Yuri Manga: GIRL FRIENDS, Volume 2

December 21st, 2008

Ladies, let’s talk about when you first fell in love with another woman. Was it a friend? A teacher? A neighbor? Or was it your best friend – that person you always wanted to be with, who made you laugh the hardest and with whom you had some much fun that you never wanted to go home?

Remember the moment when it became something more? When you realized that you wanted to be with her when you were apart, but when you were together, you were so keyed up that you wanted to throw up. When you laid there at night thinking about her, wondering what the hell were you doing, thinking about her all the time?

In Girl Friends, Volume 2, Morinaga Milk absolutely *nails* the exact level of self-inflicted torture of being >this< close to the person you want, and can’t have. Mari is torturing herself over the kiss from last volume. She’s sure that if Ah-ko finds out, she’ll repudiate her. After days of barely being able to be in Ah-ko’s presence, Mari finally admits to the kiss. Ah-ko laughs it off as just something girls do sometimes. Mari’s relieved, but in her heart, she knows that she and Ah-ko aren’t speaking the same language.

A distraction from Mari’s flagellation comes in the form of an old schoolmate who, it turns out in a giant handwave from the plot complication gods, always liked Mari. He asks her out and, pleased to have someone else to focus her attention on, she agrees. A-ko, suspecting something is up, invites Mari over to play dress up, do her makeup and other girly things, in preparation for her big date. Almost immediately, A-ko realizes that Mari’s lukearm feelings for this boy are unfair to both parties. A-ko pushes the issue and Mari admits to liking someone else. A-ko insists that Mari has to tell that person – right away! Mari pushes A-ko back and kisses her, explaining that her feelings can never be returned.

Mari leaves A-ko sitting alone in her room, dealing with this sudden and forceful comprehension of her friend’s emotions. The volume also includes two “extra” chapters, in which we get sexy cosplay and teacher rumor service. ^_^

So, behind the girly shopping, clothes, hair, makeup, nails, etc, this story takes a turn for the realistic. In fact, Mari’s feelings are some of the most true-to-life I have ever seen regarding a first same-sex love in a manga. It might seem to many that the manga is moving slowly, but I say that this is a good thing for two reasons – one, we can see an honest look at the evolution of a girl’s feelings. (When you are falling in love for the first time, with your best, same-sex friend no less, you’re far more likely to spend weeks trying to assimilate these new feelings before ever even thinking of it as love, much less fantasizing about dragging them right off to bed.) Two, it means that there’s more volumes to come.

So few Yuri manga go to three volumes, much less longer; it’s nice to see something that’s taking the slow route to conclusion.


Art – 8
Story – 6
Characters – 7
Yuri – 7
Service – 5

Overall – 7

All in all, a surprisingly decent tale behind all the frills and sparkly girly stuff….

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23 Responses

  1. Rinu says:

    Ha, I almost wanted to say, “Something what I don’t want to read”. But the conclusion of article makes me wondering. Which is interesting since I take into account that I am not a fan of stories about falling in love with your bestfriend (Just imagine yourself on my place but watching twincest and you get an idea, lol) and the first volume filled by shopping and nothing-to-do stuff put me off. Thanks for the info, otherwise I would probably miss something not so typical.

    PS. But I’ll wait for 3rd volume to not hurt myself unnecessarily.

  2. Katherine says:

    I actually enjoy the shopping/”girly” aspects of Girl Friends ^^;;, being a mall rat myself. Overall, I really like this series, even the deliberate pacing. (Imo, a lot of Yuri fans probably find it slow because they’re so used to 1 to 2 volume series and one-shots. Girl Friends really isn’t any slower than, say, Mars or Maison Ikkoku.) Plus, the art, to me, is gorgeous. Morinaga really does hit the nail on the head as far as accuracy goes. The first girl who I just had a light crush on was some emo goth chick I was friends with in middle school and thought was “cool,” but in high school she met some guy online and moved to Orlando to be with him. -_-;; (Which prompted a self-surprising “I would be so much better than that sketchy guy!!” reaction.) But as far as the first time I was seriously into somebody (not just “She’s cool!!”), it did feel eerily similar to Mari. (A Senior girl who I knew in my Junior year of high school.) So major kudos to Morinaga for portraying that aspect remarkably well.

  3. darkchibi07 says:

    I REALLY hope this series goes for more than 3 volumes and thus lead to some Japanese company making an anime series out of it. This is seriously damn good stuff, and not to mention it’s far more beneficial in reading volume by volume than waiting each chapter every month.

  4. chilipop says:

    I thought Girlfriends was a major load of fluff too- at first.

    Then volume two rolled around, and I realized that you’re right- a lot of the experiences Mari has are completely and sometimes painfully true-to-life.

    Although I like the main characters enough to stick around, I am trying my best to tolerate Mari and Ako’s other ‘best friends’. They are completely boring.

  5. oneplusme says:

    Somehow, in spite of all the irritating product placement, I’ve found myself becoming a total sap over this series. Mari’s confession was such a wonderfully executed piece of melodrama that I couldn’t help but feel for her. Even though it’s teeth-grindingly frustrating watching Akko fail to grow a clue, I still can’t wait for the next chapter…

  6. I’m actually reading MakiMaki scanlations at the moment. I’m really enjoying Girl Friends! it’s tad slow but sweet and I like the art. I think it all climaxes around chapter 14 onwards. No spoilers but it gets better!! Can’t wait for more!

  7. @yasashiisekai – Please forgive me for being a broken record, but let me use your comment to remind people that while scanlations are nice for you, they do not pay the bills at all. the reasons to buy a manga are several:

    1) You make the unequivocal statement that there is an audience out there that wants this manga and is willing to pay for it.

    2) You pay the bills for the publishing company, which allows them to print more Yuri manga

    3) You support the mangaka in his/her endeavors to bring Yuri manga to the world.

    Scanlations don’t do *any* of the above, and in effect, give the publisher the impression that there is no audience who will pay for this kind of thing.

    So while I am a broken record, please rest asssured that it is only because I feel so striongly about sending the right message to the Japanese publishers – “We want this and will pay for it. Please keep it coming.”

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yup. True-to-life.

  9. JazzCat says:

    I am a bit torn about this one. On the one hand I really want it to be more than three volumes, but on the other hand the whole situation between Ako and Mari really puts my heart through all kinds of painful twists. Yes, I realize that I tend to emphasize with fictional characters way too much, but that’s just how I am. And things become even more complicated now Ako realizes her feelings for Mari, which were pretty obvious to me right from the start. I mean, Ako went all-out to get closer to Mari, at times coming pretty close to seducing her (nude photo’s while she’s in bath, anyone?) All tat time she also doesn’t date any boys, even though she is popular and pretty.

    The product placements are rather blatant, but not out of the ordinary for teenage girls who like branded goods. As for scanlations: I read them along with the original Japanese issues to learn the language, since I am still far from reading it fluently.

  10. Burnouts3s3 says:

    Thank you for taking the time and reviewing this manga.

    I felt a bit confused when you gave the story a 6 if it captured the feeling of forbidden love so perfectly.

    However, your judgement is your judement and I have no say in it.

  11. @Burnouts3s3 – because tales of kids in school torturing themselves about their closeted selves isn’t really my fave kind of story. :-) If that’s your kind of story, give it an 8.

  12. Katherine says:

    Well, hopefully it will progress beyond the “Zomg, I like a girl!” stage, and show Mari and A-ko as a couple for a good long while, a la Nana and Hitomi (here’s hoping > <). I too am somewhat bothered when Yuri stories use the "forbidden love" schtick. (The one thing that bothered me about the technical aspects of the Strawberry Panic light novel- how the description on the back used the tedious "forbidden love" tag.) Still, imo, this is a few levels higher than how Chikane's feelings were handled in Kannazuki no Miko.

  13. darkchibi07 says:

    I think most of us would love to see this manga go beyond the love confession and acceptance. That’s what the most recent episodes of Clannad After Story is doing at this moment to a certain extent.

  14. grace says:

    i think Girlfriends hits the nail on the head. it’s a wonderful read and an excellent addition to anyone’s bookshelf. Morinaga-sensei rocks, and i’m a huge Nana X Hitomi fangirl, so here’s hoping that this extends to further volumes!

  15. Senbei says:

    Being one of the people who thought this manga was moving slowly, I have to admit that the characters are worth slowing down for. Plus, I hadn’t really been thinking about comparing it to other Yuri manga, but you’re right: it’s nice to have a story longer than a couple volumes for a change.

    I’ve been trying to imagine this show as an anime. Certainly it would be wonderful for the Yuri community (even if they sucked life out of it). I’m thinking though, if they did that, in order to capture a bigger audience they would have to either introduce story elements that don’t exist in the original (which is always cumbersome and hard to swallow) or else push the commercial aspect. I kind of like it the way it is, as a story of self-discovery encapsulating the multiple dimensions of a girl’s life. There are some anime I think that do a good job of that, but usually they have a bigger plot device that runs the show as in Paradise Kiss or Nana, or else has a fantastic element like in Asagiri no Miko or Kamichu. I hope we can get some shoujo or josei like this as anime soon. Something like Kare Kano would be nice.

  16. Hi Erica – I completely understand your view on scanlations. I’m actually looking into ordering them from Amazon or the like. I admit that I’m hesitating a little cos I can’t read Japanese. Anyway, thanks for your review.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Sorry if i’m being impudent, but I can’t help but wonder- you say ‘A-ko’, where I would have assumed that ‘Akko’ would have been the correct translation (insofar as romaji is ever correct) … does the small “tsu” indicate an elongating of the following character? I have to admit, it totally bewildered me until I realised “chotsuto” was actually “chotto”, and since then i had assumed it indicated a double letter. As a total beginner, I would truly appreciate your advice.

    Thank you, and also merry christmas!

  18. @Anonymous – Yes, Akko would be a perfectly find way to transliterate her name.

  19. ashura_n says:

    Just wondering but can I get this series anywhere outside of Japan? I mean in English or Chinese since I can’t read Japanese, but I reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally love Morinaga-sensei’s works and wanna support her by buying the books.

  20. @ashura__n Right now, the book is only in Japanese.

  21. Anonymous says:

    As ever, I’m late coming to this manga, but enjoyed it. I understand that buying the manga is the best way of getting the message across that there’s an audience for it, but sadly not everyone knows Japanese. Apart from learning the language, how else is one supposed to support it? I’ve read the scanlations and would still buy it if it’s EVER released in English.

  22. @Anonymous – There is no way for you to “show support” other than by buying the book. What you’re doing right now is pretty much stealing, then saying, well, hey, if something more convenient to me comes along I’ll help out, but…

    Look, I get it. You can’t read Japanese. And no one is putting scanlators in jail, so it must be okay. But, you know – it’s not, really. Please read this: http://ht.ly/3CQcT

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