For the first time that I can recall, all three of the leading shoujo manga magazines have series with Yuri themes or characters running concurrently. Ribon has the soon-to-be frustrating Blue Friends, Nakayoshi has the totally satisfying Strawberry Panic-like Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi and subtexty Heartcatch PreCure, and now Ciao magazine joins the pack with Waza-ari Kiwami-chan, which has by the least Yuri by far, but is nonetheless an interesting read.
Kiwami is a young girl who steadfastly refuses to think of herself as anything but the equal of any boy. According to ANN she is supposed to be the “World’s Most Powerful Girl.” What I see is a completely normal girl who sees herself as powerful and, as a result, has all the girls around her seeing themselves that way too.
The chapter I read in the August issue of Ciao takes place at the summer camp Japanese schools seem to make students attend. While the girls prepare dinner, the boys screw around, instead of lighting the fire as they are supposed to. So when the girls have to collect the wood and light the fire to make dinner, they are absolutely not inclined to let the boys eat. You didn’t help with the chores, they tell the boys, so why should we give you anything? I just about stood up and cheered.
After the girls eat (and clean up, of course, because you couldn’t possibly expect the boys to learn any lessons from that clear and simple statement,) the boys demand a kimodameshi – a test of courage. Kiwami is not cowed by this at all – she considers herself the equal of any boy, so runs off as fast as she can towards the goal. She, and the leader of the boys, fight about everything, but when the light goes out, Kiwami tears up. He’s shocked that Kiwami – *that* Kiwami, he thinks, is frightened, so he’s galvanized into getting them out of there. Then it’s his turn to be terrified when one of the “ghosts” grab him by the ankles. But, we are assured, summer camp ends safely for all.
The Yuri in this series is one Ibuza Ai, nicknamed “Rabu” (Love.) Ai is absolutely gaga over Kiwami, refers to her as Kiwami-sama, idolizes her from afar and close by and generally worships the ground she walks upon. Because of Kiwami’s inner strength, Ai and Teruna, Kiwami’s posse, both find it possible to tell the boys off when they are acting like assholes. Which is like every ten minutes.
So, as a Yuri story, Kiwami-chan is pretty thin. As a much-needed feminist primer for elementary school Japanese girls, I think it needs to be treasured and perhaps made mandatory reading for all genders.
It’s unlikely that Love’s love for Kiwami will ever be anything, but just to watch Kiwami not tolerate being treated crappily by the boys, it’s worth a look.