Archive for the Drama CD Category


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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Yuri Drama CD: Grand Stage Romance Review 2 Subaru Ryoya (グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第2幕「昴涼夜」)

November 25th, 2016

gsrrsrLesson learned. When one has a week-long migraine, one should not listen to Toyoguchi Megumi yelling at one for 40 minutes. 

Learned, because that is the bulk of the content of Grand Stage Romance Review 2, Subaru Ryoya (vラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第2幕「昴涼夜」) – Ryoya yelling at you. ^_^;

You may recall from Ryoya’s original Grand Stage Drama CD, that she is imperious and demanding and that we, as the Christine to her Phantom, have a lot to live up to. As the second series Drama CD opens, we have failed to live up to her standard and she is furious with us.

One of the many things I like about the Romance Review series is that the behavior “we” engage in (as narrated by the otokoyaku) all seem really sensible. “Our” behavior makes perfect sense in the context of what’s going on. So, as Ryoya is ragging endlessly at us, at some point I thought, “Good god, Ryoya are you jealous?” And, all of a sudden, we hear the rustle of cloth, Ryoya reacts as if she’s been slapped and I thought, “we” just said that exact same thing to her face. Good.

Ryoya follows us to the park, where we meet up with Akabara-no-kimi, presumably for advice on how to deal with Ryoya.  Ryoya’s jealousy hits 4th gear. What follows was a series of intriguing conversations around this straightforward plot.

First thing of note was the excruciatingly adorable shift in Toyoguchi-san’s voice when Ryoya calls home. The imperious, demanding Phantom sounds, instantly like a daughter talking to her mom. I squeed and laughed out loud simultaneously. 

Also extremely enjoyable was Akabara-no-kimi’s gentle guidance. She said something that has had me thinking for days. When Ryoya reluctantly admits to being jealous of Akabara-no-kimi, Yui says, “So am I.” “Akabara-no-kimi” Yui points out, is a construct, a work of fiction, that she is always running after. I though that was a genuinely insightful line.

The final scene is our and Ryoya’s reconciliation. She admits to be having been a jealous ass and we agree that she has indeed been a jealous ass. ^_^ Our speaking parts are indicated by much movement of cloth, indicating expressive physical movement, and I had a momentary vision of us speaking in Japanese Sign Language with flamboyant, angry arm motions. It made for a great imagined visual.

The final track is Ryoya’s new image song, “Sleepless Night” in which her jealousy plays a part in keeping her up.

Ratings: 

Overall – 8

I very much enjoyed this CD, despite the shouting. In several ways it served to humanize Ryoya and also give us a backbone that we were not permitted in the original Phantom/Christine scenario. 

Here is Toyoguchi-san singing “Sleepless Night”. Enjoy.

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Yuri Drama CD: Grand Stage – Romance Review, Volume 1 [Hiou Akito] ( グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第1幕「陽央あきと」)

November 7th, 2016

61hburgghl-_sx425_Waaaaahhhhhh!!! You guysss!!!!!!! This is the greatest Drama CD ever made. EVER. I doesn’t matter if you don’t understand a single word of Japanese, just run out right now and buy this and listen to it!

Ahem.

It came as a pleasure and a surprise that the Grand Stage series of Drama CDs by étriere was given a second “season” as it were. So I began, as I did the first time, with Volume 1, Grand Stage -Romance Review  (Hiou Akito) ( グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第1幕「陽央あきと」), starring Ogata Megumi as the tease of Sora-gumi, Hiou Akito.

This is the gayest thing I have ever listened to in my life.

As I suspected it might, the opening theme for the series is now “Hisshou ~WE CAN FLY~” with all five of the otokoyaku voice actresses singing what would be a perfectly respectable boy band song.

The CD begins at an onsen, at which we and Akito share a room…and a bath, then dinner. Then we head into the bathroom for more bathing, and all the while Akito is teasing, sexy, playful and really annoying. She completely gets on our nerves when we say we like her and she jokes instead of taking us seriously. We storm off, angry.

Akito is distressed by her inability to be serious, but she just never really thought about how to be taken seriously before. She meets up with Kazamiya Eru, and the youngest otokoyaku turns out to be wise beyond her years. 

Akito takes us out, then brings us back to her place to wine and dine us. With some sincere effort, she confesses that she likes us too. And we live happily ever after! Yay us!

The CD comes with a printed short-story insert which continues our tale. Akito invites us to meet her family. They are lovely, of course, and so excited to meet us. As we and Akito walk the shore of her hometown, Yokohama, she reminisces about her childhood and her best friend. Miraculously, the best friend shows up and we get to meet Hazuki, who knew Asahi when. (Asahi, the we of the Drama CD knows, is Akito’s real name.) Hazuki and Asahi joke around, talking about the old days. We learn Hazuki was also an otokoyaku for a while. As the day ends, we are very glad to have been allowed into Akito’s life a little bit more. And we walk off into the sunset as a happy Romeo and Juliet.

I know I’m super biased, but holy crap is Ogata-san sexy in this CD. And did I mention how gay it is? 

The final track is Akito singing “Always on my Mind.”which you can enjoy via the official Grand Stage channel on YouTube.

The recent stage show definitely went for the fakey-BL aspect, based on pictures of the production, as I suspected it might. But this CD is pure Yuri. In the short story, Akito is referred to as “kanoujo”, ie., “her,” throughout. Ogata-san uses her voice to smooth-talk and tease through the whole opening scene, leaving this listener with no doubt at all, that this series is meant for us.

Ratings: 

Overall – 9

I am hoping like heck that we get a third series. These are just sooo good. ^_^ And to say that Grand Stage scratches all my itches, is an understatement. It’s got some of my fave voice actresses playing otokoyaku of of a musical revue troupe, romancing their female partners, on a Drama CD. It’s perfect!

 

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Yuri Drama CD – Grand Stage Daiundokai (グラン・ステージ 大運動会 ドラマCD)

September 25th, 2016

gsutk Welcome back to a joyful, squeeful look at one of Japan’s Yuri-est exports, The Grand Stage series of Drama CDs. Today we’re looking at the final CD of the first “season” Grand Stage Daiundokai (グラン・ステージ 大運動会), in which the otokoyaku of the Grand Stage Sora-gumi compete in a sports festival against the other groups. (Groups that, until just now, we didn’t know existed.)

There any number of goofy contests, including the bun-eating race, which poses a huge problem for Ryoya, who is disgusted by such low-class food. The otokoyaku are required to read romantic lines into a microphone for the service of the female fans and, of course, there is a relay race in which dramatic things happen and despite injuries and because of sacrifices…they win. Phew! It’s even okay that they don’t win the contest, because they gave it their all and two of them won special achievement awards and they bonded as a team, as nakama. Niji-gumi can have the trophy.

As promised, we meet Kohaku Minami’s older sister Kurea (Claire) who is voiced by Kitamura Eri, who also does Kohaku Minami. In fact, every time we heard the female fans cheering I giggled, knowing the the otokoyaku VAs were voicing the fans, as well.

In between the events, the “boys” performed a song. And as we are at the last  CD of this series I really wanted to take a moment and tall about the music and the singers.

Every other CD has begun with a song called “Yume on Stage”  (夢 on Stage) which I have repeatedly described as the most musically predictable song ever. I’ve found a link to it on what admittedly is some really shady site. Scroll down to click the green “play” button to smile at a song so musically predictable, you’ll know every note that is coming, right down the flourish in the final line. ^_^ It’s not hard at all to imagine a Takarazuka-like revue troupe singing it.

In this drama CD, they take a completely different tack. Last spring when I was in Japan, we spent a day walking around Sunshine 60, because we had nothing else to do particularly and randomly ran into a boy idol group performance. It was surprisingly pleasant. Well, the song from this Drama CD, called “Hisshou ~WE CAN FLY~” (飛翔~WE CAN FLY~) was something you can totally imagine a boy band singing. And you know what? They sing it *really* well!  So I found you a link on a shady site, so you can enjoy at least part of the song. And I want to apologize to Toyoguchi Megumi. Because in Maria-sama ga Miteru, as Sei sits at her graduation ceremony, she murders Aogeba Toutoshi, the song always sung at high school graduations in Japan, I assumed she couldn’t sing. She can. I offer my sincere apologies for not remembering actresses act.

Physical extras with the CD this time is a card with all five of the characters in street clothes (as opposed to costume.)

Before I wrap up, I want to mention the gags built around Akabara-no-kimi, Suoh Yui. She is positioned as the senior otokoyaku of the group, to whom everyone defers. And she is also presumed to be the most cultured and elite of them, even more than the aristocratic Ryouya. So when she asks to join her teammates for lunch, you can imagine the scene as the ranks of waiters carrying trays and  trays of French cuisine across the field. ^_^

After the relay, in which Hiou Akito has been hurt, among other calamities, Akabara-no-kimi offers to help Akito get to her personal physician, I had to laugh again, as Ryoya commented that if the fans saw Yui holding Akito like that, it would be mayhem. ^_^

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable CD and great way to end the series.

However, it played more with the maleness of the otokoyaku more than was “Yuri.” There’s never any sense of irony as the otokoyaku read romantic lines to “girls” or speak of their partners. They are largely playing the part as boys, rather than as women who play boys.

Ratings:

Overall – 9

I’m more bummed than ever at the thought of losing Saiga Mitsuki as Akabara-no-kimi if they continue, since that is the plot of the live action stage event.  Oh well, I’ve got a bunch more of these to go, and I can always go back and enjoy them all over again.

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Grand Stage…on Stage!

August 29th, 2016

GSLToday’s post is via YNN Correspondent Brendan B, who wrote in with some amazing news! The Grand Stage series of Drama CDs are going live…on stage.

It’s such extraordinary news, in fact, that I didn’t want to lump it in with the rest of the news report.

First things first, Grand Stage Live will be held October 26, through October 30, at the Akasaka Red Theater in Tokyo. The cast has been announced and although it does not cast any of the voice actresses of the CDs, at least some of the cast has played male roles, included Ryuuto, who is playing Kohaku Minami. Ryuuto, Brendan pointed out, was one of the male villians in a Sailor Moon Musical.

The rest of the cast is as follows. Hiou Akito is being played by Nakayama Satsuki; Komori Misae plays Subaru Ryouya, Tanigawa Airi (a NMB48 member) plays Kazamiya Eru and Yuuto Irya plays Suoh Yui.

The story synopsis tells us that Grand Stage does a special Halloween performance every year and this year, Akabara-no-kimi, Suoh Yui is stepping down. A new surprising person is about to be named Top Star!

I’d guess that indicates a third series of Drama CDs (or at least a new one with a new seiyuu.) I’m okay with that, although I will be sad to lose Saiga Mitsuki. She was so wonderful as Suoh Yui in that 5th drama CD.

A recent article in ModelPress (in Japanese) actually talks about the Live event of the series and about women models playing “Ikemen” (attractive men.) Of course, the actresses are not playing attractive men…they are playing women who play attractive men, which is an interesting layer of mindfuckery.

Grand Stage Live has a Facebook page, and Twitter account, if you want to keep up on news.

I’m going to have to say, this is pretty big news. It’s a level of meta that is both appealing and really strange if you take a moment to think about it. ^_^

Thanks Brendan and if anyone is going to be in Japan in late October, and can see this, do let me know! I will demand a review.

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