Miserable Classics of Yuri
Prologue and Part 1
Way back in the early 1970s, when Yamagishi Ryouko and Ikeda Riyoko were drawing up the first Yuri manga, the model for same-sex relationships was not a happy one. Like early Yaoi, early Yuri assumed an unhappy, unfulfilled or tragic ending for all lesbian relationships. (The same thing was happening here in western literature as well, so clearly it was an artistic edict that went well beyond individual culture.) The bottom line was – there was no happy Yuri. And really, only a very few mangaka had the guts to depict any kind of lesbian character or relationship at all, so lesbians were happy enough to get what they could find. This situation lasted well into the 1990s, and frankly, IMHO, didn’t really even *begin* to change until Sailor Moon broke the trend. Mostly what you had was a choice of one or more of the following: suicide; tearful parting and memories of something that might have been; or marriage to some guy, because that’s what you do.
Nowadays, we look back on these stories with disappointment and, in some cases, distaste, but remember, these were the first tentative steps in a process that is only *now* breaking free of its historical fetters. (And I’m not talking Yuri Shimai here – the real progress I’ve seen in Yuri comes from lesbian artists like Takashima Rica and Yamaji Ebine.)
This week, I’m going to review a few of the decade-old Yuri manga that you may not have heard of. Despite their unsatisfying endings, these have some very good qualities.I’m not going to bother rating any of these, though. ^_^
Jukkai Me no Jukkai – Akisato Wakuni, 1992
Jukkai Me no Jukkai is a short story that is part of a single-volume manga collection called Odamari!.
Jukkai is a strangely uncomfortable story of a girl, Sayako, who falls in love with her brother’s fiance’. Sayako meets her at school and, through an incredibly unrealistic mishap during a school play, their lips touch. From this point on, Sayako can’t get this mysterious girl out of her mind. When her brother announces that he’s getting married to one of her schoolmates, Sayako has no idea that he means the same girl’s she’s already kissed. Their situation is made more complex by the fact that Sayako is older than her brother’s bride-to-be…something that bothers her quite a bit. When she’s introduced to Rio, Sayako is shocked and appalled at herself, her brother, and at the girl, Rio.
Rio is only marrying Sayako’s brother to escape a life of loneliness…she’s unwanted by family, and at 16 has already has several affairs with older men. She doesn’t really love Sayako’s brother, but she does think he’s nice – and he’s a great way to escape from her unhappy life. As it progresses, their relationship seems dysfunctional, and Rio comes off as manipulative, but neither Rio nor Sayako seem to be fighting the attraction between them too hard. The brother remains clueless throughout.
Ultimately, Rio marries Sayako’s brother, but she and Sayako become lovers, carrying on when the brother isn’t home. It’s not a “happy” ending, but at least it isn’t suicide.