Otsu Hiyori is a darn good storyteller. Not many mangaka are. If they can draw, they often can’t write. Vice versa applies, as well. And even if you have an awesome team of artist/writer, if the magazine’s editing staff has specific, overwhelming requirements, or they aren’t good at their job or any number of other things, the end result can, to coin a phrase…suck.
Not so with Otsu Hiyori, whose deft, light-handed touch makes for individual stories that read pleasantly and, when collected, turn into a little slice of wow. One such slice is Clover. It is a collection of stories that ran in Comic Yuri Hime and one fabulous omake chapter that makes it all the more ‘wow’-er.
Let us begin at the beginning. I *completely* missed that the stories that make up Clover were about 4 sisters. Sure, they all had the same family name, but I never noticed their family name in the first place. And the stories are told in non-chronological fashion – and the magazine comes out 3 months apart, so pardon me for not noticing, okay?!? ^_^
So, the Tachibana family has four sisters, each of whom have had at least one relationship that involves falling for another woman, or having one fall for them. They are all very cool about it; it’s not screaming, knife-wielding drama for this family (nor for any of Otsu’s characters ever, really.) And for most of the sisters it was but a fleeting moment in time. Except for one.
In “Bitter Girl,” Midori finds herself at rope’s end working at a cake shop during the holiday season with no help. She asks the girl who drops by all the time to help out and so, Sugiura starts to work with her. As they work together, they talk about themselves and ultimately, Sugiura and Midori start going out. Midori’s not entirely sure about this, because she thinks she’s doing it as a lark, but when a boy asks her out, and Sugiura breaks up with her to free her up, Midori realizes that she’s fallen for Sugiura! She runs after the other girl, only to catch up to her and find that despite the cheerful face she had on when she said goodbye, Sugiura is crying. Midori and she are honest with one another at last. The story had a nice extended epilogue in which we learned that Sugiura really don’t like cake at all – she liked the girl at the cake shop. ^_^
The collected volume Clover also has an extended epilogue omake that finds Sugiura and Midori still together 3 years later. Sugiura is in law school and always busy; Midori is home, feeling a bit resentful of playing the role of the wife. She feels as if she’s being taken for granted and is starting to rethink this relationship. When she confronts Sugiura, the other woman falls apart instantly, as she did all those years ago. Midori realizes that she was misinterprating Seiko’s feelings completely, and the two of them patch it up instantly. On the final page, we see Sugiura, now a successful lawyer (we can tell because of the suit,) being seen off by Midori – and so we can assume happily ever after.
I just loved this collection. Otsu’s stories rarely feel typical, even when they are playing in safe waters. There’s always a feeling of self-awareness about the characters, as if they are looking at themselves and seeing some of their situation from outside themselves. Otsu’s style fits the atypical stories – the ones set outside of high school – best, because her characters are so often mature and laid-back.
Art – 8
Stories – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 8
Service – 1
Overall – 8
A great book, one that will fly under most people’s radar because there are no mecha, no sex, no over-the-top melodrama. I know Seven Seas can’t bring over the more explicit Yuri Hime books and if they bring this out it probably won’t sell well because “nothing happens.” But this is a *fabulous* example of Yuri that does not suck and I hope that they can bring it over here and you can all prove me wrong by making it a best-seller. ^_^