Yuri Manga: Pieta

May 18th, 2004

Today I want to go over a few of the classic Yuri manga titles once again – a few that I already mentioned briefly, but have revisited recently, and a few that deserve revisiting for one reason or another. I’d like to start with Pieta, a surprisingly well-done little classic, by Haruno Nanae, published by Young You comics way back in 2000. (It seems a lot older than that, really.)

Pieta tells the story of Rio and Sahako, two girls in high school together. Rio seems cool and aloof and is the subject of many rumors in the school. Even though the girl’s uniform includes a tie, she wears it like a boy and is very boyish in looks and manner. Rio very overtly is dating one of the girls in her school and doesn’t seem to care what people think of her.

Sahako finds herself fascinated by Rio, and is very quickly drawn in by her charismatic, yet enigmatic, personality. For her part, Rio makes no bones about the fact that she’s interested in, and attracted to, Sahako, even going so far as to break up with her current girlfriend.

We learn that Rio, for all her external coolness, is actually a seriously emotionally fragile individual, with very painful memories of abandonment and rejection – and a classically evil, hurtful stepmother.

Very much because of this situation, Sahako is drawn closer and closer to Rio, until it becomes obvious to both themselves and everyone around them, that they belong together. The climax is not the final crisis, but in the end, there is a happy ending for them – and the girl does get the girl, which sets this story up among the few and far between.

On the whole, Pieta a slow-moving and sometimes painful story, but it is undeniably sweet and romantic – and in places genuinely touching. Watching Sahako watch Rio is so sweet and a little heart-rending. The plot is not earth-shatteringly new or unique, but it is tight and well-constructed, with a fair amount of tension.

While Rio is given a lot of depth, as a character Sahako is left a little fuzzy. Her family seem to disappear by the end, and there’s no conflict in her life, as there is in Rio’s…I keep wondering how her family reacted to what’s going on with her (remembering that my completely functional family certainly had a reaction to when I was falling in love the first time…), but we never see any of that.

The art is smooth and slow and very open, with white space and implications of motion and position, which goes well with the feel of the story.

All in all, you could do way worse than Pieta as a solid Yuri story.

I recommend that you get an actual hard copy, even though it’s out of print. You can usually find it wherever used manga is sold. Pieta would make *great* beach reading. ^_^


Art – 8
Characters – 8
Story – 8
Yuri -8

Overall – 8

Send to Kindle

11 Responses

  1. Trixter says:

    My first comment is that it sucks you have to sign up for a blog to be able to post a comment ;p

    Now, as to “Girl’s Love”…I’m kind of ambivalent about it. It doesn’t rankle my nerves or set my hair on end to hear it used. As long as the person, who uses it, likes it, then I have no problem with it, either in print or spoken.

    However, I doubt you’d find me, personally, using the phrase in a million years. Yuri and Shoujoai just have a pleasant ring to them. With “Girl’s Love”, you’re starting a phrase, that symbolizes something beautiful, with the same sound you might make if you’re having a hard time going to the bathroom….guh…

    *does a little Yuri dance*


  2. Serge says:

    OK. Well, that took a while. You have to create an account to be able to publish a comment apparently.

    Anyway. About the terms “Girl’s Love”, “Yuri” and “Shoujoai”: I prefer “Yuri” to either “Girl’s Love” or “Shoujoai”, it’s a more flexible and encompassing term. “Girl’s Love” seems a little awkward to me, maybe because it’s actually English. Or maybe it’s that it seems to connote something juvenile and by association not something to take seriously. I could go either way on that one. My impression is that shoujoai, much like shonenai, is falling out of use, having been replaced by Yuri and yaoi respectively.
    From a marketing perspective, I’m not sure if any of these terms would be really useful if you’re trying to appeal to people outside of fandom. There’s explanation required for each of these terms when you talk to laypeople, and marketing is all about simple, easy to understand messages.
    Anyway, just some quick thoughts for you.

  3. Gah – you’re right, having to sign in sucks. But then…I guess livejournal does the same thing, right?

    I wonder how much of our ambivalence towards “Girl Love” comes from the fact that it’s *not* in Japanese and therefore not exotic…probabaly the exact same reason why in Japan they use “Boys Love,” because it sounds all cool and foreign.

    Of course, the irony is that “shoujoai” is a made-up word that an American coined and was *never* used by the Japanese.

    I’m persoanlly inclined to like Yuri more, as well, mostly because it has a built-in symbolism we can beat to death and a literary history. And it makes for a better mascot’s name. LOL

  4. Bernie says:

    Interesting question…I automatically disliked the term, because, like Chalcahuite explained, it implies that lesbianism is just a childish phase and nothing to take seriously. (not helped by some publications on girls’ love portraying it as literally kiddish! eg Yuri tengoku)

    Yuri has all that symbolism and so feels sexier to use. White, fragrant, curvy lilies – I wonder what that could symbolize? ^_^

    In the future, I’d go with whichever term the majority of Japanese lesbians use for the literature, since I’d assume they’d know the context best.

  5. donnaneely says:

    Ewww Pewww, is my immediate response. I am exhausted with having to use words that folks “think” they understand thus necessitating endless debate about the meaning and intent. Exotic or not a foreign word seems to help alleviate somewhat the need to debate endlessly in that, dare I say, post-structuralist way. I also agree with others that girl love somehow feels like it making it a juvenile thing.

  6. But, then what about “Boy’s Love” or “BL” as it’s known now, which is the common term for what we’re still calling Yaoi?

  7. Serge says:

    I don’t like Boy’s Love either, for the same reasons above: It’s English, therefore boring, and has that juvenile, transient connotation. And I’ll bet it’s acceptance and popularity is directly related to the core audience, young, straight fangirls. I can easily see a term like BL appealing and feeling natural to that crowd. From my perspective on the Yuricon mailing list, the core audience for Yuri skews significantly older, 25+ instead of the 15+ for BL as an educated guess. So, I guess, the point here is that an older audience gravitates to broader, mature terms.

  8. Anonymous says:

    shoujo-ai and Yuri work for me, considering most of the titles are Japanese.

    shoujo-ai = female on female
    Yuri = xxx female on female

  9. anon – this post is 4 years old. See my 2008 Glossary of terms for the issue updated. :-)


Leave a Reply