Archive for the Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan Category


Yuri Manga: Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan, Volume 2 (あめ色紅茶館歓談)

January 27th, 2012

In Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan, Volume 2 (あめ色紅茶館歓談) Sarasa and Seriho have been working together for a while now, and have settled into a routine. They kind of know that they really like one another and they are kinda sure the other feels the same way, but neither has actually broached the topic with the other.

When Seriho’s old friend Sumire arrives, this changes. Sumire likes to tease Seriho, and does not like women who are meant to be together to be kept apart by their own obtuseness, so she sets them up on a date. They have a wonderful date. Sarasa has shown up a little early (2 hours or so) and has scoped out the best places to eat and shop. But it’s Seriho that finally does what has never been done – she buys herself a ring and a matching ring for Sarasa and says, “I mean it ‘that way.'” (Sumire-san – good job!)

Having been asked – well as much as one can expect from this delicately-spoken series – Sarasa now has to decide if she will accept that ring. She asks Seriho to sit and be her customer as she prepares tea and scones, and, in as much as she’ll ever come right out and say anything, accepts. They embrace, only to find out that all their customers and friends are watching from the window, and cheering them both on.

Things that are this cute start to hurt.

The chapters of Otome-iro Stay Tuned are collected here, so we can be reminded where we first heard of the St. Lotecia novels.

This volume ends a with Sarasa and Seriho some time in their future, talking about the impermanence of things, and the permanence of their relationship. And, we are told on the final page, that we have a new series in that future to watch for – Ame-iro-Kouchakan Kandan ~ Golden and Silver Tips, which is a damnably clever name; if you’re a tea drinker, you know why.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – There still is no “story” per se, but as an evolution of a relationship, it’s great – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 9
Service – 2
Fujieda Fan – 9

Overall – 9

I’m sitting here, finishing up a cup of Darjeeling (Twinings, which used to be good, but has now become harsh and cheap and requires both milk and sugar to make it drinkable, bleah,) and thinking how there can never be enough of this series. If we chained Miyabi-sensei to his chair, he could never, ever write enough to satisfy me. This series had a light flavor, cheery body, and a satisfying mellow, ever-so-slightly bitter finish. A good afternoon read, with a good tea, (maybe a Keemun?) that calms and refreshes my spirit. Too bad we finished off the scones the wife made. Oh well, next time I want to revisit the Amber Teahouse, maybe she’ll make me more and I can brew some tea for us. ^_^

The picture above is for the deluxe edition that comes with the Drama CD Blue Christmas and one of the bonus CDs. For the non-deluxe edition, use this link.

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Yuri Drama CD: Ame-iro Kouchkan Kandan (あめ色紅茶館歓談) Blue Christmas

December 23rd, 2011

Christmas is coming and the Ame-iro Kouchakan is filled to the brim with cheerful, energetic young women. Not that anyone is complaining, but…where did they all come from? Sarasa really wants to know what the deal is, but in the meantime, she and Seriho are doing everything they can to keep up with demand.

More important than the mystery of why their tea house is so popular all of a sudden, is the much greater problem of Christmas. They did a special for Tanabata, and another for Halloween, and Sarasa is torturing herself trying to come up with a super-special special for Christmas.

But first, before all of this, we have yet another thing that must be dealt with! Sarasa’s college roommate, Saiyuki, is visited by an old friend, Shuuri. There’s some tension between them and it seems awfully likely to blossom into something more, if they can just get a push. EVERYONE in the series gives them the push they need.

Which allows us all to deal with the issue of where the hell are all these girls coming from, anyway. Well…it turns out that word’s gotten around that Manaka-sensei (creator of the St. Lotecia series, surely you must be aware that Fujieda-sensei never ever throws away a character) hangs out here, and these girls – including Saiyuki and Shuuri – are fans. Mana-chan-sensei’s editor Shiko is “helping” by leaking the story that Mana-chan-sensei might, just, you know, be doing a signing here too.

And while all of this life-or-death stuff is going on, Sarasa’s exhausting herself trying to come up with the perfect Christmas special dessert. Which, she does. Did we ever, for even a second, doubt she would? For Christmas, the Ame-iro Kouchakan will be presenting a Cherries Jubilee, with flambe’, with their own special touch. The sakura scent fills the teahouse and the blue flower of flame delights everyone. Great, everything’s set, but…now they are really in a bind. With such a fantastic table-side show, they’ll need every hand on deck. Unfortunately, Hinoka is spending Christmas Eve with her girlfriend and Haru is getting together with some friends, leaving Sarasa and Seriho needing some backup staff. How about Letty and Tsumugi? They are going to visit Letty’s home in…wherever that was. Saiyuki and Shuuri offer to fill the gap and so, a fabulous Christmas event is had by all.

You remember what I said about a paragraph ago? About how Fujieda-sensei never throws away a character? He doesn’t. During two quiet, lovey-dovey scenes between Sarasa and Seriho, just when it’s getting really good…the phone rings. I felt this gag coming for a mile and even guessed who was on the other end of the phone both times. Can you guess?

Think about it for a bit.

The first time on the phone is one “Hachibe-sama” who is ordering cakes for the Queen and the second call is from “Aihara-sama” ordering cakes for the shop. Yep, there were your Iono-sama and Alice Quartet cameos. ^_^

Kotobuki Minako (Tsumugi in K-ON!) plays Saiyuki, so we’re bumping up that six degrees of Yuri even further than usual.

The bonus track was done in pairs and among the embarrassed giggling, they have a serious discussion of the next holiday they’ll have to do a Drama CD for. New Years? Nope, they all realize with a sense of fate, it’s gonna have to be Valentine’s Day. Dear Yuri gods, I so hope they are right.

Ratings:

Overall – 9

Squee. This companion Drama CD to the second volume of the Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan manga was a perfect companion to a train ride into NYC. I kept laughing out loud, which kept the seats around me clear. ^_^

I only wish we could have heard from Letty and Tsumugi.

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Interview with Yuri Manga Artist Fujieda Miyabi

May 16th, 2010

There’s not too much to say as an introduction. I have been enjoying Fujieda-sensei’s work since 2004 when I encountered it in Yuri Shimai. That story would eventually be published as Kotonoha no Miko to Kotodama no Majyo to. I liked how cute his stories were and was charmed by the goofy humor of Iono-sama Fantics and the gentle calm of Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan.

I also believe that Fujieda-sensei has the best costume design sense in the entire manga industry. So, when he agreed to answer a few questions, you can imagine how thrilled I was. ^_^

Continuing my series of interviews with Yuri Artists, it is my unbelievable pleasure to present a short interview with Fujieda Miyabi-sensei.

***

Q1: Please tell us about yourself.

A: My name is Fujieda Miyabi.

Even though I draw mostly to make myself happy, I am glad that there are overseas fans who can enjoy my clumsy work.

Q2: How did you become a mangaka? Did you want to be one when you were a child?

A: When I was publishing original doujinshi (self-published works) I was scouted by an editor and became a pro. That original work was Twinkle Saber Nova. It’s not a Yuri work.

Q3: Which artists inspire you?

Although I am ignorant about Fine Art, the manga art that most inspires me is Nagano Mamoru’s Five Star Stories. After that, the CLAMP-sensei, Kouga Yun-sensei and others whose work I admired in my youth.

Q4: If you weren’t a mangaka, what would you be doing?

A: Before I set my sight on being a mangaka, I thought I might become a chef.
Even now, I like to keep my hand in and do design work.

Q5: What was your motivation to start creating Yuri Manga?

A: When two women are happy together as a couple, I can say that that is the time I am at my happiest. In my middle school years, I became acquainted with the idea of drawing same-sex couples through CLAMP-sensei’s and Kouga Yun-sensei’s work, and I began to think about doing stories with female couples. Once I passed through technical school for drawing manga, I began to draw Yuri manga.

Q6: Can you tell us a little bit about your process?

On average I draw about 16 pages every two weeks, but my production schedule is pretty unsteady. Faster if I’m running out of time.

Q7: How were Iono-sama Fanatics and Ame-iro Kouchkan Kandan received by the Japanese audience?

A: Iono-sama Fanatics was not a romantic love story between two women, but was drawn to be a story about a loving Queen with a harem. Those people who prefer mainly comical series seemed to like it. Ame-iro is about only two women, the ones who like it are those who take time and read it slowly and gently.

As an author, these both make me happy. I think Ame-iro is more popular and has gained more readers, though.

Q8: It is not unusual for a man to draw Yuri however, your work has a gentle, feminine atmosphere. What are your thoughts on drawing women’s emotions and thoughts?

Of course, because I am a man, women’s feelings are difficult.

But, I think it’s the same as when it’s a woman and a man, that sense of wanting to be kind to one another. That’s my first thought. How much of that emotion, of feelings of kindness or happiness is just in my imagination depending on the scene that I’m drawing.

Q9: Is there something you’d like to ask your overseas fans?

A: To the fans who anticipate my next work, what kind of story would you like to see?
I’d like to hear from you.

(This is Erica: You can visit his website, Moonphase or follow him on Twitter and contact him directly!)

Q10: Do you have a message for your overseas fans?

A: I am still inexperienced, but from here on, I will to the best of my abilities, continue to work as a Yuri manga artist. From far away, I will work hard to confer upon you happy hours.
Should you encounter my next work, I will be happy.

See you again.

***

Thank you Fujieda-sensei for taking time from your busy schedule and answering our questions – and thank you everyone for reading this interview.

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Yuri Manga: Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan, Volume 1

August 31st, 2009

At last.

In a small, friendly town, down at the end of the main street, in a spot just by the edge of the park, is a shop where you can sit and relax and have a cup of excellent tea. It’s called the Ame-iro Kouchakan, The Amber Teahouse, and the series is Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan (飴色紅茶館歓談). This volume tells the story of this store and the people who make it so wonderful.

The store owner is Seriho, a sweet, somewhat helpless woman. Luckily for her, she is assisted in the day-to-day operations of the shop by one very intelligent young lady, Sarasa. Sarasa, it is soon apparent, has a second agenda. It is not just the tea shop she loves, but the tea shop’s owner.

This first collected volume follows Sarasa and Seriho as they wrangle with the complexities of running the tea shop and with their feelings for each other. The story of how Sarasa became an employee, originally told in the second [es] Eternal Sisters anthology is gathered here, as is the fateful story in which Sarasa and her friends forever change the destiny of the Amber Teahouse with a Tanabata special, that originally ran as a Yuri Hime extra comic.

Seriho seems to be a natural doofus, and one is never *quite* sure if she is aware of Sarasa’s feelings for her but, then, one is never *quite* sure what her feelings for Sarasa are, either. She likes her, that much is obvious. When Seriho comes right out and asks Sarasa to be by her side for 50 years, it’s really hard to know if she means it the way we think she does.

Sarasa is besotted, full stop. She changes her college plans to be by Seriho’s side for those 50 years. I think if they were to actually kiss, she might pass out. In fact, I really try hard to not think about that inevitable moment. I leave it in the future where it belongs. I did very much enjoy the part where Haru physically holds her back from using her free time on the school trip to run back to town, just to see Seriho. Also kudos to her parents for suggesting she stay out all night with her friend – Go Mom and Dad!

Sarasa’s classmates Haru, who runs the website Jinx, and Hinoka, are a not-quite couple. Hinoka seems to be sure that Haru has a thing for her, and Haru is just as sure that she does not. ;-)

The final chapter of this volume is the inevitable cross-over with Alice Quartet, so Fujieda can play dress up with his characters. A harmless little obsession of his that I forgive because he’s got good design sense.

This is quite possibly the most moe thing I like, and I chalk it up to Fujieda’s great characters because, let’s face it, the story goes like this – Seriho is cutely helpless and Sarasa helps her out. ^_^ However, the tension between them is undeniable (so much so that characters from other Fujieda series point it out all the time!) and while they are unlikely to share more than that damnable chaste kiss, I do not care one whit. (From the Anglo-Saxon wiht, for “amount.” Let it never be said that Okazu is not educational.)

Yuri in this series is a pervasive atmosphere, rather than a single event or couple. The teahouse may be called “Amber” but it is the scent of lilies that flows through the door onto the street. Despite their age difference, Sarasa and Seriho make a good couple and I look forward to seeing them getting together body, mind and soul, since they already have two out of the three covered. :-)

What was left undone in my review of these stories uncollected can now be done:

Ratings:

Art – At its nadir 5, at its zenith 8, but forever and always very moe.
Story – There is no story, but it’s an 8 anyway. ;-)
Characters – 9
Yuri – 8
Service – 2

Overall – 8 with a hope that future volumes push up to 9.

“At last” I said, and I meant it. It’s nice to have the whole story in one handful now, and not running about all over the place in pieces. ^_^

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Yuri Drama CD: Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan ~ White Engage

August 5th, 2009

It has been previously established that the Ame-iro Kouchakan rates very high on the ‘ole Yuri-o-meter. In fact, it seems to draw female couples like bees to lilies and yes, I’m mixing my metaphors, thank you.

So, it will come as no surprise that Mana-chan-sensei from the earlier mini DCD, “Pink Princess” has taken to doing her work at the Amber Teahouse. The Yuri atmosphere is perfect for her to get in the St. Lotecia groove. She loves watching Seriho and Sarasa dance around each other, She loves to love/hate her devoted editor Shiko and she just loves Yuri. And so we find ourselves in “White Engage,” the Drama CD that comes with the deluxe edition of Volume 1.

The conflict here is small. And predictable. A sudden wrench is thrown in Mana-chan’s and Shiko’s working relationship that causes a crisis between them. Seriho and Sarasa are able to help the two of them work it out. They do work it out, rather creatively, I thought. And with a wonderfully voice acted kiss. Tamura Yukari gets extra super-duper shiny stars from me for making it sound like a good kiss.

Their reconciliation brings about a conversation on weddings. Which in turn brings about a conversation about Sarasa and Seriho being engaged. Sarasa is speechless and Seriho is puzzled, until Mana-chan calmly points out that Seriho *did* ask Sarasa to stay by her side for 50 years and what do ya call that if not a proposal? Seriho is surprised, but not at all unpleased to think of it that way. Okay, then. They are officially engaged. ^_^

Haru is tortured by just about everyone when they learn that an underclassman has confessed to Hinoka. “Yosh, yosh,” they all pat her shoulder to comfort her, completely ignoring her protestations of really not caring at all. Even Seriho pats her comfortingly and they all laugh at her when she insists on this facade that is probably totally true.

The bonus talk track was win. Mizuki Nana and Yukana sound crazy blushy embarrassed as they discuss how crazy, blushy embarrassed this whole script made them. This is followed by the other actresses talking about the whole love-love atmosphere, and how the girls-only love story made them feel. Since they have all now done this a number of times, it wasn’t possible to fall back on the usual trope-y comments, so there’s an air of yes, well, we have to actually talk about this a bit, this time. It was fun.

The packaging for the CD is quite lovely – and includes a nice little extra manga. The CD is once again decorated to look like a lace doily. I do have an issue with the lack of stability in the packaging – the CD keeps falling out. Not a huge thing. Also, there’s was an odd glitch when I first listened to the CD, in which the tracks played in reverse order. I took it out and put it back in and it was fine but still…totally surreal there for a bit. Oh, and the end of the extra manga had the most lovely picture of Mana-chan-sensei and Shiko, so I added it here. Click the pic for the full size version. (This is in part for my wife who wanted a copy.)

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 9
Service – 1 (For all the Fujieda fans who are all REALLY nice guys who like cute things.)

Overall – 9

And there you have it. An hour of Yuri fun at the Amber Teahouse. What more could we ask for, really? ^_^

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