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February 22nd, 2017

In 2015 I wrote a post called Supporting Your Local Comics Ecosystem in 2015. In that article I address the issue of the people who work on comics/manga and the people in those industries who rely on people paying for those comics legitimately.  In that article I wrote, 

“Entertainment is created by artists, but also by their assistants, their editors, the art directors, the layout people, the printers, and web developers, sales people, delivery people, all the way down to the part-time bookstore employees who shelve stuff and the post office who delivers it. I know you know this, but I want to say it:  If you have ever once thought “Hey. I want to work in comics” you might also want to think about this –  if everyone makes comics, but no one buys them – where does the money come from? When you buy something, you are contributing to a larger economic system that sustains those jobs and the people who work them”

Okazu readers overwhelmingly support this ecosystem. You buy the stuff you read and watch and listen to, you subscribe to journals, to blogs, to legitimate online streaming sites. I am so very thankful. I know that my readers are active participants in the industry they enjoy. It’s one of my greatest pleasures to know so completely that you are the market as well as the audience for Yuri.

Here in 2017, we’ve been given an unprecedented number of Yuri manga releases and events. I want, of course to be everywhere, and do everything and tell you about all of it. But I can’t. I spend about 20 hours a week on Okazu now and there just isn’t enough time and money to be everywhere. 

In the past, when you subscribed to Animerica or to OtakUSA magazine, you didn’t get an ad-free experience. In fact, advertising was what paid for print journals far more than your subscription did. The subscriptions paid for the content, the ads paid for the everything else that made it possible to print a magazine.

Okazu isn’t a monthly magazine. It’s a free, 4-6 times a week, no-ad experience. I don’t ever want that to change. So why do I ask you to subscribe? To pay for the content, just like in the old days. Good writing takes time and effort and people who do it deserve to be paid. And to get you that content, human beings have to buy things and go places. Those take time and money too.

So once again, if you read Okazu regularly, I’m asking you to contribute to the ecosystem here. We’re just  very few dollars permonth off our 2016 goal on Patreon and this year it is really important for us to be able to pay Guest Reviewers. 6 more people at $5/month  ~ 6 more heroes and we’re over that mark. And, because I really  mean it when I say I care about the content, I’ll make sure Guest Reviewers are rewarded with something more than just thanks, even if we’re not at the 2017 goal yet.

Please help us get to more events, be able to review more Yuri and above all, reward our Guest Reviewers! Please consider subscribing to Okazu on Patreon. There’s week left to be entered in the Patron Contest, so subscribing now enters you in a chance to get a box crammed full of *stuff.* Who doesn’t want that?

To those of you who have already become Patrons, thank you. You are truly my Heroes!

 

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LGBTQ Manga: Collectors, Volume 2 (コレクターズ)

February 21st, 2017

On Yuricon, we have an intentionally very broad definition of Yuri.

Yuri can describe any anime or manga series (or other derivative media, i.e., fan fiction, film, etc.) that shows intense emotional connection, romantic love or physical desire between women. Yuri is not a genre confined by the gender or age of the audience, but by the *perception* of the audience. In short, Yuri is any story with lesbian themes.

This is intentionally broad to allow fans’ perspective take the driver’s seat. In essence – if you (or I, or anyone else) think it’s Yuri, it is. 

Here on Okazu, we have a slightly less broad concept around how I, personally identify Yuri vs something that I might identify as LGBTQ.

“Yuri is lesbian content without lesbian identity”

As I see it, once the character (or the characters around them) see the character as lesbian, that’s a door that can’t be closed. Any story I write about a woman who identifies her romantic partner as “her wife” is, by it’s nature, going to signify them as lesbian because, as we’ve learned in the last decade marriage is most definitely a political act for a same-sex couple. It’s political because, even if the country where it takes place doesn’t recognize the partnership, it forces everyone around the couple to related to them as a couple.

If I tell you I have a housemate, you may decide on our relationship to fit your level of comfort. When I say I have a wife, I have defined that relationship for you and now you must figure out how to deal with it.

All of which is to say that while Collectors, Volume 1 was a terrific Yuri manga, Collectors, Volume 2 (コレクターズ) is a terrific LGBTQ manga. In my review of Volume 1, I praised the series being grounded in reality, and especially in the reality of a relationship. As I said, “Life. What could be funnier, more poignant or more interesting?” In Volume 2, we get something more…something that I knew I was missing, but didn’t want to be demanding and ask for. We get lesbian identity.

Typical of creator Nishi UKO, the identity issue is integrated seamlessly into the narrative. No awkward Marvel-esque “She likes girls” banners, just a co-worker who casually notes that Shinobu and Takako are a couple, then talks away an acquaintance’s immature perspective on that fact. So Shinobu is out to at least this coworker or he’s smart enough to see the obvious.

But what actually lifts this book out of Yuri into LGBTQ (oh, nice hierarchical slam there Erica. Sheesh, elitist much?) territory is the entirety of the final part of the book. As Shinobu and Takako consider, not for the first time, moving in together, they have a fight. Not a snarky, bickery fight, but a real fight. Takako is insensitive, Shinobu is rude, Takako throws the contents of her glass at Shinobu and leaves, then leaves town to go to her family’s home.  I cannot for the life of me remember any other chapter of any Yuri manga that so accurately portrayed a real fight between a couple, and I’m hard pressed to come up with too many other manga that have done so. (And now that I think about it, all of them are Josei.)

Takako disrupts her younger brother, Takeyuki’s, life by sticking around. He’s been clued in for a while that she has a lover, but has no idea who it is. When he sees the number calling her over and over on her phone, he calls back, surprised to find that it’s his sister’s friend Shinobu. He tells Shinobu he thinks his sister has had a fight with her lover. Shinobu says she’s on the way. The scenes of Shinobu taking the late train are some of the best panels I’ve ever seen in manga.

When Shinobu arrives, Takako comes outside to speak with her and, at last, the penny drops for Takeyuki. Although Takako has never said anything, Take and Dad take in the fight, the body language and the whole thing becomes clear.  While they do not say, “I am a lesbian” at all during this, there is recognition of them as a couple by Takako’s father and brother and that, specifically, sets this manga apart.

This is followed by a touching ending. The final words of the series are “Let’s live together” with furigana that says it louder for the folks in the back -“Let’s get married.” ^_^

A magnificent end to one of the most deeply satisfying manga about adult women ever, by one of my favorite artists. 

I look forward to whatever Nishi UKO-sensei has planned next, but for now, I’ll just bask in the glow of my choice for top manga of 2016 for all the right reasons.

Ratings:

Art – 10
Story – 10 
Characters – 10
Yuri – 10
Service – 1

Overall – 10

Collectors was perfect. Thank you.

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Benten Botan Manga, Volume 1 (弁天ぼたん)

February 20th, 2017

Q: How do you know a manga is considered really good around here? A: When I wake up and send a ridiculous tweet the the manga artist in bad gang patois saying that it’s awesome!

Benten Botan,  Volume 1 (弁天ぼたん) by Saida Nika is awesome.

It’s been a while since I had a chance to read something by Saida-sensei, creator of Cirque Arachne (which fixed the biggest problem of Kaleido Star). When I saw that Saida-sensei had a new manga about a gang-girl, I knew I needed to read it.  ^_^

Bentenshima Botan has all her life been told about the awesomeness of the gang girls of Japan, by her late mother. When her father decides to leave their home in the Himalayas and return to Japan, Botan could not be more excited. She arrives at her her new all-girls school and announces that she’s willing to take on all comers. Instead of a challenge, all the girls go gaga over the tall, attractive newcomer. When she turns out to be good at sports and smart, too, she has an instant fanclub. 

She asks one of the girls where the local banchou is, but cute classmate Sumire informs Botan that that’s ancient history. Bummed, Botan heads off home. On the way she spots an obvious sukeban-type and she and Midori butt heads – literally – for the first time.

The school principal confronts Botan and challenges the young girl to bring it on, but Botan is nowhere near as strong as the principal, who is clearly one of the old-school sukeban her mother admired and, it becomes plain, who admired her.

Sumire confides to Botan that while she has a boy’s body, it was always her dream to go to a girls’ school. Botan promises to protect Sumire and her secret and almost immediately has a chance to insist that Sumire-chan be treasured as is. Midori recognizes that Botan and she share more than just love for the sukeban life and she softens a bit

Sumire, Midori and Botan become friends, which amazes and confuses Midori as, up until now, as the only girl in her household and engineering school, she’s never really has had girl friends, except Sumire. But she learns to like it pretty quickly and Botan’s disarming naivete’ even makes her laugh out loud.

At her grandmother’s bathhouse, Botan encounters a former boy gang member who takes her out for a ride on his bike, and kisses her. She loves the bike, find the kiss interesting and thinks he might be a good guy, until one of Midori’s brothers let her know that he really isn’t. And, as the book comes to a close, we can see Take-chan has some not-good designs on our heroine. What they are we don’t yet know.

In a final chapter we see that along with her fan club at school, Botan has the complete attention of her teacher who has developed a crush on her. But Botan breaks her heart when speaking to her classmates she says she likes Mizuki-sensei – she reminds Botan of her mother. Mizuki works on making that okay in her head while the principal sulks that Mizuki’s nothing like Botan’s mother.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8 
Characters – 9 There’s no one unlikable
Yuri – 1, LGBTQ – 4
Service – 2 A little, but more artful than gross

Overall – 8

This manga was just a ton of fun in every direction! It runs in Hibana magazine along with After Hours and My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness both of which have been licensed by Viz and Seven Seas, respectively and Shimanami Tasogare, so clearly I am going to have to get this magazine now. You can read a sample chapter of Benten Botan on the Hibana website. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did.

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Yuri Anime: R.O.D. – Read or Die

February 19th, 2017

How surprised am I to find I have never reviewed R.O.D. – Read or Die here? Very surprised. Although, in retrospect, I guess it’s not all that surprising, as it was released on DVD here in the US in 2003 (by Manga Entertainment! Wow, that was a long time ago) and we were talking more about anime on the Yuricon Mailing List than here on Okazu back then. When I pulled the DVD off the shelf, I found it had a little blue sticker on it, which denoted the fact that we had shown it at Yuricon in June 2003. ^_^ 

Friday I had a visit from one of our Superheroes, Alice D, and, while we were chatting, playing phone games, eating cookies and watching stuff, I decided to start my next epic rewatch, this time of the R.O.D. series (plural.)

And so I am watching R.O.D. – Read or Die for the first time in more than a decade.  And in that decade, I read all the novels, both the R.O.D. and Read or Dream manga series and watched the R.O.D. The TV series, so my perspective is somewhat different than it was back in those heady days of the early 2000s. Check out my reviews here on Okazu, from 2003-to 2014 when I finished the last novel that existed at the time. We’re supposed to get the final novel in the next year. If I were Kurata, I know exactly how I’d end it, too.

R.O.D – Read or Die, introduces us to bibliomaniac Yomiko Readman, AKA “The Paper” a secret agent for the British Library. While cloned geniuses from the past are engaged in an effort to destroy everyone in the world, special agents from British Library, The Paper and Miss Deep are hard at work, protecting humanity from a plan to make us all listen to Beethoven’s “Suicide Symphony.”

This 3- episode OVA is action-packed. From the first moment we see Yomiko use her paper powers to the last, we have to marvel at the creativity of the animators. This is especially true for the fight scenes, in which Yomiko’s obsessive bibliomania and skill with paper each serve an important place in the narrative.

The most interesting quality of the animation is the color palette, in which green and purple feature significantly in and around a London background. The animation itself does not hold up all that well to be watched at higher-res than existed when Studio Deen first did the work. If I have a specific criticism of Studio Deen it is that – their animation rarely seems to wear well with the passage of time.

Of course I asked myself as I hit the play button, “Are Nancy and Yomiko actually into each other?” I mean, it’s been 15 years since we first watched it. Maybe we made that up in our heads!

As we wrapped up, Alice and I agreed that no, we really didn’t make that up. There was a very definite chemistry between Nancy and Yomiko and no amount of rationalization was making that disappear. Yomiko makes Nancy question her affection for the leader of the I-jin, Nancy makes Yomiko see another person the same way she had only ever looked at books. Or so we thought.

Because of course, Yomiko already has a lover, although we in the OVA audience don’t know that. And that lover is already gone from her life, although we don’t know that, either. And soon she will be asked to guard a young novelist and her feelings will be unguarded once again. (Correction: This series is post- Nenene, as I missed the content of the notes in Yomiko’s apartment, thanks Sean, Matt and Shannon for the correction. I was chatting with Alice and the notes were subtitled in black so I missed them completely.) And then the world will explode and everything we thought we knew about Yomiko Readman will be rewritten. 

Ratings:

Art – 5 /cough/Not so good/cough/
Story – 9 Really everything you could ask for from a fantasy-action series, although I could do with less boob movement. Bras work, guys.
Characters – 9 This was the Yomiko we all fell for, not the creepy obsessive of the novels
Yuri – 6 Yup. Definitely. Not our imagination.
Service – 4 Breasts that act as if bras and gravity do not exist.

Overall – 8

It was great fun to re-watch this after so long. More well-written than I remembered, less well-animated than I remembered, and definitely Yuri. ^_^

Special thanks to Okazu Superheroes Alice and Louis, who were both loads of fun for me this weekend!

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Yuri Network News – (百合ネットワークニュース) – February 17, 2017

February 18th, 2017

Yuri Manga

Yet another new Yuri manga from Takemiya Jin is on the way. Fujourina Atashi-tachi  (不条理なあたし達) will hit shelves at the end of March. Yahoo! 

Kurogane Kenn’s Teacher-student romance Hoshikawa Ginza Yon-choume (星川銀座四丁目 上), from Hirari magazine is getting a new edition. The first volume will be available at the beginning of March. 

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Yuri Anime

NTR – Nestuzou Trap is still being sold as a Yuri anime slated for later this year.  ANN has details if you’re interested.

ANN has a fun little visit with the oldest active Utena fansite on the internet to celebrate 20 years of  Revolutionary Girl Utena. Wow. I guess hitting 20 years of writing about anime and manga, as well. Wow.

Brittany Vincent of Anime Now! takes a look at the lesbian scene in Scum’s Wish.

 

LGBTQ Comics

Becky Hawkins and Barry Deutsch have teamed up for the 1940’s PoC lesbian superhero comic we’ve all been waiting for, Superbutch! Really, read this one.

Amulet Book is adapting the Lumberjanes comic into a series of illustrated novels, woot!

YNN Correspondent Eric P has written in with most delightful news! The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars, Part 1, the long-awaited graphic novel continuation of the Legend of Korra series  will be out in June. And, for once, pun intended. Here is the official description of the book:

Relishing their newfound feelings for each other, Korra and Asami leave the Spirit World . . . but find nothing in Republic City but political hijinks and human vs. spirit conflict!  

So, no punches pulled there. ^_^

 

LGBTQ Comics/Manga Fundraisers

Please help me help the Queers & Comics Conference to bring in LGBTQ comics creators to this amazing and important  event. Contribute to the Q&C Conference Travel Fund. I’m asking you to please give this effort a few bucks. There are 2 dozen or so queer artists who need help to get to this event. You’ll have a chance to receive excellent  rewards from artists (including a super spiffy Korra x Asami stained glass print poster!) As always, I’m not asking you to do something I won’t, I got myself the Manko Riot  t-shirt.^_^ And if you cannot contribute, please share the link widely. Tell as many groups, and lists and pages as you can.

I’ve also donated again to Rica Takashima’s Aliens in New York Project in which she puts on interactive events with her peek-a-boo boards, showcasing the full range of diversity in New York City.

All of the articles, podcasts and people I am following now on resistance issues all agree that you cannot be pulled in a million directions. For sanity’s sake, you have to find something to care about. It dawned on me that as much as I support women’s rights,  civil rights and LGBTQ rights and will not stop trying to defend them everywhere I can…the thing I care about is queer comics. I care about our freedom of expression to an obsessive point and I value people on the margins voices above those who speak from power.  And I hope, that if you also value queer voices, you’ll help support queer creators, including us here at Okazu. ^_^

YNN Ashley S wants to tell you about this fantstic Kickstarter, Tabula Idem: A Queer Tarot Comic Anthology. The comic anthology has a comic for each of the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck and the reward levels at $35 and over include a full-color printing of the cards. 

  

Other News

The queer and NB folks at Comics Alliance take a look at Comics’ Sexiest Females.

This interview with Kelly Sue DeConnick on her comic book Bitch Planet is well worth reading.

Let’s wrap up today with this lovely new song from the Doubleclicks, “Women Know Math.”

 

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!

 

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