Archive for the Bruce P Category


Akarui Kiokusoushitsu, Volume 1 (明るい記憶喪失) Guest Review by Bruce P

November 8th, 2017

 I’m headed for Massachusetts to eat and drink and talk queer manga at Harvard tomorrow, heavy-hearted with the fresh loss of my dear friend Bruce. I’d like you all to read this and lift a glass of something tasty to his memory.  Here is the final Guest Review by Bruce P.

So you bought a copy of Practical Problems in the Forbidden Art of Reanimation, only to find it has nothing to do with Sailor Moon Crystal – but you’re having fun with it anyway, following the step-by-step instructions. Your hand-stitched project is now lying shackled and inert on the slab; electrodes have been implanted; dynamos are screaming in anticipation; lightning is crackling in the midnight sky outside – when you reach step 37 and realize, shoot, you forgot to pick up a brain. Well, no biggie. You pack a light snack and head down to the local morgue.

It’s dark as you creep in, hacksaw in hand, and begin opening the frosty vaults. You work at peeling back the rubber sheets – they tend to stick – and look over the corpses, trying to identify just the right kind of brain to harvest for use in…Maxine. But can you really gauge the quality of what’s inside those craniums from their frozen faces alone? Fortunately, you’ve broken into the Yuri wing, and your years as a fan are your guide…

 

Vault #1. 1940’s hairstyle done up in Play-Doh. Obviously a blithe Takemoto Izumi character. Too whimsical. Next.

 

#2. That aquiline nose and cold-chisel chin – clearly from the Takamiya Jin family. Bitter chocolate, when you’re looking for Milk Duds. Next.

 

#3. Eyes like pitted olives in search of a Martini. Must be a Morishima Akiko character. Too Perky.

 

 

#4. A double, how romantic. But cauliflower ears from the boxing rings of Hell – Oku Hiroya’s spawn of course (remember Hen?). These two have been on ice a while. Too pendulous (oh, you do remember Hen).

You are about to despair, when the final vault reveals a truly gruesome sight:

#5. Mouth gaping like a dirigible hangar – the unmistakable trademark of an Oku Tamamushi character. Overwrought, and potentially clinically insane. But on the plus side, this brain fits in a sandwich bag.

Excellent.

The preceding bit of seasonal froth highlights a curious fact: Oku Tamamushi has clearly made wide gaping mouths his personal artistic trademark. His work is instantly identifiable. This clever branding was a true flash of inspiration, the kind of thing you just don’t pick up in art school (not if it’s accredited). And he really gets to practice his yawning orifices in the 4-koma series Akarui Kiokusoushitsu, Volume 1  aka Cheerful Amnesia, (明るい記憶喪失). The title is honest and accurate. The cover character is in fact a violently cheerful Yuri amnesiac, and that is pretty much all there is to the story. It’s a long a haul to the end of the volume.

Arisa and Mari have been living together for some years. But as the story begins Arisa is lying comatose in the hospital, suffering from a severe case of plot device. When she awakens, she has no memory of Mari or their life together. Mouth wide open she wonders who this lovely, unfamiliar, unsmiling woman is sitting by the bed. When Mari informs her she’s her lover, Arisa’s little brain short-circuits. She blushes, shrieks, squirms, squees, wriggles, and generally provides evidence as to why Mari never once smiles through the rest of the Manga. What Arisa doesn’t do is close her mouth. Not now, not when they head home, not when she sees their big fluffy bed. Not much of ever, actually. Oku Tamamushi has a brand, and Arisa is intent on getting that contract for Volume 2.

From this point on Arisa has to get reacquainted with the intimacies that go with living as a couple. She doesn’t manage it well. She actually doesn’t manage it at all. She’s just so embarrassed and excited and squirmy to know that her lover is this lovely, unfamiliar, unsmiling woman (wait, wasn’t that page 1? Yes, and many, many pages beyond). It’s heavy going for Mari as they work their way from holding hands to soapy bath-times to the frilly underwear.  It’s heavy going for us all.

There’s one bright spot in all this. Mari heads out of the house for work in a sharp suit; Arisa follows her to find what office she works in. She is shocked to discover that Mari is in fact a welder. All she can do is stand with (guesses?) her mouth open. But really, there are far too few Yuri stories that feature skilled metalworkers, just my opinion. Obviously, even fewer good ones.

Arisa blunderingly (she really is a pill) outs Mari to her fellow workers. But the old guy in the shop is cool with it, to Mari’s relief, and the creepy young guy is just sad because he had a crush on her.

The essential Arisa is revealed in a flashback of how the two met. Mari is working the counter in a fast food place. Schoolgirl Arisa takes one look and is rooted to the spot in an agony of open-mouthed love. She returns to stare again day after day. Then one time Mari is not there, and Arisa, bewildered, simply sits faithfully waiting, pining away, hour after hour, heedless that the trains have stopped running. Mari shows up late and lugs the poor passed-out thing home. So, there it is, she’s Hachiko. If she was fuzzy it might be cute.

Four-komas are essentially newspaper comic strips, which are of course meant to be read on a one-strip-a-day basis. The majority of 4-komas are best approached in this fashion. This one would benefit from much greater intervals.

Ratings:

Art – 5.  Fairly routine 4-koma material.
Story – 4.  Without the amnesia, this could be a low-budget parody of Minamoto Hisanari’s Fu-Fu – the two women living together in each are even similar ‘types’: the free-spirited flake passionately in love with her taller, serious partner. But it does have the amnesia. And so much less.
Characters – 5.  A welder and an Akita. Unique, possibly, for a Yuri series, but not entirely healthy.
Yuri – 9.  A 10 would be %100 good Yuri. This is just %100 Yuri.
Service – 8.  Less in what is actually depicted, than in servicey situations, such as Mari arriving home with injured hands, requiring Arisa to wash her in the tub (blush, squee, squirm).

Overall – 5. This actually got a bump up to 5, less on merit, really, than as an encouragement for more Yuri stories with professional metalworkers. Or electricians. That just came to mind. Must be these screaming dynamos.

And if you think disinterred body parts electrified to walk the night are grotesque, consider that Akarui Kiokusoushitsu Volume 2 is now out.

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In Memoriam, Okazu Superhero Bruce P

November 7th, 2017

Hi folks. I have no idea what to say here. This is the second time I’ve lost someone important to me, someone who I met because of Yuri. Okazu Superhero, Guest Reviewer and my very dear friend Bruce Pregger has passed away.

If you’re a long time reader, you’ve read many of his hilarious reviews and his event reports (I’m putting them all, and this post, into a new category, so they can be found simply) here on Okazu. He’s traveled with me to several continents and I’m going to miss him so much, I can’t even express myself.

Ah, crap. I hate this. 

I had a guest review of his all scheduled to run on Wednesday, it will still run, but dammit, Bruce, you were supposed to go with us to Tokyo in 2 weeks. Dammit.

Goodbye Bruce, you will be missed.

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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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Shoujo Seifu – Bergamot Dominions Guest Review by Bruce P

May 3rd, 2016

Bergamot

Welcome to another Guest Review Wednesday, Once again, we have the pleasure of Bruce P’s unique perspective! Settle down and get ready to laugh.

Here’s a geopolitical question you may never have considered: If Scotland does in fact separate from the UK… will she be able to find a new partner? A really cute one she can cuddle up with and share slippery bath times?

In Volume One of Shoujo Seifu – Bergamot Dominions (少女政府 – ベルガモット*ドミニオンズ), Takada Shinichiro tackles this very question. It may not be a question that is keeping Edinburgh cabinet secretaries awake at night, but during the production of this manga the author himself seems to have gone without a quite a lot of sleep. He was driven. Possessed. It took four volumes to cool him down.

So as not to keep anyone in suspense, the short answer is Yes.

The long answer is very long, and involves pixies. Four volumes of pixies.

Nanako is an ordinary Japanese schoolgirl, friendly and cheerful. Always the mark of doom, a guarantee-to-be-dropped-into-some-alternate-world-on-page-10. In Nanako’s case that world turns out to be Bergamot, a sunny Caribbean island. OK, not so bad. She has been magically transported there by a talking cat, a garden gnome, and a pineapple-sized banshee. Going downhill now. Bergamot is this trio’s native island, an oddly dislocated Celtic paradise of green meadows, golden apples, and triple distilled whiskey, but it seems that Oberon, ruler of the neighboring island of Avalon, is bent on conquest. The brute. The native Bergamotians need help, and, reeling from sunstroke, select Nanako. They want her as leader and warlord. Prime criterion seems to be that she might look nice in a uniform.

Bergamot is a sort of perky Disney version of The Island of Doctor Moreau, inhabited by pixies, whistling gophers, happy sprites, winged riceballs, and so on. At first Nanako doesn’t want to play, she’s never been a dictator, and is desperate to escape these freaks. But her mood softens when she sees all these diverse creatures living together happily in peace and harmony. And all so very industrious. Quite a labor pool, the little critters, and gosh, no labor relations boards in sight. Smirking just a little now, Nanako takes charge.

In Government House she is surprised to finally meet another human—Sofia Wallace, from Scotland. The reason Sofia is in Bergamot is because she and Nanako are the central characters, and so—there she is. Government House is a huge edifice with no electricity or running water, but the tiny native servants they’re getting accustomed to ordering around provide excellent meals. Bath time with buckets allows for a bit of slippery service. There will be more.

But government isn’t just a succession of idle hours splashing about in buckets. The two girls work hard on a plan to develop the island’s infrastructure. Factories and bauxite mines fill their girlish dreams.

And then comes the moment of truth, when they actually have to do the job they were abducted for. Avalon attacks with a three-storey amphibious armored motor home filled with ten inch tall black bearded hipsters in pointy hats. As the girls discover, the Bergamot way of warfare is special. First comes the ritual suicide, then the drugs, the losing of the clothes, and finally the transformation into butterfly-winged angels of combat in sequined but otherwise stylish outfits (Sofia’s includes a Keith tartan kilt)…

And we haven’t even gotten to the part where it rains girls.

I suppose we must.

So Nanako and her second-in-command Sofia together have successfully defended their new domain. Living in complete isolation as they are on this lush, tropical island, and what with the soft moonlight, the hypnotically fragrant evening breezes, and the triple distilled whiskey, they soon find themselves shedding all mutual inhibitions and tentatively, tremblingly exploring the pros and cons of instituting serfdom. It promises tremendous economic benefits. What more could they possibly wish for? So then yes, it rains girls.

Nine of them drop from the sky, right on top of Nanako. One is Swedish. One is French. Others are from Russia, the US, Taiwan, Germany, Japan, the Czech Republic, and Italy. Girls from all around the world, if you consider the world to be Europe with marginal outliers. The thing has suddenly become Hetalia. Great.

The new girls become Nanako’s cabinet, and each is assigned a ministry. Mercedes (Germany) gets Justice, Priscilla (US) gets propaganda, Tanya (Czech R.) gets finance, and so on. They work hard to turn Bergamot from a Celtic fringe fairyland into a modern civilization. They establish an electrical grid and a water works. Road gangs begin asphalting the island. Finance minister Tanya devises a clever monetary system that allows workers to purchase regulated items in any of the conveniently located company stores. They establish sugar cane plantations, happily dragooning native labor for the fieldwork, and don’t think that this isn’t getting pretty darn close to the sharp edge of uncomfortable. In the meantime the girls continue to shoot themselves (the ritual suicide bit) and fly around fighting. Flying, fighting, and losing clothes will continue in Volume 2.

Ratings:

Art: 5. Average at best, the author is not so good at profiles. But with his Bergamotians he’s got Disney down cold.

Characters: 5. Considering that this is a Hetalia spawn, the girls showcase gratifyingly few blatant national characteristics. Yes, Mercedes (Germany) is severe and strict, and Priscilla (US) is big, blonde and bouncy, and Maria (Russia) is tiny, timid and quiet, but in general not so much.

Story: 5. The developing society angle is peculiar, and interesting because of its peculiarity. If you don’t go in much for actual story in your story. The girls are really quite determined to independently develop many of the ills of modern society.

Yuri: 2. Nanako and Sofia and buckets.

Service: 7. Nanako and Sofia and buckets, and more…

Overall: 5. Disappointing. I mean the uniform. Needs epaulets.

Erica here: Bruce you find the best stuff to review!

 

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Yuri Manga: Kinoko Ningen no Kekkon  (きのこ人間の結婚) Guest Review by Bruce P.

August 26th, 2015

KNnK1

OMGOMG! We have a Guest Review! Not just any Guest Review, a Guest Review by the incomparable Bruce P.! And not only a review by Bruce, but his 10th review here on Okazu! Settle in, folks, this is going to be a heckuva ride, but you’re in capable hands. Take it away, Bruce!

Heavily discounted, pulled from a dark shelf in the way, way back at Mandarake, Kinoko Ningen no Kekkon  (きのこ人間の結婚) by Murayama Kei had the aura of nasty all over it. From the half-dressed bubble-headed girls clinging to each other on the cover to the title itself—Marriage of the Mushroom People—it promised awful. Really awful. A Yuritetsu for the mycological set. Naturally I snapped it up.

Well, it isn’t awful. I don’t intend to sound disappointed, but in fact, it is actually a ripping good story, in a quirky sort of way, if you can get over the fungus-infected spiders. Definitely in the sub-genre of hobby enthusiast’s manga, written to appeal to anyone who has specific interest in both (a) mushrooms, molds, and allied fungi, and (b) Yuri, and who doesn’t want to have to read two books to get them. But Yuritetsu it assuredly is not.

Ariara and Eriera are getting married. Yes, they are mushrooms, which accounts for their being dressed in filmy mushroom stem annuli. It’s not service, it’s…botanical precision. Their marriage is a very special event in Damp Town. Not because they are both women, there’s nothing unusual about that in a world where the entire population happens to be female, but because it’s a great opportunity for everyone to get happily plastered. And that they do, as A and E head off to their new home and life together. A is a shepherd and E had been a scribe but is now learning the shepherding business, so that they can always be together, out in the fungus fields happily shepherding away. They’re so darn cute as they guide their flock of one-celled amoebas into the abattoir and lustily hack them up into sandwiches.

But their bliss is short-lived, even in mushroom years. Eriera gets sick—it’s root rot—and it’s very bad, and though she lives through it, the operation leaves her disfigured and unable to bear children. Or to father them either, which is the efficient way these things can work in this world. Ariara angrily rejects the clucking advice of sententious townfolk who suggest she should divorce damaged goods. They’re married, they’re in love, they will stay together and that’s that.

Or is it?

One of those little ‘Honey, maybe I should have told you this before the wedding…’ items that Eriera just never got around to mentioning, was that as a child she had attracted the affectionate interest of a very important person indeed, a member of the royal family—the young Princess #3. The all-powerful Fungal Queen and her three princesses are dangerous, arrogant, and psychotic, enthusiasts of strict legal interpretation when it suits them, and of arbitrary capital punishment when it doesn’t. Exactly the type you want to hear is carrying a torch for your wife. Princess #3 arranges to have E kidnapped and brought to her, because she’s a princess and can do what she wants, and have fun doing it. Her minions oblige, leaving A behind in a bloody heap.

That’s their mistake. Because Ariara gets up, wipes the blood from her eyes, and sets out to bring Eriera back. And throughout the entire rest of the book there is nothing that can stop her. Slime-mold guards riding tarantulas she brushes aside. Sheer cliffs she scales with one arm behind her back. Rings of magic fire she leaps through, mighty sword Nothung in hand…well, you get the idea. She actually is impressive. Very impressive. And she wins. She brings Eriera home.

There was never a doubt. Not for someone so focused that she can abruptly coldcock the muscular young woman who has helped them to escape the princess’s castle tower, on the basis that three’s a crowd.

There is a curious epilogue in which Ritsu from K-On! rides in on a tarantula, which seems a rather natural fit, at that, and winds up with a cute girlfriend. It’s not Mio, but that may be for the best. They look very happy together.

The art is pleasant enough, though hardly stellar. It’s somewhat sketchy, and occasionally a little obscure. There is a scene in which Ariara takes a rifle-wielding guard hostage. She does so by threatening her with what might be a banana. If so, it’s an effective banana.

Yuri is the natural backdrop in the world depicted, and the framework for the main couple’s story, but it is not the point of the story. Only one character actively engages in a little Yuri frolicking: the insouciant Princess #2, who doesn’t appear much, but when she does is considerably more interested in fiddling with her cute handmaiden than in overseeing the provincial merchants’ production inventory valuation lists (imagine).

Ratings:

Art: 6. Somewhat rough and ready, but fair enough to support the story. Not hesitant to depict all ages—young, old, and very old—quite naturally. The muscular characters (the scribes, who are stone masons as well) are very muscular indeed. And the different fungal species are well drawn. If you want to consider that a plus.

Story: 8. A fun little yarn. The plot does occasionally slow down at some long-winded legalistic discussions about things like boundary marker disputes and fishing rights.

Characters: 8. Good; bad; ugly; Ritsu. An interesting mix. The royal family are wonderfully psychotic. Ariara is a standout hero.

Yuri: 9. It’s everywhere, as framework, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Service: 5. The filmy fronds (on young, old, and really old alike). Nothing more.

Overall: 7. Or 8. I’m going to give it 8, possibly because I was expecting such a tiny number here.

…and so Ariara has scaled the royal castle tower and is frantically kicking butt to rescue Eriera, when E helpfully states that violence is never a solution. And then she says it again. At which point A replies, in effect, Oh for Chrissake…it can’t be helped.

They’re married all right.

Erica here: Holy….what the heck did I just read? (◎_◎)

Well, if, after this review you are motivated to check this out, the first chapter is online on Poco2.  

Happy 10th review and thanks, as always!

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