Archive for the Yuri Manga Category


Yuri Manga: MURCIÉLAGO, Volume 2 (English)

May 23rd, 2017

In Volume 1 of MURCIÉLAGO, we were introduced to serial killer Koumori Kuroko, who now subcontracts for the police, “closing” cases they can’t deal with. 

MURCIÉLAGO, Volume 2 begins with the final piece of the “Murder Party” arc, in which we can see that Kuroko is in fact, a pervert, as well preternaturally good at her work.

The phrase “Congenital Insensitivity to Pain and Anhydrosis” is less funny here if only because it was originally presented in English. However, killer maid Yukari’s response is still a hoot. 

“Murder Party” wraps up with several key points – a glimpse of sniper Reiko and a hope that we will see her again, and a detailed exposition of Yukari’s situation and, ultimately some discussion of how Kuroko found herself in this position. Speaking of positions, Kuroko gets a little sex in (yes, I went there and did that) and Hinako gives us our first glimpse of the not-really-rightness that is her. It’s just a brief hint so far. We’ll get more later. 

The book wraps up with a lead-in to a new arc that is, I must warn you, really quite horrible on at least two levels. If you were waffling about the violence in Volumes 1-2, wait ’til Volume 3. “Domestic Killer” ramps it up considerably. And it’s also creepy and lolicon fetishy. That may work for you if that’s works for you. It was not my favorite arc. 

Ratings:

Art – 6 Still very ugly
Story – 7 Still  horrible violence and sex
Characters – 8 Double the amount of psychotic women means it was twice as good.
Service – 10 Creative, awful and pervasive
Yuri – 9 

Overall – 9

I am biding my time waiting for the Virginal Rose arc. ^_^

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LGBTQ Manga: My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness (English)

May 19th, 2017

Nagata Kabi made a huge splash on online art community Pixiv with her heartfelt and honest autobiographical comic, in which she discussed her depression, the eating disorder she developed as a result and the long path to recovery and hope. East Press picked up Nagata-san’s narrative from it’s online home and printed it in book form. When I reviewed Sabishi-sugi Rezu Fuzoku ni Ikimashita Report (さびしすぎてレズ風俗に行きましたレポ) in 2016, I was convinced there was no chance we’d ever see it in English. I am so pleased to be completely wrong about that. ^_^

There are several amazing things about this book right on the surface. The publisher in English is Seven Seas, which has shown a genuine desire to be a Yuri powerhouse in the western manga market, but which – up until now – has favored moe schoolgirls over lesbians. I don’t blame them, I’m not criticizing…if anything I’m thankful that this is so out of their wheelhouse. Unlike something steeped in genre tropes like Hana & Hina Afterschool, I think Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness has a significant chance of reaching a non-manga-reading audience with a story that will very likely be meaningful for them. This is no Sweet Blue Flowers, this is a fairly brutal tale of a real life in crisis.

The most notable thing about this story is not that the artist is a lesbian. It’s that the Pixiv response to this woman’s honesty about her detachment from herself ,shows that a lot of people (not just in Japan) find themselves completely alienated from their own needs at an even earlier age these days than previously. The “mid-life” crisis has become just a “life crisis.” Pixiv readers resonated with this idea of the life one assumed one was supposed to have, the self-flagellation of not being able to even so much as fake that, and the breakdown when it all becomes too much. I sometimes think about the desperate loneliness of men and women in earlier centuries, unable to access – or even perhaps conceive –  of a life more emotionally fulfilling than the one they occupied.

The complete honesty of this story is moving. It hurts watching Nagata-san struggle…even when I know that she would come out the other end of this long tunnel.  

In my review of the Japanese volume I said “I think the story will resonate for a lot of people, although I am not one of them. I’m accustomed to my own bouts of depression and burn-out, but do not find solace in other people’s tales of their own experience.” I stand by this, but want to amend that the language barrier did affect me after all, because in English I was more deeply touched by the words. For that, I need to give my sincere thanks to translator Jocelyne Allen and adaptor Lianne Sentar (for whom I also owe thanks for the review copy!) Technically, this book looks awesome, maintaining the original three color interior of the original. And for that, I thank Lissa Patillo and all the fine folks at Seven Seas. You did an especially good job, with an especially challenging and especially worthy manga.

Which brings me to the final notable point about this book. It will officially hit shelves on June 6 and is already the #1 top selling manga in the Yaoi, Gay & Lesbian manga category! (And, almost in the top 5000 for books in general, wow.) When I checked yesterday Yuri manga filled 6 of the top 10 slots in that category, along with Hana & Hina Afterschool , Bloom Into You, and the Kase-san series (especially Kase-san and Bento, Volume 2 of the series), it’s something I never expected to see, and it warmed the cockles of this Yuri-lover’s heart.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 8
Character – 8
Service – 2
Yuri – 7

Overall – 8

Please buy this book, so we get more Yuri about lesbians. Please buy this book so we get more comic essays by lesbians. Buying this book lets Seven Seas know that you want lesbians in your Yuri. ^_^ And tell everyone you know about it. This book is, along with My Brother’s Husband, a game-changer.

And, while you’re at it, let Amazon know that the category title ought to be Yaoi, Yuri, Gay & Lesbian. I’ve written them to ask for it to be changed. If you write them, too, maybe they’ll change it!

 

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Yuri Manga: Linkage Perfect Edition (リンケージ 完全版)

May 15th, 2017

In 2009, before the creation of Yuri Danshi, Kurata Uso was a regular artist for Yuri Hime magazine who actually drew Yuri. Yuri that Yuri readers enjoyed and which starred girls, falling for one another. The book Linkage was a lovely example of shorts that fulfilled these simple criteria.

It’s hard to imagine that we’re 8 years later, but we are and that book is being re-released as Linkage Perfect Edition (リンケージ 完全版). The stories remain the same as they did in the original edition (reviewed here on Okazu in September, 2009) with the addition of a new story “Pierce” about femininity and love in school. But I wanted to step back and sort of re-evaluate my original dismissal of the book as containing lightweight “girl meets girl” romances. 

I was wrong. 

This collection is not just a series of small occurrences that bring people together for that moment when they suddenly realize 1) their feelings and that, 2) the other girl’s feelings are the same. The linkage I missed was NOT between Girl A and Girl B, but between Girl A and herself. And those moments of profound self-recognition (a theme we will return to several times in the next week) is the first, critical link made. Only then can a person find connection to others. 

The story in this collection that I like best is “Present” in which an alienated and conflicted (and subsequently disengaged) girl meets and befriends…and ultimately loves and is profoundly changed by…a blind girl. It’s a beautiful story and I can understand why I dismissed it as a frivol originally, but my perspective has changed. I can now see that the linkage Haruka drives is in Keiko’s relationship with herself and her detachment from her own life. From there she frees herself to be open to sharing her feelings with Haruka. It’s a quiet story with so little conflict it almost seems superficial but, for Linkage, it’s the perfect metaphor.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Stories – Average 8
Characters – 7
Yuri – 7
Service – 1

Overall – 8

Ironically, my original review ended with “I would very much like to see a longer story by Kurata. I think there’s some solid story-telling potential in there, and hope to see something beyond just a one-shot.”  Then I got my wish and it was Yuri Danshi and I hated it. Hah. ^_^;

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Yuri Manga: Hana & Hina Afterschool, Volume 1 (English)

May 3rd, 2017

After reading the English-language version of Volume 1 of Milk Morinaga’s Hana & Hina Afterschool, I’ve decided that it is a series of tropes that, at first, appear to be struggling to find their story. In my review of the Japanese edition I called it “a Cards for Humanity “Yuri Tropes” edition. Which, I pointed out, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Hana is a typical high school student with an illicit after-school job in a store selling character goods.  She enjoys the job, but makes no effort to understand the stock. I don’t need to explain to you how vexing it would be if you wanted the special edition Senbonzakura Miku, not the Spring Version Miku and the salesperson didn’t have a clue what you meant. 

Hina is a tall attractive, mature-looking young lady with an encyclopedic knowledge of character goods. She is an amateur model and gets a job in the store working with Hana. And, it turns out, she attends Hana’s school And, Hina is younger than she seems. In one moment, Hana gains a kouhai at school and work.

Hina and Hana have a slightly uncomfortable relationship as they become more friendly on the job, but feel that they must not interact at school. The tension between them increases as both girls begin having a harder time balancing their friendship and school life. The tension comes to a crisis during the sports festival when they decide they will just go ahead and be friends. But…it appears that that solves only one of their problems – Hina is still afraid of scaring away Hana, by liking her too much. 

Although I know how the series ends, I still managed to feel some concern for Hina’s  distress. Which says a lot for both the visual narrative and the translation, as handled by Jennifer McKeon and adapted by Shannon Fey. As we have come to expect, the reproduction here is top-notch. Long ago are the days of backgrounds that are masses of moire and migraines. Of course that means we’re looking even more closely for imperfections. And it’s a pleasure to know that those are rare with Seven Seas’ publications.

Morinaga series are, for better or worse, relatively formulaic. When it works, it works well. In Hana & Hina Afterschool, it has the potential to work. The pacing is uneven, which keeps this story from just being another Odd Couple mis-match fable and the characters are likable which keep you rooting for them.

Ratings:

Art – 8  with an emphasis on the cute
Story – 7 with potential 
Characters – halfway through I’d have said 6, but by the end, 8
Service –6 I mentioned the cuteness, right? And, dressing and undressing.
Yuri – 4, but climbing

Overall – 7

Again, quoting my initial review, “You want them to come together – but you want it to be realistic and have depth of connection, not just ’cause this is a Yuri manga.”

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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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