Hrm. So, if anyone asked me how to build a Josei magazine that men might also read, I’d say, get lots of top names to draw stories that are refreshingly different in that they are pretty much the same as everywhere else, except that the women are slightly more in control of their lives. Add in some Yuri, in the form of already-proven artists, and then mix in some stories about guys. I’m not saying that’s what Rakuen Le Paradis (楽園 Le Paradis) had in mind, but that’s what it’s doing.
Volume 7 hits the Yuri fandom hard right at the front of the magazine, with Nishi UKO’s “Collectors,” which begins with a backstory about Takako in high school. The bridge between these two chapters made me extremely happy, with frames of Shinobu and Takako playing with each other’s hair in a beautifully intimate scene as they talk. This is exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for – adult intimacy, without it being porn. This series is pretty much the series I keep talking about wanting to read – after the happily ever after. When this series comes out in a collected Volume, it’s instantly Number 1 for the year.
Then we get the backhand with something many manga readers have long wanted – another overtly Yuri story by Hayashiya Shizuru-sensei. In “Heart Cooker” popular actress Nasu Renge is invited to be on a cooking show. The hosts of the show are Barahara Ruriko, an older, very Dame Edna-ish character and Shiohara Satsuki, a young, attractive host. Right from the first moment Renge walks on stage, Ruriko notices a certain…tension…between Renge and Satsuki. And, as they introduce Renge, it turns out that Satsuki and she attended the same school. Satuski was a year younger, but had always admired Kawakami-sempai (Renge’s real name) as she practiced for track and field. At first Renge doesn’t remember Satsuki, but then she recalls a day when she passed the ball back to an energetic underclassman in the softball team, who she was instantly attracted to…. The entire time this is going on, the production staff is frantically looking to get the cooking part of the show moving along, but Renge and Satsuki start to fade off into their own little world, so Ruriko steps in to save the day and make the dish, and let’s the two women have their moment. As Ruriko finishes the dish, Renge asks Satsuki out for a drink and Ruriko smiles in satisfaction at the results of both cooking and matchmaking.
And last, but definitely not least, for Yuri readers, Takemiya Jin’s “Omoi no Kakera” continues, as Mayu struggles desperately to get her feelings for Mika in order and to deal with her best friend’s snarky, but accurate assessment of those feelings.
So, lets just turn around for a moment and survey the landscape. Three Yuri series, two about adults, all by women, two of which have actual lesbians.
Overall – 9
Le Paradis, indeed. I think I’ve died and gone to Yuri heaven.