Readers of Okazu frequently see me request more “After the happily-ever-after” manga; stories in which the girl, having gotten the girl, proceeds to make a life with her. Well, there’s a good reason why we don’t get that so much. For the presumed male audience who is really only interested in Yuri as fantasy, there’s relatively little interest in the building of a real relationship. Take Shizuma and Nagisa out of Miator and their relationship, which is doomed to fail once it hits the real world, is a bore.
But, if there’s one thing that keeps people from exploring the after the happily-ever-after moment in comics, it’s the harsh reality that after happily-ever-after comes, sometimes, not happily, and not ever-after.
When the Prince rides off with the Princess, we fade out so we don’t have to listen to the Princess wondering why his friends are such losers, or listen to them screaming at their kids. Obviously.
Equally, when the girl gets the girl, we often fade out because its really hard on reader and writer to have to wade through the period after 6 months or so, when the fires of lust burn less hotly and people are trying to figure out where they fit in to each other’s lives. One of the ways to do this is to create a death off-screen, and have the character deal with it, as in June Kim’s 12 Days. This kind extreme crisis, what I call “hand of god” writing, is not easy to do well, but it makes the situation fait accompli for readers. We deal with the situation as it was presented to us. (June did it very well, btw.)
What is significantly harder is a deft handling of the end of a relationship. One of the finest I’ve ever read is “Your Hair” by Niki Smith, which we included in the Yuri Monogatari 5 collection. It’s tense and frank and uncomfortable and sad. Absolutely stellar work.
Up until now, I have never read a story that covered the beginning, middle and end of a relationship in a way that was worth recommending. Today I say to you, run, do not walk over to Lulu and buy she said by Kris Dresen.
This story starts with the beginning of a relationship, goes through the flirting and the getting together, the being together, the discomfort of a growing rift, and the final throes of a parting all in few words. Each page has single spoken line, at most two. Nonetheless the story is rendered in depth with terrific facial expressions and evocative body language. (I’m a sucker for this especially, as shockingly few comic artists do more than pose their characters. One day I will show you Nishi Uko’s “Collectors” and you’ll all cry at what you’ve been thinking is good art.)
The most interesting thing about this story is the piece that’s left out. By the end of the book, we have no idea what, really, split them up. Although one can hazard a guess, that’s not the point. The point is that this story is every relationship cliché stitched up together to tell a story we’ve all heard a thousand times. But never once like this.
One of the things I like best about Tsubomi magazine right now is their willingness to deal with the not-so-beautiful parts of lesbian relationships. Abuse, both physical and emotional, and even overt homophobia, never grace the pages of other Yuri tales, but these are the realities that real women face. If we want our stories to evolve, it’s necessary to face the whole thing and not stay stuck in childhood fairy tales. (Now that I think of it, we sort of got that backwards, with lesbian literature so focused on the end in early stories, then tentatively adding in happy endings, and now going back to face those endings more realistically and honestly. Less knife fights and predatory lesbians.)
Kris Dresen tells us a fable about the before, during and after happily ever after. It may not be happy, but it’s damn good.
Because all my ratings are really geared for Yuri manga, I’m going to stick with an overall for this one.
Overall – 8
My very sincere thanks to Kris who inscribed my copy with something inspiring and who inspires me to do more. ^_^
Quick disclaimer – although she inscribed it, I bought my own copy of this book. Don’t want you to think I’m sucking up to her! ^_^