Archive for the Yuri Manga Category


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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Yuri Manga: Kiss & White Lily For My Dearest Girl, Volume 1 (English)

April 24th, 2017

Anoko ni Kiss to Shirayuri wo broke into the Yuri marketplace in 2014. Although it recycled well-worn Yuri tropes, it found a willing audience with the (primarily male) readership of Comic Alive. Subsequent volumes ran with the “Yuritopia” idea and used it to tell increasingly complex and interesting stories centered around relationships at a fantasy all-girl school. I find that, as the stories move away from the first volumes, they have become more interesting – even the relationship of the main couple has moved past it’s initial boundaries.

And here we are, able to enjoy those volumes in English, with Yen Press’ release of the series as Kiss & White Lily for my Dearest Girl. In Volume 1  we meet pathologically hardworking  Shiramine Ayaka and slacker genius Kurozawa Yurine. 

As I’ve said several times recently, this particular set up is somewhat teeth grinding for me. ^_^ I’m not saying it’s unrealistic or anything, au contraire, I know several of those geniuses and let me tell you how *vexing* it is to work one’s ass off only to never be as good. ^_^ So, despite her melodrama, I’m on team Ayaka, all the way. And, if it weren’t for the fact that Yurine was also on team Ayaka, I would have chucked this series away a long time ago. ^_^

But there we are, Yurine has that even more vexing quality of being sincerely lovely as a person. Ayaka is wholly unprepared for liking her rival and even less prepared to be liked in return. Nonetheless, as their like slips causally into “like” like, Ayaka becomes somewhat less unprepared for everything.

A side story starring Ayaka’s cousin Mizuki and her closest friend and track team manager Moe, adds a little typicality to the story and gives the volume another well-worn path to walk through the lilies.

On the negative side, this series inhabits that all-female fantasy world in which adults and men exist only as shadows and barriers to happiness. It’s all a little tiresome. But, ultimately, despite the fact that this series is a “pair-’em-up” it works because none of the characters are unlikable. No matter how well-trod the paths might be, when we can sympathize with the characters, we’ll want them to be happy. We want them to give hope to all the girls who might read this series and imagine that kind of happiness for themselves and hope that some of the guys reading might just get that this is a valid way to be that doesn’t actually involve them and is still okay.

Overall, this series translated well to English. again thanks to the deft touch of Jocelyne Allen (who apparently is the current queen of Yuri translation!) I wasn’t sure if the screaming and melodrama might work, but I’m well-satisfied with the results. Technicals are otherwise well done and once again, I feel that this volume offers the kind of authentic reading experience that fans crave. 

Ratings:

Art – 8 
Story – 8
Characters – 7 
Yuri – 8
Service – 1 on principle only

Overall – 8

This ran in Comic Alive, but it could have run in a girls’ magazine as art and story are firmly rooted in shoujo stereotypes. Volume 2 will be out at the end of May!

Many thanks to Yen Press and Brgid Alverson for the review copy for this volume. ^_^

 

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Yuri Manga: Kase-san and Morning Glories (English)

April 21st, 2017

In 2012, I was pleased to say about Asagao to Kase-san “the emotions ring true and the story left me smiling” and that “I wish we got to see them after this volume ends, when their relationship begins taking off.”

Three, soon-to-be-four* volumes later, I’m now triply pleased. Not only did this series leave me smiling – again – and we will get to see this couple’s relationship develop, we also have the almost-unreal thrill of being able to read the series in English!

Kase-san and Morning Glories is the English-language edition of the first volume of Takashima Hiromi’s adorable, uncomfortable and delightful Yuri series.

Yamada is an average girl, with some self-esteem issues. Issues that were not holding her back, but become more pronounced the closer she becomes with school track star, Kase. In a story that makes me twitch with discomfort because it feels so realistic, we watch Kase and Yamada become friendly, then friends, then something more. Nothing here is rushed, nothing is forced. It’s all so normal that I can’t help feel we’re being creepy voyeurs into someone’s actual life.

It remains true that this is a very “Story A” -like story, but it also remains true that we will continue to watch (too closely?) as their relationship grows and becomes more intimate, both emotionally and physically. This is a series that feels like life. And for that reason, it made my end-of-year lists for all three volumes, even making my best of the year manga for the third. 

I like Yamada, although not her best friend, and I like Kase-san, who seems very kind and decent. As I read, I want them to find one another and be happy together – a sentiment that I know I share with Yuri fandom. These two are not for us, they are for each other.

Takashima-sensei’s story is well-told and Jocelyne Allen handles the language with a deft touch. Ever characters sounds like themselves; the translation and adaptation never throws one out of the story. This volume is the “authentic reading experience” I believe manga fans are looking for. I’m so pleased that you all can join me in reading this volume, officially licensed in English and enjoy the story as I have!

Ratings:

Art – 7 A little messy, but I liked it
Story – 8
Character – 8
Yuri – 8
Service – 2

Overall – 8

*Thanks to YNN Correspondent Verso S for letting us know that a fourth volume of the Kase-san series will be out in June in Japan! Stay tuned for a title and link for pre-order. ^_^

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Yuri Manga: Comic Yuri Hime May 2017 (コミック百合姫2017年5月号)

April 20th, 2017

Are you at all fond of two-timing as a plot driver in a romance? I have to assume that someone high up on the Comic Yuri Hime staff is, because even aside from the couple of stories in the body of the magazine, the cover story is, as well.

(And let me just note, in a somewhat petty fashion that, if I consider incest to be lazy writing, I consider it exceptionally lazy editing when I can tell what the editorial staff’s fetishes are. There are people other than you reading, folks. Try picking a new plot once in a while.)

Aside from that, the stories in Comic Yuri Hime, May 2017 (コミック百合姫2017年5月号) that are already strong, are still good. I was actually kind of pleased to note that the newest plot complication in Ohsawa Yayoi’s “2DK, G Pen, Mezamashitaokei” is kind of…typical for a romance manga. It’s like, having spent so much time on building up really firm foundations of a potential relationship, it can finally just be a little soapy. And I enjoyed it.

“Now Loading…” is taking the opposite tack, by starting off superficially and sort of backing into a real relationship. I’d like to see it become a real story when it grows up.

And “Watashi no Yuri ha Oshigoto desu!” is slipping sideways into a story, away from the tropes it’s inhabiting, which really kind of makes me happy. Hime is suddenly forced to confront the idea that her natural charm my not be enough…and that, maybe, she’s focusing her attention in the wrong direction. 

Ratings:

Overall – 7

As always, there are both good and bad and other stories I’m reading but not mentioning. I quite like the variety, even if it’s weirdly skewed to two-timing and affairs and cuckolding right now. (I mean really, Editor-san, grow the fuck up.)

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