Yuri, Yaoi Manga and More: Rakuen Le Paradis Magazine

January 31st, 2010

In an industry that primarily determines genre by target audience, the rarest of publications is one for “anyone who wants to read this publication.”

There are a few of these kinds of magazines. Kodansha’s Morning 2 can fall into that category, as can F Comics’ Manga Erotics F magazine. Not surprisingly, I really like both of these magazines. The stories are really meant for adult readers, but the content is varied, kind of odd and offbeat. In Morning 2 you have a sincere, cleanly drawn story about a young man who is a rising star as a magician, right next to some really strange, supernatural, violent, non-linear crazyness. Neither Gunjo nor Peepoo Choo were at all out of place in what is an overall experimental magazine. Erotics F runs stories of adult relationships or gang warfare right next to something like Aoi Hana.

To me, what these magazine say is that there is a different manga reading audience. A niche audience. This audience is composed of adults who admire manga for more than just the heroic fighting or the romance aspects, adults who are looking for good stories, drawn interestingly.

I count Rakuen Le Paradis as one more of these rare magazines. This one particularly seems to be for whoever wants to read it, rather than a particular demographic niche. And it is the very first magazine that I have ever seen that carries stories with straight, lesbian and gay pairings under one cover. I can’t say I liked everything in the magazine, but damn if I wasn’t impressed with it as a whole.

The first story is by Kowo Kazuma, the creator of Junsui Adolescence. It’s a straight romance that I quite liked, with a decent bit of character building in a short space. Following that is what was possibly my least favorite story, also straight, about a guy and woman who were a terrible match and not at all likable, separately or together, by Kiko Urino.

This was followed by a story of an established lesbian couple by Nishi UKO. They are established, but not without conflict. One can’t stop buying books and the other spends all her money on clothes. They can’t stop fighting about it, but it doesn’t stop them from loving each other. I loved this one, I admit it. Their befuddled friends were a great touch. :-)

Mika Hisaka’s story left me a tad cold, but it wasn’t bad. After sleeping with the guy, she leaves him her key. I’m not really sure what the moral was there. :-)

The life of a salaryman is charted by Takeda Chu in a story that combines trains and koto playing. This was charming, but difficult for me to follow.

“Overpass Junction” by Asumiko Nakamura is a rather unique look at Yuri. A girl sees a woman having a screaming match with her phone on the train platform, and finds herself drawn into the other woman’s life…and into love with the woman herself. This was a totally different approach to girl meets girl than I’ve ever seen and I liked it quite a bit.

Unita Yumi’s “Know me now” was a lovely little ditty about a boy and the girl next door. He’s in like but cluesless. Lucky for them, she’s not clueless at all. I like this artist and I really liked this story.

Then came “On,” by Rendou Kurosaki, which was probably the ugliest art in the magazine, but somehow it fit the story. The entire thing is basically a guy having sex with someone, who you think is female until the end, when he turns out to be a guy. I was glad to see BL in the book, but didn’t really like this story.

Takemiya Jin’s “Omoi no Kakera kata” had something I don’t think I’ve ever *seen* before. A girl who knows she’s gay and is totally cool with it, a priori. She likes going to this woman’s cafe, because she gets to read, thinks the owner is attractive and basically likes being around women who are probably gay. When she sees a group of loud woman making another of their group miserable, she walks over and pours a glass over the head of the loudest. Ultimately she meets with the woman she saved, who is having issues about maybe preferring women. Our heroine offers to sleep with her to see what happens. Years later we see our protagonist working at the cafe and the woman she slept with walking by pushing a baby carriage happily. I didn’t love the story so much, but I hope we see more of the protagonist. I loved how straightforward and no-nonsense she was.

“Otome Loop” is some high school wackiness by Suruga Kiryuu that totally missed me.

“…Gokko” was a story that honestly flipped me right out. Hikaru Ninomiya’s story appears to be a brother/sister incest story. But. I really should have read the title. That’s all I’m saying.

Nishi UKO has a second story, “Mio Post” about a woman who sees another woman on the train every day and wonders who she is and where she comes from or goes to. The end has the feeling of a “fateful meeting.”

Kaya Shigisawa’s “Anata sae Inakereba” was, IMHO, a lot of nothing. Very typical relationship drama. The art was nice, though.

Rendou Korosaki weighs in with another supremely ugly piece about a woman sexually harrassing a man. It looks totally consensual, but messy and blecch.

And finally another Kiko Urino “Nichiyoubi ni Jissatsu,” which starts with a guy getting ready to hang himself and his meeting with a young woman who had just killed herself in the afterlife. It was all right. The art was good, the ending a bit typical.

So, let’s see, finally tally was 6 out 15 stories I liked. Not bad for an anthology, really.

In general, it wasn’t that simple to know who this book was for, which I liked a lot. I’m a big fan of ambiguity in target audience. After all, why shouldn’t books be “for whoever might want to read it?”

Ratings:

Everything is variable, of course.

Art – 2-8
Stories 2-8

Overall – 7

My gut sense is that most of these artists have established followings individually, and the goal of the anthology was to utilize the collective buying power of these fans. I hope it worked! There is an ad in the back that mentions a second volume available in February. I will be very interested to see where this collection goes.

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3 Responses

  1. Ellie says:

    Along with Kunieda Saika, Nakamura Asumiko’s someone I’ve been longing to see give Yuri a try. Her art style and the enthusiastic spirit she brings to her work would I think make something really quite special. Thanks very much for the heads up – one Yuri wish fulfilled. :D

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