The arguably oldest shoujo Yuri (Yuri manga written for a female audience) is Shiroi Heya no Futari, which means “Our White Room”. Published by Ribon Comics in 1971 (back far enough that even I was a child), written by Yamagishi Ryohko, this story is the mother of all Yuri that came after it.
And, oh, what melodrama it is!
Shiroi Heya no Futari introduces us to blonde, doll-like “good” girl Resine, as she’s dumped by a uncaring aunt at a boarding school. Because she’s a late transfer, the school puts her in a room with “bad” girl Simone – with the admonishment to not take notice of Simone and, if it gets too much, she can ask for another room.
Unfortunately for the school, Resine and Simone get along reasonably well, even going so far to actually like one another, then really like one another…then really, really like one another. When Simone plays the Prince to Resine’s Princess in the school play, their kiss is passionate – and real.
Their confession of love is overheard by a classmate and soon the entire school knows about them. In denial, Resine begins dating a young man with a vengeance, but her jealousy for Simone keeps pace with Simone’s own dark feelings. When the pressure becomes too much, Resine runs away, leaving Simone to find her own reconciliation, alone. Of course, Simone, high strung and emotional, finds her denouement in a tragic and pointless death.
Resine, having returned home, finds out about Simone’s death many months later and rushes back to the school. All she is able to do is learn the truth of Simone’s death and swear that she will continue living for the two of them, loveless and cold, forever.
It’s evil of me to say this, but it’s actually a pretty amusing ending, merely by being so hyper-melodramatic.
The story (as you might be able to guess from the names) is set is France, which fits well with the overblown melodrama of the story. The setting was current for it’s time – early 70’s – so the clothes are a scream and there’s underage drinking going on in very French-looking clubs.
Of course this has a tragic ending. Could we expect anything else? Not in the 70’s, no. But the love and physical attraction Resine and Simone had was real – not just akogare/admiration, but actual desire, which made it groundbreaking stuff.
I recommend reading this manga, if only to see one of the mama of Yuri manga and to appreciate our historical roots. Plus, the story’s soap-opera fun. You can still find copies in secondary markets like Amazon JP marketplace and used manga stores.
Art – very 70s. Give it a 8
Story – 8
Yuri – 10
Character – 10, just for Simone’s brooding Heathcliff-ness. ;-)
Overall – 9