In Ruri-iro Yume (瑠璃色の夢) Morishima Akiko gets to realize a dream of hers – one that I happen to share. She is able to draw a series of stories about adult women in relationships with other women.
I’ve been saying over and over how she’s the one Yuri manga creator that consistently pushes at this particularly truculent line in the sand. Most “Yuri” stories lie firmly in a world of schoolgirl crushiness or some equivalent fantasy space. The understanding is that, while the emotions are real – the relationship is ephemeral. Women don’t stay with their school days female lovers, it’s “playing at” romantic love. Of course they will go on to marry a man and have children, thereby giving up any pretense at a professional life. This would all sound like me being sarcastic, except that it is very much the prevailing attitude in Japan. Women work until they find a man, then sequestor themselves in a life as a domestic caretaker until their kids leave. Everyone knows that’s how it goes.
Morishima takes a few quirky looks at lives that don’t fall into this stereotypical life plan by first dealing with someone whose dream is, in fact, very stereotypical. Ruri is an OL, a Office Lady. Office Ladies are a kind of mix between an admin, a hostess and a maintenance worker. They do random odd jobs around the office, including copies, serving coffee and changing light bulbs. It is stereotypically a job that a woman would take in order to meet and marry a nice salaryman. (Since she is naturally going to stop working when she gets married, there’s no conflict about office romances.)
Ruri has a dream of finding a nice guy, getting married and having a child she names after herself, a hint that this dream is at least a little narcissistic. But she finds herself instead involved with a female co-worker, Mitsukuni. Ruri mentions her dream of a typical life one night at dinner and is *shocked* to be rejected by Mitsukuni. Next week, back in the office, Mitsukuni admits that that dream repulses her – she wants nothing of the sort. Ruri has to decide what she really wants…and ultimately decides that Mitsukuni’s love is more important that her childish dream.
I found this story to be rather ironic, myself, since Ruri casts aside the typical dream of a pretty boring, repressive life as if it’s childish and unrealistic, instead embracing what is traditionally seen as an “immature” love.
In the next story, although the two women are college students, their love is still an exploration of childhood dreams, in which one is the long-suffering Prince to the other’s selfish Princess.
And then there’s “Honey & Mustard,” which started a new series that’s now running in Yuri Hime. This series deals with adult women in adult jobs and a variety of relationships. In my review of this story when it ran in the magazine, I pointed out that it was significant for using the phrase “kocchi no kei,” i.e., “one of us,” thus for the first time in the pages of Yuri Hime acknowledging that there is an “us.” Us, of course, being lesbians. The main characters are women who were once lovers and are now good friends, but no less lovers of women, despite the fact that they have put aside their schoolgirl days.
The next story explores the idea of “alternative family” from a slightly different perspective than usual. Kyou has been in love with Konomi since she was a child. After Konomi’s husband died, she took over being Konomi’s companion and ultimately became her lover. But there’s a gap somewhere in the relationship and it makes Kyou uncomfortable. Ultimately she decides that being Konomi’s family means more than being her lover and they start all over again.
A continuation of Eri and Keiko’s May-December romance provides some classic Unresolved Sexual Tension and a look at what love means when you’re “over-the-hill” by Japanese standards.
And finally, in a side story from Hanjuku Joshi Chitose’s older sister Chie goes to Chie’s school festival looking for Yuri, but is shocked to find love.
It might not seem like much to you, reading these one at a time, but I know what Morishima-san read as a young woman and I know why this is all an amazing shift to a much more realistic look at lesbian life and love.
In “Story A” a schoolgirl is usually portrayed only in the school setting. She is in love with the idea of another girl and the story ends when they to recognize their mutual interest in one another. Even when she is doing this, Morishima adds layers to it. Chie’s search for Yuri was semi-professional, but her feelings for a younger girl totally bowl her over. Kaori and Mitsuki are adult women, “careerwomen” as they say in Japan. They have already acknowledged their love for women and its just another part of their lives. Keiko finds herself dealing more with her age issues than issues about Eri’s gender, and Kyo decides a different relationship will bring her closer to Konomi, not further apart. And then there’s Ruri, rejecting the childish dream and embracing a reality that is still often shoved into the closet to fulfill other people’s expectations.
These are not your usual Yuri stories. That having been said, Morishima’s art is *extremely* moe. Even when her characters are 28, they look round cheeked, fresh-faced and cute, as opposed to cool or mature. This is Morishima’s style and it fits nicely with Yuri fandom’s need to keep Yuri out of the realm of reality and strictly in the realm of fantasy. Imagine the consternation of those 30% of Yuri Hime readers if the magazine didn’t just say, “Men Not Allowed” (as it does on the cover in a way that is clearly designed to drawn men to it like flies) but instead had realistically drawn and told stories of lesbian drama. Think about it.
It would be hilariously dull.
In any case, Morishima’s art is super-duper cute. But her stories are smart, poignant and often very real. And, okay, sometimes her stories are super-duper cute, too. ^_^
Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 9
Lesbian – 7
Service – 7
Overall – 9