Otome no Teikoku Manga (オトメの帝国) Guest Review by Mariko S

April 27th, 2016

OnTV1It’s a happy day here at Okazu!! We have a new Guest Reviewer, Mariko S who has bravely decided to wade back into a series I panned back in 2008. Buckle in and get ready for a completely different perspective. Take it away, Mariko!

Welcome back to Otome no Teikoku, Volume 1, a world that, on first glance, you may find difficult to love. I had similar feelings to the ones Erica expressed in her original review when I first read this manga. However, because I was a big fan of the art style and realistic sexiness of author Kishi Torajiro’s MAKA-MAKA books, unlike her I persevered through the subsequent volumes. And, as it improved more and more and I started to really look forward to reading it, I thought, it’s really worth Yuri fans taking a second look at it. Erica invited me to do guest reviews for the series, so here we are. Let’s restart at the start, so we can understand later how things are changing.

The opening frame of the first chapter seems to announce a particular intention – an upward shot of a high school girl in uniform with hershirt hiked up, bra undone, breasts peeking out, and a skirt so short that it doesn’t touch the chair she’s sitting on. It seems to warn away anyone who’s not here for pure titillation. Given that the author’s previous works featured adult content it’s a forgivable assumption. But those works were not just mindless porn – they hadwell-developed, attractive but believable characters in relatable situations. So please bear with the growing pains here as we work
through the challenges of an adult author fumbling with what exactly
he wants this series to be.

As for what OnT is *now,* though, warm up your eye-rolling muscles. The first volume does feature a ton of service of every flavor – most every chapter has some assortment of panty shots, nip slips, groping, or nudity. Maybe it was demanded by the publisher, maybe Kishi-sensei felt like he needed to grab readers’ attention some way while the characters’ personalities weren’t developed yet. In some ways it is a little refreshing to have a series where things are a little more physical, rather than your standard akogare blushing, longing looks, and perhaps a chaste kiss at the end of it all. Humans are sexual
beings and sexy things are entertaining. It’s just that here, to start, all of the “sexy” stuff is either purely voyeuristic or too over the top, removing any sense of a moment between the characters.

Each chapter is composed of a number of vignettes. In this volume they tend to be very short, with 3-5 per chapter, but later there will usually only be 1 or 2. Each vignette focuses on a pair or small group of the girls. One of the things I find refreshing is that despite going to the same school, not all of the characters know each other or hang out together – they each have girls they are usually with, as well as some they interact with occasionally and others not at all. For now, let’s only talk about one of the pairings, Chie and Ai, which is the earliest example of character progress. We first meet them in chapter 2, through a ridiculous setup where Chie is thinking weirdly nasty thoughts about what Ai’s nipples look like, until she gets a downblouse glimpse of the real thing. The characters here have none of their eventual personalities – Chie will be rewritten entirely to be a sweet, friendly, self-conscious girl. The next times we see them, in chapters 3 and 4, they’re just doing servicey stuff – nothing to do with who they are. In chapter 7 though, we see some changes. It’s still “boob stuff,” but mixed in there Chie shares some honest feelings about why she behaves the way she does and the way others treat her body, along with the beginnings of a confession. Finally, chapter 11 continues the positive trend and is mostly about Chie giving Ai a Takarazuka hairstyle and roleplaying a dramatic moment with her that turns a little heart-pounding… until Kishi-sensei’s early favorite ending, the comical interruption, intervenes. Take heart that the other stories will similarly improve!

One of the really positive things to say even at the start – Kishi-sensei is a very talented artist. He draws details others wouldn’t think of, and with a  distinctive, more realistic style.

Another early positive is that some genuinely funny things happen. As eye-rolling as much of the copiously unrealistic service is, you can see the hints of things to come in the comical and cute parts sprinkled in between the pervy stuff.

Finally, I would say, the off-kilter creativity of the vignettes is a real strength. Rather than your standard schoolgirl setups of commuting, club activities, school festivals, and eating snacks, Kishi-sensei sets up a lot of casual, everyday situations and conversations that only improve as the ecchi elements get dialed down. Eventually his talent for expressing more subtle eroticism will really start coming out of these unique setups.

I am not quite as down as Erica was on the way sexuality is depicted here. I’m not sure it really is the default assumption that these girls are bi, (or gay or straight for that matter). It’s not as evident in the first volume, but as the series goes on the relationships of the pairs will take on many different shadings, not all of them sexual, and not all the characters have a pair. Granted, since this is after all an all-girls-school Yuri story, there’s a disproportionate skew toward “likes/loves girls in some way.” While this is a frustrating trope of every all-girls-school Yuri series, I feel it’s not so problematic here due to the vignette nature of the chapters. By not having an overarching narrative or insisting that all the characters interact, and cutting between a large number of characters, it’s easier to appreciate the separate dynamics of each pair. The way sexual orientation is used here is not all that muchdifferent from other all-Yuri-all-the-time schools in things like
Strawberry Panic and Sakura Trick, at least in concept. It’s the execution that is failing right now, missing or mistaking characterization for too much unrealistically exhibitionist goofing around.

Ratings: (leaving these from Erica’s review, as I basically agree for this volume.)

Art – 7
Story – 3
Characters – 3
Yuri – 2
Service – 4 million

Overall – 3

E here: Well thank you Mariko for balanced second look at Otome No Teikoku! I know I’m looking forward to your discussions of the later volumes.



New Cardcaptor Sakura Manga Series in June

April 26th, 2016

ANN has the scoop513FFeTeOrL on CLAMP’s classic magical girl series, Cardcaptor Sakura, which is getting a new manga series to celebrate it’s 20th anniversary!

Debuting in June, in Nakayoshi magazine the series will be a true sequel, picking up with Sakura in middle school. (hrm…2018 will be Sailor Moon‘s 25th anniversary. I wonder if we’ll get a new story for that, now that Crystal has been so successful.)

Here’s hoping for more of the wonderful bent characterization and gorgeous CLAMPian art that made the series delightful the first time around!

 

 



Yuri Manga: Anoko ni Kiss to Shirayuri wo, Volume 4 /あの娘にキスと白百合を 4

April 25th, 2016

AkKnSYw4There is both good and bad about the “Yuri school” approach. It’s nice to see multiple couples set in the same world, but it’s also really very tiresome when nearly every character is introduced merely to be paired up.

In Volume 1 of Anoko ni Kiss to Shirayuri wo, we met Kurozawa and Shiramine, to opposite personalities who attract. And it was cute. In Volume 2, we watch a sempai-kohai couple with a protagonist who is a bit more fleshed out than the first volume. I thought I had read Volume 3, but appears I never reviewed it (and can’t remember it) so I may not have. Woops. ^_^

Here in Volume 4, we *mostly* spend time with childhood friends, track team manager Moe and her star runner Mizuki. Mizuki has an important meet to win, so Moe puts a curfew on their time together. Instead of helping Mizuki concentrate, it has the opposite effect. When Mizuki fails to qualify for the finals, the two take a good look at their feelings for one another and decide that they want to be together.

Their story is broken up with a sideline about a girl, Kaoru, who idolizes Kurozawa from the first volume. It’s a comedy of errors, but ends up with a shocking turn – the girls making new friends. It was a dorkily cute story and the extra added dimensions to the characters’ society made me smile.

While there’s  a little eye-trolling to be had in any series where it seems that half the girls are in love with the other half, at least this series isn’t in the habit of pairing everyone up. In the case of Kaoru’s arc, Yuri is a red herring.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 7 Cute, sweet, etc
Yuri – 8
Service – 1 on principle only

Overall – 8

It’s Yuri candy and not much more, but it’s cute Yuri candy. ^_^



Fantasy Sports, No.2 – The Bandit of Barbel Bay (English)

April 24th, 2016

FSP2About a year ago, it was my very real pleasure to read and review Fantasy Sports No. 1 by Sam Bosma. It had everything I ever wanted from a kid’s comic. “Giant robot evil undead conquerors, wizards, treasure, skeleton hordes, tea, adventure, puzzles, and basketball. Gosh, this book was so wonderful.” I have been on tenterhooks waiting for the sequel, Fantasy Sports No. 2 and now that I’ve read it, I have to say…it’s even better than No. 1!

In Volume 1, we met Wiz Kid (“call me Wiz”) an intern of the Archmage, who is out and about plundering with her boss Mean Mug. In Volume 1, they are having some office politics issues, but when we see them again in Volume 2, they appear more partner/partner, than boss/intern.

They find themselves in Barbel Bay, a town populated by humans and fishpeople all of whom share a deep loathing for the Mages who, they say, destroyed their town some years ago. Wiz isn’t entirely convinced, but she’s appalled at even the thought that her people were the aggressors. She and Mug lose their treasure and are forced to enter a volleyball tournament to regain it. During the tournament they – once again – deepen their teamwork. I won’t tell you the ending, because there is no good reason at all for you to not get this delightful book and give it to a kid who loves comics or your local library, or keep it on the shelf to re-re-read from time to time. ^_^

The color palette is a little different this time, full of reds and blues and purples, but still very far from primary-colors one expects in children’s comics. It gives Barbel Bay a unique feel of it’s own.

And the story….oh my goodness can Sam Bosma tell a story! In 50 pages, he crams in so many levels of meaning, plot, character development and room to grow. Neal Stephenson could learn a lot about telling densely packed stories with brevity from Bosma. Before I give this volume to the library, I’m definitely going to give it another read or two. It’s that good.

Once again Wiz Kid is a fabulous protagonist and this time, Mug steps up to be the mentor that he hadn’t previously been. But he’s not a bodyguard – Wiz is hero all on her own with her own physical skills and mental wherewithal. She makes a terrific role model for all of us. As for the fishpeople,  there’s always something to be learned from other cultures. The lessons we learn here are sure to come back and help Wiz and Mug on their future adventures.

Ratings:

Art – 10
Character – 10
Story – 10

Overall – 10

Treasure and giant clams and teamwork and shadow history and shiny champions and fishpeople and magic! Volume 3 will feature field hockey. I can’t wait!

Thanks ever so much to Nobrow Press for the review copy. <3



Yuri Network News – (百合ネットワークニュース) – April 23, 2016

April 23rd, 2016

YNN_LissaOkazu News

Expect some slight weirdness from posts for the next two weeks, as I’ll be in transit. I’ll probably be writing some from my destination, but making no promises. ^_^

So if Okazu seems to be sort of dormant for a few days I assure you I’m just out having fun – hopefully along with some of you! ^_^ And I promise tales of adventures and shopping along the way. ^_^

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Yuri Events

First, I want to thank all the folks that turned out for the Baruch and LaGuardia college talks! Great questions, terrific co-presenters and a lot of fun! Many thanks to CJ Suzuki, George Tsouris and Ann Matsuuchi for making it all possible!

Next up, I’ll be speaking in Shinjuku Ni-Choume, Tokyo on May 3rd as part of the Tokyo Comics Showcase, Vol 1 on queer comics.

Yuri doujinshi festival Girls Love Fest is in the Tokyo metropolitan area on June 5th.

And I’ll be presenting  at AnimeNEXT on Saturday, June 11. So if you missed my NYC presentations, join me there!

If you’re looking for an LGBTQ-inclusive event, you have a number of excellent choices these days. Flamecon will be be held in Brooklyn, NY in August. It was all about being a queer fan of comics and/or being a fan or queer comics.

Nijicon in October in the Greater Philadelphia area. It was charming and friendly and I recommend it.

And for our European readers, there’s Y/Con in Paris in November!

How cool is that? All these great BL/Yuri/gay/lesbian comic events!

 

Yuri Manga

Folks with Japanese Kindle access, while searching for information for my Tokyo Comics Showcase talk,  I found that the classic Riyoko Ikeda’s early queer manga Claudine…! (クローディーヌ…!) had been re-released by a publisher called Fairbell in 2006 (how on earth did I miss that?) and that is now available on Japanese Kindle! Quick go get it and read this amazing, if not happy, story.

Mountain Pukuichi, the creator of NanaYuri, now has another schoolgirl- in-love story, PukuYuri (hmm, I sense a pattern…) out from Ichijinsha.

Mekimeki’s Yuri love comedy, Only ☆You ~Anata to Watashi no Hitoribocchi Keikaku~  (オンリー☆ユー ~あなたと私の二人ぼっち計画~) is yet another schoolgirl wacky thing.

 

Sailor Moon News

SailorMoonWorld.it uploaded a monster set of 250 pictures from the Mori Tower Sailor Moon Exhibit. Personally, I am most interested in the large panels of the color art, and the items in the gift shop. ^_^ Check out the photos and be amazed. I wonder whose collection it is?

And for fans of the current Sailor Moon Crystal end theme, Eternal Eternity, ANN reports that the the two musical parts have been parsed out for fun karaoke versions on Youtube!

 

Other News

Keri Crist-Wagner has put together a short list of Magically Queer Webcomics for Panels.net for your reading pleasure.

While Adam Frey at Popculture Uncovered, looks at the knotty problem of selling diverse comics to the comics-buying audience and why wanting doesn’t guarantee buying with You’ve Got Your Diversity, So Why Don’t You Buy Them?

Feminist Frequency, having wrapped up their work on women in videogames, has just crowdfunded a new, very exciting project – Ordinary Women, a video series on women who challenged the status quo and defied stereotypes.  These will include episodes on Ada Lovelace, Murasaki Shikibu, Emma Goldman, Ching Shi, Ida B. Wells . I’m really looking forward to these.

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!