Yuri Manga: Yuri Hime S, Part 1

July 2nd, 2007

It was with a large measure of trepidation that I picked up my copy of the first issue of Yuri Hime “S”, the newest quarterly Yuri manga magazine from Ichijinsha, and the sister (maybe that should be “brother”) publication to Yuri Hime which has now been around for two years.

Based on the names of the artists alone, it seemed that the woman-centric focus of Yuri Hime was being tossed to the wind in favor of the (admittedly larger and more lucrative) FanBoy audience. I feared that the inagural issue would be filled with the usual crap that we’re (that is, women) forced to endure when the audience is guys. You know what I mean; oversized breasts in bras that offer no, or unrealistic, support, grotesque bodies, underage girls and those ever-present panty shots. My expectation was that the original mission – “Let’s do a Yuri mangazine with stories geared towards a female audience” had been changed to that of a “Let’s do a Yuri magazine with stories geared towards a male audience.”

Having read through the first volume once, I’m pleased to report that it seems much more like the prevailing thought was “Let’s have artists known for drawing Yuri for a male audience do Yuri for a female one.” Yes, there is a little service, but not too much more than any given issue of Yuri Hime. Which is not to say that I liked *everything* in the book. But I liked a lot more than I expected – and was less irritated/grossed out than I assumed I’d be. My favorite story of the magazine totally surprised the heck out of me. :-)

The cover art was drawn by Tsubaki Asu, whose story “Honey Crush” was better than I expected, based on the cover art alone.

The magazine opens with a color poster by Oshima Towa, creator of High School Girls. If you’re familiar with the characters from that series, you’ll probably think that these two girls look awfully like Ogawa and Himeji. :-)

Before the first main story we have a few pages of yuri-themed game info (SoulPhage, AoiShiro, Simoun) and a really odd one-page comic in which murderous intent is thwarted by an unexpected kiss… O_o

The first story, “Minus Literacy,” by Miyashita Miki (Maburaho) is a story of a rich kid, Matsudaira Yasumi, her maid Miharu, and a random class representative who is drawn into the melee of the rich kid’s drama. Yasumi’s family has left her a big debt and no money. After lots of screaming at the bank guys, the three girls head off to find work to pay off the debt. Miharu is the hero of the day as she manages to get a hold of a lot of money – but collapses with the effort? (I’ll be honest, twice through this story and the end still wasn’t clear to me.) It feels like it might continue, because while Miharu’s dedication to Yasumi, and Yasumi’s deep friendship, affection and indebtedness to Miharu were apparent, it wasn’t anything like anything I’d call “Yuri.”

“Honey Crush”, by Tsubaki Asu (He is my Master) was much funnier than expected. Mitsu is in love with Madoka, who doesn’t even know she exists. Mitsu’s pretty happy stalking Madoka, but is a little careless about it and, one day, she’s hit by a truck and killed. But now she can REALLY stalk Madoka – and drive away all the boys – and girls – that show any special interest in her. Woo-hoo! Plus she gets to be there when Madoka changes clothes and bathes, etc. etc. Mitsu’s pretty happy with the deal. Then transfer student Kyouko shows up, declaring that when they were kids, Madoka and she had promised to marry one another. Mitsu tries her best to scare Kyouko off, but Kyouko is actually able to see Mitsu and isn’t about to be budged. The best moment of the story comes when Kyouko asks Madoka if she ever liked a girl at her former school. Madoka has no clue what she’s talking about, of course. Kyouko writes “she didn’t even know you existed” on paper and triumphantly holds it up in Mitsu’s direction. It was a really funny scene, trust me. The two have it out which ends up with Kyouko comforting Mitsu, since it’s not easy to just stop liking someone, but Madoka makes it all moot when she shows up with a boyfriend. Bwha~wha~whaaaa~

“Fortune Ring” by Kashiwabara Mami (Sora no Manimani, but also a former Yuri Tengoku contributor) is a bittersweet story that has very pleasant art. Bracelets that one wears to declare one’s love for someone is all the rage at school. Maki has one, but she’s hiding it. Maki met Hirasaka-sempai when a teacher began to bully her because of her light colored hair. Sempai lied and said that she was on the swim team with her – the chlorine in the pool had bleached her hair. To lend verisimilitude to the lie, Sempai suggested she join the team, which Maki did. When Maki’s bracelet is discovered, Hirasaka-sempai ties it on her wrist. Maki’s feelings are all confused – worsened by the fact that she sees sempai with a bracelet of her own. Hirasaka-sempai encourages Maki to cut the “fortune ring” and break free. She shows her own unnecumbered wrist, then leaves. That night Maki cuts the bracelet, and returns to school only to see Sempai with a bracelet on her wrist again. Freed from her burden, Maki leaves both swim team and her first love behind.

“Poem ni Kaeshite” by Araki Kanao (Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru) has art that left me pretty cold. The main character, Mayu, is drawn in a way that I find irksome. Sort of the “cute little runt” style without the cute. In any case, Mayu is a sensitive type who falls in love with Ageha. After a little light stalking, they become a couple. If Mayu looked like an actual human being I might have liked the story. But she looked like a bug to me and I kept wanting to squash it.

“Suika,” by Yoshitomi Akihito (Blue Drop)) has the artist’s very recognizable style – very draftsman-like, expecially compared with the previous story. Last summer, Rin-chan and Sa-chan were suppsoed to have been studying, but they ended up spending all their time together eating wayyyy too much watermelon. Sa-chan has a weird watermelon obsession – she even says that what she’d *like* to do is bathe in watermelon, which grosses Rin-chan out a bit. Now, a year has passed and Rin shows up, with watermelon, of course, to a warm welcoming kiss from Sa-chan – and to a pool full of watermelon. Yes, they bathe in it. ^_^;

Oh goody! “Misuzu to Nanami” has followed us to this book! How wonderful. The gags this time deal with a mysterious fortuneteller (who is Ichijou-sempai, so not really mysterious) and sharp knives. Ah, this four-panel comic is always my favorite….

I’m going to leave off here, because the next story *is* my favorite and I want to start the next post off with it, because I think it will surprise you. :-)

Let me conclude this entry with this: while not every story was to my personal taste (I have that bizarre fetish of liking my humans to look human, and like adults, freak that I am) but, given the other series done by the above authors, I was mightily impressed. Considering the depth of loathing I feel for, say, He is My Master it absolutely floored me that I liked “Honey Crush” so much. I’m glad to learn that these folks can do stuff that doesn’t make my lips peel back in disgust. I concede defeat and promise to never judge a mangaka by one series again. ^_^

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