Archive for the Grand Stage Category


Drama CD: Grand Stage Special Performance (グラン・ステージ 特別公演)

September 14th, 2017

The Drama CD Grand Stage Special Performance (グラン・ステージ 特別公演) is technically the end of the first season of the series, but I had listened to the second group CD, Grand Stage Daiundokai , first, so I ended up listening to this one last of all the Grand Stage Drama CDs. And I have to tell you, it worked really well as a final CD for the series, so I don’t feel bad at all about it.

In the opening tracks, the established otokayaku of the Sora-gumi troupe, Suoh Yui, Hiou Akito, Subaru Ryoya and Kazmiya Eru meet the newest of their group – Minami Kohaku. Kohaku’s sister Kurea, is well known to all of them, so Kohaku, it turns out, has a reputation to live up to.

The bulk of the CD follows the otoyaku as a group. The leader of the Sora-gumi is planning a special performance and the otokoyaku are being asked to do a play – “Passive-Aggressive Red Riding Hood.” Frankly, I think Ryoya is a natural fit and I’m not the only one, but there’s a problem. The otokoyaku are not well-suited to play the female role. Hiou and Yui try to play the part together, but they both end up sounding like otokoyaku. Eru has a small crisis at the very idea of even attempting to play a female role, something that had this been in any way an LGBTQ series they could have made a plot point. But instead, they just circle around Eru’s insistence on being a cool guy on stage. They do the same for Ryoya’s inability to be in Kabuki. Lost opportunities to speak about gender roles and Japanese culture, but oh well. In the end, they play it for a comedy with Hiou in the role and then look forward to their musumeyaku doing their performance.

Ratings:

Overall – 9

It was a a fun end to what was a more amazing than I could have ever have expected series of Drama CDs. I’m gonna have to listen to them once more from the top. ^_^

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Yuri Drama CD: Grand Stage Romance Review #5 “Akabara no Kimi” Suoh Yui (グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第5幕「赤薔薇の君 蘇皇唯」)

July 16th, 2017

If you learn one thing from Grand Stage Romance Review #5 “Akabara no Kimi” Suoh Yui (グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第5幕「赤薔薇の君 蘇皇唯」), it’s that the sound of a nod and a head shaking back and forth as represented by the movement of material sound completely different. How fascinating.

It’s not the only thing we learn, obviously. We also learn that, under her cool, sophisticated exterior, the woman who goes by the name Suoh Yui, the senior otokoyaku of the Grand Stage Sora-gumi, has a very passionate and possessive heart.

She invites us over her apartment to discuss our partnership, but doesn’t hesitate to note she had a large bed. Classy, Yui, classy. But as we speak, she almost offhandedly points out that she lets us see part of her that no one else can ever see. She is, as one might expect, teasing and seductive, but, also as expected, it’s all a joke. After we leave for the night, Yui starts to fret.

The next day, Yui comes across Hiou Akito shopping at a home good store. It turns out that Akito and her partner are talking about moving in together and she’s finding herself looking for furniture. As Akito shares her concerns and doubts with Yui, Yui tells Akito that she reminds her a lot of herself. As Akito talks, she finds her her own unease growing and leaves. Akito says that this is the first time she’s seen Akabara like this. Yui starts to call us over and over. When we finally call back, she sounds desperately lonely…and a little frightening. She comes over to bring us back to her place.

When we get there, Yui tells us that we’re her’s…but when she sees us asleep, she realizes how much she’s fallen for us, watching us on stage. We’re awake and we hear everything she’s said. We embrace, as she asks us to be her Shirayuri-hime. We agree. Holding each other, we go to sleep, but not before she kisses us on the neck.

The next morning it’s all love-love banter between us. Again, Yui points out that we are the only one to see her like this. It’s obvious to us that her true self has been a well-kept secret.

Yui meets Akito once more, who asks about her relationship with her previous partner. Yui is glad to talk about it. Akito’s worried about asking her partner to move in, and is looking for a good time to ask. Yui’s advice is applicable to many situations – no one is like anyone else, every relationship and situation is unique. They both come out of the conversation relieved. Yui admits to being nervous about the announcement of the new Top Stars for the new year.

Yui comes home to find us cooking. She tells us that she kind of nervous and kind of relieved at the announcement, and offers us a “partner ring,” then embraces us and asks us to stay with her forever, her beloved Shirayuri.

The final track is a Spanish guitar-inspired song called “You’re mine.” Which you can hear in this Youtube clip:

As everyone had predicted this is a pretty darn Yuri CD. ^_^; And Saiga Mitsuki fans must have been downright swooning as she really pulls out all the stops her in her 10000x Yuri power up. A fine way to end the character CDs for this series.

Technically the Grand Stage Daiundokai is the final CD of the series, but I listened to the group CDs out of order, so I still have one left.

Ratings:

Overall – 10

The only thing I *don’t* know is who was announced in the stage play as the new Top Star! I can’t find any reviews of the play or spoilers. How vexing. I’m also a little bummed that this series is over and I’m not getting any more sexy-voiced Grand Stage Drama CDs, but I’m really glad to have gotten these. ^_^ And seriously we got two series, so I can’t complain too much. 

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Yuri Drama CD: Grand Stage Romance Review, Volume 4 (Kohaku Minami) / グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第4幕「美波琥珀」

March 23rd, 2017

All you lovely folks who wrote in to tell me that Grand Stage Romance Review, Volume 4 (Kohaku Minami) / グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第4幕「美波琥珀」was pretty goshdarn Yuri…you were so right! Although I’m always going to be partial to Hiou Akito’s second drama CD, Minami is pretty wonderful in this disk.

Minami, you may remember from her  first CD, is the second of two Grand Stage stars in her family. Her sister Kurea (Claire) is sort of overbearing in an “I only want you to be happy” kind of way. She’s annoying in her care and attention. She’s also voiced by Kitamura Eri, who voices Minami, who carries this duel role throughout the CD.

Minami has found genuine passion for the Grand Stage and pretty much credits the person she loves for that. It seems obvious that that person is us, her sempai and partner, but either we pretend to not know at first, or haven’t clued in. I was disappointed in us. 

But, eventually Minami comes clean and admits flat out that we are the person she loves. She doesn’t ask for an answer, per se, but confesses like a person who really wants to confess. 

We are, remember, older, wiser and a good friend of Kurea’s. It’s pretty clear that we’re not “in love” with Minami, even though we obvious care deeply about her. So even though we are not leaping into Minami’s arms, it’s both admirable and sweet that she comes right out and tells us her feelings.

The CD ends with Minami singing her song about happiness, “Sachi,” which you can hear on this Youtube preview.

Ratings:

Overall – 8 (A point off for Kurea, she’s just kind of annoying.)

You go, Minami. I bet you’ll win us over one day. ^_^

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Yuri Drama CD: Grand Stage Romance Review, Volume 3 (Kazamiya Eru) ( グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第3幕「風宮絵琉」)

February 2nd, 2017

Squee! Seriously, could  Inoue Marina get any cuter?  ^_^

In Grand Stage Romance Review, Volume 3 (Kazamiya Eru) ( グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第3幕「風宮絵琉」) the youngest of the Sora-gumi otokoyaku faces a crisis. It’s a good crisis, but…

The song “Hisshou  ~WE CAN FLY~” (飛翔~WE CAN FLY~), sung by all five principals opens the CD. It’s cute and sticky and you can easily imagine them singing it in boy-band style.  I wondered briefly if the lyrics were online, until I literally slapped myself upside the head and pulled out the little booklet with, DUH, the lyrics. I want to share two things about this song with you, both reliant on the quirks of translation and language, but please be assured I say this all with the utmost love and respect. On the CD track, the song was most unfortunately subject to the vagaries of the R/L issue in Japanese-English translation, with the resulting title “飛翔~WE CAN FRY~”. I chuckled, but I swear, not unkindly. The final line  of the lyrics has an interesting reverse quirk. “Hisshou, We Can Fly” and ” Hit Show, We Can Fight” sounded so similar as sung that had I not looked at the lyrics, I would not have known that was that the lyrics included both those lines.  ^_^ 

Eru, you may remember from the first series, is the Sora-gumi’s Peter Pan, youthful and prone to being adorably hyper. When she’s told by Ryoya that the head of the group has called for her to come to the office, she’s a little too green to realize that Ryoya’s teasing. Worried that she’s been cut from the team, she learns that instead, her greatest dream may have come true.

Having been scouted in New York, it has always been Eru’s dream to perform on Broadway and now, an offer to do that very thing has come up! She rushes to reassure us, her partner, that she won’t leave though, until we respond (with implied forcefulness) that she should go after her dream and not worry about us, we’ll be fine. Of course, we’d be more convincing if we weren’t crying when we said that. Eru reluctantly agrees.

We tearfully part. Eru’s crying voice was heartbreaking and you just know that we’re balls of sniffly mush as she heads off to New York to reach for her dream.

As the new track begins, we find Eru has returned. (Is anyone surprised?) But her reason for returning was uniquely Eru-esque. She’s become accustomed to and enjoys performing male roles. In fact, her goal is to achieve a “cool” guy reputation. But once she arrived in New York, she realized that she’d be performing as a woman. (And so the slightly strange cover image is explained at last.) Not that she objected; it just, she realized, wasn’t her. And so she’s back. AND she promises not to leave us again. In execrable English she tells us that she loves our teary face. Squee!

The final spoken track finds both us and Eru in New York (you can tell, because the BGM is saxophones…duh..) and Eru semi-accurately walks us through Times Square and Broadway. (I know for a fact that Ogata Megumi has been to NYC, because that’s where I met her, so she would have been able to regale the writers with stories of what it looked like 15 years ago. It’s changed a lot since.) And we promise to stay together forever.

I think Sakura speaks for us all here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the CD finishes with “2 be there” a new image song.

Ratings: 

Overall – 9

So, another squeezable Drama CD from the geniuses at  étriere, who clearly just want me to be happy. ^_^

Here is Inoue Marina as Kazamiya Eru singing “2 be there.” I thought it suited her.

 

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Top Ten Yuri of 2016

December 31st, 2016

Before I finish my whimsical look at the things that best expressed “Yuri” for me for the year, I just want to thank you all once again. 2016 was one of the best years of my life. I was able to travel a lot and meet even more of you than ever before. I was able to attend some fun events, speak with terrific folks and generally had a fantastic year.

And with that, here is the Okazu Best Yuri list for 2016!
 

10. LGBTQ Anthologies

From Northwest Press’s Absolute Power, to Indie books Oath, DatesBeyond, and Power & Magic through the IDW/DC collaboration Love is Love, 2016 was chock full of wonderful, hopeful collections of comic and prose for, by and about LGBTQ folks.

I love them all and love that out of pain, will come ever more inclusive and diverse art. We’re going to need it, we’re going to need to be making it. Commit to reminding yourself that you are not alone, there there are many people like you out there and who need you.  Anthologies are one way we can speak to one another…and I love them.
 
 
  
  
 

9. Yuri Webcomics

I  remember back in the 1990s, checking out a listing for “Yuri” webcomics someone had suggested to me, and finding a pretty amazing list of comics that had no lesbians and were “Yuri” only in the most extreme sense of the word. Wow, have we come a long way. I don’t think I’ve read so many webcomics in my life as I do now.

I’m reading Yuri and lesbian webcomics from North America, Thailand, the Philipines, Europe and Japan. The art is breathtaking, and there are so many it’s hard to single out a few, but I’m going to anyway.

If you want to read Yuri webcomics that inspire, are beautiful and have great stories, I recommend Pulse by Ratana Satis, Carciphona by Shilin and Always Human by Ari North. All three will give you wings. ^_^ Which is why these Yuri webcomics and so many many other LGBTQ and diverse webcomics (Agents of the Realm, The Hues, and so many more) make my best-of list for the year.
 

 

8. Yuri Publishers

In years past this mention has had a few names, most of which you’re more than familiar with. This year I want to list out all the publishers I thought off the top of my head that have in the past year, are currently or are about to publish Yuri manga.

In English: Seven Seas, Yen Press, Viz Media, and Udon Press.

In Japanese:  Ichijinsha, Kodansha, Hakusensha, Gentosha, Futabasha, Takeshobo, East Press, Kadokawa and Media Factory. Global Bookwalker for digital and a host of online comic providers in Japan and overseas.

Yuri isn’t niche anymore. In a few short years (short in terms of literature, that is,) Yuri has gone from being merely a fetish or a plot element,  to a fully-developed genre in it’s own right. In large part this is because creators and readers demanded it…and, as the market developed, the publishers followed. Thank you to all the publishers who bring us great (and some not-so-great ^_^) Yuri! 

 
 
 

7.  Yuri and LGBTQ Comic Events

It’s getting harder and harder to plan my events schedule, there are so many new and wonderful inclusive events out there.

There’s Girl Love Fest, of course, and Nijicon and Flamecon, here in the US.  There’s YaY-con in the Netherlands, Y/CON in Paris, and Yaoi/Yuri North in Canada, all of which tend to be a little heavy on the BL stuff, but all can use as much interest in Yuri as they can get! So, if you’re planning on attending, get involved and let them know what you want to see.  And coming up for 2018, keep your eye on Universal Fancon.

There’s also indie/small press comic shows like MoCCA and Stumptown and the amazing Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which are all queer-friendly. Don’t forget that that among the masses of doujinshi at Comiket and Comitia there’s great LGBTQ work.  Queer and Comics , the first academic conference on LGBTQ comics will coming to San Francisco for 2017!

There’s never been such riches in shows for folks who are looking for comics that tell their stories and communities of fans to be part of. If you haven’t yet added a LGBTQ comic event to your schedule, there’s no time like the present! Make it a 2017 New Year resolution to  get yourself to a Yuri/ LGBTQ comics event.

 
 

6. Lesbian Comic Essays 

I keep mentioning these, but comic essays have really lifted the profile of “lesbians” in the world of Yuri manga. Where manga often seem mired in coming out narratives about young girls, comic essays pick up the thread of lives lived by real women, for whom the story did not end with a kiss and promise.

Unsurprisingly, many of these stories deal with difficult topics, precisely because the story does not end when the last page of the book is turned.  Like autobiographical comics in the western indie market, these manga fill in the gap between fantasy and reality for LGBTQ readers.

Every year I find these comic essays to be some of the most satisfying comics I sit down to read. I hope the trend continues and we get even more women telling their own stories. Next year, you’ll get a chance to experience a legally licensed comic essay, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, from Seven Seas. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it!

 
 

5. Sailor Moon

I said it the other day, “If Haruka and Michiru make an appearance in any given year on Okazu, they are always going to win by default.” By default, Sailor Moon makes the list this year. ^_^

Not ONLY did we get a powered up- Season Three of Sailor Moon Crystal and Sailor Moon S finally got the definitive release it deserved, but also, I was able to see the Sailor Moon 20th anniversary exhibition in Tokyo!

2016 was a good year for me and Sailor Moon and for that, it just has to be present on this list. ^_^

 

 

4. Yuri Games

Without any doubt, this was the most surprising thing that happened this year. 2016 was the year I started to play Yuri games, read Yuri VNs and promote Yuri games that did not suck the life out of me! There were two Yuri VNs that were excellent, a couple that were good and a lot more that weren’t terrible, just not for me.   I am still shocked that I have an actual Steam account I have used multiple times this year(!). That’s just…amazing.  

So, yay for Yuri games! I’m glad to see some good ones from Japan make it over here, like Kindred Spirits, but even gladder to see good original games from domestic creators, like Highway Blossoms. And best of all, I think the Yuri Game Jam may be the best thing ever for all Yuri gamers. Support and play those games, then come back here and let us know how they are! Let’s go Yuri gaming!

 

So, we’re here at the Top Three Yuri anythings this year, and I’m pretty sure if you’re a regular reader you won’t be surprised, just from the sheer number of times I have raved about all these things….

 

3. Steven Universe

I don’t know what to say about this cartoon that I haven’t already said. It speaks to me in ways I had no idea a cartoon even could. Multiple episodes this last season have been Emmy-worthy. I sing the songs on repeat for days on end. The story is strongly anime-inspired, but never pretends to be something it isn’t. This is a true child of the Utena generation of American anime fans.

The acting, storytelling and sheer radical diversity of every single facet of it’s production, including staff, cast and characters, makes Steven Universe the cartoon I’d been waiting my whole life for. With so many canon couples between gems who identify as “she,” and such strong Yuri anime roots, I have no qualms about claiming it as ours. ^_^

Without question, Steven Universe has been one of the absolutely best Yuri things about 2016. 

 

2. Yuri Community

You, my Okazu Family. You, my readers, and writers, and commenters, my social sharers, my YNN Correspondents, my Patrons.  Every year you make the list and every year, it always feels a little inadequate on my part. I can never quite express how thankful I am for your support, your Guest Reviews, your comments and corrections, your news tips and the tremendous outpouring of generosity which always takes my breath away. I’ve been touched over and over by your kindness,  your humor and your insight. 

The Yuri Community is, once again, one of the very best things of the year. Thank you for being part of the Okazu family. 

 

There’s been one thing that I think has been conspicuous by it’s absence from these lists. We will now rectify that. ^_^ The number one Yuriest thing of 2016 is, without question…..

 

1. Grand Stage Drama CDs

These are so Yuri…! Otokoyaku of the Grand Stage Revue, all voiced by high-Yuri cred actresses, in which *we* play the part of the partner? The only way this could have been Yurier, is if these women showed up at our house dressed in suits and proceeded to read romantic poetry to us directly.

Having Ogata Megumi, Toyoguchi Megumi, Inoue Marina, Kitamura Eri and Saiga Mitsuki swooning all over you (metaphorically) while whispering sweet nothings in your ear?  This is so. fucking. Yuri. ^_^

This series hits me square in all my weak points, so short of a manga about a motorcycle riding, eyepatch-wearing martial artist librarian lesbian, this is pretty much it, this is the champion.

The Yuriest anything of 2016 is étriere’s Grand Stage Drama CD series. ^_^

As we finish up our look at the best of the year, I offer my fervent wish that our year going forward is a very good one. From my family to all of you in the Okazu and Yuricon family, we wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

 

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