Yuri Manga: GIRL FRIENDS, The Complete Collection Volume 1 (English)

February 3rd, 2013

Five years ago, I had the pleasure of reading GIRL FRIENDS by Morinaga Milk for the first time. This cutely drawn story of an introvert girl and her extrovert best friend struck home for me (as it did, I have no doubt, for many readers.)

My reviews for Volume 1 and Volume 2 cover the evolution of the story from a “shoujo manga for men” to a realistic exploration of two young women who are totally different becoming friends…and ultimately finding themselves with much more complex feelings for each other.

Volume 1 of Seven Seas’ GIRL FRIENDS, The Complete Collection, primarily deal with the relationship from Mari’s perspective. A natural introvert, Mari has never had a best friend before. This adds an extra level of complexity – and stress – to her changing feelings and increases her desire to prove to herself that she is “normal.” (Which is *exactly why I and other people are out – to show young people that we are perfectly normal. The more people who are out, the less young people will have to go through that.)

Volume 1 ends at a difficult point and many new readers have expressed concern about the ending. Be patient readers of Yuri, this is a 5-volume manga presented in 2 omnibuses. Volume 1 of this edition ends in the middle of the story. Give the plot time to play out and enjoy the whole thing, crises and all instead of wanting to rush to the end. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 6
Characters – 7
Yuri – 7
Service – 5

Overall – 7

Seven Seas did a very nice job of localization, as usual.  Extra thanks to translator Ana M. (who is also an Okazu superhero!)  for the donation of a set of both volumes of GIRL FRIENDS, the Complete Collection as a prize.

To enter to win this complete set of this delightful Yuri romance by Morinaga Milk, in the comments write a message of encouragement and hope to a young LGBT person who isn’t sure about their self or feelings right now – or even a message to your younger self. Please include your name,  - if you plan on being Anon, please give yourself a nickname so I can let the winner know they’ve won.

If you’ve won a contest recently, please feel free to enter, but you’ll understand if I pick someone else. ^_^

I’ll announce winners when I review Volume 2!

My message – There is nothing wrong with you. Society might have some catching up to do, but you are perfectly fine. Find people you can talk to, a local LBGT-friendly church or group at a university. You are perfectly fine – and you are not alone. We’re all here with you. ^_^

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23 Responses

  1. “Hey you, yes you. How are you? If you are reading this then you probably either down or confused.

    First of all, I know you are wondering to yourself “Am I ever gonna have a good life? Is there really a great “tomorrow” waiting for me?” or frankly speaking “Am I ever going to fall in love with a person whom I really want to love?”

    You know what, you’re just not looking hard enough– that hope is there shining above you waiting for the right time and moment in your life.

    Seriously, I know finding yourself really takes time…lots of time. When we go with people, I know there’s that hollow feeling inside your chest that just want to burst out. That feeling is either loneliness and fear. The loneliness of feeling that you never belong in what society expects you to be in and that fear of losing that person whom you are holding and caring for right now.

    I may not be the best person ever to give you such heroic advises but you know what, a light is shining above you right now. It’s telling you to stand up and just be who you are because you can’t hide light in the darkness forever.

    Someday in this life when you have finally found and reveal yourself — it’s going to be a long journey ahead of you but that light above is still going to shine. Be who you are, show them who’s boss! Why? Because somehow, someday, that girl will come into your life and just love you for who you are with no strings attached. Because that light will no longer shine on you, it’s going to shine on you both. Next, that light will inspire other people–perhaps just around you to be who they want to be and to be accepted for who they really are behind their own darkness.”

    :) -Eponine

  2. Helen says:

    Hmm, this is a little hard for me right now since I’m struggling with this stuff too (well, I’m asexual so I’m on a slightly different spectrum but similar) but what I have to say is to remember that regardless of what’s going on you do still have friends (and sometimes, hopefully, family) who love you and will remind you of this no matter what happens. Remember to talk to them if you’re down, they’d much rather remind you of that fact over and over again than watch you be unhappy all the time.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Your happiness should never be defined by another, nor should feelings be faked to please another. Be true to yourself and love they way that makes you fulfilled and confident, with the person who fits your heart perfectly.

  4. I believe that we are all here on this earth for a purpose. If you are feeling confused about yourself, you shouldn’t feel bad. In fact, you should be excited! There is no journey more rewarding than the journey of self discovery, no feeling as amazing as the moment of enlightenment when you have discovered your true nature.

    There are many people in this world who are in various stages of this journey. Not everyone will be understanding of you, or the path that you are on. Try to view them with compassion. They truly don’t understand. But they are not without hope. There is a sea change taking place, bit by bit, of enlightenment, and you are a bearer of that light, which is something to be proud of.

    This is a journey you won’t have to make alone. It was never meant to be a solo trip! Only together will the understanding of humanity be furthered, and you can find allies in all walks of life.

    Regardless of our backgrounds, we are all here to understand our true natures, which is inherently divine, and to help bring about that realization to others. Your confusion just means that you are ready to seek the truth about who you are.

    See you on mountain peak, and down in the valley.

    Chris Driggers

  5. This’ll be difficult for me to say too, as I am also going through the same struggle. I don’t know who I am exactly yet I’ve already seen how people treat each other, once they deem a person too “different” from them. The world is messed up I know and it’s a hard place to live in. Despite this, we have to keep going. Life was never supposed to be free from suffering. And it is in our struggles that make us stronger (as cliche as it sounds). Love yourself for who you are. There’s no other person who’ll love and know you as much as you love and know yourself. Hold on. I almost committed suicide once. I thought that it would be an easy way out but then I realized the many things in life that I will miss and that it’s not worth it to take your life just because of ignorant people who ostracize you. You are better than your enemies. You are better than those who cannot understand. The world can still be a better place and it begins by you accepting yourself for who you are. Many of the people I know try to find themselves in others and end up losing more of themselves. Love begins with you.

    As Valerie Page from V For Vendetta has said in her letter, “I know there’s no way I can convince you this is not one of their tricks. But I don’t care. I am me.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “Love the person who you really love, not because of the gender, nor the advantages that you could get from that particular someone but simply because that someone is who you love.

    Even if there are obstacles, even if there are some people who could not understand about it, it’s alright.

    Just remember, you get to hold hands with someone you love. The courage to live and to confront life, it’s not an easy thing to do but you get to live with someone you love, everything seems to worth it.”

    - Clematis

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have a lot of mixed feelings about this manga, which I’m still trying to finish reading. I’ve always been the introvert and had others try to change me, make me more “girly” and outgoing against my will, so I resisted Mari’s sudden change to dreaming about fashion and being more extroverted. There’s nothing wrong with being quiet and bookish, and I kind of hated the implication that Mari was miserable and alone until one of the popular kids deigned to pay her some attention. It reminded me of a condescending “friend” I had who said I’d be so much happier if I would just get a makeover despite the fact that I abhor makeup and typical ideals of beauty.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great manga with lovely art and I’m trying not to read into it in a negative way, but I’m bringing so much baggage into it that it’s hard. :/ I’ve been bullied all my life, even into adulthood. It’s not easy being atypical on the gender spectrum, being a female who doesn’t care about the things “normal” women care about. I’d rather watch wrestling and play video games. So why do I read yuri manga? Because I’ve been waiting all my life for a story that will feature someone like me. Sadly, Girlfriends isn’t it. I hope it’s the one for somebody out there and makes them feel better.

    Since I already have Vol 1, please don’t enter me into the contest. I’m happy to buy the other one and I think there’s probably someone out there who could get a lot more out of them than me.

  8. Hi Anon at 8:14 – I also have limited tolerance for girly things. In Mari’s case, she was not portrayed as depressed, just that she had no opportunity to bond with anyone at all. She certainly doesn’t seem disinterested in fashion, etc., when she has that opportunity, so in that case, I think it’s important for us to not push our disinterest on the character. ^_^

    The point of Volume 1 is not that she’s forced to be girly, but that she now has the chance to share things she likes with other girls.

    Being introverted doesn’t mean a girl is *not* interested in typical girly things, nor does Mari being interested in them mean that all introverted girls must be. ^_^

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hey, me.

    You’re in high school, and you’ve moved around constantly ever since you were four. It’s hard to make friends. It’s hard to navigate high school. It wasn’t about the schoolwork for you, really, was it? It was about fitting in. About making friends, connecting to other people, dealing with rejections.

    You’re going to get rejected. I’m sorry.

    It’s going to hurt.

    And I’m not going to say, once you’re out of high school, everything’s magically going to get better. But some things will. You’ll find that everyone – not just you – is hiding things in an effort to fit in, and that people need time. You’ll eventually write poetry, get a degree, stand up for the fact you get attracted to men, women, and everyone in between. That your feelings are real. That your identity is yours. That wanting attention, wanting love, can be okay.

    Some people will disagree. They might leave. And that’ll be hard. It always is.

    But you’ll find, as the days and the months and the years pass, that it takes more energy to be sad and try to be what others say, to maintain a facade and lies, than to just accept yourself. And then you will find friends, lovers, people who will see this strength and want to be with you, gender and sexuality be damned.

    -Kit

  10. Anonymous says:

    (my laptop suddenly shut off so im typing it again in case the first one was not posted)

    You find yourself in a place so dark you can’t see anyone else. What you don’t realize is that there are others all around you crouching within the same dark. You and the others are searching for some sort of light, anything, so that you can see at least your hands. You’ve heard so many times “It gets better” and you think “Not for me! It’s different for me!” I will tell you with complete honesty and confidence that it won’t get better at first. But it will and it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world. When one person becomes a candle, that person will give strength to everyone around, which are more than you think. So find a light, whether made by your own will or someone else and become a candle yourself. No matter where you are, the bond of those who suffer and hope together is much stronger than any bond based on hatred.

    -Jasmine Lopez

  11. Kori Michele says:

    Dear highschooler…

    You may not understand it now, because the time and place you live in hasn’t revealed them to you yet, but there are more identities out there beyond “straight woman” and “butch dyke” for you. That’s why neither fit!

    Believe it or not, you can love women and dress feminine! You can love both men and women, and not have to justify your identity according to who you’re with at that moment. The only person who defines your sexuality is you. No one else gets to.

    When you fully realize that power, you will also learn that sex,gender AND sexual preference are totally different things. They don’t dictate each other. How awesome is that? You’re in charge!

    And when you get there, honey, remember. There’s no such thing as “not trans enough.” You can be that pretty trans boy you didn’t know you were allowed to be. Even if you can’t afford surgery, even if you are unable to take hormones.

    Just stay strong until you get there and you’ll learn that you’re in charge of your identity, even though the world will neer stop trying to convince you otherwise.

    -Kori M

  12. Unknown says:

    Hello,
    They call me Jen Yoko. And Yes I’m A lesbian. Sometimes that’s all it takes… is just being brave and saying just that. But life isn’t always that easy. Especially if you have friends or family that your unsure of how they might react once you tell them of your sexuality.

    Accepting yourself comes first and for most and once that happens courage will grow. Especially once you realize that your just a regular human being like everyone else.

    Well to the people who are unsure, be brave and let it out. Maybe to a stranger or someone who you can trust. It is very hard. But in reality you might be surprised at who might truly accept you for you who are. I was. And a weight will be lifted from your shoulder.

    Each day is a baby step towards accepting yourself and the world slowly becoming more accepting. Once you show that confidence in YOURSELF everyone around you will notice and accept you for who you are. Especially when you need to stand up for yourself or another person.

    Things are changing every day for the better regardless of how much bad there is in the world. And as long as you have faith and courage and maybe someone special besides you, you may realize that there is always good that can outweigh the bad.

  13. Josh says:

    To anyone who is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender, I have only this to say: Life is nowhere near as bad as you may think. In fact, Life is a magical thing!

    That’s not to say that Hell won’t come your way, cause it will. Parents or friends who don’t understand, religious individuals who are far to ignorant, or anyone else who can’t understand who you are. You’ll come across these things no matter what, but you must overcome them. Life provides a wondrous & beautiful bounty to those who are strong, and who stay true to themselves.

    Never feel ashamed for being a man who loves a man, or a woman who loves a woman, or a man/woman who loves both sexes, or even a man/woman who wants to become another gender. If you feel these things, don’t reject them…embrace them, and never let anyone who tells you otherwise get to you!

    Don’t hate yourself, or be ashamed of yourself. Love yourself, and love anyone who cares for you, whether they be friends, family, or your significant other!

  14. BruceMcF says:

    Hi, young person,

    So, you are a young lesbian, gay, bisexual or transexual person who isn’t sure about yourself or your feelings right now.

    Now, as a middle age straight man, there will be a lot of what you are going through that I can’t offer much advice or help with. But you could well be in high school, and to the extent that part of your uncertainty comes from the high school environment … well, I can relate a whole hell of a lot with that.

    You are surrounded by a lot of people who are unsure about themselves and their feelings, many of them adopting poses and facades to cover up for that. You or other LGBT young people that you know or know of may catch flack from some of them.

    Now, some of that is deeply ingrained bigotry, and is not going to go away quickly or easily.

    But some of it is fear of their own uncertainty about themselves and their own feelings. Some of it is an internal script that they are reading from that reflects the pose or facade they have adopted.

    And that part is going to decline. Those acting out of fear and uncertainty about who they themselves are will become better acquainted with themselves over the coming decade. Those acting out of a high school student pose will come across different role models in college or at work, and over the decade ahead that will be less and less likely to include bigotry against LGBT coworkers, acquaintances, and family members.

    And of course, those of us who believe that none of us have full civil rights until all of us have full civil rights will keep fighting the good fight. We will win some and we will lose some. Most of the wins will be permanent and all of the losses will be temporary, so progress toward the full civil rights of our LGTB friends, family members and co-workers will continue. It will be slower than it ought to be, but we will keep making progress until we have completely won.

    Or in other words, as you grow older, you going to find yourself among growing numbers of people who have a more grown-up approach toward the people they encounter. Also, you are going to find yourself living in a more grown-up society, since the march of history is moving toward the elimination of long entrenched discrimination.

    So good luck, and take care,

    BruceMcF

  15. Lei says:

    don’t listen to those who cannot understand
    only you can prove your worth, not others… there is love everywhere.. don’t be scared coz you are never alone… keep smiling coz one day soon.. they will realize our worth =)

  16. Kathryn says:

    I could definitely have used some support when I was growing up queer in a small Southern town. The experience was hellish (which was good preparation for where everyone said I was going), and I felt so alienated that I was constantly second-guessing myself and my sexual orientation. There weren’t any books about queer sexuality in my local library or in my school library, and at a certain point I was even convinced that lesbians weren’t real! I could totally have used something like Okazu back then, and it’s for myself that I write this:

    When you are young, the colors of the world are much brighter than they become after life experience adds shades and nuance, and your feelings can be very intense. You are never alone, but sometimes it can feel as if you are and always will be.

    Being a young adult is hard, and it’s especially difficult when you’re so obviously different from what the world expects you to be. Whatever you do, don’t try to change yourself to make other people happy. Don’t deny your gender, and don’t deny your sexuality.

    You are young, and you are beautiful, and you are strong. Ten years from now, or five years from now, or even a year from now, when you look back at what you’re going through, you’ll relish the struggles and challenges you’re facing. You’ll realize that this adversity has shaped you into a more powerful and a more compassionate person, and you’ll realize just how remarkable you were for facing such trials.

    When you’re young, you’re a trailblazer, and you’re filled with potential. If you don’t like the world around you, you can change it. If every day feels like an endless parade of people who judge you and don’t understand you, turn away, look within yourself, and then come back out and start your own parade.

    So don’t be afraid to be young and queer. Don’t be afraid to be angry. Don’t be afraid to be creative, and active, and outspoken. Don’t be afraid to feel joy. Don’t be afraid to fall in love. Be brave! Be courageous! Be everything you are, and everything you want to be.

    You are young, and you are awesome, and the world is wide open before you.

  17. Lilium says:

    If only I could tell her how I feel.If only I could be true to my feelings.

    That was years ago,when she confessed her love to me.I was really happy at that time.The way I looked at my life was changed.There was only happiness that I could ever described in my life. I wished that the time would stop at that moment forever.

    If only I have the courage to accept her love.

    That was years ago.I had doubts with our relationship and i thought to myself:”How could I ever make this relationship work? Is it going to work? Will we be happy forever? What about the society? Will she be looked down upon and get hurt just to be with me?”. We were too young, I thought to myself. And not to hurt her any further, I made the most selfish act I’ve ever done: I completely changed myself into a monster. I turned her down,ran away from her.I ran away from almost everyone in my life because I couldn’t tell this secret of mine,and I don’t want her,especially her to get hurt.I ended up hurting a lot of people,including people I care,people I love,because of that selfish act of mine.Because I am ashamed of myself for not having the courage to bring it up,just to tell her I really do love her and it has brought pains to so many people around me.

    If only I could really tell her how I really feel and be myself.If only I tell her what I think about our relationship.

    That was years ago.If I had another chance,I would not run away again.I will confront her and tell her how I feel.I am not disgusted by the fact that she loved me.In fact,it makes me happy and I felt that I have meaning to live and someone who cares me in my life.

    The thing that I wanted to tell her but unable to do so was “to tell her both of us have to wait to make our relationship work.When both of us have the ability to take care of ourselves, to buy us our home,when we’re out of society.. “. I wanted our relationship to work and I wanted both of us to cherish the love we have.If only we have the first step to bring ourselves towards that stage,we could live together. The next thing is to confront.One day,we’ll be confronted by people who care or people who would laugh at our love but I want both of us to confront it.I want both of us to have the courage to confront those who don’t understand our love and looked down upon us, or some discrimination. That’s alright, by the time we get there, both of us are going to confront them,together.

    And lastly, I wanted to tell her “please wait for me,wait until both of us have gone out to society. That way,we’ll have the freedom to be together. I don’t want you to get kicked out from school because of our relationship, because of our love.Our love should be beautiful but sometimes the timing is just not right. I know that if it’s gone,it’s gone but if both of us really love each other and work this out,we’ll have to promise to gain pain from not able to meet each other for quite a few years, breaking up temporary for the future. I know it’s unacceptable and it hurts but I’m sure if both of us have minds and hearts of each other within ourselves, we’ll be able to still hold that promise and be together after those years.”

    And lastly,”I love you”.

    Sadly,I never had a chance to tell her how I feel.Never had a chance to tell her what’s on my mind.

    That’s why,it’s just stupid of me to think of so many things and ended up losing her. I lost her,forever in my life and for years,I haven’t recover from that love. It has become my only regret ever.What if I told her how I feel?.Even if we ended up breaking up in the end because something happened like she might fall in love with someone else,at least there won’t be any regret in my life. At least, I ‘ve told her how I felt and lived my life with her.

    I have lost it now,my pure love.Do you want to have the same regret as mine?

    Do confront your true feelings about it.If he or she loves you back then it’s a blessing. If it’s a blessing, then try to make the relationship work.Whether it’s going to work or not, you’ll have to walk the path.Whatever the outcome is,at the very least, you’re not alone.You have a partner that will confront the same matter with you together.

    If it turns out well,I’m sure the relationship will turn out to be bittersweet and there won’t be any regrets in your life.*^▁^*

  18. Lynn A. says:

    To any young person:

    My bestest bestest friend in the whole world came out to me last year. We are older. She was married and had to break up her marriage to be who she was, and who she suspected she was from the time she was young.

    I want to tell you to please be strong and let yourself be yourself. It does not matter who you love. There are many, many people who know this. The ones spewing hatred are growing fewer in number and that is why they are so loud. They are on the wrong side of history.

    Live to see the change that is coming and will come in your lifetime. Things have changed so much during mine. Many of my high school friends were gay and could not ever talk about it, but they are free to share these things with me now. I live in a state that recently voted for gay marriage and I am hoping soon my bestest friend’s state will also legalize it. I will fight for these rights for you and with you.

    I too want to say there is nothing wrong with you. The people who have something wrong with them are those who carry unnecessary hatred in their hearts.

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