Yumi is a woman with a gift. She loves women. Her gift is to bring women understanding about the people and things that are most important to them, to make them see what they really need to focus on, and to envision their own happiness and dreams, by sleeping with them. Because Yumi’s gift is so powerful, she sleeps with a lot of women, to help them all find the happiness they deserve. A dream job, really. :-)
Reijin na Hito (Beautiful Woman) is one of the few collections based on stories that ran in Mist Magazine, the classic adult-, and often lesbian-themed, “Ladies Comics” manga magazine that ran in the mid to late 90’s. It’s a testament to how many issues of Mist I am still missing that of all the chapters in this book, I had only read the first. I have a new purpose in life – I *must* find the other issues. (This is me making a determined face.)
So, in each chapter, a woman is in a relationship already, but is either unhappy – usually due to low self esteem or lack of faith in her lover – or doesn’t realize what she has. Yumi comes onto the scene and everyone goes gaga for her. She’s apparently unworldly in her beauty, something the art doesn’t *quite* live up to. The protagonist falls for Yumi’s beauty and that *something* which is her gift. By the end of the story, Yumi’s unconditional love and angelic magnificence has made the protagonist realize how important her real lover is. Protagonist and lover live happily ever after and Yumi moves on.
This was basically the plot for all but one chapter, which was my favorite.
In that one chapter, we meet supermodel Yamagata Hiroko. She’s incredibly famous and popular, and has recently done a nude photo collection. Now, to understand the significance of this, you kind of need to understand the bigger picture in the Japanese idol world. Doing a nude photo shoot is very much a two-edged sword for a Japanese model. On the one hand, it guarantees her insto-popularity, but on the other hand, those fans are probably all the “wrong” kind. In other words, she may increase her popularity, but she loses the respect of the industry. On the ever-present third hand, doing nudes is practically required by the industry, which then labels you as a slut and tosses you out the door because you’re not pure anymore and they’re looking at then newest 14 year old to walk in. And I wish I were kidding when I say all of this, but I’m not.
So, when Hiroko puts out her nude photo collection, people start saying that she’s washed up, that she did that to increase her waning popularity and because she’s old. (She’s probably 24.) Her ego takes a big hit and she practically has a breakdown. And then Yumi shows up. It turns out that she and Yumi are not only on-again, off-again lovers, but perfectly suited to one another. And, as they talk and make love, Yumi not only gives Hiroko back her self-esteem, she allows her to see herself and her dream clearly. Hiroko’s dream, it turns out, is to design clothes – not just any clothes, but to design the perfect outfit for Yumi. In the morning Yumi wakes up to find herself alone and reads a letter from Hiroko explaining this. Yumi begins to cry as she reads, and we learn that she deeply and truly loves this woman. It was bittersweet and, considering the book as a whole, kind of touching.
Reijin na Hito is not world shaking, nor is Kobayashi Takumi my favorite Mist artist. But the stories are basically sexy, empowering in a way and 100% lesbian. (I so desperately wanted to type “have no icky men to ruin the story” here but didn’t, because you just know someone was going to quote that out of context…. ^_^) And for sheer rarity, it’s plain cool to have it.
Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 6
Yuri – 10
Service – 8
Overall – 7
Again, thank you Erin, it’s very cool and much appreciated addition to the world’s largest Yuri collection, which is taking over my house. ^_^