Archive for the Saitou Chiho Category


Yuri Manga: Revolutionary Girl Utena, Volume 2 (English)

June 4th, 2017

The second volume of the Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Complete Deluxe Box Set remains complex and uncomfortable right until an ending that was much better than I remembered it being.

The primary conflict in the final arc of the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime, appears to be between Utena and Akio. In the manga version, the Student Council has been set to the side, neutralized by Anthy in order to set Utena up for Akio. 

But, like the anime, something happens just as Anthy is set to betray Utena. She begins to believe that Utena can set her free. And here in the manga, that changes everything. Freedom changes Anthy in a way that gives one hope. (And inspires one to write fanfic.)

The art here at the end of the manga arc is strong and hyper-romantic, very suitable for the magazine it ran in, Flowers, I believe it was. I wish there was a color version of Utena-Dios, because you just know she looked amazing in her white and lavender Council uniform. ^_^ 

The complete set includes Juri’s sidestory, which sadly focuses on Ruka, rather than Shiori. And the final section of the collection covers the manga version of the Revolutionary Girl Utena Movie: Adolescence of Utena. This manga volume was the precise moment when I started understanding the literary roots of Yuri Manga and for that, I have a lot of fondness for the thing. The story focuses on two not-really-real relationships, Utena’s adoration of Touga and Anthy’s adoration of (an even more horrible than in the TV manga) Akio. But it ends with the same relationship the TV manga does – Utena and Anthy, finding healing and friendship and love in one another. No wonder we all wrote so much damn fanfic. ^_^ 

 The art of the movie manga has already leveled up significantly from the earliest chapters of the television series manga, and still holds up well enough to satisfy an older audience. The deluxe set wraps up with two short notes by manga artist Chiho Saito and director Ikuhara Kinihiko.

Ratings:

Art- 8 Solid, stylish, with moments of brilliance 
Story – 8 A much better ending than I remembered 
Characters – 8 Touga and Juri end up better than expected, Miki and Saionji suffer and Akio gets extra helpings of awful. Anthy is even more complex and interesting.
Service – 5 Creepy non-con seductions and slapping so…mostly violence against women’s autonomy, with a side of bullshitty consent issues.
Yuri- 7 Anthy and Utena 4ever. <3

I love that between the two Utena manga, anime and movie there are four unique versions of this story and each one ends centered around a relationship built on friendship and hope and love.

One last note – I’m pretty sure I have all the Utena artbooks, but there is a color image in this set that I have never seen before. I refer to it as the “Takarazuka” image, as Utena is wearing a feather back piece and both her and Anthy’s outfits are unusually sparkly. I like it a lot. ^_^ It’s yet another good reason to get this complete manga deluxe set!

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Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga, Volume 1 (English)

May 10th, 2017

A few years ago, we had the 15th anniversary re-release of the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime from Nozomi/RightStuff, and this year we have the Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Complete Deluxe Box Set from Viz Media! And what a deluxe set it is.

This two-volume set of all 6 volumes of the manga (5 for the TV series, one for the movie) drawn by Saito Chiho, in collaboration with Be-Papas, comes in a black box that provides a similar kind of gravitas that the anime packaging provided, with beautiful rose-themed design work in both black glossy on black matte and in color. 

Volume 1 has the pink color theme of the first of the anime arcs, a nice nod to an established color scheme.

Each volume comes with color page inserts from the magazine run and covers of the manga. The collection also includes a poster of Anthy and Utena, suitable for any Yuri fan and guaranteed to have you singing Rinbu Revolution as soon as you see it.

Unlike most manga series that come out at the same time as an anime, the Revolutionary Girl Utena manga is not a literal rendering of the anime at all, but a separate tale, using the same characters and elements that existed in the anime. The rose sigil, the dueling ground, Akio’s car, the planetarium projector all exist here, as they did in the anime. But they do not necessarily mean (or not mean) the same things. Where the anime went for visual effect, the manga relies on shoujo manga tropes of emotional relationships, complications and manipulation.

Compared to the anime, the manga is short, tight, and deeply complicated. When we meet her, Tenjou Utena is very apparently a very young, immature girl with a dream of a Prince that has extremely tenuous roots in reality. It becomes quickly apparent that everything around Utena has extremely tenuous roots in reality. And, when Utena arrives at Ohtori Academy, this does not change.

Where, in the anime, we spend a lot of time with the Student Council, here in the manga they swiftly take a second seat to Ohtori Akio. In the anime, Akio is insidious and horrible, here he is overtly manipulative and power hungry. His honesty about his desires for power and his use of Utena to that end doesn’t make him any less loathsome. What is significantly different is the character of Touga who appeared to be manipulated almost until the very end of the anime here defects to Utena’s side and acts in part as a Greek Chorus, explaining the whims of the gods, and part as a Virgil to Utena’s Dante.

Speaking of shoujo tropes, the relationships portrayed in the manga are almost all toxic. Non-consensual kisses and slapping are common. There is a lot of slapping in these 3 volumes. A lot. Even when it doesn’t really serve any function, or move the story forward. By the time Saionji hauls off on Anthy the last time, in the bonus curry explosion chapter, you can be forgiven for thinking Anthy wouldn’t mind seeing them all dead.

Ratings:

Art- 8 Good, solid, sensual, beautiful but compared to her current outstanding work in Torikaebaya it’s almost simplistic.
Story – 7 Uncomfortable making, weird, and still, strangely hopeful.
Characters – 7 Not as fully developed as in the anime. Everyone seems slightly more delusional.
Service – 5 Creepy non-con seductions and slapping so…mostly violence against women’s autonomy
Yuri- 1 Only if you’re reading anything into Anthy and Utena’s relationship which, as of yet, has not developed beyond lies.

Overall – 8 for content , 9 for presentation

It’s equally as uncomfortable as the anime, although in different ways. I like that Akio is more overtly horrible, but am sad that it’s at the loss of fully developed Student Council.

When I read this series the first time back in 1998 or so, when I remember that it was very difficult for me to read the word “hyou” (leopard) for the longest time. Yes, I know there is a leopard on the page. I wanted to find a official translation…and couldn’t. It moved me to buy my first Japanese dictionary. ^_^

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Torikaebaya Manga, Volume 10 (とりかえ・ばや)

February 9th, 2017

AUUUUGGGHH.

Sorry, but I got almost all the way through Volume 10 of Saitou Chiho-sensei’s Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや) without screaming and then I hit the final bit and AUUUUGGGHH!

Okay, so. The Mikado is being pressured to replace Toguu-sama as heir and Ginkaku, an evil priest with really evil eyebrows and Shikibu-no-miya (who you always knew had to be evil because of his eyebrows) pick a really cute kid called Yuzuru. Sarasojuu (as Suiren) is helping out with him and ends up playing the flute and almost, almost the Mikado clues in, but nope he misses it. AUUUUGGGHH I really wanted him to figure it out.

Suiren, as Sarasojuu, is away from the capital and, for the first time we see him as a man. He’s willowly and pretty, as one might expect, but is taking to his new role. 

To suss Ginkaku out, Sara as Suiren has her lady in waiting share a rumor that she’s pregnant. The Mikado is furious at her, but she explains why and, eventually receives a gift of poison from the evil-eyebrowed one. On her way to inform the Emperor, she’s pushed off a walkway and suffers a concussion. The Mikado tends to her himself and she finally has a chance to explain the whole deal.

Ginakaku visits her…and here’s the moment when I screamed. I want the Emperor to figure it all out! Really. I want him to “get” what the deal with Sara and Suiren is, but the person who figures it all out is none other than the evil-eyebrowed priest Ginkaku. AUUUUGGGHH. Sara, as Suiren, puts him off but knows this is not good. Not good at all.

MEANWHILE Suiren, as Sarasojuu, is off to Ginkaku’s temple to find evidence of his perfidy. They find an elaborate curse against the Emperor in place. It becomes instantly apparent what the plan is. Now that Toguu-sama has been neutralized, if they kill the Mikado, they will becomes Prince Yuzuru’s regents. As Suiren turns to leave, they are attacked. AUUUUGGGHH

Oh my god this story is killing me.

It’s pretty obvious that, if any of the romances are going to have a positive resolution, both Suiren and Sarasojuu will have to pass through life as their birth gender, which annoys me to no end. In my imaginary ending now, Suiren is able to live with Toguu-sama away from court as herself and Sarasojuu is able to live as a young man whom the Mikado takes to bed sometimes. ^_^ Wishful thinking, I know.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 1

Overall – 9

I’m really disappointed in the Emperor. He was *so* close there for a second. I thought he was good-looking and smart, but nope. Ah well.

Volume 11 doesn’t land until March, so I have a few weeks to recover.

 

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Torikaebaya Manga, Volume 9 (とりかえ・ばや)

October 13th, 2016

51xwd9km9el-_sx318_bo1204203200_The train wreck that is the plot of Saito Chiyo-sensei’s Torikaebaya, Volume 9 (とりかえ・ばや) just keeps getting wreckier and wreckier.

Sarasojuu who was born as a woman, but should have been a man, has been masquerading now for a while as a woman…as her sibling Suiren, in fact.  Suiren, who was born a man, but should have been a woman, has been playing the part of a male courtier as Sarasojuu.

Complicating things, Sara has fallen in love with the Emperor and Suiren with Toguu-sama, his female heir. In a botched attempt to meet Toguu-sama once more, Suiren and Sara protect Toguu-sama from being assassinated, but must be punished for violating protocols and endangering her in the first place.

I desperately want the Emperor to clue in on what’s going on, but as decent a person as he is, he’s showing no signs of that. And he’s being pressured to choose a male heir over Toguu-sama by enemy factions in the government.

This volume almost exclusively follows Sara as Suiren. And I’m feeling uneasy about it, because she’s starting to assimilate into her “switched role” as a woman. It doesn’t feel right to me at all.

BUT, in Volume 9 one really super important thing happens for which I am extremely grateful. Poor Shi-no-hime, Sara’s wife in name only, with two children by Tsuwabuki, lost, almost utterly alone, is redeemed. Her family petitions Sara’s family to dissolve the marriage, when they receive an offer from a much older man. The dissolution is approved, with genuine regrets on Sara’s part, but Shi-no-hime is not moving for love, but a sense of duty to her children. As she sets off on her trip to her new husband’s house, Tsuwabuki sweeps up and rides off with her. At his summer home, he promises to take care of his children if she’ll have him. They – finally – are allowed to be together.  Thank the gods. At least Shi-no-hime gets a happy ending. Of all the characters in the book, I felt worst for her.

As I read, it dawned on me that if either Suiren and Sarasojuu were gay – or, to be more precise, if they were allowed to be gay as the sex they best suited, this story would be very different. But instead, Sara is finding her life as Suiren less uncomfortable, while Suiren is still managing as Sarasojuu. If they are to find happiness in love, I fear it will have to be as their birth sex. There doesn’t seem a way through this in which they can both, be the sex they wish to be and have the love they wish to have. Even having the tenguu switch them now would only make things worse, as Suiren loves Toguu-sama as a man  and Sara loves the Emperor as a woman. Aughs. So many aughs.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 1

Overall – 9

Volume 10 is already out. Get the antacids ready.

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LGBTQ Manga: Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや ), Volume 8

February 1st, 2016

TKBY8For the first time ever, I read a volume of Saitou Chiho’s amazing version of the Japanese classic Torikebaya and thought…maybe, just maybe, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

If you recall, Suiren and Sarasoujuu have switched back, as it were, to take up the roles assigned to the gender they were born with. They are, in effect, masquerading as each other, rather than being themselves.

In Volume 8, the person in Sarasojuu’s role, Suiren, is having a slightly easier time of it, as he is not under a lot of scrutiny, but the person in Suiren’s role, Sarasojuu, has yet *another* problem on her plate which is already fully crammed with problems.

Sarasoujuu, as a Naishogami, a lady in waiting, has come to deeply admire and love Toguu-sama, but of course is not in love with her. She is still drawing the frank and open attention of the Emperor, who used to look at her too longly and deeply as a male courtier and now desires her as a female one. This is complicated for many reasons. Sarasojuu as Naishogami has befriended San-no-hime, the elder sister of her own wife (argh!) and while she wants to support her friend in front of the Emperor, ends up taking his attention away from San-no-hime, thus betraying her. (Argh!) And worst of all, Sarasoujuu-as-Suiren has fallen in love with the Emperor (who is extremely handsome, as one might expect in a Saitou-sensei manga.) (ARGH!)

Toguu-sama I think has figured out the charade  but says nothing until she falls ill and asks to see Suiren-as-high ranking courtier, Udaisho. To get Suiren into the women’s quarters an elaborate scheme is concocted, but as the volume closes, Suiren is discovered and the ruse falls apart. (AUGH!)

Despite my protestations, I managed to read this volume without groaning once, because I thought I saw a way out. It’s an absurd, complex way out. BUT.

If Suiren remains in her place as Naishogami by day, but takes Sarasojuu’s place as Udaisho at night, and vice versa, they could be who they really are by day and also sleep with who they want to at night. It would horrible to have to switch back and forth and undoubtedly complicated and doomed to failure, but it’s a story and maybe could work. Probably not. But there you go, as dim a light as it is, I am fixated with the idea.

Obviously it would be amazing if they just were allowed to be happy as is. I just don’t see that happening ever. Even the Tengu switching them permanently isn’t a fix, because Suiren as Naishogami can’t sleep with Toguu-sama and Sarasojuu as Udaisho can’t sleep with the Emperor. Hrm.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 1
LGBTQ – 1

Overall – 9

Once again a luscious and lovely and emotionally wringing volume of this Heian classic. I’m enjoying the heck out of every single panel!

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