Archive for the Kuzushiro Category


Yuri Manga: Ani no Yome to Kurashiteimasu. Volume 3 (兄の嫁と暮らしています。)

December 1st, 2017

In Volume 3 of Kuzushiro’s Ani no Yome to Kurashiteimasu. (兄の嫁と暮らしています。), Shino and Nozomi are starting to “see” each other as fully realized individuals, beyond their previous relationship as sisters-in-law.

This volume focuses on Nozomi, particularly. And this is critical, because Shino does not yet think of Nozomi as a whole individual, as most people don’t with relatives. We think of them in relationship to ourselves, rather than as their own selves. But in this volume, we learn about Nozomi’s relationship with her late husband and her perception of Shino. While Shino learns about Nozomi’s family life…and has the unpleasant experience of having to deal with Nozomi’s mother’s scolding, as she stands at her brother’s graveside. It’s a grating experience, but Shino’s completely able to manage it with only slight frustration. We’re reminded that Shino is a very decent person, when she doesn’t tell Nozomi’s mom to shut up.

But later, as she waits for a very late Nozomi at home, Shino has a quiet little melt-down. Nozomi makes it home at nearly midnight to find Shino curled up in front of the door, desperately trying to not fall asleep.

Up until now, I’ve felt very much that Shino didn’t see Nozomic learly as a person, but as the object of a crush she decided she has. At this point, the playing board has been cleared for them, I think and if they do develop a romantic relationship of their own, it won’t feel forced.

Ratings:

Art – 7 This is Kuzushiro-sensei at her mainstream-est in terms of art.
Story – 7 Overwrought and tense, but not unreadably so
Characters – 7 Completely likable on their own
Yuri – 3 Mild, mostly service as of yet. But I expect it will get there
Service – 5 Bathing and sleeping together, neck rubs and hugs. Mild for a Square Enix/YG Comic.

Overall – 7

I find myself much less uncomfortable with this story as compared to a similarish relationship in tMnR’s Tatoeto Dokonu Itoda Toshitemo (たとえとどかぬ糸だとしても ), primarily because the brother is dead in this one and alive in that one. It’s amazing how a single detail changes everything. 

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Yuri Manga: Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san, Volume 5 (犬神さんと猫山さん)

January 19th, 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed Kuzushiro’s zodiac animal-themed high school gag comic. It’s not because it isn’t good, or that it hasn’t been funny. It’s just that Volume 4 wasn’t all that Yuri. It’s not that we don’t have Yuri couples – Student Council President Torao Mari and her Vice President, Ryuuzaki Otome, and Nekoyama-san’s older sister Tamaki and her lover Hebizuka Sawako.  

However, Volume 5 of Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san, (犬神さんと猫山さん) ratchets up the Yuri in a couple of places. Primarily the fraught relationship between Souma Sakura and Inori Mayo. Those two alternately fight verbally and physically throughout the volume, all the while skirting  the very real attraction between them. By the end of the volume they have at least acknowledged their mutual attraction even if it’s still going to be rocky.

The titular characters, Inugami-san and Nekoyama-san also go on a date, to a cat cafe. Suzu finds herself having a lot more fun playing with the kittens than she expected and she and Yachiyo find themselves moving ever closer to an actual romance.

And even with all this going on,  these two major shifts in dynamic are not the most interesting thing in the book.

I’ve referred to Aki as everyone’s keeper before and the splash page illustates this in a fairly servicey manner, with Aki in a sexualized pose and the rest of the cast in miniature draped around her. Throughout this series, she’s come off as grounded and slightly removed from everything. Not in this volume, where suddenly we see a bit deeper into Aki and it turns out she’s got very  a pretty dark center. I like it on her. And, she casually mentions, in the course of nothing particular, that she’s bi. Aki takes the lead on being the most interesting character in the series so far.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7
Character – 8
FanService – 6
Yuri – 7

Overall – 7

All I ever ask from gag comics is that they are amusing. Almost  despite itself, this one is also telling a story. Who’da thunk it!

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Yuri Manga: Ani no Yome to Kurashiteimasu. Volume 1 (兄の嫁と暮らしています。)

October 31st, 2016

51-ohr1mxyl-_sx348_bo1204203200_Shino is a normal high school senior. Her parents died when she was young, so she moved in with her older brother and his wife. Then her older brother died, leaving her living alone with her young, beautiful and extremely sweet sister-in-law, Nozomi.

Did you ever have that moment, when reading a manga, when you’re about two chapters in and you think, “Why on *earth* am I reading this?” Yes, that was me about two chapters in to Ani no Yome to Kurashiteimasu. (兄の嫁と暮らしています。). Then, while staring at the cover, it suddenly dawned on me that this trope-tastic story was by Kuzushiro-sensei. I shrugged, decided to trust her and kept reading.

Shino and Nozomi are both perfectly nice characters and I wouldn’t really mind, particularly, if they did get together, but the trope of falling for the sibling-in-law is soooooooo tropey, I kind of cringe at that. I mean, this was a chestnut back in the early 90s, when stories like “Jukkai Me no Jukkai” were what passed for Yuri.

Shino starts to head down the slippery slope of attraction first. Nozomi is an elementary school teacher, she’s cute and cheerful and she and Shino are actually pretty good friends. Nozomi’s enthusiastic and easy to get along with. Shino starts noticing Nozomi more. Her expressions, her reactions…Shino’s edging closer and closer to “like” and is aware of it. She worries about their relationship. Are they…friends? Relatives? When Nozomi introduces her as a sister, Shino is both happy and sad.

Nozomi may appear clueless, but she’s not. She’s not seeing Shino’s interest in her, but is definitely aware that she’s aware of Shino. This distresses her, as she feels she should be the adult in the household, responsible and solid. 

The pot comes to a gentle boil when Shino decides to buckle down and really study for exams. Nozomi happily offers to help. As the books ends, they are both locked in a battle inside their heads over what they feel and what to do about it. I’m not even sure, yet, if this is a “Yuri” manga. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Ratings:

Art – 8 Cuter and less messy than her usual
Story – 7 Cuter and less messy than her usual
Characters – I’m tempted to repeat myself again, but no. They are just kind of…normal
Service – 2 In the form of “look how attractive she is just now”
Yuri – 2 Just barely edging in

Overall – 7

I’m willing to give this story the benefit of the doubt and hope fervently that Kuzushiro-sensei pulls out a new iteration of this tired old trope that blows me away. If anyone can, I think she’s the one.

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Kimi no Tamenara Shineru, Volume 6 (姫のためなら死ねる)

September 22nd, 2016

kntns6-e1463843854978 Reading the 6th volume of Kimi no Tamenara Shineru (姫のためなら死ねる) is like slipping into a comfortable pair of old shoes. You can spread out and relax a bit and not worry about rough patches or sore areas. It’s all been worn pretty smooth and soft. And, at the end of the day, if you’ve done enough walking in them, you might have seen something new.

In Volume 6, Kuzushiro-sensei manages to do any number of interesting things with these well-worn areas. She manages a bathing scene, for instance. Something so tried and true and predictable in any other 4-panel gag comic is a bit of a stretch when that comic is set in a time when bathing was done more like annually than daily. But there we are, we have a bathing scene and a chance to watch Sei Shonagon overheat about Teishi-sama in a whole new way.

And we have a seriously unlikely, alt-historical moment, as Benkan suggests that Shonagon marry Teishi-sama’s other Number 1 Fan, her older brother Korechika. Ultimately it’s Teishi-sama herself who kills this idea. In reality, we actually know very little about Shonagon’s husband (or, possibly husbands) or whether she was divorced or became a nun in her later years…or, anything, really. Frankly we know pretty much fuck all about her, except for what she wrote, so I’m perfectly happy with whatever obscure Heian-period nonsense Kuzushiro-sensei wants to throw at me. ^_^ I have the Internets. I can do the research.

Ratings:

Art – 7 (Am I hallucinating or is it getting better?)
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 2
Service – 5

Overall – 8

In other notable news, Shonagon actually gets to say the title line. Finally. But not yet to Teishi-sama.

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Yuri Manga: Kimi no Tame Nara Shineru, Volume 5 (姫のためなら死ねる)

October 21st, 2015

KnTnS5In Volume 5 of Kimi no Tame Nara Shineru (姫のためなら死ねる) Sei Shonagon of The Pillow Book fame has hit a slump. Not just a slump, but a debilitating, crushing and potentially career-damaging slump. And near-constant harassment from the onmyouji “Abe no Hito” isn’t helping.

Not only is Shonagon suffering because of this slump, but Teishi-sama is starting to think that Shonagon doesn’t care for her any more, as her requests to read new entries in the diary are met with vague promises, and excuses. Shonagon, it turns out, is fearful of showing her mistress the uncensored delight she has in the Princess. Too embarrassed and too scared to let anyone know what she’s feeling, she is unable to write anything at all.

Koshikibu and Benkan are alternately worried about and annoyed by Shonagon, but it’s Murasaki who shakes her out of her slump and encourages her to pen openly adoring verses about Teishi-sama. Teishi-sama is likewise embarrassed at the near-worship of Shonagon’s Diary, but they reconcile at last.

As the book comes to a close, Murasaki Shikibu is confronted the disorder known as “reading fanfic about your characters.” And, as it usually is in the real world, it’s not a good thing.

The gags are, if anything, becoming denser. There’s a lot of research that goes into this book and it shows. It’s also getting harder to follow for this reader, as my knowledge of the Heian-kyo is superficial to say the least. ^_^; But what is funny is funny and even when there are hints of somber things to come, it’s all jokes all the way down.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 2
Service – 4

Overall – 7

Luckily for me, in between the otaku humor, there’s more “Shonagon is gaga over Teishi-sama again.”

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