Archive for the English Manga Category


Yuri Manga: Kiss and White Lily For My Dearest Girl, Volume 3 (English)

October 12th, 2017

Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl, Volume 3,  follows the drama of the school’s garden club into which resident school genius Kurozawa Yurine is roped.

Yukina, the Gardening Club President  is determined to save the school rose garden despite the opposition of the Student Council. Only, it turns out that they aren’t the real problem at all. 

As I said in my review of this volume in Japanese, the story here is about love and betrayal and growing up. The drama of the Gardening Club  is watching characters having to deal being betrayed and betraying others and still finding some sense of hope and growth, much like the roses that are at the center of the drama. 

This seems especially true when we spend a few moments with Yurine and Ayaka. Ayaka’s protests are getting weaker as Yurine’s honesty and, for lack of a better term, purity of intent, have worn down her resistance.

Despite the big lie that drives the plot, this volume leaves one with a feeling thaat, rather despite themselves, the characters are growing and changing. One hopes, of course, for the better.

Jocelyne Allen again is doing an excellent job of translation, preserving each character’s unique voice  The Yen team’s technical reproduction, lettering, touchup are all clean. When you pick this book up, you get to slide into an authentic  manga reading experience without being thrown out of the moment by anything. I’m old enough to remember how many years this wasn’t true and to still appreciate it every single time. ^_^ I also want to shout out to the really excellent work on the cover – and especially the spine design, that perfectly captures the font and feel of the delicate text used on the original. It looks really nice. 

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 8 Less cute and sweet before, but more complicated instead.
Yuri – 8
Service – 1 on principle only

Overall – 8

Many sincere thanks to the team at Yen for an excellent work and now, having moved past the weakest volumes of Kiss and White Lily, we can buckle down for a more complex, and more compelling, story. Volume 4 will be out at the end of November, so get ready for more!

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Yuri Manga: Kase-San and Shortcake (English)

October 9th, 2017

Kase-san and Shortcake, by Hiromi Takashima is awkward and painful and wonderful and sexy and excruciating and delightful. In other words, it’s a bit like adolescence itself, except that I’m perfectly willing to re-read this volume and not at all willing to relive adolescence. ^_^

Yamada and Kase-san are facing their final summer in high school and, with it, the blank slate of their future. Kase-san is, of course, busy with track and she’s being scouted by a big Tokyo college. Yamada’s aspirations are much more local. But if Yamada stays and Kase-san goes what will become of them? 

However, the one thing Yamada has going for her is resolve. And no matter what obstacles are put in her way, when she’s made a decision, she goes for it. In a fit of passion, she jumps on the train to go to Tokyo with Kase-san. And comes face to face with her next obstacle.

Is it true that Kase-san was dating her old sempai  on the track team? If so, how will Yamada deal with the jealousy…and how far can she let jealousy build before it becomes toxic? The answer, as it usually is in this series, is just to the breaking point. And almost always, it’s Kase-san who snaps first.

What Yamada hasn’t quite figured out is that for every reason she’s jealous or worried or low self-esteemy, Kase-san is, too. But in every case, they work it out together and we’re more and more convinced that they might make it.

Takshima-sensei’s art has settled down in to a distinctive style now, and her facial expressions are quite wonderful. More importantly, she less reliant on gimmick.

As usual, Seven Seas provides us with an authentic reading experience. No eye-rolling weirdness in the translations, clean reproduction makes the book easy to read psychically and the technicals never drop you out of the story. This is a fun Yuri series, and deserves the kind of handling that doesn’t get in the way of just enjoying it. Great work, team Seven Seas! Thank you for the fine job. 

Ratings:

Art – 8 
Story – 8
Character – 8
Yuri – 8
Service – 5 They are still working through what it means to be sexually attracted to one another.

Overall – 8

There’s only one more volume to go. Kase-san and Apron will be out in February and our time with Yamada and Kase-san will be over. (So far, there are as-yet uncollected chapters, and we have no news so far of any future plans.) Let’s enjoy it as much as Yamada and Kase-san enjoyed that final summer at school. ^_^ And we’ll have that Asagao to Kase-san OVA to look forward to. ^_^

 

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Yuri Manga: Sweet Blue Flowers, Volume 1 (English)

October 4th, 2017

Third time’s the charm. In 2012, JManga did a digital-only translation. Towards the end of 2014, Digital Manga Publishing also tried putting Shimura Takako-sensei’s new classic Yuri manga out as a digital publication. Now, in 2017 we have what is very likely to be the definitive English-language translation for the series, in omnibus format. Thanks to Jocelyne Allen, Jen Gruningen and the folks at Viz, I think we’re at peak Aoi Hana here in the west.

Sweet Blue Flowers, Volume 1 introduces us to Manjome Fumi and her old childhood friend, Okudaira Akira. They had been very close as children, but when Fumi moved, they fell out of touch. Now, as they both head to different high-end girls’ schools, they’ve met again. 

I was reminded as I read this book that although the opening and the ending are – in my opinion – very weak, the rest of the story is excellent. It’s got surprising depth and breadth. Characters that surround Fumi and Akira are as well-developed as they and as interesting. 

In the first half of this Volume 1 – the original Volume 1 that was, Fumi is charmed, then asked out by an upperclassman at her all-girl’s school. Sugimoto is not her first girlfriend, but may well be the first by her own volition. Their time together is brief, as it becomes very clear that Sugimoto carries a whole host of issues with her and Fumi recognizes that she’s worth paying full attention to.  By the second half of the volume, Fumi has learned a lot about herself, among them that Sugimoto is the third person she’s loved.

The school play gives a chance for the cast of both schools to mix and emotions to be be heightened. Wuthering Heights is an unsurprising allegory for the tensions and passions of the cast to swirl and come together and part, like a storm. 

But by the end of the volume we have Akira and Fumi still friends. Fumi has, in a very rare act in Yuri manga, comes out to Akira. It’s a tempestuous time in their lives, but they both know who each other were – and are – and are there for each other. 

This still, after all these years, stands out as one of Shimura’s most tightly put-together stories. Other series have sort of swirled and eddied around the same material without changing, but we can see the changes to Akira and Fumi and their friends in pretty steady progression, as they encounter, deal with and grow from challenging situations.

This is a series that has many (if not all) the hallmarks of a “S”-era story and in my Very Brief History of Yuri I call it and Maria-sama ga Miteru “S for a new generation.” We can, like Fumi, enjoy the atmosphere of an old girl’s school. We can enjoy the drama that comes along with the hot-house environment. And we get the added advantage of characters with society – friends and families, brothers and parents and teachers who are male and female and a modern sensibility, in which gay people exist, and have lives. This is all so critical to my enjoyment of a manga. We have this series in omnibus form (available in print and digital format) and it, like several other series available right now, will be on my short-list of books that embody the classic concepts of the genre of “Yuri.” 

Interestingly, since the author attempted (unsuccessfully) to visit Yoshiya Nobuko’s home, the grandmother of Yuri gets both a mention in the notes and is attributed as the women who pioneered Yuri in Japanese literature. This is true, but she’s even more important than the note accounted for, because she not only pioneered Yuri, but also a great deal of what we think of as shoujo literature and manga. Yoshiya Nobuko-sensei was the richest woman in Japan in her lifetime. She’s an inspiration and a hero of mine. (Here’s my report of visiting Yoshiya-sensei’s home, from 2013.)

This edition came with a lovely assortment of postcards from the Aoi Hana Meets the Enoshima Electric Railway collaboration event from 2012 (an event reported in excellent detail by Guest Reviewer Bruce P – with pictures!). The book itself is exceedingly well put-together, with those cover flaps that take the place of a dustcover, but allow readers to see all of the cover and flap art. Color pages are included – including the cover of the second volume as a interior color page. Even the font choice matched the original well. And the translation and adaptation are excellent. I really do think this is a “definitive” edition. We’re not likely to get better. There’s very little room for it to be better. 

This is the version we all wanted. There’s no excuse not to buy it and support the author and folks at the publishing companies that brought it to us! Volume 2 will be out in December, 2017.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Characters – 8
Story – 7
Yuri – 7
Service – 1

Overall – 8

Today’s review was brought to you by the kindness and generosity of Okazu Superhero and occasional Guest Reviewer, Eric P.! Thank you Eric, once more, for all your many years of support! 

If you enjoy our Guest Reviews here on Okazu, I hope you’ll help support the Guest Reviewers – the Okazu Patreon is a mere $34/month away from being able to pay our writers. Every dollar will get us closer to that goal. If you’re a regular reader here and have enjoyed Eric’s reviews, I hope you’ll consider supporting Okazu on Patreon so we can pay him for his work! 

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MURCIÉLAGO Manga, Volume 3 (English)

September 7th, 2017

In Yoshimura Kana’s MURCIÉLAGO, Volume 3, we take a good, long, detailed look into the darkness of obsessive psychopathic murderers…and don’t really do much of anything with the information. ^_^

First, Kuroko deals with the Skin Collector, a man who skins his female victims and we learn, both in real time and from his exposition, that his daughter Ringo shares both his skills and his predilections for killing. In her case, her Daddy issues go rather deeper than usual. The author takes pains to show us how happy the families Ringo destroys are so, long after we’ve put the book down, we can feel crappy about enjoying it.

While Kuroko is finishing off Ringo’s father, the police are sharing a bit of exposition, to indicate to us what we must have surely recognized…Kuroko and Hinako are both not functioning within what society considers normal parameters. The specifics are, as yet, left hidden.

Which segues us nicely into the hidden realms of the Elder Gods, and the amusement park based on H.P Lovecraft’s Chthulu mythos. It’s sort of a given that among my friends, that everyone goes through a Lovecraft phase, at least in a sort of secondhand osmosis kind of way. Not all my friends have read the original or derivative works, but enough of them have that we just don’t really notice any inclusion of Lovecraft’s work as something notable. It’s more like…duh…of course it’s there. Which is part of why I forget to mention the inclusion of it in this series. It’s like…duh, of course the mascot at the amusement park would be Shoggoth. (Well, arguably, I would have chosen, Nyarlathotep, and no, not because of the Nyarko-san anime, but because of a bumper sticker on a car of a friend of mine from like 25 years ago.)

So, after we visit the hidden depths of the Elder Gods and the inside of Kuroko’s mind, we turn our attention to other, somewhat lower, places. One of Hinako’s old college friends shows up, worried about her sister, who has joined a religious cult. Faced with the idea that “Virginal Rose Academy” is an all-female cult, full of cute girls, run by a buxom young woman, Kuroko is all in.

Ratings:

Art – 6 Not likely to get better
Story – 7 Still horrible violence with some silly violence, but there sort of was a story, so that’s good
Characters – 8 Hinako fascinates me….
Service – 10 Creative, awful and pervasive
Yuri – …wait for it…. 

Overall – 8

This is an excellent volume of a really strange manga, with violence, amusingly deranged Edwardian fictitious mythologies, action, more violence and some other bits of violence for color. Next volume, there will be consensual lesbian sex, as well. Let’s look forward to Volume 4!

 

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Discovering New Yuri 2017 Presentation

August 21st, 2017

At Yurithon 2017 I did a presentation called Must-Read/Must-Watch Yuri.  At Flamecon 2017, the same presentation was presented as Discovering The Best New Yuri Anime and Manga.

I promised to put the entire presentation up here, so folks could draw on the links, rather than taking photos of the screen. Not that I didn’t want them to do that, but this is SO much easier, I hope! For reasons, the videos were making it impossible to upload as a Powerpoint (and not everyone has that, so I’ve taken out the videos and converted the presentation to PDF. The links should work for you. Only the Utena Blu-Ray and Citrus anime have no links, as they currently have no ETA. 

 

 

 

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