Volume 1 of Rakuen Le Paradis was hardly perfect. But I liked how it bucked convention and did whatever it pleased. Volume 2 is no less unconventional and sometimes, as a result, it’s downright disturbing. But even with a few stories I didn’t care for, I found this volume intriguing.
Because this is a Yuri blog, I’m going to focus on the Yuri stories, but the magazine has much the same lineup as last time, so if you like any of those artists, it’s worth a look. And at least two of the straight stories were very good, IMHO.
The most important story is the second chapter of “Collectors” by Nishi UKO. If you’ve been following Okazu for any length of time, you’ll know that she is one of my favorite artists – I love her clean lines and the unabashedly adult sensibility with which she imbues her stories. Nishi Uko-sensei often writes stories in what I am calling (as of this week) the Yuri Gap.
The Yuri Gap is that space after “zOMG! We’re in love!” and even after the obligatory first sexual encounter, but before “we’re an established couple.”
As I posted recently on the Yuricon Mailing List:
1) There’s Yuri in which a character is perceived to have a one-sided crush. (There’s TONS of “Yuri” in which there is no one-sided crush, but fans decide there is and interpret everything to fit their idée fixe.)
2) There’s first love Yuri in which two girls/women realize – to their shock – that they love one another.
3) There’s PWP Yuri in which two girls/women, for virtually no reason whatsoever, suddenly have a physical relationship.
4) And there’s relationship Yuri in which two women are a priori living together as a couple.
There are *of course* exceptions to these. But in my opinion, there’s a distinct gap here. The gap is that bit that interests me most, to be honest.
It’s obviously easy to sell 1) one-sided and crushy Yuri – no commitment is needed from the reader to make the relationship work. And it’s pretty easy to sell 4) a pre-existing relationship to a reader because, duh, it’s pre-existing so you either accept it or you don’t read the manga.
Most of “Yuri” fits neatly in 2) and 3). First love stories are titillating in an emotional way, and sex in a physical way and sometimes either kind of story can be titillating in either, or both ways.
And yet…I can’t help but notice a gap.
The gap is that bit after “we’re together as a couple” and before “we living together.”
This is the kind of story I covered in “Playing House” in Yuri Monogatari 4 and what “Fufu” is doing in Yuri Hime S. This space when two women are past building a physical relationship out of an emotional one and trying to translate that into real life. Moving in, getting furniture – dealing with bills and budgets and family and food and…stuff.
In “Collectors,” the couple isn’t living together, but they are together. But the stories are about the little things. The very little things. Sharing space and sharing clothes and little pieces that finish off the big life puzzle. And for that reason I like that story more than I can convey simply. And this chapter was funny, too.
Takemiya Jin covers the newest most popular Yuri couple with the high school girl and the college student tutor that fall for each other in “Omoi no kakera (2 piece).” It’s kind of safe territory, but the author gets to play around with the kind of character she does best – apparently amoral, but actually very nice character.
And in “Parfum” Nishi Uko once again deals with one of the important little pieces – when a couple fights for no goddamn good reason at all.
In “Sukina Hito” a sister’s nighttime affection for her older sister is starting to put some cracks in her relationship with her boyfriend.
There’s also at least two stories that cover “Girl’s Talk” episodes, and which are true enough to life that most folks will automatically write the relationships in as having some physical component when it really doesn’t, because clearly when women are complaining about their boyfriends, the only logical conclusion is for them to have sex together. It’s not really there, but I know my audience. :-)
My only disappointment with volume two is that this time there wasn’t any BL included. I very much liked that the last volume had some (even if I didn’t actually like the story itself.) Based on the kinds of stories being included in this volume, the readership is skewing strongly female, so I’m really hoping to see some more variety in the next volume.
Overall – 8
Like all anthology magazines, I don’t expect to like all – r even most – of the stories in this magazine, but I seems to be enjoying about half the work in this magazine. That’s a pretty high “like” ratio. :-)