Archive for the English Manga Category


Yuri Manga: Bloom into You, Volume 2 (English)

November 5th, 2017

In Volume 1 of Nakatani Nio’s Yuri drama, we were introduced to Touko, the competent and driven Student Council President and the girl she falls for, Yuu, who responds not with love, but with loyalty.

In Volume 2 of  Bloom Into You, Yuu is “digging into her lack of response to Touko in an interesting way,” as I said in my review of Volume 2 in Japanese. She’s starting to understand what drives Touko (beyond just the example of a deceased older sister) and what Touko (thinks she) wants. But even as Yuu promises to be that for Touko, she actually wants something vastly different for herself.

Touko is playing unfair. Sshe’s insisting she wants Yuu to never change, but she will shortly begin to demand that Yuu change. 

And all of this is about to get wrapped up in the tension of an original play for the school festival, which will surface way more of what drives Touko than even she realizes, maybe.

In the meantime, I find myself obsessively watching Sayaka. Where Touko is hiding almost nothing of her feelings for Yuu, Sayaka is hiding everything about her feelings for Touko and she naturally resents Yuu for usurping her place by Touko’s side. There’s nothing dishonest about Sayaka’s position, although it might feel that way, but every gay girl knows that there is high risk in coming out just for that straight friend, However, it’s arguably dishonest to be taking her frustration out on Yuu.

I still – and always will – believe that Yuu really needs to learn about asexuality, even if she believes she wants to fall in love. At least having a word and a concept might giver her protection from the pressure she’s putting on herself. Again, to quote myself, “I’m still not sure if Yuu is supposed to be confused because she just hasn’t had an “a-ha!” moment or because she’s genuinely asexual. I don’t think the mangaka knows, either and I’m positive Yuu herself has no idea.”

The story here is tightly wound and Nakatani-sensei’s art is up to the challenge, but I’m often made uncomfortable while reading it. Not because it’s not good…but because I desperately want these kids to have some adult to talk to, even if it’s an Internet group or something. There’s just no reason to be so isolated now.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 6
Service – 1

Overall – 8 With scrunchy-face making moments, especially around Touko’s lack of gaining consent.

I think Bloom Into You is intriguing, rather than entertaining. What’s your take on it?

Volume 3 is available and has what I consider to be the best bits so far of the series.

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Yen Press Announces Éclair: Ananta ni Hibiku Yuri Anthology License

October 30th, 2017

Some absolutely fabulous news from the folks at Yen Press today – they’ve licensed Éclair: Ananta ni Hibiku Yuri Anthology

Beating hearts and fluttering feelings. An anthology of girls’ love stories to leave you breathless. With contributors like Canno (Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl), Sakuya Amano (GoSick), and Nio Nakatani (Bloom Into You), this collection is sure to satisfy the desire for a sweet love story (or sixteen!).

This anthology is the first of several (read my review on this first volume) and is slated for a Spring 2018 release! 

You can read the press release on the Yen Press blog.

Thanks Yen Press for licensing more Yuri! Looking forward to seeing this in English.

 

 

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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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