Today’s review would never have happened without James Welker, who introduced me to this manga. He was surprised I didn’t know it – after I read it, so was I. How has this manga slipped under the radar of so many Yuri fans for so long? It deserves fame and recognition, at least. So thanks James, for turning me on to Moonlight Flowers, by Tsugumo Mutsumi.
So, let me just say that this is a *very* good Yuri manga. You should click the link above and buy it right away. Don’t wait.
The first half of the volume follows Sahoko, a bride-to-be as she meets Kaoru, a old high school friend. Kaoru has become a floral designer and she offers to design Sahoko’s wedding bouquet.
Sahoko spends more and more time with Kaoru, which starts Sahoko doubting her feelings for her fiancé. We learn that in high school, Kaoru and Sahoko starred in the school play – and Kaoru fell in love with Sahoko. But, when Kaoru kissed her, Sahoko ran away. Kaoru, after drinking too much, admits that she truly loved Sahoko – and because of her history of difficult family life and regret for driving Sahoko away, she is pretty much reconciled to living alone forever.
Sahoko marries (what a GREAT scene that was, honestly) and immediately regrets it. She hates sex with her husband – they trot out the “she was raped in college” complication, which was horribly overused in MIST magazine – and he almost immediately takes a lover. But Sahoko is spending more and more time with Kaoru until finally, one night after discovering her husband out with his lover, followed by a heinous confrontation, Kaoru and Sahoko become lovers.
Sahoko’s husband retaliates by telling her parents, but Sahoko has found strength in her new love and she tells them – and her husband – that she won’t be coming back. He tries to confine her in their apartment when she comes home to get her things, raping her to show her the error of her ways, but after she begs him for forgiveness and explains quite rationally that she will never be his wife again, ever, no matter what he does, he realizes that its a lost cause. Kaoru comes to save her and together they leave him behind.
What James liked best about this manga was that they do not go to America at this point, they stay in Japan and defy public opinion and pressure to make a life together. What I liked best was that Japanese style quotes 「」 are used in every single scene where quotes are warranted except when Kaoru is explaining how hard life is going to be. She say this isn’t California, and then she says in *Western* “” quotes that saying “I am a Lesbian” is a hard road.
The next story is a flashback to Kaoru’s youth, when she was in college and in denial. The adult Kaoru had confided to Sahoko that all the people she’d ever fallen for from childhood were women. But at this time in her life, she had yet to see that. (It’s easier than it sounds to not realize things like that. I only JUST realized I had a crush on my babysitter when I was ten. I mean, like, this week. ^_^;)
Kaoru arrives at a beach house with her boyfriend and another couple. The guy’s parents own the house, and he’s so excited to be there at the romantic seaside with the girl he desires. Only, Kaoru keeps putting him off and she really doesn’t know why. She finds the relationship between the parents disturbing – the wife seems pale and unsatisfied, while the husband treats her like furniture, or a maid. A friend of the wife’s, Kyouko, arrives and the uncle is glad to have his wife, Kayoko, out of his hair as he does his art.
That night, Kaoru goes outside for a midnight walk to settle her nerves when she comes across Aunt Kayoko on the beach, her face alight with anticipation and her arms open. Into those arms runs Kyouko and the two fall to the sand kissing. Kaoru is shocked to her core. This was an *amazingly* sexy and romantic scene – the winning scene of the book, IMHO.
Back in town, Kaoru breaks up with her boyfriend and sets out to find Kyouko, who turns out to be a successful businesswoman. Kaoru admits that she too loves women. Kyouko takes pity on her and invites her back home to talk. When Kaoru arrives at Kyouko’s apartment, she finds Aunt Kayoko there waiting to kiss Kyouko hello.
The boyfriend finds out about Kaoru, then vindictively learns about Kyouko and his mother. Enraged, he calls his father, who comes rushing into town threatening to kill Kyouko. As he attacks Kyouko with a knife, Kayoko steps in between them and takes the blow meant for her lover. Although the wound was not fatal, in the ambulance, Kayoko, who had a previously established weak heart, suffers heart failure and dies.
Years later Kaoru is looking at an art exhibit by the father and in front of a painting of Kayoko runs into her old boyfriend. Kaoru is a different person now – they are able to be civil, even friendly. Kaoru walks away thinking about her own love of her life, now lost, but never forgotten. (And, ultimately regained, but she doesn’t know that yet!)
The last story in the volume is a horror thing about a possessed woman I have never really read. ^_^
So the bad things are the outdated ideas about men and women: all men are evil, violent, possessive and rapists and are the natural enemies of lesbians. And all lesbians are stylish and successful. Hah. That’s all I’m gonna say to that.
Good things are everything else, really. The melodrama was very melodramatic, the romance very romantic, the sex reasonably sexy. Lots and lots of lily-filled backgrounds. Positively reeking of lilies, it was! The art is very classic, in everything from the character designs to the backgrounds. This is “Josei manga” at its most typical. But the art is very clean and doesn’t feel trite, even though it really is. And no school uniforms to be seen. Thank heavens.
Art – 8
Characters – 7
Story – 6
Yuri – 10
Service – 6 (a fair amount of rape here and there)
Overall – 8
Okay, it’s still a story about how a lesbian turns a “straight” woman, which is “meh”, but on the other hand, its a story about a successful businesswoman and so NOT about schoolgirls.
Oh, I forgot to mention – Sahoko is blonde and petite and Kaoru is tall and brunette. This looks so familiar somehow…. ^_^