Back in 2006, Ichijinsha put out a collection of stories drawn by Morinaga Milk-sensei for their new Yuri Hime magazine. Time has moved on, she has changed publishers, and thankfully, she has retained the ownership of her work. The end result is that a brand new-two volume collection of her popular Yuri manga series Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo (くちびるためいきさくらいろ) is now available from Futabasha. This is a very good thing.
The first volume introduces us to Nana and Hitomi, close friends who have been together in school since childhood, but who now – for no reason Nana can understand – are going to separate high schools. Hitomi has a reason, of course, but she couldn’t tell Nana outright for fear of…well, everything. You see, Hitomi is in love with Nana – that way – and Nana has already rejected her advances. Fearing getting hurt more, or hurting Nana, Hitomi has gone to another school. In the first chapter, they hash out their issues and Nana decides that she doesn’t want to be “just” friends, either.
The rest of the book interperses other one-shot stories that take place in the same school, with Nana and Hitomi’s deepening relationship. It ends with them thinking about their future together.
This was one of the first stories we – that is, the Yuri-reading audience – encountered that had more depth to it than just a kiss, or holding hands, or even sex. This was one of the first Yuri Hime stories that approached the concept of a same-sex relationship as a relationship, as opposed to a crush, or an immature love, “playing at” love, etc. As a result it was wildly popular with fans.
Re-reading this volume, I’m reminded how unique it was. Not even a decade ago, and the final chapter of this book was ground-breaking for a Yuri story (as opposed to a story drawn by lesbians for a lesbian audience in a lesbian magazine.) Hitomi thinks of the sacrifices she’ll have to make for her and Nana to stay together…and decides that, whatever it takes, it’ll be worth it. It edges very close to the issues that were predominant at the time, that to be “together” two women must eschew family and friends. This is just the assumption that was made then (and probably is still made by many.)
For this glimpse back to where we really started when Yuri was taking its first hesitant steps as a genre, this book is an absolute must-read. I think of how far we’ve come, with stories like Fu~Fu, Renai Joshikka, and Watashi no Sekhai o Kousei Suru Gomi no Youna Nanika, and the as-yet uncollected “Collectors,” and am a little amazed at the progress. If Nana and Hitomi were to fall in love today, things would be vastly different than they were a mere 6 years ago. There would be media for them to see themselves represented in a positive light, stories of people like them living happily, even after the “happily ever after.”
Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 10
Service – 5
Overall – 9
More than anything, I’m glad Morinaga-sensei has found somewhere that she’s happy and where she can continue making Yuri manga for us to enjoy. ^_^