Archive for the Shimura Takako Category

Wandering Son Manga, Volume 4 (English)

July 30th, 2013

WanderingSon4We’ve covered a few volumes of Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son, published in English by Fantagraphics here on Okazu, but it hasn’t been featured regularly.

We’ve covered Volume 1 and Volume 2 and I hope those reviews were enough to encourage you to buy and read Volume 3. The early volumes introduce us to Shuuichi, a boy who wishes to become a girl and Shuu-chan’s classmates, friends, enemies (among whom I have to count his sister, the aspiring model) and Yoshino, a girl who wishes to become a boy.

In Volume 4, the story remains complex and emotional as always. By this point, Shimura-sensei’s characters are finely wrought, so the tension in each panel is palpable. Manga scholar Matt Thorn has gotten out of the way of his own translations, so the story flows as smoothly as a story as jangly as this can possibly flow.

The children are just beginning to enter puberty, and their bodies are not necessarily their friends. In this story we see the complexity of sex, gender, gender roles and sexuality laid out in the messy mishmash that it is. After reviewing Anything That Loves last week, I found myself paying attention – for the first time – to Anna, another aspiring model and peer of Shuuichi’s sister, Maho.

Anna is not presented to us as a nice person. She’s mean to Shuu-chan…but then her introduction to him was dismissive and unkind and Maho is selfish, not supportive of her brother and uninterested in him as a person. (The last, admittedly, pretty common among siblings.) Anna, taking her cue from this, has teased Shuu-chan in an immature way – but also in a way that clearly indicates to the audience that she is interested in him.

It’s hard enough as an adult to understand the mechanism for “showing interest in” another person. As a tween/teen, there is pretty much no socially acceptable mechanism for this at all.  Any expression of interest of any kind is grounds for teasing. And here is Anna, interested in a boy who would prefer to not be a boy….she’s got to be asking some questions about herself in the middle of the night. Is her interest in Shuu-chan in the boy-girl he is or the person he might become? There are no answers for this at this point, and as we saw in Anything That Loves – there may never really be an answer. Anna is immature enough to take her confusion out on Shuu-chan…which puts us in a bad place as readers. We might be sympathetic to her if she was merely angry at Shuu-chan for not being what she wanted, or at herself for having confusing feelings, but in her (and Maho’s) hurtful words and actions we’re seeing something that is way too close to bullying and bashing for us to be sympathetic at all.

Next volume they start middle school with the addition of the rigid gender-identifier, the school uniform. What, for so many shoujo heroines is a looked-for right of passage, will be for Shuu-chan and Yoshino-kun, a political and social statement. This gender/sex/sexuality/ thing is really complicated. I’ve already got my fingers crossed tightly for them and I don’t even have Volume 5 yet.


Art – 7
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – ?

Overall – 9

The best, perhaps the only real way to  describe Wandering Son, is that it is compelling story-telling.

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Yuri Anime: Sweet Blue Flowers / Aoi Hana Disk 2 (English)

May 24th, 2013

swb Where Disk 1 of Sweet Blue Flowers was full of nostalgia and longing, Disk 2 is a brutally beautiful look at all the different kinds of pain people can inflict upon one another without ever meaning to – or wanting to – do so.

With the backdrop of the school play (and Sugimoto being simply too cool as Heathcliff,) Fumi finds herself unsure of her sempai’s feelings. As the days pass, she is more and more sure that Sugimoto likes someone else. When she discovers the truth and confronts Sugimoto, she finds an uncomfortable truth waiting for her, as well.

If the entire series was just this one disk, it would still be one of my favorites. The life lessons in it are deep and abiding. It’s a love song to young love and to Kamakura and to the springtime of youth. Above all, it is a love song to young girls who find themselves in love with other girls. You are not alone, you are not wrong, you can love and lose and love again. That’s a hell of a chorus and I am glad this series is out there, singing those important words.

I’ll say this once again, because it cannot be said too many times – despite her own words to the contrary, Fumi is an incredibly strong character. As I watched this series over again, I felt honored to be allowed to share in Fumi’s story.

The world could use more Fumis.


Art – 8 (with some lapses toward the last two episodes)
Story – 10
Characters – 10
Yuri – 8
Service – 8  Sugimoto as Heathcliff is pure service. ^_^

Overall – 9

I’m so on pins and needles about the end of the manga. I know what I want it to be, but what will it be? /worry worry/

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Aoi Hana to End in July

May 8th, 2013

Aoi_Hana1ANN is reporting that Shimura Takako’s Yuri manga, Aoi Hana  will be coming to an end in the July issue of Manga Erotics F.

The Aoi Hana manga was picked up for translation by JManga in 2012 and the Sweet Blue Flowers anime was recently released by Nozomi/RightStuf.

8 volumes is a good solid run, so there’ll be no complaints from me. Thank you Shimura-sensei for such a wonderful series!

Thanks also to YNN Correspondent Orange Pekoe who wrote in to let us know the news.

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Yuri Anime: Sweet Blue Flowers / Aoi Hana Disk 1 (English)

May 6th, 2013

swbWhen Manjoume Fumi returns home to Kamakura to go to high school, she’s pretty much forgotten her childhood best friend, Okudaira Akira. But circumstance has brought the two together again in what, for many Yuri fans, is the most-anticipated anime release of 2013.

Fumi is a Nadesico beauty, tall, with long black hair. She was – and still is – a crybaby, who as child often turned to energetic, assertive Akira, A-chan, for help. Their meeting is accidental, but they fall back into their old pattern without even realizing it. And, in a moment, the two of them are best friends once again, even though they go to different schools.

Fumi is caught up in cross-school event, the Drama Club’s play for the school festival – and even more caught up by the lead actress, Sugimoto Yasuko. Somewhat to her surprise, Fumi finds herself dating Sugimoto-sempai and liking it, despite having recently ended a disappointing affair with her cousin.

Everything in this series is classic Yuri, redolent with the smell of old school hallways and libraries filled with old books, until Fumi confesses to her new-old best friend that she’s in love with and dating another girl. A-chan does her best to support Fumi. When Fumi tells Sugimoto, she realizes instantly that Fumi is exceedingly strong. She’s right, but she doesn’t yet know how strong Fumi is. Aoi Hana may feel like it’s set in the Showa period, but Fumi is a Heisei girl – a contrast we’ll see again and again in this story.

However. It wasn’t Fumi’s achingly adorable personality that brought a tear to my increasingly sentimental eye this time. It was the title of the first episode. As the words Hana Monogatari (花物語り) appeared on the screen, I got something in my eye, or maybe it was my allergies. (;_;) Or, maybe, it was the reminder that I’m not the only person to think of Yoshiya Nobuko as a beloved ancestor to this genre.


Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 10
Yuri – 9
Service – 2

Overall – 9

Disk 1 of Sweet Blue Flowers was incredibly beautiful, with the hyper-realistic backgrounds that are so popular in anime right now and the source of so much destination tourism for fans in Japan. Despite it being a “Lucky Penny” discount release, the DVD set comes with a booklet of promotional art, so we get a great extra even with the lower price.

You know how Fumi feels about the halls of Fujigaya? I feel that way about this anime. It’s recent chronologically, but it is a Yuri classic, nonetheless. I am so thankful to Shimura-sensei for writing this manga, and for JC Staff for animating it. And I am very, very thankful to Nozomi/RightStuf for releasing it in English!

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Yuri Manga: Aoi Hana, Volume 7 (青い花)

August 29th, 2012

There is a girl, she is in love with another girl. The other girl loves her back. They love each other. The end.

It’s that simple, right? The story ends with “Happily Ever After” and we move on to the next story, and never think about the characters after that moment.

This is the essence of “Story A” – the girl and the girl ride off into the sunset and nothing bad ever happens to them.


Humans are not like that, Love is not like that. Friendship is not like that. Life is not like that.

If you have ever fallen in love with someone you know what I’m saying. ^_^; “Love hurts” isn’t a joke, it’s a reality.

In Aoi Hana, Volume 7, love hurts. Even as these girls we’ve come to care about move into their final year of high school, right on the edge of being adults, they are facing some issues they have to deal with. These issues are things that, one way or the other, will bring them that much closer to maturity. Sex is part of this, but it’s just part. Communication is a larger, much more intangible and difficult to grasp, part.

Kyouko needs to find her way with her fiance’, Kou. Their relationship is complicated by their betrothal, their actual feelings for one another and, most impenetrably, Kyouko’s mother.

Mogi’s relationship with Shinobu takes a shocking turn. Will they be split apart by their own lack of confidence or will they find their way?

At the very beginning of the volume, Haru mentions that her sister and teacher have “gotten married” – although it was not a legally binding ceremony, it was meaningful for them…and she lets us know how her parents coped (or didn’t.) Same-sex marriage in manga. I want to hug Shimura-sensei and Morishima-sensei and any other mangaka who surfaces this issue in a manga.

Most important for us, there’s Akira and Fumi. Fumi is in love with Akira, but she is convinced that Akira does not feel the same way about her. Akira can see Fumi is in love with her – and she does not want to stand in the way of Fumi’s happiness, but she has no idea at all what would make *herself* happy.

Fumi thought she got what she wanted, but Akira’s lack of honesty is subtle poison. Fumi’s not as happy as Akira thought she should be after having given herself entirely to her dearest friend. Although physically they’ve been as close as possible, emotionally, they are more distant than ever before.

Many fans have wanted this relationship since the beginning. This volume is very likely to make those fans profoundly unhappy. I have never numbered myself among those who wanted Fumi and Akira as a couple. This relationship is a perfect example of what happens when you get what you want, but not what you need. IMHO, the best of all possible results is that they end the relationship quickly, with no regrets and as few tears as possible, then patch together what remains of their friendship before that too dissolves. This was not the path that leads to a happy ending, they need to return to the fork in the road and choose another.

Against a backdrop of writing, creating and performing the Three Musketeers for the drama competition, this series eschews conventions of manga for realism. Thank heavens.


Story – 10
Characters – 10
Art – 10
Lesbian Life – 10
Service – 3

Overall – 10

There is a girl, she loves another girl. That girl is not sure she loves her back. The end?

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