Archive for the Yuri Manga Category


LGBTQ Manga: Collectors, Volume 2 (コレクターズ)

February 21st, 2017

On Yuricon, we have an intentionally very broad definition of Yuri.

Yuri can describe any anime or manga series (or other derivative media, i.e., fan fiction, film, etc.) that shows intense emotional connection, romantic love or physical desire between women. Yuri is not a genre confined by the gender or age of the audience, but by the *perception* of the audience. In short, Yuri is any story with lesbian themes.

This is intentionally broad to allow fans’ perspective take the driver’s seat. In essence – if you (or I, or anyone else) think it’s Yuri, it is. 

Here on Okazu, we have a slightly less broad concept around how I, personally identify Yuri vs something that I might identify as LGBTQ.

“Yuri is lesbian content without lesbian identity”

As I see it, once the character (or the characters around them) see the character as lesbian, that’s a door that can’t be closed. Any story I write about a woman who identifies her romantic partner as “her wife” is, by it’s nature, going to signify them as lesbian because, as we’ve learned in the last decade marriage is most definitely a political act for a same-sex couple. It’s political because, even if the country where it takes place doesn’t recognize the partnership, it forces everyone around the couple to related to them as a couple.

If I tell you I have a housemate, you may decide on our relationship to fit your level of comfort. When I say I have a wife, I have defined that relationship for you and now you must figure out how to deal with it.

All of which is to say that while Collectors, Volume 1 was a terrific Yuri manga, Collectors, Volume 2 (コレクターズ) is a terrific LGBTQ manga. In my review of Volume 1, I praised the series being grounded in reality, and especially in the reality of a relationship. As I said, “Life. What could be funnier, more poignant or more interesting?” In Volume 2, we get something more…something that I knew I was missing, but didn’t want to be demanding and ask for. We get lesbian identity.

Typical of creator Nishi UKO, the identity issue is integrated seamlessly into the narrative. No awkward Marvel-esque “She likes girls” banners, just a co-worker who casually notes that Shinobu and Takako are a couple, then talks away an acquaintance’s immature perspective on that fact. So Shinobu is out to at least this coworker or he’s smart enough to see the obvious.

But what actually lifts this book out of Yuri into LGBTQ (oh, nice hierarchical slam there Erica. Sheesh, elitist much?) territory is the entirety of the final part of the book. As Shinobu and Takako consider, not for the first time, moving in together, they have a fight. Not a snarky, bickery fight, but a real fight. Takako is insensitive, Shinobu is rude, Takako throws the contents of her glass at Shinobu and leaves, then leaves town to go to her family’s home.  I cannot for the life of me remember any other chapter of any Yuri manga that so accurately portrayed a real fight between a couple, and I’m hard pressed to come up with too many other manga that have done so. (And now that I think about it, all of them are Josei.)

Takako disrupts her younger brother, Takeyuki’s, life by sticking around. He’s been clued in for a while that she has a lover, but has no idea who it is. When he sees the number calling her over and over on her phone, he calls back, surprised to find that it’s his sister’s friend Shinobu. He tells Shinobu he thinks his sister has had a fight with her lover. Shinobu says she’s on the way. The scenes of Shinobu taking the late train are some of the best panels I’ve ever seen in manga.

When Shinobu arrives, Takako comes outside to speak with her and, at last, the penny drops for Takeyuki. Although Takako has never said anything, Take and Dad take in the fight, the body language and the whole thing becomes clear.  While they do not say, “I am a lesbian” at all during this, there is recognition of them as a couple by Takako’s father and brother and that, specifically, sets this manga apart.

This is followed by a touching ending. The final words of the series are “Let’s live together” with furigana that says it louder for the folks in the back -“Let’s get married.” ^_^

A magnificent end to one of the most deeply satisfying manga about adult women ever, by one of my favorite artists. 

I look forward to whatever Nishi UKO-sensei has planned next, but for now, I’ll just bask in the glow of my choice for top manga of 2016 for all the right reasons.

Ratings:

Art – 10
Story – 10 
Characters – 10
Yuri – 10
Service – 1

Overall – 10

Collectors was perfect. Thank you.

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Yuri Manga: Renai Log (恋愛ログ)

February 16th, 2017

Are you the kind of person who saves the best for last or who goes for the good stuff first? ^_^ When there’s a new shipment of manga in from Japan, I waffle back and forth. Half of me wants to binge read all the best manga right away and half wants to hold it to the very end. The first half usually wins. ^_^ Especially, as the second half of Hana Monogatari has had a surprising number of deaths and I keep finding myself really weepy and needing something happy to read before bed. (T_T)

Of course, one of the books on the “good pile” is Takemiya Jin-sensei’s newest collection, Renai Log (恋愛ログ). This collection, although a Yuri Hime Comics publication, wholly consists of doujinshi by Takemiya-sensei. 

Of the storie,s the opening two-parter was my favorite. In “Otonari-san” a young woman becomes aware that her neighbor is a lesbian and, after the neighbor has been left by her lover, starts to have feelings of her own for her. I really enjoyed this story, as it took a fairly long time to develop. The ending was deeply satisfying, as well.

The middle stories were a selection of bittersweet “wth is happening” and “goodbye” stories that hit me in already tender emotional spots. 

But the final story, “Chocolat Orange 2” was absolutely lovely. Just the treat I needed, along with “Otonari-san,” to wipe away the melancholia left by people dying in my evening literature. 

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – Variable, average 8
Characters – 8 A lot of sympathetic characters
Yuri – 8
Service – 0 Really. There just wasn’t any

Overall – 8

I had waited as long as I could before reading this and, as usual, was really glad I got to it. ^_^

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Yuri Manga: Comic Yuri Hime March 2017 (コミック百合姫2017年3月号)

February 13th, 2017

Comic Yuri Hime March 2017 (コミック百合姫2017年3月号) continues with the same variety of Yuri that we’ve come to expect from magazine this year. That said, there’s a definite slant towards the moe….understandably, as it’s easier to drawn simplified faces than it is to draw detailed art.

Which is why I genuinely treasure Ohsawa Yayoi’s “2DK, G Pen, Mezamashitokei”. About to go into a 4th volume (yay!) this series continues to be very much about adults and, in this chapter does something completely unexpected. Well, at least I certainly didn’t expect it. ^_^ As an aside, I wonder if Nanami is at all aware that pretty much every other woman she has ever met has fallen for her.

In “Watashi no Yuri ha Oshigoto desu!” The one stereotype the Yuri cafe doesn’t cover – the best friend with a crush – rears it’s head and the cafe ends up with a new employee. I have no idea if this story will develop into anything particularly, but I’m willing to ride along for however long it stays silly.

Hitoto’s “Shuumatsu nanishini ikou?” sticks with giving us more detail about keeping fish than I, uh, expected it to. Fish it is. Okay then.

“Holmes-san ga Suiri dekinai” by Nemachi Dorumaru continues to be a parody of every mystery series ever and Ohi Pikachi’s “Demi Life” is already getting self-referential. I hope they will both break out of their niches and become real stories soon.

“Roku + Ichi Sodarashi” is still pretty much Hidamari Sketch, by a different artist, with Yuri. That part’s refreshing.

I still love Mikanuji’s “Now Loading” for it’s how-to tutorial on game development and honest look at the hours one pulls working in a small gamedev company. That this story feels “real” to me is the best part about it. That it also is Yuri is just icing on the cake. ^_^

Comic Yuri Hime is advertising pretty hard for editorial assistants right now, so if you’re still young and want to work in the manga world, are located in Japan and looking to get a position with a company that has never been positioned better to grow, take a look at the Comic Yuri Hime‘s advert for people wanting “Yuri Work.”

Ratings:

Overall – 8

This March issue appears to be sold out in print on Amazon JP at the moment, but folks with Japanese IP addresses will be able to get it through Kindle and you can get it digitally outside Japan on Bookwalker Global as a single issue or as a subsciption.

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Yuri Manga: Bloom Into You, Volume 1 (English)

February 12th, 2017

Nakatani Nio’s blockbuster manga has debuted in English as Bloom Into You, Volume 1 from Seven Seas.

When I originally reviewed Volume 1 of Yagate Kimi ni Naru, I said that it was “a sweet little Yuri romance that I both enjoyed a lot and also have several real problems with.” My opinion has not changed for the better as the issues with it have not abated, but intensified. (And for those of you new here, I’ve also reviewed Volume 2 and Volume 3 in Japanese. No need to try to “explain” the series to me. Thanks. You’re welcome to disagree, but you won’t change my opinion. ^_^)

On the ANNCast Friday, Jacob Chapman delved into the stereotype of the predatory gay man as a thing that really put him off. I briefly spoke about the line where it becomes victimization that really bothers me. But I wasn’t able to address the other part of that…something that bothers me in all manga, not just LGBTQ characters – coercion. I dislike it immensely when a character uses their perceived or real power to coerce another character into a situation they don’t want to be in. This is as true for Strawberry Panic! as it is for Shitsurakuen. And it seems obvious to me that the entirety of Bloom Into You can be summed up in this single panel (read-right-to-left): “Why not just tell her no?”  “I tried, but Nanami-sempai won’t give up on the idea!”

That’s just a deal killer for me. “No means no” whether someone says it about being a campaign manager or a girlfriend and whether the person asking is male or female. It wouldn’t be cute if it was a guy insisting and it’s not cute that it’s a girl.

Moreover, it’s even more obvious to me this time that Sayaka was just dissed right to her face. It’s really hard for me to like Touko ever again.

Part of the problem here is that this is a manga, although rated Teen by Seven Seas, was written for a magazine for adult men, and it adheres to the standard male romantic lead plot – stalk her, bug her, insist your feelings are sincere and magically she’ll realize she loves you. This is horrible in Hollywood movies and it’s no less toxic here. No, this is not how one convinces a girl to like one. Nor is Akari’s plan to wait until the reason the guy she likes uses to not go out with her runs out, a sensible one. These are stupid lessons and stuff that sets my teeth on edge about any “romance.” If feelings aren’t returned, it’s okay to feel shitty about being rejected, but not okay to just keep insisting they’ll come around.

The delusion so many of the characters live under make me sympathetic only to Sayaka who seems to see the whole thing most clearly, right down to her own unfulfilled desire. She’s basically the only reason I’m still reading this series.

Very unusually for Seven Seas, this volume also contains several name translation mistakes. Nanami Touko is  at least once referred to as “Nanako” (a mistake I noticed on the Amazon description, and had meant to, but completely forget to, email Seven Seas about, woops, sorry) and Saeki Sayaka is sometimes referred to referred to as Sanae Sayaka. The page reproduction is the usual high quality we’ve come to expect, however.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 5
Service – 1

Overall – 6 My reservations remain and have increased over time. The transition into English has not helped and the translation inconsistency (while quite probably because they had two proofreaders but no managing editor,) just sort of felt like an extra stone in my shoe.

“Sometimes love just takes time for the other person to get in to, right?”

Argh.

I really wish I liked this series, but I still have a lot of trouble with the premise. So, if you really like it a lot, I invite you to write in a short review for this volume in the comments and if you’d like to write about Volume 2 when it comes out in English, do let me know!

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Yuri Manga: Gakuen Polizi, Volume 2 (English)

February 5th, 2017

Time is a funny thing. I first reviewed Gakuen Polizi, Volume 2 when it came out in Japanese. And, since then, I’ve found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the narrative. So much so, that I reviewed Gakuen Polizi, Volume 1 in English in 2014(!) and have been stalling on Volume 2 since.  Today, at last, I’m sitting down to talk with you about Gakuen Polizi, Volume 2 in English from Seven Seas.

Why? You don’t have to ask, because obviously I am going to tell you. ^_^

You know the phrase Women in Refrigerators? It was coined by comic writer and amazing human, Gail Simone. I’m going to be lazy and quote Wiki here:

It refers to an incident in Green Lantern #54 (1994), written by Ron Marz, in which Kyle Rayner, the title hero, comes home to his apartment to find that his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, had been killed by the villain Major Force and stuffed into a refrigerator. Simone and her colleagues then developed a list of fictional female characters who had been “killed, maimed or depowered”, in particular in ways that treated the female character as merely a device to move a male character’s story arc forward, rather than as a fully developed character in her own right.

In subsequent years, we’ve had many discussions in comics and other popular media about “fridging” and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “sexy lamp test” about which she said

“If you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.”

In a nutshell, these issues are part of the disenfranchising of female characters. And, to some extent, they are also part of the de-nuancing of the villains. In the weekend after watching Steven Universe “That Will Be All” in which we were gifted with fabulously nuanced and evocative performances from the villains of the story, it’s kind of brute-force narrative to have to turn to a manga in which a female character is almost gang raped on film just to show you how bad the nameless baddies are. UGH.

So, yeah, that’s why. ^_^

There are some other problematic things about the story. The relationship between a student and a teacher might be sincere, but will always be fraught. It was presented with some, but not enough context, just enough to make both characters sympathetic and the story less ham-handed, but the situation was still creepy.

Sometimes, when I write a story, I find it taking off into a dark place. I’ve cut out tens of thousands of words in stories when the idea needed to be treated with a light hand and kept crawling into a dark corner. This story needed that. It worked best when it was dealing with moments of human frailty and not big crime rings. 

The ending makes sense best if you recognize the characters from a doujinshi Morinaga-sensei drew decades ago. To be honest, I assumed from the beginning that that story was the kernel for this manga. 

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 6
Service – 8 Way more service than the first volume

Overall – 7

I would not rate this series among Morinaga-sensei’s best. I’m glad it’s in the past and that she’s moved on to Hana to Hina ha Houkago, which will be coming out in English as Hana and Hina Aterschool this spring. 

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