Yuri Manga/Yuri Anime: Sukeban Deka

March 3rd, 2004

Does it really matter whether Yuri is shounen or shoujo? Depends on what you like. If you like something with action, implausible fanservice and gratuitous Yuri scenarios, you might want to stick with the shounen stuff. You want angsty emotion, and perhaps a fleeting kiss, then shoujo’s got your number.

But what, you ask, if I like shoujo manga, but I also like sex and guns and violence, and sex? Well, obviously, I wouldn’t have brought this up without an answer, would I? ^_^

Sometimes mangaka just write whatever they feel like – and frequently, that *whatever* makes for shoujo manga that’ll appeal to the shounen fan. Here’s one classic example:

Sukeban Deka – Wada Shinji, 1973-1983, Hana to Yume Comics

This series screams *1970s* in a way few things can. Between the art, the clothes, and the casual hedonism of the characters on their off time, Sukeban Deka really is an icon of the “me” generation.

In short, a high school delinquent by the name of Asamiya Saki is offered an unrefusable deal – escape from prison and we’ll make you a high school detective, with police powers. She declines, so the police blackmail her by threatening to execute her mother, who is on Death Row for killing her father. Reluctantly, Saki agrees, but only because she actually cares about her mother (something which will bite her in the ass over and over again…) To escape her prison, she enlists the help of all the girls in her cellblock – including poor Kaoru, who has the unsavory job of seducing the lesbian warden. (Great scene – we see Kaoru making up to the warden, who leads her into the office, hand on ass…the next scene has Kaoru gargling in the bathroom.)

The Sukeban Deka OVA is a great, short intro to the series, with a very strong Yuri subtext between Saki and Junko – it’s only two episodes and well worth the money. Saki’s adventures in the anime closely shadow those of the first arc of the manga, as she frees her old high school from the threat of three insane sisters. In the longer, 22-volume manga, the arcs take us to various schools filled with corruption and vice, several juvie prisons – each weirder than the last, right up to the last one where the warden raises giant snakes – and even to the shores of America, twice. East and West Coasts.

This is not a series for the faint of heart – there is a *ton* of violence, with blood and everything, and many of the main characters die. Sukeban Deka is no girly, wimpy series where everyone is always all right in the end – I mean they DIE. In fact, it’s safe to say that *all* the main characters die by the end of the series. (It’s also safe to say that by the end of the story, the mangaka was stone sick of this story and killed everyone off, so no one would *ever* ask for a sequel. ^_^)

One of the more delightful relics of the 70s is the less restrictive atmosphere of the story – Saki smokes and drinks with abandon, despite her extremely underage-ness (she’s 16.) in fact one of my absolute favorite pictures of Saki is her smoking, with a lowball in hand. I love that picture. :-) At least twice, she drinks herself insensate – you won’t be seeing *that* anytime soon in a shoujo manga these days.

Does it, “got Yuri?” Well, yes and no. There is, as I said, a TON of subtext between Junko (the first victm, erm, friend) and Saki, especially in the anime, and during the course of the story Saki gets and gives many a same-sex kiss. Some of them are real, too, not just goofy pecks. Late in the manga, as yet another character dies in Saki’s arms, she confesses that she’s loved Saki all along and plants one on her, but good. Of course, because Saki is so goddamn cool, she’s got more than her share of adoring fangirls everywhere she goes. And, lastly, practically every evil nemesis, of which there are many, obsesses about Saki in a way that is just this side of sexual.

So, yes, there’s plenty o’Yuri, except….

The best couple in the story is straight. The love of Saki’s life (and vice versa) is her mentor, Jin Kyouichiro. And let me tell you – I was rooting pretty hard for them to get together by the end. They are absolutely perfect for each other. In fact, right now, they hold the number one place in my heart as “fave straight couple”. Jin is tall and cool and Eurasian and packs a gun. He’s the perfect foil for Saki and they look really good together. So, despite my love of Yuri, the real love here is straight. But it doesn’t take away from the fun-service for a second. :-)

The Live Action Sukeban Deka, TV series and movies seem to go off on a tangent, rewriting most of the story, but keeping the basic idea. Seasons two and three create whole new characters and lose Saki altogether. Nonetheless, this show can be seen as the origin of the whole girl-gang madness that filled the 1980s (in manga and in real-life) that later gave rise to such wonderful series as Hana no Asuka-gumi and YajiKita Gakuen Dochuuki, both of which I’ve mentioned in this blog before, but am too lazy to find – look through the archives. Both Asuka and YajiKita have new versions out right now, too, so maybe we’ll see Saki ressurected, after all. LOL

Because it ran in Hana to Yume, we know that Sukeban Deka is technically shoujo, but the actual story has so much violence and…more violence, some of a sexual nature – and is written by a man – that we’d be hard pressed to see it as a typical shoujo. Is it worth watching/reading? Hell, yes – if you don’t mind seeing major characters die extremely violent and bloody deaths. And giant snakes.

Ratings:
Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 10
Yuri – 5

Overall – 8

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