From the only publisher who has really attempted to market josei manga, Tokyopop, comes the first volume of an intriguinging collection, Passion Fruit: Sweat and Honey. I say “intruiging” because while it had some definite merit, and I’m glad I read it, I’m not entirely sure I *enjoyed* it.
Special thanks to faithful reader and beloved sycophant Sean Gaffney for pointing me in the direction of this volume. :-)
Folks who read Cookie magazine will be familiar with the artist of this particular anthology, and if you’ve visited the Lililicious website and looked at the Shibuya series, again, you’ll see the familiar style of Okazaki Mari, who was also a contributor to Yuri Shimai magazine. Clearly a “friend of Yuri’s.”
(Wouldn’t that be a fun new code to use? Everyone knows the old “friend of Dorothy”. right? Yuri fans could say that we’re “friends of Yuriko”. LOL)
This collection had several stories that included some yuri-ish interaction, but none of the stories end with the girl getting the girl…in fact, in most cases that was a relief. As with most short story anthologies, the characters were rather more dysfunctional than usual and the endings tended towards pat. But that’s a fault with short stories in general and shouldn’t put you off this particular collection.
The first story, “After Sex A Boy’s Sweat Smells Like Honey,” is an ambiguous tale of two female cousins. One of them is initially repulsed by the other’s fragility, but in comparison to the men she is seeing, comes to find her more and more appealing.
“About Kusako” was, to me, a very disturbing story. Moeko finds a girl growing out of the ground, like grass, as she walks her dog. (Hence the name, “Kusako,” which would mean “grass girl”.) Kusako is incapable of moving, so Moeko waters her and shields her from the hot sun and generally grows fond of Kusako. Moeko returns to the field after a prolonged period of time to find Kusako withered and dying, but small Kusakos everywhere. If this kind of stuff lived in my head, I’d be creeped out.
“Sister” was my favorite story. A young woman’s older neighbor passes out nearly every night on her doorstep. Out of duty and kindness, she drags the woman in and tucks her into bed. Eventually, she confronts the neighbor about her miserable life, only to learn that she knows *nothing* about her…except that she loves this “old hag”. I won’t give away the ending, because I really liked it. :-) No, it isn’t yuri, but it was pretty great.
“The Land Where Rain Starts To fall” has a *very* similar feel to the “Shibuya” series Okazaki-sensei wrote for Cookie. It’s a vignette of an apparently dysfunctional couple – Kaya, who refuses to come to school and Kumi, who seems appallingly low self-esteemy-y. They engage in some sexual play, ostensibly to seduce or annoy Kaya’s older brother. The vibe off of Kaya is heavily incestuous, Kumi seems more like a plaything. But she’s actually completely aware of Kaya’s machinations, and goes along with them willingly. In the end, the girl does not get the girl, but this series has, perhaps, the happiest ending in the volume.
The last story was written by Hiratsuka Mari, and is a bittersweet nostalgic look at boys in school and their too-sexy-for-her-own-good teacher. It was cute and fluffy.
I’m still not sure I’m comfortable with her art or her storytelling. The art is too loose for me to find appealing, while the stories are too tense…but those are the very qualities that make her stories, even the short ones, work.
Ratings would be variable, so let’s call it an overall 7.
No, it isn’t the 100% yuri we all long for, nor is it happy, really, but I definitely think Passion Fruit Volume 1 is definitely worth getting. Support josei manga, support yuri themes in Tokyopop manga and cough up a few bucks for Sweat and Honey.