Archive for the Guest Review Category

Otome no Teikoku Manga, Volume 6 (オトメの帝国 6) Guest Review by Mariko S.

August 30th, 2017
Welcome to Guest Review Wednesday here on Okazu! After that monster post on mental instability and lesbianism in Yuri, I’m fairly wiped out and lo and behold! Mariko S. write in to tell us all about the next volume of Kishi Torajirou-sensei’s epic of fanservice, Yuri and school girls. Welcome back, Mariko, the podium is yours!
Hello all, it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya’. Otome no Teikoku(オトメの帝国 6) has soldiered on in the meantime; it’s now on its twelfth published volume. However, the publisher has indicated that, contingent on the sales of the 12th tankoubon, they may end the series with the 13th. So if you are enjoying this series and want it to continue, please support it by buying the newest volume!

But for now, let’s rewind for review and discussion of Volume 6. The stories in this book represent another subtle evolution of the way that Kishi-sensei is presenting this world. Are there still servicey vignettes with plenty of skin and “sexy” shenanigans? Yes, a couple. What about the ubiquitous flashes of panty and peeks of bra? To paraphrase the Blues Brothers, “How often does that fanservice go by?”  “So often you won’t even notice.”

But something subtle is welling its way up into the storytelling. For the first time, the majority of the chapters are not about “Yuri” per se – that is, the tropes of one girl noticing and admiring another girl, physically or otherwise, and the results of that attention. The characters are developed enough to just interact as friends and people, and some of the best chapters aren’t even about the established couples. Let’s go over some of the highlights.

Halloween Watergun Fight

I know what you’re thinking, but you are wrong. This is not an excuse to show the girls in skimpy costumes or wet see-through shirts. Rather, Midori (the pint-sized manga club member) accosts Mayu (Kaoru’s kouhai plaything) on Halloween dressed as Rambo, hands her a watergun, and strikes the first blow. As the two rampage through the halls, the rest of the manga club try to get in on the action, also in Rambo gear, but get thwarted by student council rule-stickler Onoda. There’s really no service, just some funny jokes and a lot of fun with a unique premise and an unusual character pair-up.

MahiMahi Christmas

The spectacular oil-and-water mixture that is Yuu and MahiMahi continues here to great results. MahiMahi invites Yuu and Mari over to their house for Christmas. Of course, Yuu wants nothing to do with it, but Mari convinces her to give it a shot. On the day of, the old “we can’t bake a cake” cliche gets dragged out. Yuu sits out the baking shenanigans at first, and it’s really funny to watch her get madder and madder the more the others screw up, until finally her frustration boils over and she takes over the kitchen. Yuu proves her talent by producing a beautiful cake, and endures more harassment the rest of the night from MahiMahi, but it’s worth it in the end for the appreciation she receives from Mari.

The Yamada Sisters at New Years

It’s been hinted at before now, but this is the first time we see that the beauty Kaoru and the grumpy otaku Honoka are sisters. Kishi-sensei absolutely nails the subtle character beats here – they share a physical resemblance, especially in their heights, but its the spot-on sibling dynamic that really sells it. Older Kaoru is known for her poise and beauty, and is always being praised by her family. Thinking she’s unable to compete, Honoka retreated behind a wall of scowls and hair to the world of manga. But Kaoru really cares for her sister and sees her potential. Here she forces Honoka to dress up and do a shrine visit with her for New Year’s. Honoka complains the whole way, but is ultimately touched when Kaoru uses her wish to ask for Honoka’s dream of being a manga-ka to come true. And, of course, Kaoru gets in some absolutely pro-league flirting with the miko at the shrine.

The Sickbed

I love that the Ai and Chie pairing has been serious enough long enough to give us lived-in vignettes like this one. Yes, we haven’t seen them kiss or openly declare love for each other, which would be wonderful of course. But their story to this point has been such a fantastic example of “show, don’t tell,” as their relationship evolved and deepened in completely non-tropey ways. Here, Ai is sick, and Chie wants to visit and care for her. But instead of the cliché scene where the nurse makes rice porridge and applies cold compresses and whatnot, Chie is just there for Ai. They snuggle in bed, they read a magazine together, they chat. Of course, there has to be one nod to tradition – Chie gets sick too, in the end.

Chapter 0

Kishi-sensei must have realized in hindsight how poorly the first volume serves his characters, because this volume includes an interesting “prequel” chapter. It shows how all the second-years (Chie, Ayano, Miyoshi, Ai, Michiru, Airi, Honoka, and Onoda) met for the first time on the first day of school, and allows them to interact with their current, developed personalities instead of just as flat fetish objects. It also tries to provide a bit more context and backstory for the ludicrous reason Chie and Ai start off so antagonistically in that volume. In case you don’t remember, it was breasts. Unfortunately, the additional shading provided here? Also involves breasts. Two steps forward, one back sometimes.

What Else is Going On?
There’s the usual assortment of odds and sods with Onoda, Nao, Ayano and Miyoshi, Mahi-Mahi, and the Debate Club. We also get a bit of Honoka and Alicia, again with Alicia tirelessly trying to build some self-esteem in Honoka, to little avail.

The bulk of the Yuri lifting being done in this volume is by Yuu and Mari. They can be very over-the-top, as in the opening chapter where Yuu “punishes” Mari for a screwup by spanking her in a photo booth. But they can also be very understated, as with the glances and touches they use to convey their emotions in the other chapters. As I’ve said before, Yuu is definitely an immature brat, but Mari is no victim. She knows what Yuu is, for better or for worse, and loves that person. She takes her “punishments” when it’s fun for her to be subjugated, but she knows how to get Yuu to do what she wants as well, as when she makes it clear she wants Yuu to accept MahiMahi’s invite. I really like their dynamic, it’s different and fun.

The debate club is chatting about New Year’s, and how hard it is to reach anyone at midnight. The other three convince Nononon-senpai that whoever gets the first text through to her should get a sexy picture as a prize. It’s a dumb premise that just sets up the opportunity for us to watch Nononon embarrassedly try to figure out what to send. But it is pretty cute how she decides (briefly) to send something a little extra-sexy in case her crush Yumimi is first. Even if the setup itself isn’t believable, the execution of what would follow given the set up is spot-on and quite cute. And, of course, there’s the classic Kishi Torajirou twist where everyone else completely forgot to text as Nononon lies in bed fretting over it.

The Shizuka/Mio/Kaoru arc gets just a little push forward this time – Shizuka is reminiscing about her association with sunsets and kissing Kaoru. When Mio interrupts her reverie, she asks how Mio feels about sunsets, and then offers to kiss her (clearly hoping to replace her troublesome memories of Kaoru).

As I have often said, I happen to really like these characters and the weird, funny, and unexpected “slice of life” stuff that happens to them. Kishi-sensei’s art is beautiful, often stunningly so (one drawing of Kaoru in the shrine visit chapter is breathtaking). And there is so much lived-in, thought-out detail in the stories. I wish we got a lot more relationship development, and that the physicality was organic for the relationships and not accidental for the audience (in other words, fewer nip slips, more kisses). But at this point I think the series had pretty well defined what it will and will not be. I can easily overlook the bawdier, less-believable stuff for the goodness in between, despite its limitations. I hope some of you will too!


Art – 9
Story – 6 
Characters – 8
Yuri – 6
Service – 7

Overall – 7

Erica here: Well, wow. What a fantastic review. Thank you so much for catching us back up on your reading!
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Otome no Teniwoha Manga, Vol. 2 (乙女のてにをは), Guest Review by Bruce P.

April 26th, 2017

It’s Wednesday, and not to be all commercial-esque on you, you know what that means here on Okazu, yes? It’s Guest Review Wednesday! And today we have our dear friend and wonderful review writer, Bruce P with a review of a collection based on a “retro” Showa-style phone comic.  So without further ado, here is Bruce to change the way we look at things. Just the way we like it. ^_^ Take it away Bruce!

When observing the constant promenade of polite characters who flutter through Otome no Teniwoha (乙女のてにをは) Volume 2, by Luna-2 (ルナーツ), the paintings of Maurice Prendergast instantly come to mind. Prendergast. Honest, they do.

Maurice Prendergast (American impressionist/post-impressionist painter, ca. 1900) was a people person. That’s not a criticism, necessarily; people have their good points, some of them, on occasion. When not driving their pickups. But Prendergast just really, obsessively liked people. He squeezed as many as he could into his pictures, which are all crowds of tiny figures. At the beach, or in the park, or jammed into the Piazza San Marco in Venice, so many figures that ‘Where’s Waldo’ springs to mind, though that’s a bit unkind considering the cost of insuring the things. His figures look and act pretty much the same from one picture to the next: nicely dressed girls and women in fancy hats* caught in a sketchy snapshot enjoying random everyday activities. If men are present they remain fairly peripheral. And the women always, always carry umbrellas, or parasols. Not to go all Rachel Maddow here, but remember that point.

*Until he discovered Cezanne and Matisse, at which point the women stopped wearing fancy hats and nice clothes, or any clothes.

Nantasket Beach (1898)

Luna-2 is just as much a people person as Prendergast was. He similarly crowds an ever-changing cast of girls into his Otome no Teniwoha scenes. Boys are present, but they remain fairly peripheral. The stories are all short, eight-page snapshots of daily life, revolving around random everyday things like haircuts and cats and hairstyle malfunctions and more cats. Everything takes place in and around a single school, to judge by the uniforms, but no two stories have the same characters, and with only eight pages to make an impression the characters remain rather sketchy. Very slice-of-life, gently and politely humorous, and without any emotional connections between the briefly spotlighted characters.

So…what does any of this have to do with Yuri?

Nothing at all. And that’s why it’s here.

Because Otome no Teniwoha, Volume 2 has been highlighted in a recently published mook titled ‘Introduction to the World of Yuri’ (Yuri no Sekai – Nyuumon, 百合の世界入門). It’s highlighted as a Yuri series. It’s so highlighted that it gets a full page spread, with a bigger illustration than Fu-Fu and Asagao to Kase-san, and almost as big as Aoi Hana. This is all very peculiar, because the stories are completely devoid of Yuri. The characters are connected by nothing more than the fact that they go to school together. And though this does require that they stand next to each other now and again, they can usually keep even that under control. So how did this become a faux Yuri classic?

It’s that umbrella. The one on the cover. Two girls sharing an umbrella, how deeply romantic is that. Prendergast possibly would have thought so—his girls-and-umbrellas obsession is otherwise a little hard to explain. The ‘World of Yuri’ editor apparently thought so—or possibly he was confused, after a long night of editing, mistaking the cover for Morinaga Milk’s Girlfriends Volume 2. More likely and quite depressingly he may simply see any interactions between girls as Yuri. Because the tender umbral confines of the cover is as Yuri as it gets. In fact, while the cover illustration is derived from the first story, where Shuntoku-san and Sawaragi-san do end up sharing an umbrella, the illustration below shows Shuntoku-san’s actual emotion about having to do so. The difference in the illustrations is amusing. The one on the cover, of course, is the one that plugs the book, no doubt successfully (well, I bought it). And the one that also gets it included in peculiar Yuri guidebooks.



Ratings –

Art: 7.  Not because the art is anything approaching stellar, but because the style suits the stories so very well. Pleasant, if slightly robotic, restrained, almost prim.

Story: 6.  Lots of little ones. The ‘Teniwoha’ in the title refers to grammatical particles, the tiny syllables that scuttle underfoot indicating parts of speech, so you know there will be no epic themes here. 

Characters: 7.  Polite. Very polite. Never behind the wheel of some damn pickup.

Yuri: 0. Or almost 0. The closest any story gets is one in which a tall girl is told to partner with other girls for dance practice, making them blush and her sweat.

Service: 4.  For those who like cats.

Overall: 7.  For the thing it’s meant to be, it actually does a fine job. It’s just not in any way a Yuri thing.

Erica here: Well. THANK YOU for reviewing this Bruce. I have been putting off actually having to deal with Yuri no Sekai – Nyuumon, for this exact reason….it seemed very much a “pile of stuff the editor read” rather than, “Here are series you might possibly wish to know about if you are actually interested in Yuri.” And because of this very conflagration of “what editor-san liked” with “what is good” it sits there on the bottom of the pile, making a fine base for the pile of books I want to read. ^_^

I frankly, cannot cope with another “Intro to Yuri” that lacks any understanding of Yuri, nuanced or not.  Part of why I am finally working on what has already become, in my head “that damned Yuri book.” I will say that, based on this review, “Showa retro” is a fairly accurate summation, however.

Thank you again, as always for your terrific perspective and for expanding our artistic vocabulary!

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YNN Special Report on Yurimate, by Julia T

April 19th, 2017

Well, color me pleased and surprised. While I was sure that it was a complete fabrication for April Fool’s Day, Yurimate seems to have been real(!) if temporary. Sort of like a Yuri mirage. ^_^

To begin with, it’s probably worth pointing out that there are several Animate locations in Tokyo alone. The three I have personally visited are in Shibuya, (which, very cleverly, moved to the same building the Mandarake has occupied for years, thus making shopping at both a mere elevator ride,) Akihabara, where it is the grande dame of anime/manga goods stores on the main street and in Ikebukuro. This last location has been my home away from home for years. Because of Otome Road‘s location nearby, populated with BL-doujinshi and goods, Ikebukuro Animate tends to cater to the female fans. They typically do carry some Yuri manga on the shelves, and when I was last there, had Yagate Kimi ni Naru front and center when one walked in. The fact that it’s “women-focused” clearly doesn’t preclude it being Yuri-friendly. 

Imagine, then, how my heart soared when I saw that it was the Ikebukuro location of Animate that was being advertised with a “Yurimate” special area.  While it’s not a permanent feature, the Yurimate event is running and it is in Ikebukuro and it goes into May. And here to tell us all about it is YNN Special Correspondent Julia T! Thank you Julia for jumping in and taking the plunge for us! The floor is all yours.

As it turns out, the April 1st announcement from Animate Ikebukuro that they would open a new Yuri-only floor at least partially came true. From April 15th until May 14th, the third floor (or second floor for those not familiar with Japanese floor naming conventions) is hosting a special event: Yurimate


While it does not cover the entire third floor by any means, it does occupy a decently sized proportion of it, somewhere between a third and a quarter of the area. The pictures were purposefully taken to avoid including people in them, but even if it was not bustling with customers, there was a steady stream of women of all ages who purposefully visited the section, including some rather obvious couples, which I found quite gratifying. The collection includes manga, scrolls, and cell phone covers, as well as showing large sketches on the walls.



There are quite a few authors being shown, including pretty much all current works by Takemiya Jin, Takashima Hiromi’s Kase-san collection, Kurata Uso’s Linkage, Ohsawa Yayoi’s 2DK, G Pen, Mezamashidokei, Yukiko’s Room for Two, Kishi Torajirou’s Otomoe no Teikoku, various works by Itou Hachi, as well as the seemingly ever popular Citrus by Saburouta (and Kodama Naoko’s NTR, while it does show up on one of the posters, is not found in this part of the store).


Independent of this, you can also find a Yuri Hime shelf one floor down, which already has decent selection, but is of course limited to the entries published inside said collection.


Given that the magazines Comic Yuri Hime and Galette are both being sold off the shelves on the ground floor, this currently allows you to stumble across Yuri entries on all of the first three floors, which is still somewhat rare in Tokyo.

Erica here: Thank you Julia! My goal is to see Yurimate be a permanent shelving strategy. And if, as you say, stumbling across Yuri on the main floor – where new releases are given visiblity –  is still being encouraged, as it was last spring, this may just be a thing we will see. I’m also extremely gratified to hear that there were some obvious couples walking the floor. Of all the many things that pleased me in this report, the fact that NTR was not included, has to be counted among them. I wonder if it, like Yuri Danshi is for the editor of Comic Yuri Hime, rather than the rest of us.

If *I* were the boss at Animate, I’d take the Yurimate event over to Akihabara next, then bring it back to Ikebukuro. It would get a different audience at each, and give them an idea of who actually buys Yuri, then place the shelves where ever they do best. But that’s me. Thank you again for the report and the photos!

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Review of Yuri Webcomics on Lezhin Online, Guest Review by Nadia “Atarun” C

March 15th, 2017
We have a very exciting Guest Review today! Okazu hero and new Guest Reviewer, Nadia “Atarun” C. has a roundup and mini-review of English-language comics in the GL category on online manhwa platform Lezhin.
Lezhin offers free sample chapters, then readers purchase coins to read further chapters of their favorite comics.  Nadia is a big fan of the comics there, and has offered to walk us through some of the titles that might be of interest to us. Take it away Nadia!
The catalog of Yuri comics on Lezhin is growing and already counts 15 series, 11 of which are still ongoing and get new chapters weekly or close to weekly.
That count includes Lily Love by Ratana Satis, which Erica has already reviewed: 
Here’s a quick overview of what else Lezhin has in store for Yuri fans (the completely subjective order being from my most to least favorite):
What Does the Fox Say? by Team Gaji
(73 episodes, still ongoing)
Seongji just started working as a junior manager in a game dev company and she falls in love, for the first time and at first sight, with her team manager Sumin. Sumin likes Seongji back but carries a LOT of baggage, especially her love/hate relationship with her boss Seju which has been going on and off for years.
Besides the interesting love triangle between 3 adult independent women and the numerous sex scenes, this series also features plenty of drama around the three characters, most notably with Seju’s extensive and dysfonctional wealthy family.
Overall Rating – 9 I want Seongji to get what she wants, I want Sumin to make up her mind and I want Seju to have someone to support her… and it’s hard to picture all three things happening simultaneously. Love triangles are rarely that interesting for me.
Pulse by Ratana Satis (which has also been reviewed here on Okazu)
(41 episodes, still ongoing)
Heart surgeon Mel had given up on love years ago. She has casual sex with nurses (among which she is quite popular) and strangers met in bars, but she doesn’t want to try anything deeper… until she meets Lynn, whose life is basically on standby until she can get a heart transplant.
The story is not laser focused on the relationship between Mel and Lynn, instead spending a lot of time on secondary characters that bring a lot of drama around the couple.
Overall Rating – 9 Some parts of the story make little sense (like how Lynn’s parents let her move in with a complete stranger without question), but I can’t help rooting for Mel and Lynn.
My Girlfriend’s Ex-Boyfriend by Shinb
(31 episodes, still ongoing)
Lesbian Eunbyul and bisexual Sena are college students in a closeted relationship. They get along really well, but pretty much everyone they knew or get to know somehow tests the strength of their relationship, from ex-boyfriends (hence the title) to female friends and social media.
Drama, drama, drama. This series mixes drama that only exists because people don’t communicate with problems that would not be fixed even if discussed openly.
Overall Rating – 8 All the drama feels believable to me, none of it overblown for the sake of aaaaangst.
The Love Doctor by Chamsae / Bansook
(45 episodes, still ongoing)
Jung Erae is so aloof and clueless, she hires the love doctor Cha Yoon to teach her about love. As one would expect, Yoon quickly realizes that she has fallen in love with Erae, but it takes a lot longer for Erae to come to the same conclusion. The story goes on well beyond that point, though, as friends of both protagonists interfere with the newly formed couple in various ways, for various reasons.
This series talks a LOT about ballet and the cast runs the gamut from psychopathy, narcissism and sadism to extreme empathy, selflessness and masochism.
Overall Rating – 8 Erae starts as the klutz-whose-survival-is-a-miracle but grows much bolder through the story and just about every character has more depth that meets the eye.
Everyday Lily by Gom Mali
(35 episodes, still ongoing)
Seung Jua is a closeted lesbian college student with a few notches on her belt and is a bit cynical about love. Yang Nayoung is another lesbian in the same class, but, much to her dismay, she is only popular with boys and everything she knows about lesbian love comes from shoujo-ai comics. When Jua has a crush on Nayoung, she hides it masterfully, but when, later, Nayoung has a crush on Jua, she is completely powerless to hide it.
The story of their relationship is told through 4-panel slices of life (that are not always gags).
Overall Rating – 7 Sometimes funny, sometimes realistic, sometimes silly, always sweet.
Her Pet by Pito
(72 episodes)
High schooler Gayoon has had a crush on upperclasswoman Soha ever since she saved her from bullies in middle school. Soha has forgotten all about Gayoon, but when they meet again, she is reminded of her dead dog Happy. Gayoon decides to roleplay as Happy to help Soha work through some past trauma (but really, it’s a pretext to be with her).
The story revolves essentially around Soha and Gayoon’s weird relationship, but it also takes the time to flesh out many secondary characters.
Overall Rating – 7 The story starts in a very weird place, goes through a lot of dark places, but ends up in a happy warm place and I don’t regret the trip.
Serenade by Keum Kyesoo
(43 episodes, still ongoing)
A very dark thriller full of betrayal, lies and coercion that features an Evil Psycho Lesbian as crazy and creepy as they can get. I can’t really tell you anything about the plot without spoiling it…
Let me just warn you that it should come with huge trigger warnings for lesbian rape and murder and that everyone and everything revolves around piano music.
Overall Rating – 6 If the EPL was slightly less creepy, the professor slightly less manipulative and the protagonist slightly less clueless, I’d give it 8.
The Chain of Youth by Dead Sea
(19 episodes, still ongoing)
Average high school girl Jia is head over heels for borderline psychopath school idol Yoona. She writes her a love letter and Yoona asks her to throw it away as a proof of love. That scene is starting point of their unbalanced weird relationship, but also of a series of events rattling relationships all around them.
More than angst, there is a sense of dread permeating this story. It could go either way, but it seems clear that, as foretold in the prologue, things are not going to go and end well for all parties involved.
Overall Rating – 6 So far, I do not care for either Jia or Yoona, but I do care about two secondary characters and I keep reading with the ominous feeling that I’ll witness a lot more bad things happen to them…
Maison de Maid by Moonyang / Tarang
(17 episodes, still ongoing)
Klutz-whose-survival-is-a-miracle June is the newest maid in the manor. Even though she fails at everything (save for baking egg tarts), Madam forgives her, gives her a dress, takes her to see a play and generally treats her like a favorite. June starts by admiring her mistress, but her feelings quickly grow well further.
Overall Rating – 6 This series goes beyond subtext, since June clearly identifies the true nature of her feelings, but it is completely one-sided so far.
(27 episodes, still ongoing)
Catholic all-girls high school student Ayeon is bullied by a group of classmates including her former friend Dahye. Some day she is saved by albino “angel” Yeonhwa, whose agenda is anything but well-intentioned.
The series revolves around clueless, goody two-shoes Ayeon for a while, but then switches to Yeonhwa and her perverted sadistic schemes. Trigger warning for lesbian rape.
Overall Rating – 5 If Ayeon gets a clue and stands up to mother-of-all-bullies Yeonhwa, I’ll add a few points to the rating, but for now it’s more a story of how an Evil Psycho Lesbian gets her way while everyone thinks she is a fragile wallflower and that’s not my thing.
Vengeance by Aji
(22 episodes)
Closeted lesbian police officer Seolah is in charge of the investigation into her secret lover’s murder. Crushed by regret and guilt, she sacrifices everything to find the murderer and get revenge for her dead lover.
Aaaaaaaaaangst. There is no silver lining to that cloud.
Overall Rating – 5 I tend to really like murder mysteries and vengeance stories, but this one never clicked. Somehow, I never really cared about who killed Seolah’s girlfriend or how she would get away with avenging her death…
The Third Party by Enjelicious
(14 episodes, still ongoing)
I can’t say that I have understood the plot of this one just yet… A rich heiress is working in her father’s company, but no one knows she is the owner’s daughter. She is married to the company’s top news broadcaster, but no one is aware of that fact either. She instantly falls in love with her ladykiller boss and is almost open about that. Said boss is screwing around with a looooot of married women, inside and outside the company, but won’t touch the protagonist whom she believes to be single and many hints are dropped that she has a secret dark agenda probably involving the protagonist’s father and/or husband.
Overall Rating – 4 I might change my mind on that series later on, if they get on with the plot and its twists and turns amaze me… but so far, it feels to me more like What Does the Fox Say? done wrong.
My Joy by Pito
(26 episodes)
Track-and-field ace Namsu realizes she is in love with her friend Joy when the latter’s childhood friend Hye-Yeon moves back into her life after 4 years abroad and greets her by french-kissing her in public. Namsu and Hye-Yeon proceed to fight over Joy, who does not really understand why she can’t have them both.
Overall Rating – 3 It was impossible for me to care for this love triangle, because I can’t help despising Hye-Yeon and Joy. The ending made me dislike the story (and those two characters) even more.
Daily Witch by Sungwon
(65 episodes)
Sorry but I am powerless to tell you anything about this series. I could not get past episode 3. And at least until that point it completely defies description (like Yuri Kuma Arashi, except that one worked for me and Daily Witch did not).
Overall Rating – WTF
Erica here: This is absolutely fantastic Nadia, thank you! I know a number of Okazu readers are already Lezhin subscribers and I hope that this encourages more folks to try some of the GL manhwa on the site! 
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Sound Euphonium, Season 2 Anime (English) Guest Review by Michelle Denise N

February 1st, 2017

Woo hoo! It’s Guest Review Wednesday and we have a Guest Review! I love that so much. ^_^ Today, I hope you will welcome new Guest Reviewer Michelle Denise N of Lonelypond,and make her feel as welcome as possible.  The floor is yours, Michelle!

Sound Euphonium, the animated series, follows the haphazard learning process of euphonium (or baritone) player Oumae Kumiko, a somewhat reluctant first year member of the Kitauji High School Concert Band. Kitauji suffered a schism the year before, when the more serious first (now second) years quit over their lazy seniors’ lack of effort.  A new instructor, Taki Noburo, has taken over leadership, which attracted Kumiko’s fellow first year, trumpet virtuoso Kousaka Reina to the school. Kumiko had been trying to escape both band and Reina, after a ‘dud gold’ placement in middle school. SE’s first season built up a certain amount of dramatic tension between the two girls, which the second season glances at in the first episode, but then takes Kumiko and the rest of the episodes in an entirely unexpected ramble through the other relationships in the band.

If you love the trumpet, Sound Euphonium Season 2 is worth watching; the trumpet solos are sublime. If you watch anime not for music, but plotting and story pacing, SE2 would have trouble rating a dud bronze.

Kumiko is a mild, friendly, pleasant enough character. Through the first season, she spent most of her time with Reina. In the second season, they tossed Reina to the side, leaving her to pine over sensei while Kumiko wandered wide-eyed through relationships she didn’t really understand. There is also some attention paid to Kumiko’s relationship with her sister and Kumiko’s need to play music with someone she has an emotional connection to. The resolution to that plot point was shoehorned uncomfortably into the end of the season in a way that didn’t strike true for me with any of the characters involved. However, the smaller stories about other band members were short arcs that did actually catch my interest and my heart, unlike any of Kumiko’s antics. I mostly just felt like she was wildly out of her league emotionally, very naive.

Yuri: Let’s get the KumiRei question out of the way first off; it’s never really caught my interest as a combination, both girls seemed to be playacting. The first season of Sound Euphonium, Reina’s crazy boldness and how much I disliked her caused me to start yelling ‘devil trumpet player’ at the screen during her antics. The wonder and puzzlement of Sound Euphonium Season 2, is that just as I started to sympathize with her, she disappeared from the story.

If you look at Sound Euphonium Season 2, with no expectations it becomes the story of a young euphonium player’s innocent trampling through relationships more adult than she is capable of understanding, while searching for an emotional connection. Meanwhile, her weirdly intense best buddy from Season 1, the piercingly talented trumpet player with a crush on teacher, slips from story center to a near silent sideline participant, though still an epic trumpet player.

Non existent KumiRei chemistry gets eclipsed by the fragilely emo oboe player, Yoroizuka Mizore and the slightly swaggersome former flute, Kasaki Nozomi, suffering from one of those mutual misunderstandings that seem to plague fictional young girls who might have mad crushes on each other but never seem to talk about ANYTHING. This phenomenon always puzzles me when sighted in the wild. But this time, we get to an understanding, and a bonus nice moment that might lead the audience to think flautist and oboeist had kissed and made up at some point, but were refraining due to public location. And then Reina and Kumiko make fun of them, acing their callow youth best. There are also some exchanges that could be mistaken for flirting between several of the other band members, as well as the continued pining of trombone player, Tsukamoto Shuuichi, male, after Kumiko.

And we also have a pool episode, complete with bikinis.
Art 7 — some nice lighting, lots of outdoors moments, makes playing in band not visually boring
Story 5 — too unfocused
Characters 7 — many of them interesting, but leads let down by plot/pacing issues
Yuri — 3 (is that the right level for make it up and/or close your eyes and imagine)
Service 2
Overall 6 (watch it for the music and the flute player so get at least halfway through)

Erica here: Sound Euphonium, Season 1 and 2 are available streaming over at Crunchyroll. 

Thank you! I appreciate both the balanced perspective and the appreciation for music, although I’ll always be biased for woodwinds over brass. ^_^

The phenomenon you speak ofwhen characters just do not *talk to one another,  I refer to as “Jondalar syndrome” after the male protagonist of The Mammoth Hunters, who desperately wants to have sex with female protagonist Ayla, but just never tells her, for 400 pages. It was excruciating. Irritated the pants off me. ^_^

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