Archive for the GIRL FRIENDS Category

Yuri Manga: GIRL FRIENDS, The Complete Collection Volume 2 (English)

March 10th, 2013

Morinaga Milk’s GIRL FRIENDS, The Complete Collection, Volume 2, begins with an ending which segues into a new beginning for both Mari and Akiko.

As I noted in my review of the original volumes, after we’ve fully tasted the situation from Mari’s side – which is to say, plumbed the confusion, mortification, attraction and tension from the perspective of an introvert – we turn to Akiko the extrovert, who is no less confused, ecstatic, hurt, and out of her mind.

After plot complications that are realistic and some that are not so, the two find a moment to air out their mutual issues and, for a moment, are as one.

In re-reading this book I am once again reminded that, for all the manga tropes and plot complications, this is a fairly realistic story. Happily-ever-after does not begin with the moment of mutual confession. Life can never be that simple – and indeed it is not, even at the end of the series. But we can know, with every fiber of our being that Akiko and Mari have an excellent shot at building a life together because, as Mari says, “Regardless of what may lie ahead, I will never give up on you.”

Seven Seas’ volume was once again very decent. (There was one repeated typographical error -the music notes in reverse color – that should be fixed for any second printings, as it is actively distracting.) I notice that Macmillian is distributing the books, so I guess they managed to shift their contract from Tor into the larger group – for which I’m glad, that was never a great fit, and it allows them the distribution that direct sales and Amazon cannot provide. It also explains why GIRL FRIENDS is able to make the NY Times best-seller list. I’m pleased for Seven Seas and Morinaga-sensei all around.


Art – 9 (The art definitely improved over the course of this series)
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 10
Service – 6

Overall – 9

For those readers who worried that the first volume ended in a bad place – have patience and read the whole story. ^_^


I would like to thank everyone who entered in the Complete Collection Give-a-Way. We have a winner!

Kathryn (who writes the Contemporary Japanese Literature blog, which is absolutely worth your time) your message inspired me and, I hope, many others! You are the winner of this contest. Please email me at yuricon at gmail dot com with your address and a complete set of Morinaga Milk’s GIRL FRIENDS will be on its way to you!

I want to thank all of you who entered with your messages of love and acceptance. And I especially want to thank Ana Moreno, translator of GIRL FRIENDS, the Complete Collection, for her generous provision of books for this contest!  Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

AND I want to thank Okazu Superhero Amanda M. for her sponsorship of today’s review! I could not do it without you!

We’ve got a pile of new contests coming up here, so keep your antenna tuned to Okazu in days ahead. (So many things to give away…) ^_^

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GIRL FRIENDS Contest Reminder

March 8th, 2013

In February, I reviewed Morinaga Milk’s GIRL FRIENDS, The Complete Collection, Volume 1 and I announced a contest –

To enter to win a complete set of this delightful Yuri romance by Morinaga Milk, in the comments write a message of encouragement and hope to a young LGBT person who isn’t sure about their self or feelings right now – or even a message to your younger self. Please include your name,  – if you plan on being Anon, please give yourself a nickname so I can let the winner know they’ve won.

I’ll be reviewing Volume 2 very shortly, so get your messages in (to enter, please use the comments on the review of Volume 1) and be entered to win both volumes of the Complete Set.  Good luck! ^_^


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Yuri Manga: GIRL FRIENDS, The Complete Collection Volume 1 (English)

February 3rd, 2013

Five years ago, I had the pleasure of reading GIRL FRIENDS by Morinaga Milk for the first time. This cutely drawn story of an introvert girl and her extrovert best friend struck home for me (as it did, I have no doubt, for many readers.)

My reviews for Volume 1 and Volume 2 cover the evolution of the story from a “shoujo manga for men” to a realistic exploration of two young women who are totally different becoming friends…and ultimately finding themselves with much more complex feelings for each other.

Volume 1 of Seven Seas’ GIRL FRIENDS, The Complete Collection, primarily deal with the relationship from Mari’s perspective. A natural introvert, Mari has never had a best friend before. This adds an extra level of complexity – and stress – to her changing feelings and increases her desire to prove to herself that she is “normal.” (Which is *exactly why I and other people are out – to show young people that we are perfectly normal. The more people who are out, the less young people will have to go through that.)

Volume 1 ends at a difficult point and many new readers have expressed concern about the ending. Be patient readers of Yuri, this is a 5-volume manga presented in 2 omnibuses. Volume 1 of this edition ends in the middle of the story. Give the plot time to play out and enjoy the whole thing, crises and all instead of wanting to rush to the end. ^_^


Art – 8
Story – 6
Characters – 7
Yuri – 7
Service – 5

Overall – 7

Seven Seas did a very nice job of localization, as usual.  Extra thanks to translator Ana M. (who is also an Okazu superhero!)  for the donation of a set of both volumes of GIRL FRIENDS, the Complete Collection as a prize.

To enter to win this complete set of this delightful Yuri romance by Morinaga Milk, in the comments write a message of encouragement and hope to a young LGBT person who isn’t sure about their self or feelings right now – or even a message to your younger self. Please include your name,  – if you plan on being Anon, please give yourself a nickname so I can let the winner know they’ve won.

If you’ve won a contest recently, please feel free to enter, but you’ll understand if I pick someone else. ^_^

I’ll announce winners when I review Volume 2!

My message – There is nothing wrong with you. Society might have some catching up to do, but you are perfectly fine. Find people you can talk to, a local LBGT-friendly church or group at a university. You are perfectly fine – and you are not alone. We’re all here with you. ^_^

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Top Ten Yuri Manga of 2012

December 28th, 2012

In addition to my normal disclaimers, I want to make the point that I do not consider digital to be a separate thing. From this day forward, digital will be part of this list. It’s just another means of distribution. However you buy it – local comic store, online shopping, book store, digital – it’s all manga.

And with that, away we go!

10) Tokyo Love  – Rica ‘tte Kanji!? – Modesty prevents me from putting this higher, but this year ALC released a 20-year retrospective edition of Rica Takashima’s Yuri Manga and we put it online for free. As I worked on the book, I was reminded of why I liked it in the first place. Rica and Miho feel “real” in a way that so few manga characters do. It’s funny and charming and snarky. It’s still online for free – so give a gay kid a smile for the holidays and share it around. ^_^

9) Poor Poor Lips – whether you’re reading it in Japanese or on JManga in English, you have the chance to read a rare item – a comedy that tells a serious story in a way that has some meaning. Poor Poor Lips is not a masterwork, but it transcended its 4-panel comic strip format and its Yuri genre to become an object lesson in a changing world. Quite probably, the story will be meaningless and obsolete in a few years, I certainly hope so at any rate!  ^_^ I’m glad it had the ending it did. I’m glad JManga has made it available to you. It deserves a place on this list.

8) Candy/Prism – These two series were, again, surprisingly realistic explorations of first love. In a sense they are groundbreaking, simply for getting the story and the emotions right. It’s been a long time that we’ve been reading stories that don’t really resonate with reality, it’s so refreshing that Tsubomi has published these.

7) Sailor Moon – Do I even have to tell you why this is on this list? As the series approaches a 20 year anniversary, can we just say it’s timeless and call it quits? ^_^ Haruka and Michiru will forever be the Queens of Yuri in my mind, and here they are…helicopters and all!

6) Girl Friends – Speaking of “reality,” this extended look at the evolution of a relationship is notable for itself and even more so for making it to English this year. Digitally on JManga or in print from Seven Seas (Volume 1 | Volume 2), it’s a sweet, cute look at what happens when an introvert and an extrovert fall in love. ^_^

5) Renai Joshi File – I said that this was Morishima-sensei’s best work to date and I stand by that. Another few moments of realism injected into the world of Yuri manga, not only about falling in love, but this time, about falling out of it, as well, and a nice dose of a couple who has been together for a long time, sets this book apart. Call me crazy, but I think we need more of this.

4) Sasamekikoto – This story floored me. It began as something silly and ended as something remarkable and memorable, The ending was nowhere near what I expected, but it was so far beyond expectations I almost have no words to express my feelings. Relief? Well, yes, but no. Celebration? That’s it! So here I am celebrating the way this series ended by putting it on my Top Ten List. ^_^

I sat here looking at this list for a long time and there is just no way I can decide between the next two, so I’m calling it a tie for 2nd Place this year between two of the differentest series I’ve ever read:


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2) GUNJO and Sweet Blue Flowers – GUNJO ended in a way that I had hoped, but also feared. Sweet Blue Flowers continues in a way that also leads to hope and fear. Both stories are, in their own way, sublime. These two series practically define the continuum of “best of Yuri” for me. Sweet Blue Flowers is currently available on JManga in English.

The most amazing things about both these series for me, are the way that the writers delve into the psychological lives of the characters. Neither narrative feels forced, awkward or full of that exhausting exposition so often seen in manga, in which characters “explain” what is happening through tortured dialogue. (This is seen most painfully in shounen action series, where attack combinations are explored in mind-numbing detail while the characters simply stand there, listening patiently to their enemy.) In both these series, the characters act and speak consistently with their age and life experience.

Fumi, for all that she’s a very mature teen, with a calm temperament, will have outbursts and rants (mostly internal, as befits a “good girl.”) Akira speaks without thinking (or perhaps, thinks out loud).

The brunette in GUNJO is broken before we ever meet her, pounded into bitter resignation by a life that didn’t have to be as hard as it was. The blonde’s idealism is shattered, rebuilt, re-shattered, rebuilt, until she finds an inner strength she had no idea she would ever need. Each of these characters is unique, three-dimensional and real in a way that I long for, but never really expected to see in manga.

And, as I have been saying repeatedly for months, so it really shouldn’t come as any surprise, my number one pick Yuri Manga for this year is…

1) Collectors – I’ve said this before and I hope to say it more often in coming days – THIS is the book I’ve been waiting for.

It’s got all the qualities I have been hoping for in Yuri Manga:

It’s about two adult women who are in love with one another and have been together for a long time.

It’s about the after happily-ever-after that is actually happily.

It’s about the moments of domestic bliss, the bullshitting, the teasing, the small conflicts and romantic moments of a relationship that has matured, but is not in danger of failing.

And it has art by one of the best artists in manga today. Not moe in the least, Nishi Uko’s art is adult and beautiful, just like her story.

I’m so very pleased to be able to say that Collectors is my number one Yuri manga of 2012.

Here’s to many more years of fantastic Yuri Manga!

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Okazu Yuri Gift Guide 2012

November 30th, 2012

I know this season is already so chock full of pressure to buy so, I was on the fence about writing this post, but a few folks told me they read it so here we are. ^_^

This guide has little rhyme or reason, it’s not a ranking, just some suggestions for things to ask Santa for. So, here we go….

2013 is going to see a couple of good English anime releases. Whether you’re putting your gift list together for yourself or picking something out for a friend, here’s a short list of couple of things to look for!

Anime Gifts

Penguin Drum – Section 23 is releasing Ikuhara Kuniko’s newest series, Mawaru Penguindrum, in two forms, DVD and Blu-Ray.

For fans of Revolutionary Girl Utena, surrealism and/or Yuri, this series is an exploration of alternate unrealities that exist simultaneously.

This series is not especially suited for younger viewers, there are some adult scenes and childhood abuse and neglect. More importantly, it’s a non-linear story that has an ending, while never actually being resolved, which confuses people. ^_^

Sweet Blue Flowers – Nozomi/RightStuf launches its budget line with this highly anticipated series. This delightful tale of Fumi and her friend Akira and their friend as they enter high school, is quite simply one of the best Yuri stories out there.

I’ve said this many times, and I’ll continue to say it, it would have been life-changing for me if Fumi had been in existence as a role model/media representation of a young woman in love with other women when I was young.

I know RightStuf will treat this series kindly – and I’m told that pre-orders will come with an “exclusive gift” the nature of which I have no more clue to than you. We can all be surprised together. ^_^

Maria Watches Us – Meet the  Student Council of Lillian Girls’ Academy, competent Youko, trickster Sei, pot-stirrer Eriko and their younger “sisters” intense Sachiko, boyish Rei and otherworldly Shimako. The Maria-sama ga Miteru series was a gamble for RightStuf, but they’ve been really happy with the results. Now all four seasons of anime following Yumi and her adventures have gone to discount litebox. There’s never been a better time to make a gift of the Yamyurikai to someone you love. ^_^ Another RightStuf offering.

Season 1 | Season 2 | Season 3 | Season 4

Bodacious Space Pirates – Section 23 again with DVD or Blu-ray options for what was one of the most amazing dark horse anime I’ve ever seen. Who knew that a space opera anime series would exist with so little fanservice, great writing, terrific characters and Yuri!

The story of high school girl Marika’s transformation into the captain of the space pirate ship Bentenmaru is a bundle of fun.

This will absolutely be on my wish list.

Not sure what you (or your friend) actually wants to watch? Don’t worry, here’s a suggestion for that, too.

Crunchyroll Subscription – For a reasonable price, get a great deal of anime, including premieres, simulcasts, contests and extras. The perfect gift for the animevore you know.

For folks who are more readers than watchers, here’s a few suggestions:

Manga Gifts

Sailor Moon – The first 8 volumes of this manga classic are now out in English.  This is a groundbreaking series in the sense that it changed the way the world viewed girl’s manga forever. With archetypal characters, an epic romance to accompany the epic plot, and the charm of a young woman coming of age in the middle of turmoil, this series has enchanted millions. Now, in a new edition, it’s making a splash all over again. Yuri fans should read it to, at the very least, meet the Queens of Yuri, Haruka and Michiru. ^_^

Volume 1 | Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4 |
Volume 5Volume 6 |Volume 7Volume 8
with more volumes to come.

GIRL FRIENDS – Seven Seas has put out a 2-volume omnibus collection of Morinaga Milk’s series about love between Mariko and Akiko.

Volume 1 and Volume 2 were translated by the very capable Ana Moreno and are still a surprisingly realistic exploration of the first time we fall in love.

And, for a load of really excellent Yuri Manga, here’s my number one gift suggestion:

JManga Subsciption – Check out their Yuri Page to see the series they’ve already released – there is more on the way, including  favorites by Morishima Akiko, Fujieda Miyabi and more! Jmanga will make the perfect gift for any Yuri manga enthusiast.

As a bonus, I offer up one more suggestion for the folks out there who can read Japanese. I know I’m beating the drum hard for this, but really, it’s all that and a bag of chips.

Nishi UKO’s Collectors is the Yuri manga *I* have been waiting for. Life after happily-ever-after looks exactly like this and no one draws or tells it better.

Shinobu, the book collector, Takako, the fashion plate and their long-suffering friend Naomi are the most real characters I’ve ever read. I love them and I hope you will too.

I hope you find something you like on this list. Happy Yuri Holidays!

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