Back in October 2015, we reported news that Fuji TV was airing the first-ever “lesbian” drama on Japanese television. The storyline received negative press before it even aired, with the Japanese LGBTQ community calling the plot “out of date.” And I had many reservations, as well.
Transit Girls (トランジットガールズ ) follows the lives of Yui, a young professional photographer and Sayuri, a high school student, as they meet when their parents move in together and subsequently fall in love. The plot sounds pretty eye-rollingly shoujo manga, and to be honest, it was.
As the story opens, we see Yui taking photos of a young woman praying at a local shrine. We’re supposed to see that she’s instantly charmed, because she’s giving the girl long meaningful looks from a distance. The young woman is Saiyuri. Saiyuri and her father, Keigo, live alone together; her mother’s been dead for some years. Dad tells Saiyuri that he’s met someone and she is moving in with her daughter, Yui.
Madoka, Yui’s mother, is very nice but Yui reacts weirdly, as we know this is the girl she was photographing, zOMG. Unsurprisingly, Saiyuri is ignoring the both of them, and Dad is quietly suffering. Yui tries to talk to Saiyuri and ends up kissing her. Saiyuri pushes her out of the room violently. End of episode 1.
The eight episodes of this series were all a half hour or so, so the story moves very quickly. And this, in a nutshell, is why we’re supposed to understand that Yui isn’t just a random predatory lesbian, she’s supposed to have been secretly charmed by Saiyuri all along.
The story moves briskly as Saiyuri begins to question her own feelings for Yui. They both agree that “sister” is not a relationship they want. The story becomes slightly more complicated when we meet Nao, Saiyuri’s childhood friend. He (obviously to us) has feelings for Saiyuri, even as she’s finding herself becoming more attracted to Yui. Another friend, Mirai, is in love with Nao.
Yui and Saiyuri are already falling in love, when Mirai confesses to Nao, who apologizes and says he has someone he likes. “You’re not supposed to say ‘Sorry’!” Saiyuri rebukes him. “You’re supposed to say ‘Thank you.'”
Saiyuri and Yui spend a night together, but are seen in bed by Madoka, who confronts Yui. Yui leaves home immediately, leaving a note for Saiyuri. Madoka tells Saiyuri that Yui’s always been this way. Although she learns where Yui is staying, Saiyuri can’t bring herself to go through with contacting her. Saiyuri speaks briefly with Yui’s business partner, a nice guy who likes Yui himself.
Madoka, too embarrassed to face this situation her daughter created, also leaves home, leaving Dad and Saiyuri alone again..and, for the first time in many years, both of them feeling lonely.
While studying together, Nao confesses to Saiyuri, who then has to tell him that she’s in love with someone else. She admits that it’s Yui and Nao says he’s not really surprised. He’s always thought she wasn’t really into guys. She’s kind of surprised at this. It’s worth noting that Nao is an awesome character and without him this story would have been pretty grim. He provides most of the laughs and a much-needed relieved sigh when he doesn’t get all weirded out at Saiyuri.
Saiyuri decides that to be fair to her friend Mirai, who can’t not be resentful at her and Nao’s relationship – and who naturally presumes that Saiyuri and Nao are an item. So Saiyuri tells Mirai the truth, that she’s in a relationship with her “onee-san”. Mirai laughs and says, “It’s like being in a shoujo manga.” Saiyuri agrees. Mirai is also not particularly weirded out and just accepts Saiyuri’s relationship at face value.
Christmas is coming. Yui’s father left them at Christmas, and so Saiyuri had promised to spend it with her to reverse her negative feelings about the holiday, but now that isn’t possible.
Dad goes to see Yui, ostensibly to ask her what to get Saiyuri. Remembering the ema the girl had written at the shrine, Yui suggests a Tiffany double-heart necklace. Then Dad asks what Yui would like, indicating that he’s still willing to be a “Dad” if she’ll let him.
Madoka and Keigo meet for dinner, and Madoka apologizes profusely. Dad makes a startling confession. Since his wife died, Saiyuri has been very removed from human relationships. She’s just not really noticed other people. Yui is the first person she’s taken any notice of in years. Madoka and Keigo decide that they will root for the two women and support them whatever happens. Then he asks Madoka to return home.
Dad gives Saiyuri the necklace and tells her that he knew what she wanted because Yui told him. He tells her to go see Yui. Saiyuri runs to the shrine and finds Yui there, then runs into her arms. They kiss and hug and kiss again as the end credits roll.
Very shoujo manga. And really fast-paced, sometimes really stretching the ability to accept that all this happens so quickly….but it doesn’t. The seasons change while the story takes place, but the episodes are so short, you kind of have to remind yourself this doesn’t take place over a week. ^_^;
On the negative side there is one almost insurmountable obstacle. The kissing. Sorry J-Dramas, you just have the worst kissing in the world. So terrible. My wife and I tried to kiss that badly, touching lips without moving or even a pucker, nothing, just dryly placing lips against each other, but we kept cracking up and couldn’t do it. It was particularly distracting/laughable in the final scene as they kiss. It looked kind of like if you asked two children to watch grown ups kiss, then kiss like them. They move back and forth, but the lips stay dry, pressed emotionlessly against each other. Totally put a harsh on what would have been a great moment otherwise.
The only other negative was the plot. You know how I feel about stories where people fall in love with the only other person in the house near their age – it’s lazy writing and a tiresome plot.
Other than these two rather amazing high hurdles, the story wasn’t bad. ^_^
On the positive side, Itou Sairi, who played Saiyuri, was excellent. Honestly, she carried the show all by herself. Her voice is an interestingly deep, burry one, that I found rather attractive, but her acting really made Saiyuri come alive. The rest of the cast was absolutely fine, but Itou was stellar.
The most – surprisingly – positive quality of the story was everyone’s reactions to the relationship. It was made plain that Yui is a lesbian, (and I think she was meant to look a little butchy, with short hair) although that word is never used. Yui and Sayuri discuss “onna-doushi” and Saiyuri admits to being a little frightened of her feelings and this whole can of worms. But when she talks about the relationship to other people, they just…support her. No histrionics, no shouting. Keigo admits to being confused at first, even as Yui is insisting her feelings are for real. And that’s about it. After that, there’s no conflict except getting them back together. For the complete lack of homophobia, I’ll give props to Fuji TV.
And the final positive note is that both Keigo and Nao are totally not weird about it. A real shoujo manga probably world have had Nao (or Mirai) out Saiyuri to the whole school or try to sabotage the relationship. Instead they were like, “it’s cool” and we all moved on. That’s a handwave I can definitely live with.
I’m not sure I’d say this was a great series, but it was more good than bad and a positive, if ridiculous, beginning for lesbian stories on Japanese television.
Story – 4 at the beginning, going up to 6 by the end
Characters – start at 6, 8 by the end
Service – 5 a number of bath scenes and a bed scene, no full nudity, just implication
Yuri – 9
Overall – I think 7 is a fair score.
One last thing of note and it’s utterly dorkstastic – the bus station Saiyuri and Nao get on the bus at is Yuriyamakoen, so Lily Mountain park. So clever those production folks. Hah.