Family Complex Manga

April 3rd, 2008

Can “fake” Yuri be enjoyable? In the case of Family Complex, the answer is definitely yes.

(Before I forget, my thanks today go to Zig, for sponsoring today’s review. A new sponsor for Okazu, and much appreciated!)

If we are honest as Yuri fans, “fake” Yuri comprises the largest percentage of Yuri that we encounter. Fake Yuri includes, but is not limited to, such things as: straight characters who are seen draped over one another in a way that the easily deluded see as them being a couple; best friends who are 10 years old and seem to be “in love” with each other (or, more commonly, one of the friends is “in love” with the other one); the subject of desire is not really a human girl but is instead a guy dressed as a girl, or an android, or an alien or something that is anything other than a human girl.

All of the above are so common as Yuri plots that most Yuri fans don’t really think twice about accepting them as Yuri. There are of course an endless number of ways in which Yuri is included in stories without the involved characters being in any way lesbian. These are just a few examples.

In Family Complex, Tsuda Mikiyo embraces several of the most popular “fake” Yuri themes. With a twist. ^_^

The basic premise of Family Complex is simple. Two attractive parents have four beautiful children…well, three beautiful children and a plain one. As with another Tsuda work, HaruNatsuAkiFuyu (which she wrote as as Zaou Taishi,) the children’s names reflect the four seasons Harumi, Natsuru, Akira and Fuyuki. Each of the chapters of the volume follows one of the four children and their particular sense of alienation and discomfort with the world.

In each case the story, and the character, are handled with compassion, humor and in the end, they are all grounded solidly in the love they receive from their family members. So, overall, it’s a painless, sweet and often amusing look at a very close family. For that alone, it’s a pleasure to read. No missing parents, abusive siblings, horrible family life at all. In fact, in at least one case, the biggest problem appears to be that the family is too close and they love each other too much – but never in a particularly creepy way.

Yuri rears it’s fake-y head thrice.

Natsuru, second child and oldest sister, goes to an all-girls’ school, where she is draped over her best friend constantly and so, of course, everyone assumes they are a couple. They aren’t. It’s played for laughs and nothing else. But – the laugh is on us, because at the end of the book, in one of the omake (extra) chapters, we see that Natsuru has followed her best friend to college and spends her time chasing boys off her. Uh….really? I see.

The final chapter of the main story follows the youngest daughter, Fuyuki, who is typically paralyzed into silence while she overthinks things. Of all of the chapters, this was the one I found the most amusing. In the end, her family convinces her to speak her mind, which brings about in her a crazed transformation into a really brutally honest and forthright chatterbox. Again, in the omake chapter, we see Fuyuki, now grown up a bit. She has cut away her goth-loli locks and is now wearing her hair short and, interestingly, macking on the girls. Uh-huh.

Lastly, the fakiest of the fake Yuri in the book is revealed when we learn about the parents’ history and how they met. It is also revealed that Dad makes a pretty girl when he cross-dresses and that Mom and Dad were often, when they were younger, mistaken for a Yuri couple. Gotcha.

To be fair, there is also fake BL in abundance and some more fake cross-dressing in the book, so Tsuda covers all of her normal gender mindfuck bases for a home run of fake sexual minority issues.

And, as a bonus, we get a series of interesting, but deeply strange, extra chapters, which include not only stories about the characters of Family Complex, but also about Tsuda’s emergency eye surgery and her inability to remember which name she has written any particular story under, which I found very amusing. I also thought it interesting that she draws herself and her co-creator Eiki Eiki intermittently as human beings, as well as the more usual animal avatars. It’s not often we see a mangaka draw herself as an actual person, and not some drooling SD character or anthropomorphized creature.

In terms of reproduction this volume is slick until towards the end, where the pages start getting out of whack. Borders, word balloons and pictures start to be cut off at odd angles. It looked very strange and I wondered what on earth had happened during the layout or printing. But since the manga is meant for fluff fun I wasn’t going to scream about it.

After thinking about it, I decided that I actually prefer Tsuda’s art to Eiki Eiki’s. The lips aren’t as distracting, even if the characters all look exactly the same. Good thing Tsuda wrote notes identifying taller grown-up Akira, or short-haired Fuyuki, or I wouldn’t have had a clue.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 7
Fake Yuri – 4
Service – 3

Overall – 8

The omake were, in many ways, the most enjoyable part of the book. But as a whole, it was definitely a good-feel read. Much better than Tsuda’s more well-known series, IMHO.

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