Yuri Manga: Shiroi Bara no Otome

June 9th, 2008

Everything about this manga, the cover, the title, the unadulteratedly derivative setup, told me that I would not like it. It practically screams “another crappy Maria-sama ga Miteru rip-off!” Well, you know what? It wasn’t *nearly* as bad as I thought. ^_^

Shiroi Bara no Otome is the first Josei Marimite rip-off that I’ve read. That alone sets it apart from the rest of the massive pack full of second-string derivative works that are mostly targeted towards guys.

Hanaguchi Yoshiko is a transfer student into a high-end private school for girls. Like most of these in manga, it is an elevator school, so students that have been in the system from a younger age are given preference over outside students – and it is harder to transfer in at high school than middle school. Yoshiko is a writer – she even won a literature award a a young girl…a memory that haunts her to this day.

When she transfers into this garden of privilege, she basically ignores the crap the other girls pull on her, because she thinks they are a bunch of losers. She wears earphones and writes and doesn’t care if anyone likes her or not. When someone tries to bully her, she’s right back in their faces, because she doesn’t care. So of course, by her third year, she’s the school hero. All the underclassman admire her brazen strength of will.

Yoshiko finds herself befriended by the star of the school, the impossibly rich, beautiful, perfect, popular, etc, etc, Takamiya Tsukiko. And then she finds herself being manipulated by two-faced Tsukiko. Yoshiko is not an idiot – she recognizes what’s going on *instantly*. And then she does something I have never ever seen in a manga – she decides to let Tsukiko fuck with her, because she thinks it will make a great story.

It was an amazing moment. Yoshiko’s like, yeah, this is *drama* – let’s see what crap she’ll dump in my lap. And Tsukiko pulls out the stops, seducing Yoshiko at one moment, abandoning her to the wolves the next. When an off-hand accidental observation draws both the school bully and Tsukiko in for questioning about being at an American GI bar in the harbor, Yoshiko lies to save Tsukiko. The bully, Fujiwara, says she’ll regret it, but Yoshiko won’t – it’s become another chapter in her book.

Tsukiko is always seen with rich boy Yuu three paces behind her. Yoshiko and he become close and end up sleeping together. Yoshiko leaves him a note chiding him for sleeping with someone else when he loves another woman. This is followed by a very funny scene, as Yoshiko accidentally meets Fujiwara in a store, and worries that the other girl might notice something different about her, because, you know…. Fujiwara says no, but once she’s off-scene, you can hear that she’s whispering gossipingly to her friends. ^_^

Because Yoshiko sees right through Tsukiko, she can see that there’s some real issues there with trust and friendship. She learns that Tsukiko had a childhood friend for years and years, all through school. Because she felt that her friend had betrayed her by falling for another student in middle school, Tsukiko manipulated them both into an attempted love suicide by taking pills. They survived, but moved away. Tsukiko has never apologized. Yoshiko makes her face her beloved friend and deal with the consequences. I particularly liked that the friend was visibly unattractive and gloomy in every picture and flashback, and when we see her now she looks like a not-particularly-attractive girl who has grown into herself just fine. The other girl in the attempted suicide has a boyfriend now, but in my imagination Sonoda goes home to a loving girlfriend.

Yoshiko leaves the school at graduation with no regrets, and Tsukiko looks like she’ll be able to move on, too.

Yuri is typical girls-school akogare, some handholding, the attempted love suicide and one or two sexual-tension filled embraces and scenes. That was enough, really. Any more would have been overkill.

I was expecting all the same-old same-olds, but the fact that Yoshiko entered into them with eyes and brain wide open changed *everything* about this story. No, the girl did not get the girl – and thank heavens for that, it would be an awful match. But the reader did get a good story and that’s all I care about.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 8
Characters – 7
Yuri – 4
Service – 2 (Private school + girls = zOMG Yuri!)

Overall – 7

This is good, precisely because it is a Marimite rip-off that is not full of service.

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7 Responses

  1. Shoujofan says:

    Great review. I really want to read this. Crossing thingers for a Lililicious project. ^_^ Thanks for presenting this manga to us, Erica.

  2. Shoujofan says:

    fingers, not thingers… Sorry. :P

  3. Bons says:

    lol that sounds like an AWESOME story. yoshiko ftw.

  4. Danny says:

    It really does sound good. An intelligent, competent protagonist is a good change of pace.

  5. eupheminism says:

    You know not every girls’ school shoujo-ai is a Marimite ripoff. Girls’ school shoujo-ai has been around much longer than that awful series.

    The concept of girls’ school shoujo-ai has been popular in Japan nearly as long as girls’ schools have been around in that country, with the common intimate, romantic “S” (for sister) relationships that girls would often form with schoolmates. “S” relationships have been featured in Japanese girls’ novels and manga since at least the 1940s with little taboo attached. Lililicious has scanlated one from as far back as the 1950s.

    By the description you give, I’d say this title sounds more similar to the 1970s classic Oniisama e, with a girl transferring into a prestigious elevator school and being faced with bullying, than Maria-sama ga Miteru. It sounds pretty original, though, and I’m interested. Here’s another person hoping for a Lililicious scanlation!

  6. eupheminism says:

    Ah… having looked around this blog and realized that its writer is the western hemisphere’s empress of Yuri, I’m going to have to retract that presumptuous comment of mine and proceed to virtually bow deeply.

    I still don’t like Marimite, though.

  7. @eupheminism – No worries. I do know about “S” and about “Yaneura no Nishojo” and the socio-literary roots of Yuri manga. I also know a Marimite clone when I see it. lol

    You’re well within your rights to dislike the series, although I can’t agree with you there. :-)

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