Yuri Manga: Sasamekikoto, Volume 7 (ささめきこと)

October 26th, 2010

Years ago, when Ranma 1/2 dominated the world of anime/manga – related fanfic, authors quickly discovered something critical about writing comedy. Writing farce was impossibly difficult, as it relied heavily on visual gags. And, if authors took the other road and went all serious with the characters, they instantly encountered roadblocks like sustainable characterization and the drama of emotions.

Everyone knows that tragedy is easy, comedy is hard. It is especially hard when the comedy morphs into a drama, and things that were funny when it was a comedy now have to be integrated into a serious plotline. Someone switching genders as a comedy might be a hoot and a half…as a serious character point…do you go all maudlin and self-retrospective with them? Or do you deal with everyone else’s reactions? Or do you delve into the emotional life of not knowing who or what you are?

All of which brings us to Sasamekikoto, Volume 7, (ささめきこと). As I mentioned in my review of Strawberry Panic!, there comes a time when, as a writer, you have to just write, dammit. Comedy, potboiler episodic standardized whatever all have to be tossed out so you can make a strong story which characters that are real…or the readers will simply stop caring. (In reality, some will stop caring when you try to make your characters real, too, because they *liked* the two-dimensionality of the characters, but if you’re a writer, those people are an acceptable loss when weighed against your sanity and pride.)

Unexpectedly, Volume 7 begins with a look at Ushio’s brother and his lack of a life – and the choices he made that put him in that position. This story sets the tone for the rest of the volume, as the underlying theme is surely “choices made have consequences.”

We also meet a new “couple” – Koi and her friend Mayu, whose story somewhat echoes Sumi and Ushio’s, with a slightly different outcome. Their story segues into the story of the big Karate match, and Ushio joining the team as manager. Victory is not ours, but that’s all right, as not winning is a far more real experience for most than winning. Another indication to me that this series has shifted focus away from fantasy-comedy.

And finally, we are allowed some time alone with Sumi and Ushio…and we can see that having finally acknowledged their feelings for one another are the same, they are not jumping into bed, but are dating. Another sign that this series is taking itself rather more seriously than it was.

And then, reality…seriousness…*drama* strikes.

Sumi has decided to run for the student council. As class representative, a good student and excellent athlete, she’s a natural – her striking figure and height only help to sway the boys to feel that she is almost one of them. Until one of her opponents takes the low road and outs her as a lesbian. She and Ushio had not been hiding their relationship…it had never occurred to them to do so. Now Ushio, who remembers what it was like to be ostracized in middle school, says she’ll back off Sumi and the rumors will stop. After all, Ushio says, Sumika is the one “normal” member of the Joshibu. Sumika doesn’t know how to respond to this, and allows the moment to pass without comment.

In a misguided attempt to promote Sumi’s heterosexuality, Akemiya-kun is chosen as a beard for Sumi. He accepts happily because, as we remember from earlier chapters, he likes Sumika.

In the wake of the deaths of LGBTQ and other youth in part due to bullying, I can’t help but feel that this will not go well…not the author’s fault, per se, but I guess anything written about anyone being bullied or mocked for a sexual or gender identity right now will push that button.

For the first time, I find myself considering the next volume with trepidation. I realize that Sasamekikoto is still largely a comedy. But the possibility for comedy (in the classic sense of living happily ever after) is significantly lower than the possibility of tragedy (in both senses.)

Would I like Sumika to stand up in front of the student body and admit to liking Ushio and tell them to vote and be damned? Yes, of course I would, but I’m not delusional and I don’t *expect* it to happen. I want to trust the author to take that rein and tell the “right” story, the story about being whoever you are is okay…I really want to trust him.

What will happen?

I don’t know.

That’s why I keep reading.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Characters – 8
Story – 9
Yuri – 7
Service – 1

Overall – 8

Thanks be to Okazu Superhero Mari K. for her generous sponsorship of today’s review!

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8 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    To be honest, I think people have a hard time labeling SK properly: It’s not a comedy that dips into drama, it’s a drama with the occasional bit of comedy. It’s funny precisely because it makes the drama stand out more. Think of it as less of mood whiplash and more a deliberate attempt to pace it so it isn’t “OH GOD ANGST ANGST ANGST”.

    It’s going to get worse before it gets better. I don’t think there’s really a need for a bad here, and the only way I think we hit it is if it somehow gets canned.

    But that’s me.

  2. @Anonymous – Your opinion is valid, of course.

    However, my not agreeing with you is hardly “having a hard time labeling SK properly.” It’s simply me “disagreeing with your interpretation.”I like your assumption that your interpretation is the “proper” one, though. You get extra fan delusion points for that. ^_^

    My interpretation is markedly different, as the first three volumes were overtly silly, favoring comedy over anything. The series as a whole was well established as a comedy with some drama. Retconning the series as a whole based on the massive shift in this volume away from comedy nets you more fandelusion points.

    Here, you’ve earned yourself a FanDelusion Pony. http://bit.ly/aLzwwa…and a C+in Comp/ Lit. class.

  3. Mertal says:

    I guess I share in Anonymous’s delusion.

    My take on the series has always been the drama and angst of Sumi’s unrequited love for Ushio was center stage, with plenty comedic relief added to keep the story from bogging down.

    That is my take on it, but you can keep the FanDelusion Pony. They make an awful mess on the carpet =)

  4. Anonymous says:

    I seem to agree with Anonymous also, on this point. Ever since the beginning chapters, it’s been an interesting, paced mix of drama and comedy. The very first chapter of the manga told about a girl’s unrequited love for another girl–and the latter girl’s mini-heartbreak from that librarian character. Though comedy is liberally sprinkled about, which is a great part of the manga, its overall setting feels to be one that’s more centered in drama.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “Years ago, when Ranma 1/2 dominated the world of anime/manga – related fanfic, authors quickly discovered something critical about writing comedy. Writing farce was impossibly difficult, as it relied heavily on visual gags. And, if authors took the other road and went all serious with the characters, they instantly encountered roadblocks like sustainable characterization and the drama of emotions…”

    I remember those days too. :)

    Would something like (lemme paraphrase from memory)

    “BTW Shampoo, why do you talk like that?”
    “Talk like…Ah! Shampoo fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and Ancient Greek but not Japanese. Shampoo very direct, Japanese not so direct. Philosophical differences maybe?”

    count as farce? :)

  6. Anonymous says:

    So what exactly is this loser fanboy rating? And no, Im not going to go through all your posts to find out.

  7. @Anonymous You can’t be bothered to find out and I can’t be bothered to tell you. Guess you’ll never know. ^_^

  8. Maggienificent says:

    Honestly? SK is frustrating at this point…but you know what? Being young and being gay is pretty frustrating too. While I’m really sick of waiting for Sumika to grab Ushio and make all their youthful, lusty dreams come true…at the same time I admire the author for adding another roadblock to the story. Being out and having girlfriend is hard at that age, and I’m almost happy that Ushio’s torment in her younger years is re-surfacing as a conflict; had he let go of that topic in writing this volume, it really would have been a disservice to those kids out there who are going through the same pains as we speak.

    I think, like everything else in this manga, the reconciliation will be subtle. I think that’s how it should be. Grand-standing isn’t really meant for this type of a story…but Sumika won’t let this slide, especially given what the love of her life has gone through up until this point. She’s a strong, caring girl….and despite her moments of disbelief and self-doubt I love how she’s written.

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