Years ago, I threw out a definition for recognizing “Yuri,” as opposed to “lesbian” content. Yuri could be seen as lesbian content without lesbian identity. I said this because if a character identifies as lesbian, there’s a higher chance that the story is LGBTQ, rather than Yuri. This is not a hard or fast rule, but an observational guideline. A predatory character identifying herself as a lesbian in a shounen manga hardly shifts the narrative to LGBTQ, but in most of the kind of things we watch and read here, identity is a key factor in the narrative being seen as lesbian or Yuri.
We’ve seen a lot of melding of the two labels over time, as artists like Takemiya Jin and Nakamura Kiyo poke and prod and overlap at the boundaries. And we just talked about how a cartoon can provide a lesbian narrative that is canon…but still subtext.
Today we’re going to talk about a series that has pushed “Yuri” as far as it can go by providing identity and overt text…without ever identifying as lesbian. Kindred Spirits on the Roof Drama CD Vol.3, Rain Kick (屋上の百合霊さんドラマCD第3弾「夕立キック」) manages this.
The story follows two of the popular Yuri Visual Novel’s couples – Maki and Seina and Matsuri and Miyu on a short summer vacation. Maki begins with an expository discussion with Yuna, the game’s protagonist, setting up the fact that Yuna is likely to take over president of the council next year. Maki confides in Yuna that a shop employee recently thought that she and Seina were sisters and that really bothered her. This refrain repeats several times during this CD.
Matsuri and Miyu have already graduated and are now living together. They set up a few days at a resort bungalow for the 4 of them. During the first few tracks I was delighted as the four spoke of the most banal things like who would cook what and their personal schedules (training for the runners, studying for almost third-year Seina.) It was so normal and human and a conversation that might actually happen it took me by surprise. But I should really stop being surprised at Kindred Spirits by now. It does “real” and “human” better than any other series ever.
The story has little drama, but is pretty chock full of identity. We spend time with Matsuri and Miyu, discussing Maki’s concern about being seen as sisters. Miyu logically suggests that “sisters” is a guess by a stranger to make the close relationship of Maki and Seina make sense. Matsuri wants the two of them to be seen to “fit” together naturally in that way, they they belong together. Matsuri mentions her concerns when she confessed to Miyu, and says that by then, she had pretty much become comfortable with the fact that she was always going to be attracted to girls. (Aki also had a similar admission during the game.) They have touching moment and a sneaked kiss.
Maki and Seina also discuss Maki’s concern. Ultimately she admits that she wants them to be seen as “lovers.” Seina is moved by this, and they discuss their lives in the future, together.
So, when we look at these relationships, they are canon AND overt text and, although the word “lesbian” is never used, there is awareness of identity in Matsuri and awareness of the way their relationships appear to others. And I find myself marveling at how sneakily this adorable Yuri series gets to talking some real shit to an audience that, in part, probably never thinks about this stuff at all. Damn.
As with Kindred Spirits Drama CD 1, Playing Girlfriend and Drama CD 2, Friendship Plans, Rain Kick is available by download from Mangagamer’s website in 2 digital downloads, one with the full Drama CD, subtitled as a video file – so no Japanese comprehension needed- and one with the CD insert images, extra voice tracks, original raw voice CD track, and translated credits and notes.
An excellent way to develop the characters. I’m absolutely looking forward to the 4th Drama CD, Kyuusei Radio!
Overall – 10
Unrelated to the issue of representation and identity, I fell in love with this series all over again when Seina was given a conversation about how she could tell the beams in the ceilings were for decoration only. I grinned my way through the “contractor’s daughter” talking about the way the building was constructed. The conversation is meaningless, unless the writers really gave a rat’s ass about character consistency. Which they did. And I love them for it!
I may bring back the Stargazer Award and award it to Okujou no Yurirei-san writers for exceptional writing in the face of industry tropes.
As we’re rounding the corner into the final quarter of the year, I’m looking at this series for my best of and thinking it’s going to be hard to beat it.