Archive for the Hakamada Mera 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: Eden no Higashitotsuka, Volume 2 (エデンの東戸塚)

September 11th, 2013

Very occasionally, I come across a creator whose work I should like, but, for whatever reason, I cannot. If you’re a regular reader here, you’re probably wondering if I have some personal beef with Hakamada Mera-sensei or something – maybe she kicked my puppy or was rude to me? No, not at all. I have never met her and I’m sure she’s lovely. She’s certainly very hard working and prolific and I admire that deeply.

So, what the heck is my issue with her work? I don’t know what it is – it just misses the mark. I used to think it was because the feelings were vague and could have been anything, as in  Saigo no Seifuku, but then that finished that up with a bang-up ending.  And then I thought it was that her characters never got past basic confessions, but then she drew Kanojyo no Sekai and I though that was too much.

And then there was Eden no Higashitotsuka Volume 1. And again, it was close, but it put a tedious trope in as the main plot and it tired me all out all over again. Now we’re at Eden no Higashitostuka, Volume 2 and I really, truly tried to like it. I really did. I promise. I feel terrible though, because it just misses the mark again for me. I didn’t hate it, I never hate her work, it just doesn’t resonate.

Kiku, our protagonist, wants a better life for herself, so she’s determined to do well and become an elite. Her next-door neighbor, the chaotic neutral Hiyoshi appears to be getting in her way, but as the pages of Volume 1 end, Kiku has come to grips with Hiyoshi’s place in her life.

In Volume 2, Hiyoshi turns out to have a girlfriend – the student council president of her old school. “Lovers” they tell Kiku, but it is clear that they have little physical relationship – and Hiyoshi really doesn’t know what it means to be “lovers.” Hiyoshi, I’m sorry to say, doesn’t really know a lot of things, and moves through her own life being clueless about the people around her. So when she studies a bit and gets better grades than Kiku and can draw better than Kiku, she cannot even remotely guess why Kiku doesn’t want her around. At this point we are told a heart-wrenching story about how/why Yutenji-sempai and Hiyoshi are dating, but instead of making her seem more sympathetic, I felt that it made Hiyoshi seem more aggressively clueless. Causing pain unintentionally is one thing, but being unable to even see that you’re causing pain is something else – and not something I find sympathy-making.

Yutenji-sempai pretty much tells Kiku all this, and Kiku, who again realizes that her life is less fun without Hiyoshi, makes a decision. She comes home to their dorm to learn that it will be torn down. Kiku makes up with Hiyoshi and they take out their frustration by destroying a wall together.

The epilogue shows Kiku and Hiyoshi living together as adults. Kiku has realized her dream of becoming elite. She has it all.

And I’m left wondering what it was that I wanted out of this story.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 6
Yuri – 2
Service – 2

Overall – 6

Clearly the problem here is me. And I’m sorry for that, Hakamada-sensei.

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Yuri Manga: Salomelic (さろめりっく)

October 23rd, 2012

Like most transfer students, Salome is trailed by rumor, innuendo and scandal. In conjunction with her dark, gothic image and her lonely expression, this makes her a target. In  Salomelic, from Hirari Comics, Salome is indeed a melancholic character.

The rumors say that Salome is a witch, that she uses magic to cheat on her grades and that *something* – what exactly, no one is sure – caused her to move from her former school. As with most lives, the reality is a bit tamer…Salome moves around a lot because her mother is a fortune-teller who leaves town after her love affairs fall apart. Oh, but Salome is a witch.

Salome is befriended by the allegorically named Hikari, who brings light into her dark life. As they grow closer, Hikari is rejected by her old friends, but it all gets patched up after a bit. Salome is happy using her magic making chocolates for Hikari and her friends, but nothing stays the same for long. Salome’s feelings for Hikari are not just “friendship” and she appears to be losing her magic…and to add insult to injury, her mother wants to move again!

Even typing all this out, it is a tad exhausting. Hakamada Mera has squeezed in all of her pet plot complications, making Salomelic into a bit of a rushed mess. But of course, in the end, everyone lives happily ever after – and kind of nicely, even after happily ever after. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 7
Character – 7
Yuri – 6
Service – 1

Overall – 7

I’m never honestly sure if I’m being extra hard on Hakamada-sensei or if I really think she has something special in her that we just haven’t seen. I’m going to presume its the latter and hold out for a story by her written with some real conviction and passion. ^_^

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Yuri Manga: Kanojyo no Sekai (彼女の世界)

March 29th, 2012

Well this book was kind of a surprise. You know how I’m always ragging on Hakamada Mera-sensei for writing the same old Story A and never really getting past that? Well, in Kanojyo no Sekai (彼女の世界) she does and, um, I kinda wish she hadn’t. (OMG, Erica, you are never satisfied!) ^_^;

Konno Natsuki has a run-in with Hikawa Hidari on the roof – that is, they actually collide with one another. They untangle notebooks and knees and return to their classroom, where Natsuki realizes she has one of Hidari’s notebooks. No big thing, really, except that the notebook contains an erotic novel. Natsuki can’t stop reading the novel so, when the teacher calls on her to stop reading and takes the notebook away, she’s worried that the teacher will read it…and Hidari is worried that Natsuki will throw her under the bus. Natsuki retrieves the notebook, never mentioning Hidari and waits on the roof to return it to the other girl. She won’t say anything, Natsuki promises, on the condition that Hidari continues to write the novel. And so they meet most days, up on the roof.

Hidari is not a well-liked girl. Her name is weird (who names their kid “Left”?) and she’s not personable or outgoing. Natsuki has friends, but she begins to blow them off to go to the roof and read Hidari’s work. She find the story stimulating, but also wants to know a bit more about the author. To make matters worse, Natsuki starts to have sexual fantasies about Hidari, but when she finally acts on one of them and kisses the other girl, she is rebuffed.

The novel changes, too. Now, not only is the protagonist thrown into a variety of sexual situations, a second character has appeared. Hidari confirms that it’s love between the two.

The class trip arrives, just in time to make things awkward for Natsuki and Hidari. Natsuki invites Hidari to join her group, but her friends nix the idea. Hidari goes off with another group and Natsuki can’t even manage to sit with the other girl for the trip. Natsuki sees Hidari from afar on the trip, having fun with her group, she’s overcome with jealousy and starts to cry. When she looks up to see Hidari sitting there, she confesses that she likes her. Hidari says nothing but, quite unusually, she smiles. That night, when all the other girls have gone  to another room to have pillow fights and hang out, Hidari and Natsuki make love.

Although, Natsuki confides in us at the end, Hidari has never said she loves her back, she’s content to join the other girl in their world up on the roof.

It’s a strange, but not insane story, made uncomfortable only really by the fact that it’s set in high school and that it’s by Hakamada-sensei, whose art is not really well suited to more explicit scenes in my head. There’s nothing super explicit, and the characters are not drawn in a way that is inconsistent with her art or with their age or anything that might otherwise make one cringe.  In every other way, it’s a pretty good doujinshi-like story.

Ratings:

Art – 6 on general appeal, but for Hakamada’s art 8
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 10
Service – 7

Overall – 7

The heads aren’t even huge anymore. It’s just that…it’s Hakamada-sensei’s art and the idea of sex in her work seems so…odd.  ^_^

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Yuri Manga: Saigo no Seifuku New Edition (新装版 最後の制服), Volume 2

June 20th, 2011

We left Volume 1 of the new edition of Saigo no Seifuku (新装版 最後の制服) with two unresolved relationships.

In Volume 2, the situation instantly becomes more complicated, rather than less, with the addition of…a boy!

Boys are causing no end of trouble in the dorm in fact. Kimiko’s boyfriend dumps her and, upon overhearing him and his friends being unkind about her dorrmmate, Tsumugi punches his lights out.

In the meantime, Aiko is vexed because Fuuko has decided to date some guy for whom she really has no feelings. This prompts a sudden confession from Aiko. Now that Fuuko knows the truth, what will she do?

In the meantime, Asagi is still planning on gaining Beniko’s affection, but completely fails to even gain her attention.

This brings us to the end of Volume 2 of the original 3-book series. For those of you who bought and read the Seven Seas translation, here is what you missed:

Upon graduation, Asagi calls Beniko out during her speech, for never having noticed or cared that she had feelings for her. Beniko is surprised, partly because she really hadn’t noticed or cared and partly because now *everyone* in the school is watching her.

Fuuko finally admits that she loves Aiko too, but they will not be able to be together, as her mother has taken ill and she is transferring schools. They have mere hours together before they must part. But they continue to write one another as time passes. Aiko is struck by momentary doubt about Fuuko’s feelings, but a visit in person from Fuuko sets her straight. They plan, upon graduation to attend the same school and live together.  For them, the book ends with a rose-colored future.

Meanwhile, Anzu does manage to convey her feelings to Tsumugi, although she knows her cause is hopeless. But she knows that Tsumugi loves her cooking, and she decides she’ll continue to work on it, so she can one day make something delicious for the one she loves.

Asagi remains a selfish ass right to the very end. Why Tama doesn’t punch her in the gut, I will never, ever understand.

And, finally, we get the epilogue we hoped we’d get for Beniko and Tsumugi, as they move in together and Beniko *finally* has her way with Tsumugi, once again proving my theory that in Yuri, the butches are the uke and the femmes the seme. It was quite nice to see them both grown up. This was, in fact, the ending I’d hope we’d get…and we got it, so yay us!

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 7
Yuri – 9
Service – 2

Overall – 8

This series may well be the best example of my opinion changing over time. I started off really not enjoying Hakamada Mera’s art and now, as I read the end of this series at last, I find it was no longer a distraction. I was able to simply enjoy the story for what it was – a high school Yuri story with two happily-ever-after endings and a little sex and candy for good measure.

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