A-chan and Riyoko are neighbors, Riyoko has always had a crush on A-chan, from the time she was a small girl. Now, as a high school student, her feelings are much more than a mere crush. But what about A-chan? How does she feel? Well..she feels the same, but she’s a teacher in Riyoko’s school and it’s just kind of complicated.
In “Step Forward” and “Step Up”, the first two stories of Takemiya Jin‘s collected Steps, we follow A-chan, as she learns to take Riyoko and her own feelings seriously and how to deal with it not all being a secret. Riyoko learns that true love doesn’t have to be said – but it’s awfully nice when it is. More importantly she learns that her friend Kimura has a girlfriend of her own.
In “Leave hickey?” we take a look at Kimu and her girlfriend, who is the art teacher at school. Kimu wants to mark up – or be marked by – a hickey, but Miyano doesn’t like the idea of a bruise as a mark of possession, and they opt for a small work of art on Kimu’s inner thigh.
In “step by step” A-chan and Miyano team up for a very gay wedding dress shoot, and A-chan struggles with the idea of coming out. Riyoko helps by kissing her soundly in public.
The next two chapters “Mekakushi no Koi” are, quite possibly, my favorite Takemiya Jin story. Satomi looks down at her phone at a picture of her kissing another girl. When she was in school, Satomi wasn’t able to hang around with the other girls – she had an avocation as a novelist. So she wasn’t really able to make too many friends, nor find a lover. So when Ayuna says that’s she’s bi and interested, then kisses Satomi, poor Satomi falls hard. But. Ayuna is not a kind person. She’s willing to have sex, but has no respect for gay people, finding them pathetic, since they’ll have to give up marriage and children. Satomi is not satisfied. She asks her editor, Moriyama, what to do. Ultimately, Satomi finds the relationship untenable and tells Ayuna off. Ayuna does not take it well and confirms Satomi’s suspicions that she is really not a nice person. Satomi walks away. Moriyama congratulates Satomi for taking control of her life…and assures her that Ayuna was a bad example of a bisexual. We circle around to the beginning of the story to see Satomi meet up with Nana, her current girlfriend. (In fact, their story continues in Comic Yuri Hime.) I loved the takedown of the whole “gays can never have a family BS” which is the standard Japanese trope for not coming out as gay. Even more, if Takemiya-sensei had left it with Ayuna just being bi, it would have left a bad taste in my mouth. As it was, Moriyama-sempai gets to explain to Satomi that “bi” doesn’t mean selfish and manipulative and that Ayuna was mostly just a jerk.
In “Secret Love” the entire story ties up. We learn that Satomi is now a successful novelist who writes under the name “Hime Yuri,” Moriyama’s girlfriend is Youko. Youko and Nana’s story was told in Takemiya’s Kila Kila. It’s Youko that realizes that the two circles are intertwined as they talk about going out to get drinks together. “Sensei’s girlfriend is my ex!” Woops. Well, that’s pretty realistic, isn’t it?
I turned the last page and there in the afterword, Takemiya-sensei places a helpful relationship chart. I think we’re in for another “The ‘L’ Word, manga style. Cool.
At which Takemiya Jin becomes the first lesbian manga artist to do a Yuri manga with all-lesbian content. Bam. We have a winner.
Art – 8
Story – 8-10
Characters – 9
Yuri – 10
Service – 3
Overall – 10
Folks, the game has officially changed.