Archive for the Amano Shuninta Category


Yuri Manga: Galette, Issue 1 ( ガレット創刊号)

June 15th, 2017

It doesn’t take a lot of industry insider knowledge to note that collaboration and crowdfunding are driving the independent comics industry these days. The number of comics anthologies coming out in the west is staggering. These are all the books that the mainstream publisher don’t have room in the budget to back, but which clearly have a space ready and waiting for them on reader’s shelves. The crowdfunding/collaboration bug hasn’t quite caught on in Japan as much, perhaps because mainstream manga publishing has a lot more room for what we consider “indie” comics and because the comic markets have created an economy that makes it relatively simple for people to self-publish, something we haven’t had in the USA until very recently.

There are some notable changes in the Japanese manga landscape. Digital publishing has taken off through Kindle, Kobo, Renta! and other sites, and online distribution has picked up on Pixiv and Note.mu. So manga artists who were formerly required to dance to the tune of a monolithic publisher’s editorial staff can now just opt out and carve out space on their own. Or fill in the gaps between work with established magazines by keeping the content coming online.

Which brings me to today’s review.  The inaugural issue of Galette is a fascinating combination of all of these factors. Folks who work together on magazines, who sell near each other at comic markets got together to create a collaborative “mook.” They crowdfunded it online, and are publishing and selling it online and at shows. 

The names associated with Galette are (at least to readers of this blog) legendary. Amano Shuninta, Takemiya Jin, Momono Moto, Hakamada Mera, Yotsuhara Furiko, Otomo Megane, Otsu Hiyori. If these names seem familiar to you, you might remember that they were among the line-up of Tsubomi magazine. And if there is a single criticism I have of Galette it is that it reads like an issue of Tsubomi magazine. Not that Tsubomi was bad. I just hoped that, away from the constricted ideal of “Yuri,” Tsubomi presented, these authors would fly. Some of them do run pretty well, but no one gets lift-off velocity. The issue also includes a number of names I’m not familiar with, urisugata, Yatosaki Haru, Yorita Miyuki, Asube Yui, and Haman Ringo, all of whom present well-constructed and well-drawn shorts. I’m going to take a stab that some of these folks are assistants of better-known artists, just from their familiar, but not identical, styles.

Most of the stories are firmly in the well-worn, comfortable groove of schoolgirl narrative. Not all, but most. And even some of these were a bit unusual and some outright challenging, so the creators must get credit for that.

Momono Moto’s opening salvo gave me some real hope, with a charmingly unrealistic encounter and a great ending that could lead to more…either on or off screen, depending if she continues it or not. Takemiya Jin’s story hit me in my soft spot for yanki girls, and almost all of the other stories were good to very good. A number of the stories really delve into the mindsets of the characters in the way that one doesn’t see too often.

What I’m hoping to see, honestly is, what happens when these excellent artists find themselves unfettered. Will any of them hit heights they only dreamed of, or is tales of young women in love what they really wanted to tell all along? I guess we’ll find out. ^_^

Thanks to Paul on the FB group, we know know that Galette, Volume 1 is available on US Kindle as well! It’s still in Japanese, but you can get the digital version on non-JP Kindle. That’s all kind of awesome.

Ratings:

Art – 9 This is some of the best work I’ve seen from everyone in this book
Story- 8 Variable, but good.
Characters – 7 Variable, some of whom are really weird. ^_^
Service – 2 Surprisingly little, now that I think about it.
Yuri – 10

Overall – 8

Volume 2 is already available and sitting on my to-read pile. I hope this mook series is industry-changing. I really do.

Last year at MoCCA, creators who contributed to Power & Magic put together a map of where they’d all be at the event, so you could get as many signatures as possible. At TCAF, there was a secret  – I have no idea why it was secret, and how secret could it have been, really? – map of people selling Yuri on Ice! doujinshi. I think it would be really cool for the folks who contributed to Galette to post a map of their locations at Comitia or Comiket so you could stamp rally the signatures.

Today’s review is for Jin, who has been patiently waiting for me to get around to it. ^_^ 

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Yuri Manga: Philosophia

December 11th, 2014

philosophiaAmano Shuninta’s Philosophia began its life as a series of doujinshi. I was fortunate enough to get some, but not all, of them, when I attended the 2011 Girls Love Fest event. I was never able to get the entire run so of course was thrilled that Yuri Hime Comics had collected the whole set for me and published it as a single volume.

The story is told from the perspective of a young college student, Ai-chan, who meets and bonds with college sempai  Shi over smoking and coffee. Shi is hard to understand or get to know, and Ai resistant to the idea that she might be “interested” in her. But after Shi falls ill, and it’s Ai who gets her to the hospital, it’s impossible for Ai to ignore her feelings, as confused and confounded by Shi as she is.

Shi, who has been very aware of Ai’s interest has made it all but impossible for Ai to get to know anything about her life. In the middle of the series, we learn why. In part it has to do with a complicated love-hate relationship with her family and especially her young stepmother, with whom her relationship is exceptionally complicated.

We also look back at Ai’s relationships and her inability to really understand like or love. She’s mortified at herself for liking, perhaps, loving Shi, when the other woman clearly prefers to remain at an emotional distance.

Shi contacts Ai once more to let her know that she’s going out of the country. Ai finds out when her plane leaves and meets her at the airport. Shi kisses Ai, but it’s clearly because this is “Goodbye.” Shi will never return home.

Ai goes on to become a teacher, but in a new epilogue, she meets a half-sister Shi does not know she has who is a dead ringer for Shi.

To say that this is a series for adults is not an understatement. The feelings here are complex, nuanced, complicated and fundamentally not “happy” or “sad.” Barring the epilogue, this is a story that might very well take place in the real world and, as such, does not have an impetus to end, much less happily ever after. As I say, it’s a book for adult tastes.

The epilogue, which was drawn especially for this volume, posed a unique problem for me. I, not having a twin, but being a common “type” am frequently mistaken for other people. Nonetheless, I’d like to think that I, as a human, have an individual “me”-ness that precludes someone who found me interesting being able to simply transfer those feelings to a simulacrum, which is kind of the set up here. Ai will now have a “new” Shi to get to know, hopefully one unburdened by the complicated life of the other. But…really? Because although this person looks like Shi, what is the likelihood that she is like Shi, but without the baggage? And worse, they meet because they are teacher and student, which ideally puts another layer of  emotional distance between them. So, while the meeting is presented as a reboot of a sort, I feel that if Ai and Shi were real people, then it would not make Ai happy to have this Shi-alike in her class, particularly. ^_^;

Shuninta-sensei’s art is already pretty strong in this series, with her characteristic style almost fully developed. And to my recollection, I hadn’t seen any recent Yuri manga in which cigarettes and coffee were such important plot devices, so it was both nostalgic and modern at the same time.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Characters – Complex, real, not tidy at all 10
Story – 8
Yuri – 6
Service – 2

Overall – 8

I very much liked that the characters’ names were incorporated into the title. Ai (Love) + Shi (Wisdom) = Philo + Sophia

An adult read, which went down smoothly and left a strong aftertaste. A refreshing change of pace from featureless characters in Yuri pantomimes.

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Yuri Manga: Watashi no Sekai o Kousei Suru Chiri no You na Nanika, Volume 3 (私の世界を構成する塵のような何か)

June 19th, 2014

The winner of my 2013 Best Yuri Manga of the year was Amano Shuninta’s Watashi no Sekai o Kousei Suru Chiri no You na Nanika (私の世界を構成する塵のような何か). Volume 3 wraps up the series with drama, but without crisis, which is pretty much the reason I voted this Yuri Manga version of The “L” Word as my #1 manga of the year. In case you missed them, here are my reviews for Volume 1 and Volume 2.

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Graduation is approaching and Ruki and Sacchi are awkwardly dealing with their obvious feelings for one another and Ruki’s unsuccessful attempt to move their relationship to a new level. The awkwardness grows when they run into Sacchi’s ex by chance; it’s obvious he’s matured and moved on. Ruki worries about them getting back together and about her inability to become stronger. Meanwhile Sacchi begins to worry about Ryuu’s interest in “her friend” that day – with a final text, tells him never to contact her again.

Asuna and Sacchi begin student teaching at a  nursery school, Maasa takes control of her own company, while Meru tries to help her, Ruki starts driving lessons, as they all take steps to build adult lives.

Ruki has something else to worry about when she learns Sacchi  has spent the night with Remia and the playgirl has indeed struck again. She takes Sacchi on a drive, but ends up getting them lost and, mortified, is forced to let Sacchi rescue her. They have it out between them, finally about how they feel. Whether they will get together is left up to the future, since they don’t know where their lives will take them.

Both groups run into each other one last time at  graduation. Fueko gets one last chance to blow Asuna off,  we learn that Maasa has hired Meru as her personal assistant, thus proving that she’s been a total softy all along.  Maasa gets a personal powerup, trading in her weird shirts and cheap flipflops for a sharp haircut and suit, now that she’s a CEO. Remia is a wolf as she always is, and Sacchi and Ruki walk  off together, with all the possibilities of life swirling around them, like the dust that constitutes their world.

I am unremittingly in love with this series. The characters are imperfect, sometimes tragic, sometimes funny, sometimes annoying as hell – in other words, realistic. The art is exactly the style I like best. The story-telling is quiet, understated and unpreachy. There’s no drive to pair everyone up, but the potential Maasa-Meru pair gives me hope for both of them. Maasa’s tender side is safe with Meru, and Meru’s fragility is safe with Maasa.  In any other series Fueko and Asuna would have reuninted, but not here. Like life, relationships are sometimes messy.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Characters – 9
Story – 9
Yuri – 9
Service – 4 Nudity

Overall – 9

Terrific series, executed with skill. More of this, please.

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Yuri Manga: Watashi no Sekai o Kousei Suru Chiri no You na Nanika, Volume 2 (私の世界を構成する塵のような何か)

September 5th, 2013

Volume 2 of Amano Shuninta’s Yuri soap opera Watashi no Sekai o Kousei Suru Chiri no You na Nanika (私の世界を構成する塵のような何か) was…excellent.

Having established that Ruki and Sachi are interested in each other, we set them aside as main players and turn our sights towards what appeared to be the single stable couple among the two groups – Asuna and Fueko.

As the volume opens, we “meet” Asuna, as she learns about sex with women and about herself, and then jump to post-breakup, when Asuna and Fueko meet again. Although they cannot resolve what lays between them, they come to a place where they can part without regret. We then back up to get to know Fueko a little better. Finally, we see the both of them moving on. Last, wee see the root of their breakup.

The reordering of their story worked incredibly well. I had fooled myself into thinking they were a better couple than they were. This volume really brought home how wrong I was. Asuna was not nearly as sensitive as I (and the characters) had convinced myself that she was and Fueko was more selfish than I had realized. Breaking up was probably the most mature decision she’d made so far.

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Tucked into the background of this volume, we’re getting more detail about the other characters, as well. Ma-asa as Asuna’s tutor kind of blew my mind. The revelation about Meru’s past was sobering, upsetting and a little frustrating. But it made me see the cast as one complete unit, with friends that pull each other up, rather than just pairs to be watched and they couple and decouple. There is so much thought going into the storytelling here. It’s not a Story A, it’s about lives lived by characters that could be real. If you’re reading this series, pay attention to what you are looking at. Amano-sensei is a master craftsman.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Characters – 9
Story – 9
Yuri – 9
Service – 3 Mostly tasteful nudity

Overall – 9

I joked in my review of Volume 1 that this series was a Yuri The L Word. There is no doubt in my mind now that Watashi no Sekai o Kousei Suru Chiri no You na Nanika would make a *fantastic* live-action drama series.

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Yuri Manga: Watashi no Sekai o Kousei Suru Chiri no You na Nanika (私の世界を構成する塵のような何か)

February 5th, 2013

In trying to come up with a short summary of Amano Shuninta’s Watashi no Sekai o Kousei Suru Chiri no You na Nanika  (私の世界を構成する塵のような何か) I find that the closest thing I can describe it as is a Yuri Manga “The ‘L’ Word.”

Watashi no Sekai o Kousei Suru Chiri no You na Nanika  (translated by the author as “What is like the dust that constitutes my world?”) is a mostly realistic soap opera set among a group of women attending a women’s college. The protagonist is Ruki, a realist with an edge of naivete’, Sachi, whose boyfriend is controlling, Remia who takes the opportunities she can get to sleep with the women around her, Asuna, her girlfriend, narcoleptic Fueko, Meru and slightly older, ever so slightly-too-cool-and-worldy-Maasa.

When they are assigned to do a project (for what has to be a sociology class) together, Ruki finds her life suddenly full of these people. WE can see that Ruki is interested in Sachi, but that boyfriend is so omnipresent, Sachi won’t even discuss how controlling he is. “I’m the girlfriend, that’s why,” she tells a puzzled Ruki who can’t imagine why she puts up with it. They fight about it.

When Maasa and Remia set up a sleepover for the group to work on this project they all go, despite some obvious tensions. Asuna and Fueko have broken up – and I am absolutely positive I remember the chapter when Fueko splits due to physical intimacy issues, but that chapter is not included here. And then there’s Ruki and Sachi.

One of the biggest issues I have had in the past with “Yuri Manga” – and depictions of women in manga in general – is that they rarely are given society. There’s the love interest, and that’s it. In a largish ensemble cast like the one here, that is a non-issue. Yes, there’s still the tendency to pair the women up, but that isn’t the same thing as them being couples. Ultimately they are all acquaintances and schoolmates first, then friends and there is the occasional ‘relationship.’

But what about Ruki and Sachi you may ask? Well, the boyfriend issue will come to a head, and the two of them patch it up before then (as a side product of getting lost and having nothing else to do for hours but hash things out) but we can hardly say things are settled between them…as it is painfully obvious to us that Ruki likes Sachi. Whether it will ever be obvious to them is an issue for future volumes.

The story is ongoing – and, as much as I do not generally care for soap operas and night time TV serial dramas, I think this series may be exactly what Yuri needs right now. I’m glad it’s in the capable hands of Amano-sensei. The art is strongly character-focused, but along with society, these women have physical space, as well. Apartments, classrooms, cars, beds, scenery, all combine to flesh this series as far more 3-dimensional than just about anything else running right now in Comic Yuri Hime.

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Ratings:

Art – 9 This is my kind of art. If you prefer moe, take off a point or two.
Characters – 9 We’ve barely scratched the surface. I want to know more about them all
Story – 8 Soapy to begin, but not painful or superficial
Yuri – None of them identify as Lesbian, although they do discuss female couples. I’m going to say 9 on Yuri, 3 on Lesbian and see if it shifts at all in future volumes
Service – A shockingly low 2 for all the naked women

Overall – 9

My wish is that this series last for longer than the meager two volumes the magazine has been allotting to popular series. If something as nothing as Manga no Tsukurikata can get 6 volumes (which is the manga crime of the century, IMHO) this series deserves at least 3, if not more.

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