! 



Yuri Manga: Strawberry Shake (ストロベリーシェイク)

June 28th, 2015

downloadIt was the beginning of 2004. The magazine was called Yuri Shimai. The comic was an actual comedy, with physical gags blown way out of proportion. There was an idiot and a doofus and they fell in love, but didn’t realize it. The comedy was manzai-style, with blood and tears and extreme over-reactions to silly jokes. It was Hayashiya Shizuru’s professional Yuri debut. She’d been drawing doujinshi in that same style for years, and made her pro debut previously, but for those of us who were or would become fans, Strawberry Shake Sweet was the first time she was a pro “Yuri” artist.

Yuri Shimai was cancelled and in 2005,  Yuri Hime picked up the series. In 2006, a collected Volume 1 was released, followed by Volume 2 in 2009. Hayashiya-sensei left Yuri Hime and has gone on to do great things with Shuiesha. And so it is with both delight and trepidation that I review Shueisha’s re-release of this series as a one-volume collection, Strawberry Shake (ストロベリーシェイク).

The story follows Tachibana Julia a young “Talent” in Japanese TV. (Which is to say she does everything and anything, from starring in TV dramas, to advertisements, to quiz shows.) She’s asked to mentor a newcomer to the agency, Asakawa Ran, but instead, falls in love with Ran.

Ran isn’t the brightest bulb in the box, and Julia isn’t much better. Between the two of them and very much despite the objections of their manager, they’ll have to figure it all out on their own.

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Strawberry Shake is very much played for the laughs. Touching or romantic moments are frequently marked by massive nosebleeds. If you’re not used to Hayashiya-sensei’s style, or classic manzai, the amount of violence might surprise you. The other thing that might surprise you is the ending. As I said when I reviewed Volume 2, “I absolutely refuse to spoil the rest of the chapter, except to say that you will probably be outraged and/or disappointed by the end.”

So, here we are over a decade after the comic was originally begun and a lot of things have changed. Yuri is a genre of it’s own. Hayashiya-sensei is a star among Yuri artists. And same-sex marriage is a thing that is discussed in the news, in the courts. Even in Japan, where Shibuya is the only part of the country that allows same-sex marriage, the conversation has begun.

What does that mean for a comic like Strawberry Shake? It means that some of the jokes just don’t hold up that well. Saeki Ryouko, Julia and Ran’s manager, in 2004 was a comedic figure. In 2015, she seems just like a closeted homophobe. Sorry Saeki-san, but you protest *way* too much. ^_^ Comedy is harder than tragedy. In Strawberry Shake, the comedy is vaudevillian, and so, a relic of the past, rather than a joke we’re all laughing at now.

The essential love story is still cute and maddening and adorable and sweet. ZLAY is still absolutely fucked up hilarious. The climax of the manga is still fantastic. And the new extra chapter? “I absolutely refuse to spoil the rest of the chapter, except to say that you will probably be outraged and/or disappointed by the end.” ^_^;

Should you get it? Yes. This is an important book for Yuri fans. Will you like it? Maybe. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 9 It’s striking to see just how much better her art is now than it was in 2004. This volume has been touched up, but look at the first and final chapters to see a difference.
Story – 7 It has worn a little around the edges over time.
Characters – 8
Yuri – 8
Service – 2

Overall – 8

Again I will quote myself from 2009: “As funny as this manga is, I’m forced to conclude that this story is not *quite* as perfect for Hayashiya-sensei as Hayate x Blade. The action component just catapults that series to perfection.

But hey – this is a groundbreaking series. A Yuri series for Yuri magazine by a woman who has been drawing Yuri comedy for a long, long time. A must-have for any fan of Yuri.”



Yuri Network News (百合ネットワークニュース) – June 26, 2015

June 27th, 2015

YNN_MariKWhat a way to end a week. As most of you probably know, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land here in the USA yesterday. What an amazing way to start Pride weekend. I’m blinded by rainbows and practically weak from thanking people for their good wishes.

Here’s random wonderful things, separated by pictures of Yuri couples getting married.. ^_^

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Sailor Senshi Balloons!

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Comic Natalie reports that Auri Hirao’s newest attempt at a Yuri manga Oshika Budokan Itte Kuretara Shinu (推しが武道館いってくれたら死ぬ)  will follow an idol and her fan. I wonder if it will have any Yuri.

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ANN reports that Hanokage, the artist responsible for the original Madoka Magica manga, is launching a new Madoka Magica manga!

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Hidamari Sketch artist Ume Aoki is having a solo show in Ueno in October, says Komatsu-san on Crunchyroll News.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi (ユリ熊嵐) manga continues with a July release of Volume 2 from Birz Comics.

 

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Miman’s manga collection Shoujo² (少女²) hit the streets this month.

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The Secret Loves of Geek Girls by Hope Nicholson is an amazing Kickstarter anthology that has quite possibly the most remarkable lineup of contributors ever for a comics, including Margaret Atwood – yes, that Margaret Atwood.

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!



LGBTQ: Steven Universe Season 1 (English)

June 26th, 2015

SUlogoIn 2013, Cartoon Network ran a pilot for a possible new series that received rave reviews. As a result, it was launched for a full Season of 49 episodes that same year. In 2014, it was announced that Steven Universe had been picked up for a second season.

The original premise was described as a “magical boy” series because creator Rebecca Sugar, a former writer for Adventure Time, was looking to make something that anyone could enjoy and she was a bit fed up with the gendering of “magical” series.

In fictional Beach City, Steven Universe is a little boy whose mother was a “Crystal Gem”, Rose Quartz, and who now lives with three of his mother’s former compatriots – Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet (above, left to right.) His father lives nearby and runs the town car wash, while Steven trains to be able to use the Rose Quartz gem embedded in his body that he inherited from his mother.

This is all presented with a handwave and a declarative sentence. “Steven is….” But the whole story actually takes all 49 episodes to play out. We learn slowly, over time, as Steven unlocks new abilities and learns new facts about the true nature of the Gems, what his mother was, and what it all means to him.

Steven at the beginning of the series is rather annoying, in the time honored fashion of magical series protagonists. But almost stealthily, he starts to grow and mature. He makes friends with a local girl, Connie, and they two of them have some pretty great adventures together. With Connie at his side, Steven starts to unlock some of his abilities.

Each of the Gems has a distinct personality and skills, as well as magical weapons. Pearl is a bit of a pedant, and a stickler for the rules. Garnet is bad ass, and Amethyst is an Id on legs, causing chaos as often as shes helps resolve issues. It’s very apparent that all three Crystal Gems care for Steven, for himself and because he is Rose Quartz’s son.

About halfway through Season 1, we start to get an idea that the Gems do develop various levels of intimacy between them. When they are in sync, they can “fuse” into stronger, larger Gems, although clashing personalities can make that dangerous. We know right away that fusion is an act of intimacy, but when Steven  manages it for the first time, the look on Garnet’s face – Garnet, who never smiles –  is brilliant.

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Garnet confirmed my thoughts on fusion with her advice to fused Steven – “You are not one person…or two. You…are an adventure. Go out and make it a good one.”

We also learn that Pearl’s feelings for Rose Quartz went way deeper than just friends. This is confirmed later in the season, when she tells Steven just how much Rose meant to her.

In the season climax, we get another glimpse of fusion being an act of intimacy between gems, but I’m not spoiling that, except to say it involved a kiss (the series forums exploded trying to dismiss or deny it had any meaning, which was hilarious) and a reveal so good I completely did not see it coming at all. (If you know it, please kindly do not spoil it in the comments. If you do, I’ll delete the comment- – it was too good to spoil. ) Some fans are adamant that the Gems are gender neutral, but I’d say that’s not a fixed state, since Rose was able to have a child with a human.

Remember what I said about musicals? I lied. I guess I really like musicals after all. Maybe I only like cartoon and comic-based musicals. I dunno. I do know the music in Steven Universe plays an actual role in the show. It’s not the same kind of singing to one’s self one represented by “Bacon Pancakes”…the songs add meaning and depth, and occasionally critical expository commentary and character development. So, just on the strength of character and storytelling, I’d say Steven Universe is a must-watch. But there’s also music!

It takes no effort at all to see that Steven Universe is probably the queerest cartoon on American television right now.  And it’s really good.

Ratings:

Art – 8 Fun and fanciful
Story- 10 Really.
Characters – 9
Service – Not as such, no
Yuri – 5

Overall – 8

I’ve been binge-watching this series this week. It’s really quite good.



Light Novel: Tabisuru Shoujo to Shaukunetsu Kuni (旅する少女と灼熱の国)

June 24th, 2015

TsStSnKIt is a hallmark of how predictable Tabisuru Shoujo to Shakukunetsu Kuni (旅する少女と灼熱の国) is, that 20 pages or so before I have completed it, I am writing this review. Or, as I like to describe it to other people, this was written with the help of the “Big Book O’War Novel Tropes.”

Do you remember the end of Madlax? No? Neither does anyone else, so don’t worry. It was a great series, and had a lot of everything, happening all at once, so it’s not surprising that you don’t. Well, the main point to remember is that at the end of the series the entity known as Margaret Burton at the beginning of the series, doesn’t really exist any more.

But her maid, Eleanor Baker, who has been traveling around war-torn Garth-Sonika for ten years, does not know this crucial fact. In those ten years she has been looking for Maagaret without success. And it is into her (somewhat fruitless) quest we find ourselves catapulted in the beginning of this Light Novel.

Eleanor is looking for Margaret, without success. 10 years have passed, but she remains undaunted. Right away, this fact depressed the hell out of me. We know Margaret doesn’t exist as such anymore. And here’s Eleanor still looking for her. How depressing is that?

So, while looking for Margaret, she meets Dieu, a woman whose husband wandered off to war ages ago, and has struggled to keep her little cafe running, while being used and abused by local guerrilla fighters. Eleanor brings both hope and despair, but helps Dieu beat off the guerrillas long enough to be reunited with her husband. In addition to kicking guerrilla fighters in the balls, Eleanor cleaned the cafe for many pages.

Eleanor meets Nigel Wingate, a British Intelligence Officer who is too clever for his own good,  and with whom she rescues a kidnapped child, Alissam, from a group of kidnappers. We were treated to many pages of the cleaning the filthy kitchen in the kidnapper’s apartments. After this segment, if you did not recognize the Japanese word for “roach” you were not paying attention.

In the third section, Eleanor and Wingate foilemore bad guys, this time at a resort casino. We learn that, along with her amazing fighting and cleaning skills, Eleanor also is a casino-class card dealer.

The books ends (will end) with her and Wingate coincidentally traveling together.

There was, of course, as much service as could be crammed into a book that included guerrilla fighters intimidating the owner of a small cafe, kidnappers having kidnapped a female child and casino pool scenes. And, we learn details of cleaning in a war zone, which surely will be useful one day.

I can’t even say this book was bad. It was *exactly* what I expected from the official post-series Madlax novel. “Big Book O’War Novel Tropes” is ever so popular. Which is to say, who else but me and a bunch of freaks would ever read this? ^_^

Ratings:

Art – Meh
Story – Absurd
Characters – Ridiculous
Yuri – Of course
Service – Gobs

Overall – Laughably awful, unless you actually liked Madlax, like I did. Then it’s a depressing, dismal, 3.