Comic Yuri Hime: Wildrose, Volume 1 (百合姫 Wildrose) is an anthology from Ichijinsha, the folks who put out Yuri Hime magazine. Many of the artists are already contributors to YH, and some are known for outside series.
The stories in the collection are variations on the “two schoolgirls in love” theme, much like the ES ~ Eternal Sisters and Yuri Tengoku anthologies. Most of them involve sex, very few of them involve plot or characterization.
The entirety of the collection can be summed up by describing one story, drawn by Morishima Akiko, in which the two protagonists, having kissed, wonder out loud “What’s next?” And as they progress to “what’s next” we get a sort of shortened version of every lesbian’s internal coming out – without the lesbian identity, of course.
Which leads me to today’s digression. Recently, on the Yuricon Mailing List, we had a discussion about how few Yuri characters are “out and proud.” The majority of posters said that it was enough for a character to be “obvious” to be considered “out,” with me disagreeing, as usual. lol I feel that in order to be considered out, one has to actually be able to say, “I am a lesbian.” Otherwise, you’re just “obvious.” Not the same thing at all to me.
This all made me realize something I hadn’t ever put into words before, so here we go – “Yuri” is, almost by definition, a character with lesbian interest who is *not* lesbian-identified.
Even my beloved Queens of Yuri, Haruka and Michiru, never came out. They were obvious, but never once did they say “we’re a couple” or “we’re lesbian.” Yes, the creator later said that. And yes, they were characters in a shoujo manga in 1994. But the point is – they are not “out” in the context of the canon. In fact, when confronted directly in the anime, Haruka denies that they are a couple (I have a theory about that, but I’ll skip it for now) and in the manga asked in return if it really mattered whether she was a man or a woman? This was probably as close as Takeuchi could get to coming out at the time, but it was still ambiguous enough for many people to deny their “obvious” relationship.
If a character self-defines as a lesbian, then she’s out. But the LARGE majority of Yuri characters are not out – they are “just, in love” with this-person-who-happens-to-be-female. Much like the large proportion of BL characters who are amazingly not gay, although they only have sex and relationships with other men.
When pressed, obviously “lesbian” characters in manga will often say, “I like women” or “I don’t want to be labled” rather than say “I am a lesbian.”
I imagine that some of this can be chalked up to the Japanese preference for obfuscation and some to the fact that ambiguity sells better. And to add to this, the fact that long-term couples in real life don’t walk around saying “Hi, we’re lesbians,” so in actual *lesbian* manga (and real life,) you still don’t have overt “outness.” Rica and Miho going to Gay Pride, are rare indeed. There’s far more like Nene and Jun, who have sex, fall in love, and generally are a couple, without *ever* acknowledging that that is what they are. You know – “More than friends, less than lovers.” (A phrase that I later commented allows a person to have her cake and eat it too. Pun intended.)
So most of the stories in Wildrose are in this space – girls in love, having relationships – and sex – with other girls, but they’re not lesbians. Just, you know, in love.
Here is what I thought was the best story of the collection. It begins with Yumi and Sachiko clones. The Yumi clone, Mari, tells us – and all her classmates – that she and the Sachiko clone, Michika, are in love. And we see them sitting next to each other in class where Michika passes Mari an eraser, their eyes briefly meeting not particularly meaningfully. Then Mari tells us that they go out for a bite after school together, so we see them sitting next to one another at a snack counter – but apart as if there is no connection. In fact, it becomes apparent that the relationship is one-sided and our cheerful little Yumi clone is a stalker. Her friends freak out and try to stop her, but she gets away from them as she follows the subject of her desire. Her friends go one way, but we see behind the wall where the two girls are now together, embracing passionately. Mari and Michika make love, and Michika apologizes for not being more forthcoming recently. Of course she is forgiven. The next day at school, the classmates all demand to hear that they have a relationship directly from Michika’s mouth. “From my mouth” she says, and leans over to kiss Mari. The classmates all apologize for their doubt and we’re left smiling, because it was a stupid, but fun, almost-Marimite parody story. With no lesbians.
Ratings (variable, so everything is averaged):
Art – 6
Stories – 6
Characters – 6
Yuri – 9
Service – 7 (lots of undressing)
Overall – 6
If what you like best is young women finding love and sex with one another Wildrose is perfect. If you’re looking for something with more awareness of lesbian identity, go re-read Rica tte Kanji?! :-)