It’s been a good long time since we have had a Takahashi Mako collection from Comic Yuri Hime. The last one I reviewed was Otome Cake back in 2008. Things have changed since then and those changes are strongly reflected in Suzuran Techou (スズラン手帳), Takahashi-sensei’s newest collection.
This book contains a wider variety of personalities, ages and situations than previous collections. While school still tends to be the most common setting, there are less uncomfortably psychotic situations than in her earlier work.
Of the stories in this collection, the ones I found most notable were “Shikeidai no Elevator Girl” and “Chanoma no Hana” both of which have protagonists that come out on the first page. In the latter, a girl’s confession about her sexuality to her aunts by marriage, sparks another confession between them. In the former, the story begins with a girl explaining her “like” pattern to a friend – girl, girl, boy – then ruining the pattern by falling for a girl out of order.
Several Japanese readers made sure I noticed that her work included a senior couple, in ‘Yuki Bara Beni Bara” but I felt that the fact that it was about sisters meant it really still didn’t fit my request for a story of older lesbians.
The story I enjoyed the most was downright whimsical. In “Mujintou e Motteiku Nara” a girl moves through her life feeling as though huge chunks of it are spent on a deserted island. When another girl invites herself onto the island, she’s initially put out, but starts to enjoy the company. ^_^
This collection has characters from elementary school to adult, which give Takahashi-sensei a chance to actually show off her art skills. She also embraces a much wider range of expression that in previous work, which allows us to actually like the characters, instead of just wondering if the blood will stain their clothes. But even more significantly, her characters have grown. They are not just girls in like, or girls in girl-only situations – some of them know themselves and embrace their own life choices. This is a huge step up for me, and I’m pleased as punch to see this self-acceptance infiltrate yet another body of work from Comic Yuri Hime. ^_^
Art – 7
Story – Averaging out at 8
Characters – Same
Yuri – 8
Service – 1
Overall – 8
I re-read it and found I enjoyed way more of the stories than I expected to. In fact, I’d argue that the weakest of the bunch were the first and last stories and would have reordered the collection completely.