Yuri Manga: Applause, Volume 2

July 10th, 2007

Applause, Volume 2 picks up just where we left off at the end of Volume 1, with Shara in New York studying dance and her “show business” friends trying to start up a new show.

While Shara glows with effort, our attention is turned to the hottest new producer on Broadway, one Georges Bejart. Yes, the very same Georges who was Shara’s old flame Junaque’s fiancee’. Small world, neh? Unbeknowst to Shara, Junaque and Georges have come to New York. Georges puts himself in Shara’s way. They reunite – somewhat ambiguously. Georges invites Shara to come out with him on his yacht. They reminisce about life in Belgium, talk about Junaque and in a weak moment, they kiss. Shara takes herself off alone after the date, obviously regretting that kiss.

Walking alone at night, we follow Shara’s long shadow as she returns home. Her steps slow down, stop, and we see her face in stunned horror. But what she is gazing on is not a stalker or rapist – we look past her shoulder to see huge posters of Broadway’s newest star, Shelle Bejart about whom we have heard so much. To Shara’s shock, there, staring down at her, is Junaque.

This was absolutely the BEST moment of the entire series. Great visual, great spin on what was a sort of tired scene. I recommend reading this volume just for this moment.

Shara returns to her apartment, surprising her friends with the statement that she will, after all, return to the stage. Immediately, their play, “Success,” becomes a success.

Georges is still being rebuffed by Junaque/Shelle, who has taken up drinking, as well as becoming unpalatably spoiled. But we can see that it’s all because of her breakup with Shara. Georges can too and it isn’t making him happy. He pays a visit to Shara after her show to give her flowers, but she’s more interested in what he can tell her of Junaque than in his good wishes.

Quite accidentally, Junaque learns of Shara’s “Success” and is just as shocked as Shara was to find that she is in New York. She goes on stage that night, acting with all her heart – not for the audience, but for her lost love. (One of the charming things about Applause is that we get to watch the actual plays. This becomes more important to the plot as time goes on.)

Georges talks to Shara’s friends Alfie and Gerald, about producing a play with Shara in it. Alfie is asked to write the script. Georges also starts putting pressure on Junaque/Shelle to marry him, since that was a condition of him bringing her to New York.

Now that she knows that Shelle, nee’ Junaque is in the city, Shara tries to see her and bring her flowers after her show, but she can’t face Junaque, so she runs away.

The next chapter opens up – as the next several will – with newspaper and magazine articles on the two women, to show their parallel path to stardom. So close, they all seem to say, but so far.

It has been decided, the two will star in a play together, produced by Georges. They are invited to be on a TV gala affair hosted by an incredibly talented and beloved older actress, Katherine Reed, (who apparently has been searching for a woman who is very important to her for many years.) As part of the show, they’re given a basic plot and a setting and asked to quick read a script, then ad lib the rest of the scene. The scene appears to be about two jealous lovers….their performance is unsettingly realistic. Everyone watching it flipped out – it’s like they *were* jealous lovers. But that can’t be – this is the first time Kisaragi Shara and Shelle Bejart have ever met!

The show ends with Reed singing a few songs and bidding show business goodbye. It’s a huge hit. Shara watches as Junaque and Georges drive off together. In the car, Junaque opens a book that Shara has given her – it’s the script from Manon Lescaut, the play they had performed together in school. Inside is a note…

Junaque tells the driver to stop then, despite Georges protests, gets out of the car and runs back and into Shara’s arms. Without a word to her friends, Shara and Junaque hop into a cab and take off. They run, as they did when they were young, to the shore. After many a confession, of love, of loss, of forgiveness, they spend the night together in a house by the ocean that Junaque has conveniently bought.

But. Georges finds them there, and tells Junaque to return with him, she has a show to do. Junaque writes Shara a note to wait for her and leaves. When she wakes up alone, Shara rejects the note – and with it, Junaque, vowing to never wait another second for her. Junaque calls the house, but no one answers. Shara is gone.

Meanwhile, the older actress who hosted the TV show, Katherine Reed, gets news of the woman she has been searching for for years, her beloved Maggie….who died three years ago.

The books ends with Broadway at 8PM, when fortunes and careers end and begin.

While not a happy little volume, this volume is *good*. Art, story, character, all good. It is admittedly a little high on the melodrama, but it’s a romance manga – it must be forgiven as a handwave. Can anyone say “soap opera?” ^_^ There’s also hardly any sign of the shoujo manga it had been. This manga is all josei. Everyone looks and acts all grown up. Seriously good art – that one scene with the posters is worth the price of admission right there, and Shara and Junaque get one blissful night together. IMHO, all quite excellent.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 9
Service – 3
Overall – 7

Don’t get too weepy yet, there’s even MORE melodrama to come! ^_^

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