Yuri Manga: Octave, Volume 6

March 15th, 2011

Before I get on a pedestal and start declaiming the wonderfulness of Octave, Volume 6, (オクターヴ), I hope you’ll indulge me. I promise not to name names or rip anyone specific up, but I really need to get this off my chest.

I write reviews here for several reasons. To share good titles with you, to give you all links to places to buy these good titles, to motivate you to learn a little Japanese, for entertainment and, obviously, because it pleases me to do so – that’s the entertainment I get from it.

So, when I saw a forum post recently written by a long-time reader of Okazu that linked to a review here with the comment, “Ooh, I can’t wait to read the scans!” it made me sad. Because that person feels its okay to take the hard work of the artists, writers, their assistants, editors, and printers and basically not care that all that is not worth anything more to them than what they can get for free.

I know this does not apply to all of you, or even to most of you. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again – I think I have the *greatest readers in the world.* But for those who do think that way, let me assure you that that is not why I write Okazu. I do not do it for those of you who would rather construct rationalizations about why you just can not support people who do this for a living. I do it for the many of you who do buy the manga, the magazines, the DVDs, the novels, etc. To all of you who support the industry, I do it for you. Thank you.

So, when I write today about how great Octave is, what I *hope* is that you’ll finally be motivated to buy it, to sacrifice some of your time and learn a little Japanese, to show support in the only way that has any meaning in our world – with your money. That’s why I write Okazu and I very much hope that’s why you read Okazu – to be motivated.

Let me sum up by saying this to those long time readers – had you started learning Japanese when you started reading this blog, you’d be able to read Octave in the original by now.

Now, on to our regularly scheduled review:

Octave is the story I have always wanted to read. Octave has the ending I’ve always wanted to read. Octave is…just right. (Read that as you might Goldilocks talking about the middle bed.)

It’s about two adult women who fall in love with one another and have to navigate a very complicated path in between coworkers, friends, family and, trickiest of all, their own expectations.

Yukino in this final volume is still Yukino. She has not radically altered. No magic power has granted her the ability to handle things without getting hurt. She’s had to figure out what to do on her own, even sometimes ignoring perfectly sound advice by people who love her, in order to become the woman she wants to be.

Setsuko in the final volume is not quite the Setsuko we first met. She’s more serious now, she has something to lose. But it has given her a depth she lacked and a perspective that now keeps one eye on the future.

They are both flawed, sometimes annoying because they are realistic, but I’d gladly have them over for lunch anytime.

Yukino and Setsuko go shopping for food. They buy home goods together. They walk down the street holding hands. They say things like “I’m so happy, I could die,” and “Don’t say that, not even as a joke.” They live, they love.

This story does not end happily ever after in a fairytale way. It ends with a realistic, rather stressful situation ahead, that they’ll face together.

This is, absolutely, the evolution of Yuri I have been waiting for and have been working for – a story about two adult women in love with one another, living their lives. The only thing that could make it better would be more chapters about those lives.


Art – 7
Story – 10
Characters – 10
Yuri/Lesbian – 10
Service – 2

Overall – 10

I still hope that one day DMP decides to bite the bullet and license a real Yuri series. This is the one I’d suggest for them.

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29 Responses

  1. @Cryssoberyl – Thank you very much. I mean that.

    A while back I went on a rant and you very calmly asked me *who* was I addressing and why I was attacking my readership. Those words have stayed with me and I credit that comment with significant changes in the way I approach things here. For you to offer approval means I’ve arrived at where I was striving to be.

    I really do read every comment, and think about what my readers say to me. So thank you for giving me important feedback, great comments and excellent advice over the years.

  2. KO says:

    I love Octave, precisely because it’s a mature manga. It’s a pleasure read it…

    About to buy mangas… it’s a little difficult to latin americans(like me), because they are expensive and scarce (especially the Yuri mangas). But always I tried to buy it.

    I would like read more about you, your articles are very interesting.

    Pd: English is not my native tongue, so sorry for mistakes…

  3. AsylumFox says:

    I’ve recently started following this wonderful blog you’ve got going here. I’m not just saying that either, it’s a great resource for non-Japanese fans of Yuri to find out about various manga and series we might never know about otherwise!

    I would also like to say that awhile back one of your past posts about Sayonara Folklore really inspired me. It sounds like a story I would -really- want to read. Sadly I can’t read Japanese, but that’s where the inspiration comes in. Reading about all of these great manga on here made me want to be able to really apply myself so I could enjoy the stories in their native language. When my college starts offering courses soon I know I’ll be signing up and not just be relying on self study! =]

    Might not be much, but you’ve inspired this girl to aspire to be able to import and read manga someday! Looking forward to reading more of your reviews in the future.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Do you think it’s possible that Kodansha USA might pick up Octave? I ask because Octave is a Kodansha title, and I’m dubious over the quality of the translation DMP might provide. Their yaoi titles have had several errors in them lately.

  5. Cryssoberyl says:

    Erica, hearing that is as pleasing as it is suprising, because I honestly can’t remember such a situation. (Nor could I find it in your archives – if you could point me in the right direction to refresh my memory, that’d be great.)

    Certainly proof that conversations which seem passing to us can have profound meaning for others, and so we should always judge our words carefully.

    In any case, I’m extremely flattered, and I can only repeat that I found myself in perfect agreement with both elements of your post today.

  6. Atarun says:

    I am only speaking for myself. I _cannot know_ how representative my viewpoint is, but since it exists, I merely _believe_ it might be shared by other readers of this blog.

    I started learning Japanese right when I started reading manga, years ago, looong before I discovered this blog.

    I never actually stopped buying manga, but at some point I did read a great many more series in scanlations than I intended to buy. More importantly, I did not think much about it.

    This blog not only made me discover plenty of great series (and most probably avoid some awful ones) and re-motivated me time and again to save and buy Japanese manga in bulk, it did something that I think is much more valuable: it made me think. About the manga/anime industry, about piracy, about fandom, about writing, about voluntary work, about feminism, about homophobia, about a great many other things.

    For that, I am in your debt, Erica.

    As for my Japanese level… I find myself rather stuck. My level is advanced enough that I can watch movies and anime without subtitles and read manga with furigana, but not so that I could read manga without furigana or newspapers/novels/you-name-it.

    No lessons are offered at my level anywhere near the town I live in now. I have simply no clue how to get from the former point to the latter.
    I would love to get tips on that from you or my fellow okazu-readers.

    The thing is: the vast majority of Yuri works are marketed at josei and seinen audiences and thus are without furigana. Perhaps you could specify in your review when they are with furigana (like Nobara no mori no otome-tachi)?

  7. Dorota says:

    I think there is one issue with buying art that is a bit overlooked – hoarding stuff.
    As a person of minimalist nature, I am not exactly thrilled with many books entering my home. Also, buying everything I read is a bit expensive.
    An obvious solution is the library, but that works only halfway in my country, where I could count the translated manga titles on my fingers.
    This is no way an apology for stealing, just a thought.
    (My current opinion is that e-comics will save us all – do you perhaps know, if japanese or American companies had started offering manga like this?)

    Also, I understand your strong feelings about art and piracy. My father is an author himself, he works like crazy and his work has supported our family. And I see how he feels, when someone steals his work.
    So, this article is not meant as insult to anyone involved and is not meant as implication all artist should do it like this. Just a thought, that maybe there are alternative models of thinking about piracy …
    Anyway – I do not think money is the only support that has any meaning, though I understand that it is very important.

    Once again – this post was not meant as an insult to anyone or me trying to justificate my behaviour (or anyone else’s). I just tried to add some points of view which are a bit overlooked, imo.

  8. Thanks everyone for great feedback!

    @Cryssoberyl – It *might* have been my Murder Princess anime review.

    @KO – I’m glad you enjoy the reviews!

    @AsylumFox – Thank you! I am so very glad to hear that I’ve motivated you.

    @Anonymous – Kodansha USA is unlikely to license Octave. Their current business model is to integrate titles that were previously licensed and, while I do know some of what they plan on focusing on, it’s not this.

    @Atarun – Plateaus are common, I hit them *all* the time. The only advice I have is to persevere. Focus on learning a new kanji a day, until you are learning two-kanji combos, then 4-kanji combos. It’s all you can do, really.

    @Dorota – Yes, many companies are already doing this. The problem is that they are all doing their own versions. Viz has an iPad app, Tokyopop is using Comixology, Yen, Dark Horse…even Japanese companies, each have their own versions of electronic distribution. There is no one standard, and no one place to go to get them all. You need to go to each company’s site and see what they are offering and which platform they are offering it on. It isn’t that hard, though, just takes some time.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I was going to leave this long rant but instead decided to leave something a little (slightly) shorter that I thought you might find more intersting. A study on the unlaufull distributin of anime by The Japanese Research Institute of Economy indicated that “Piracy” actually incerases sales of the DVDs. I know that personally with out fan scanlations I wouldn’t even buy Manga simply because I don’t have the money to. Unless I really really like a series I don’t buy it and the only way to know is to read it. I’m pretty much stuck between not reading manga or reading it online and then buying what I really like. I really liked Octave and plan to purchase it in several months when I scrounge up enough money to do so. I hope this blatant confession of reading scanlations doesn’t incite anyones wrath.

  10. @Anonymous – No wrath. I actually agree with the findings, but they are for an industry that has no equivalent mechanisms here.

    What I mean by that is, if you want to read Octave in English – you cannot legally do so. There is only scanlations or the Japanese manga as options. Obviously, for the Japanese market, Japanese manga is not any kind of difficulty, either to obtain or understand. But here in the west, there is no equivalent to Tora no Ana, and no English Octave. So scanlations only increase sales of the expensive/harder to obtain/in a foreign language Japanese manga by a little.

    I am a HUGE believer in the power of electronic distribution and have already committed myself to making future ALC publications available by as many means possible. So, yes, if there is a purchasable equivalent, I think scans work. Where this falls is when there is NOT an equivalent and people collect scans only and do not actually buy the manga from Japan, but still insist they are “fans.” I am defining the word “fan” here as a person who supports the genre/creator they say they love with money.

    I want to be clear – I think electronic distribution is the way forward…just not in the fashion in which it currently exists.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hmm, I only see you address the readers. What about the scanlators? Lililicous, Tranquil Spring, aren’t they responsible too? Yet I never see you call them out as the thieves that they are. Something is seriously wrong here.

  12. @Anonymous – I’ve addressed them – and this issue – many times here. This time I was talking to my readers.

    It’s quite sensible to assume that if there was no demand by readers for free, instantaneous translations, that at least some scanlators would stop and all of them would scale back their operations. Way back when I started in anime/manga, scanlations would be distributed to dozens, not thousands of fans. These fans were typically hardcore and had already bought the manga or VCD raw.

    Nonetheless, I actually believe that the way forward is to convert the energy of scanlation circles into something that supports, rather than siphons from the industry. I hope one day to be able to build that system.

  13. Anonymous says:

    @Erica: You must have many industry contacts. Can’t you just send the right people a list of those scanlation websites so they can be cease-and-desisted off the web?

    I think the Japanese publishers made a big mistake by going after the aggregators like Mangafox and Onemanga. It’s the scanlators they should wipe out first.

  14. @Anonymous – I have no simple answer to that question, so bear with me as I attempt to answer it to the best of my ability.

    1) Japanese companies are not asking me for advice on scanlation circles. Ichijinsha has no English-language partner at the moment, and overseas sales of Japanese-language manga is very likely to be a small percentage of their overall sales in any case. For Japanese companies it’s illegal distribution *in* Japan that is the primary concern. They do know of overseas scanlations, of course, and they are addressing it by attacking the large, money-making aggregation sites.

    If you recall, not too long ago, Tana Yoboso, creator of Black Butler specifically addressed fans on her blog, asking them to not download scans – and was met with waves of outrage and derision. The outpouring of hatred for her simple plea was, frankly, appalling. And these were her *fans.* Japanese companies are addressing these issues in ways that seem best to them.

    2) American companies are not asking me for advice. They have their own legal departments and their own business models and are, as far as I can tell, pretty well aware of who is scanning/subbing licensed materials.

    3) Second-guessing what companies *should* do is, to my mind, a wholly unproductive train of thought.

    Yes, *if* the companies addressed this five or six years ago before it became as pervasive as it has now, *then* they might have had an effect. In this reality, they did not. They are going after entities that make money on their work, which is an entirely legitimate endeavor. In some cases I’m aware of, a company has sent cease and desist letters to groups. Also completely legit. They are all grown-ups and neither need, nor want my advice.

    4) I don’t wish to insert myself into other companies’ business for much the same reason you don’t tell the local pizza shop what to do – it’s not your business and they will probably not really listen. The next time I have dinner with say, someone from Vertical, how useful do you think me saying, “Group so-an-so is scanlating your stuff” would actually be?

    It’s obvious that this is a bee in your bonnet, so why not send an email to Ichijinsha yourself if it means that much to you? I don’t mean that sarcastically – this is clearly something you feel strongly about. There is nothing stopping you from informing companies on your own.

    My goal here on Okazu is to educate, motivate and persuade readers, so that they no longer need or want scanlations. This is how I combat the problem – by addressing the demand.

  15. BruceMcF says:


    (1) Its not so hard to click Name/URL and give a handle. You don’t really have to give a URL if you don’t want to, it works fine to enter a nickname and just leave the URL box blank. And it makes it a lot easier to converse.

    (2) If the study in question is the same one whose results I saw, it bears being more precise. The findings were:

    (2.1) bootleg distribution of animes on Youtube ~ that is, crippled bitrate, relatively low resolution streams, multiple parts per episode ~ were positively correlated to anime sales, no clear relation to rentals.

    (2.2) bootleg distribution of anime by torrent download ~ that is, typically DVD or higher bitrate and resolution RAWs ~ were no clear relation to anime sales, negatively correlated to rentals.

    While this research is useful, its not cause and effect that it can find, but rather statistical correlations. To go from correlations to cause and effect requires survey research, on whether the buyers of anime and the YouTube viewers are largely the same people, largely distinct groups, or some mix.

    That is, its plausible that YouTube viewers are “try before you buy” and they are part of the market for DVD’s. Its equally plausible that Youtube streaming viewers and DVD viewers are two entirely different groups of people, and it just so happens that the videos that attract bootleg uploads and views in one group are the same ones that attract DVD sales from the other one.

    And if that research is done, what is gives is the cause and effect (or non-cause and effect correlation) in the Japanese market. International and Japanese markets for anime are sufficiently different that cause and effect relationships cannot be automatically translated between the two.

    If the cause and effect relationship were to translate (1) to international markets and (2) from anime to manga, then it would say that the ideal “sales booster” is more likely to be some form of “online viewer”, and less likely to be some form of “online download”.

    And we know, directly, that the explosion of bootleg scanlation viewership in the second half of the last decade was not correlated with an equivalent boom in sales ~ the growth in the former really was exponential, and if there had been a cause and effect manga sales driver experiencing that kind of explosive growth, it would have shown up in manga outperforming the market during the recession, rather than pretty much following the trends of the print market as a whole.

    So if there is a cause and effect Youtube streams to DVD sales driver in the Japanese anime market, that relation did not hold in the bootleg manga viewer to international manga publications market.

    I really am optimistic that such a relationship can be built, if the online viewers are legit, and so are able to be used as a platform for direct marketing of publication (whether traditional print, Print on Demand, or paid download). But the empirical evidence does not support projecting from the bootleg manga analogue of bootleg YouTube streams to the legit manga analogue of DVD sales.

    On the library side ~ which would be the closest analogue in the US to the “anime rental” in the study ~ while they may be rival to print library collections on a title by title basis, they should be low enough in bandwidth and sufficiently within the core public library service mandate to allow libraries to permit access to those legit online manga sources in their own publicly accessible computer systems.

  16. Cryssoberyl says:

    You mean here? No comments from me. That was long before I started using this name. The mystery continues… Don’t tell me it’s a case of mistaken identity. D:

  17. @Cryssoberyl – I may be mistaken about the person (or the post) but the sentiment remains. I try to be more careful of my words now.

  18. EndlessD says:

    In terms of scans, I admit to reading them. Though any that are released in English I buy. I am working on learning Japanese, but my skills are sadly terrible. If I am ever able to read and comprehend Japanese on the level needed, I will definitely buy the manga.

  19. Ichigo69 says:

    Yeah, I know this is a couple of days old, but I just wanted to say that there’s at least one place where you can get Japanese manga/magazines/etc here in the states besides Kinokuniya…
    I’ve bought quite a bit of my Japanese manga and magazines from them. They’re quite reasonably priced, too. (disclaimer: I don’t work for digital manga or any of its subsidiaries, nor am I getting any kickbacks, etc. – although I’ve got over 1000 volumes of manga, so mebbe they /should/ give me something lol)

  20. BruceMcF says:

    @Anon1:33, the reason I’d second DMP getting serious about Yuri in general and picking up Octave in particular is selfish ~ eManga is the only legit online reader that is functional on my netbook, which means all the legit online sites that have stuff I’d pay to read are broken for my equipment, and the only online site that works for my equipment is chock full of stuff I have no particular interest in reading.

  21. Maggie says:

    Yay, Octave! I love this manga. It’s like the Goldilocks and the Three Bears of Yuri manga: it’s not too sweet, it’s not too dramatic…it’s just right.

    But I’ll ask the age-old question that never gets a good answer…why the HELL do we get waves of LFB bull$@%# animated but not something wonderful like Octave?

    Or Hayate X Blade for that matter?

    Or Sasamekikoto?

    Or a second season of Aoi Hana?



  22. @Maggie – I’ve repeated the answer to your question a million times:

    Because the people who BUY anime are the LFBs.

    The Lowest Common Denominator is the point at which you can sell to the most people.That’s why it’s the “common” denominator.

    Aside from this, most josei and seinen series do not become anime, but live-action, because even in Japan, cartoons are for kids and adults who watch them are a small minority, not the majority. A series that might appeal to adult women, like Suppli or Octave, is more likely to be made into a TV drama (as Suppli has been.)

    Thirdly – this is a serious question, not snarky – do you buy this manga, or are you reading scans? I ask, because if you read scans, you are not the market for this series, and your desires are, basically, meaningless to those people who pay to produce it. If you buy it, then write Kodansha and express your wish to them.

  23. Arkadi says:

    :( Considering the time it would take me to achieve anything like a ‘user level’ knowledge of Japanese, I guess I’ll read the scans first and then buy the volumes, like I did with Yokohama Kaidashi Kikô.

  24. apricotsushi says:

    Hello, Erica! (or would you prefer I call you something else? I don’t mean to be too informal)

    I just wanted to say I stumbled upon your blog by accident today when searching for a manga someone was interested in me translating for them (I’m doing some freelance translation work before I start my graduate studies at the University of Queensland)… And I’m quite impressed, and am looking forward to reading your future updates as well. I’m commenting on this post in particular because you’ve made me very interested in Octave–for some background, I’ve been studying yaoi manga and will be doing my thesis on seme/uke relationships in them… But I do not have much of a background in Yuri. I think I need to change that, so I’m excited to be enlightened by your blog!

  25. @apricotsushi – Erica is perfectly fine. ^_^ I’m so glad you enjoy the posts here. Drop in any time!

  26. Catechist says:

    I just finished reading the final chapter today — I’ve been reading Afternoon for about 8 years now so I read this series from the first chapter, when it wasn’t even clear that it would be Yuri. It was an excellent series; it kept the melodrama to a minimum and seemed a lot more realistic than other romance manga. Nice to see some other Westerners find the series.

  27. Paladin says:

    Sadly you’ll always have the kind of people who are fine with just waiting for a scan, seeing it as a cheap and easy way to read a manga.

    But you’ll always have those who know that scan groups can open doors and work hard, but also encourage their readers to buy the original and/or the official translation once a wise publisher chose a manga to translate.

    In my case, I hate to tell you that reading Okazu inspired me to hunt for Japanese lessons so I can buy those great mangas you recommend (and maybe those guilty pleasure ones you tend to despise lol!)

    So you see, I think that there are those nice guys out there who compensate for those “yay I’m waiting for the scans” ones. And for you to be able to inspire that, cheers!

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