Yuri Manga: Awajima Hyakkei (淡島百景)

July 2nd, 2015

I know this is going to sound a little strange, but I never really know what I’ll get with a new Shimura Takako series. I mean, yes, she has blown me out of the water with Aoi Hana/Sweet Blue Flowers, but she’s also left me cold in any number of other series. In fact, her work most resembles Melissa Scott‘s science-fiction to me. I love the characters, but find the almost-passionless storytelling hard to warm up to. I just wish I could feel her in her work.

In Awajima Hyakkei, Shimura takes on a topic of much interest to Yuri fans all over the world – the student body of a famous all-female musical revue school that is definitely not that other famous all-female musical revue troupe that might automatically come to mind.

Each chapter focuses on two of the people at the school, the relationship between then, the circumstances of their friendships or rivalries and what the connections in the school mean to them afterwards. This volume is not in any way tidy. The whole thing is non-linear and is easier to read if you stop looking for “the story” and start just letting the character profiles work on their own. Eventually they tie back to the beginning and eventually we start to feel the threads of fate that bind everyone in the school.

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There is a little bit of Yuri, in a story about first love. It is the kind of classic old 20th century retrospective, where the love the character feels is recognized mostly as she looks back as an adult.

Some of the best parts of the volume are those vignettes set in the past. My favorite chapter was towards the end when a new student uncovers the family history of one of her teachers and learns that she’s a third-generation star.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – Variable, averaging 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 3
Service – 1 on principle

Overall – 7, but I think it will improve with a re-read.

As the title says, this series is “One Hundred Views” of a respected establishment, rather than a single tale. And, like a famous landmark seen for the first time, it will get better with a second viewing.

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