Hello and welcome to another edition of Guest Review Wednesday here on Okazu. And let me tell you how welcome it is as jet lag and I get to know one another intimately. Today, Guest Reviewer Mariko S returns with another review of Kishi Torajiro’s rom-com (?) series. If you’re just joining us, start here with Volume 1.
Welcome back Mariko and take it away!
In volume 2 of Otome no Teikoku, (オトメの帝国) the tides are already changing in our (and our characters’) favor. It takes three chapters before we get our first gratuitously servicey frame. What’s more, the nudity and service start to noticeably shift to being a more organic part of the story and activities.
We’ll meet most of the rest of the cast in this edition, and the real beginnings of all of their stories start to take shape here. So for this review, I’d like to take some time to introduce you to each of them so you will know the storylines being referenced as we continue. There’s a large variety, so hopefully everyone can find a thread they like!
Ai & Chie – I talked about them last time. This volume continues the development of their relationship and dynamic. Ai is tall, slender, and athletic. She projects a cool aura but in many ways is shy and lacks confidence. She’s very defensive of Chie. Chie is bubbly and extroverted, and masks her discomfort with her curvy body with jokes. She wants to care for and get closer to Ai. They are one of the definitively Yuri couples in the series.
Ayano & Miyosho – In spite of their volume 1 chapters, volume 2 resets the Ayano and Miyoshi dynamic quite a bit. Miyoshi is the resident prankster, an energetic, if sometimes clueless, girl who everyone naturally gravitates around. She’s revealed to be quite superstitious, and often gets things rolling with silly games and weird facts. Ayano is her best friend, the straight man in their comedy duo, but not above getting the last laugh in Miyoshi’s games.
Debate Club – This group of four girls from across all three class years is always found as a unit. Their first appearance introduces their dynamic of amiable, silly conversations and playful teasing. Their second chapter reveals third-year Nononon’s crush on second year Yumimi. She doesn’t know how to be as open as the other girls in the club and wishes she were closer with them. She gets a classic Kishi-sensei “just when things were going good” ending here, when Yumimi falls asleep on her shoulder and she longingly smells her hair
before… well… read it!
Honoka & Alicia – A very unique character, Honoka is a tall, disheveled outsider who lives to read and draw Boy’s Love manga, particularly fantasies about Japanese historical figures. She consciously keeps other people away and, reading that, they avoid her. That is, until the arrival of American exchange student Alicia. Alicia, in true American form, is utterly oblivious to the many attempts Honoka makes to sullenly reject her friendship. Alicia is a
comic artist herself and likes to draw historical figures as superheroes. She admires Honoka’s artistic talent and is determined to break down her barriers and connect with her, which Honoka just doesn’t know how to deal with.
Mahiro & Mahiru – I couldn’t take a whole series about these two, but as one flavor in this mix of character confections, the super-saccharine Mahi-Mahi pair are enjoyable in smaller doses. These two girls certainly love each other with intense devotion, but in exactly what way is not entirely clear. Described as “pseudo twins,” their whole worlds revolve around each other: they dress, act, and talk alike (and finish each other’s sentences). They are irrepressibly
happy (dare I say “genki?”) and their stories are filled with innocent superstitions and almost childish glee.
Michiru & Airi – The second “coupley” pair, Michiru is an amateur photographer whose favorite subject is Airi’s body. Their chapters in
volume 1 were in equal measures service, sexy, and funny, but not very believable. They also get a reset here, and things get brought back to earth. The first chapter in the book is about them getting New Years fortunes, and Airi’s fears that Michiru will leave her for a guy. Then, later, they find a stray cat and take some pictures with him, and Michiru comforts Airi when she gets sad.
Nao – Nao’s chapters are synonymous with service. It’s inherent in her character – she is a “proper” girl who has an exhibitionist pervert streak and is secretly desperately curious about sex. Either you will find her reasonable as an avatar for any teenage girl who is told she shouldn’t be interested in such things but is irresistibly drawn to them, or you will skip her chapters. She does not pair with anyone, her story is one of self-discovery. Each time she finds out about something “dirty,” and is overcome by the desire to find a safe way to explore it herself without being discovered or judged.
Onoda – Onoda is also a solo character. In the first volume, she was given a weird kind of schizophrenia where she secretly lusted after girls she saw, while angrily judging them. This volume recalibrates her, eliminating the perv aspect, and beginning her real arc as an uptight, judgmental girl with social difficulties and no friends who puts too much pressure on herself to succeed academically to compensate. She wants to do things to have fun, but always overthinks it and restrains herself, then lashes out on others who are able to do them easily.
Shizuka & Mio – AKA “Senpai and Kohai,” the literature club duo which
was often seen in Cinemax-worthy setups last round dial it back here. Shizuka is the cool, beautiful, intelligent upperclassman, and first-year Mio has an admiration deepening into love for her. This time they only get one chapter, a sweet Valentine’s Day story of Mio being jealous of Shizuka’s popularity and feeling like one in a crowd, but coming to find out that she actually has a special place in her senpai’s heart. This chapter has the first of many times this volume where one character says they love another (using “daisuki”).
Yuu & Mari – This is possibly another divisive pairing due to the service factor. Yuu and Mari are called the “S&M couple.” I happen to feel, though, that this is possibly the most believable and positive way to depict that kind of a relationship dynamic in this setting. This is not leather and whips. This is all about a consensual power exchange, in the form of Yuu requiring Mari to do “naughty” but private things that only they will know about. I am not generally a fan of S&M scenarios but the way it’s handled here is very sexy to me, with Yuu effortlessly asserting herself and Mari thoroughly enjoying her submissive role. Even when they’re not playing a scene they are very cute together.
Those are all our major storylines! Already you can see how much things have crystallized from the “leering camera catches sorority softcore version of high school” vignettes of volume 1. What’s more, volume 2 also presents our first longer arc, about the whole group of second years taking a summer trip to the beach, which spans five chapters.
As you can hopefully tell from the character debriefs above, the Yuri is a bit clearer this time around. There are at this point four clearly lesbian pairs, along with assorted one-sided crushes, developing friendships, friendships that might be more, and personal voyages of discovery. I like the spectrum presented here, and it will get better with time.
Art – 8
Story – 5
Characters – 6
Yuri – 7
Service – 7
Overall – 6
Erica here: Thank you so much Mariko, it sounds like they got a lot of reader feedback after Volume 1 and rethought the entire story. And now, I’m sort of vaguely interested in it, which I wasn’t at all after the first volume. So thank you and I’m looking forward to hearing about the rest!