Archive for the Yuri Manga Category


Yuri Manga: Sweet Blue Flowers, Volume 1 (English)

October 4th, 2017

Third time’s the charm. In 2012, JManga did a digital-only translation. Towards the end of 2014, Digital Manga Publishing also tried putting Shimura Takako-sensei’s new classic Yuri manga out as a digital publication. Now, in 2017 we have what is very likely to be the definitive English-language translation for the series, in omnibus format. Thanks to Jocelyne Allen, Jen Gruningen and the folks at Viz, I think we’re at peak Aoi Hana here in the west.

Sweet Blue Flowers, Volume 1 introduces us to Manjome Fumi and her old childhood friend, Okudaira Akira. They had been very close as children, but when Fumi moved, they fell out of touch. Now, as they both head to different high-end girls’ schools, they’ve met again. 

I was reminded as I read this book that although the opening and the ending are – in my opinion – very weak, the rest of the story is excellent. It’s got surprising depth and breadth. Characters that surround Fumi and Akira are as well-developed as they and as interesting. 

In the first half of this Volume 1 – the original Volume 1 that was, Fumi is charmed, then asked out by an upperclassman at her all-girl’s school. Sugimoto is not her first girlfriend, but may well be the first by her own volition. Their time together is brief, as it becomes very clear that Sugimoto carries a whole host of issues with her and Fumi recognizes that she’s worth paying full attention to.  By the second half of the volume, Fumi has learned a lot about herself, among them that Sugimoto is the third person she’s loved.

The school play gives a chance for the cast of both schools to mix and emotions to be be heightened. Wuthering Heights is an unsurprising allegory for the tensions and passions of the cast to swirl and come together and part, like a storm. 

But by the end of the volume we have Akira and Fumi still friends. Fumi has, in a very rare act in Yuri manga, comes out to Akira. It’s a tempestuous time in their lives, but they both know who each other were – and are – and are there for each other. 

This still, after all these years, stands out as one of Shimura’s most tightly put-together stories. Other series have sort of swirled and eddied around the same material without changing, but we can see the changes to Akira and Fumi and their friends in pretty steady progression, as they encounter, deal with and grow from challenging situations.

This is a series that has many (if not all) the hallmarks of a “S”-era story and in my Very Brief History of Yuri I call it and Maria-sama ga Miteru “S for a new generation.” We can, like Fumi, enjoy the atmosphere of an old girl’s school. We can enjoy the drama that comes along with the hot-house environment. And we get the added advantage of characters with society – friends and families, brothers and parents and teachers who are male and female and a modern sensibility, in which gay people exist, and have lives. This is all so critical to my enjoyment of a manga. We have this series in omnibus form (available in print and digital format) and it, like several other series available right now, will be on my short-list of books that embody the classic concepts of the genre of “Yuri.” 

Interestingly, since the author attempted (unsuccessfully) to visit Yoshiya Nobuko’s home, the grandmother of Yuri gets both a mention in the notes and is attributed as the women who pioneered Yuri in Japanese literature. This is true, but she’s even more important than the note accounted for, because she not only pioneered Yuri, but also a great deal of what we think of as shoujo literature and manga. Yoshiya Nobuko-sensei was the richest woman in Japan in her lifetime. She’s an inspiration and a hero of mine. (Here’s my report of visiting Yoshiya-sensei’s home, from 2013.)

This edition came with a lovely assortment of postcards from the Aoi Hana Meets the Enoshima Electric Railway collaboration event from 2012 (an event reported in excellent detail by Guest Reviewer Bruce P – with pictures!). The book itself is exceedingly well put-together, with those cover flaps that take the place of a dustcover, but allow readers to see all of the cover and flap art. Color pages are included – including the cover of the second volume as a interior color page. Even the font choice matched the original well. And the translation and adaptation are excellent. I really do think this is a “definitive” edition. We’re not likely to get better. There’s very little room for it to be better. 

This is the version we all wanted. There’s no excuse not to buy it and support the author and folks at the publishing companies that brought it to us! Volume 2 will be out in December, 2017.

Ratings:

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

Overall – 8

Today’s review was brought to you by the kindness and generosity of Okazu Superhero and occasional Guest Reviewer, Eric P.! Thank you Eric, once more, for all your many years of support! 

If you enjoy our Guest Reviews here on Okazu, I hope you’ll help support the Guest Reviewers – the Okazu Patreon is a mere $34/month away from being able to pay our writers. Every dollar will get us closer to that goal. If you’re a regular reader here and have enjoyed Eric’s reviews, I hope you’ll consider supporting Okazu on Patreon so we can pay him for his work! 

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Yuri Manga: Kai to Alternarock (貝とオルタナロック)

September 28th, 2017

Nako’s Kai to Alternarock (貝とオルタナロック) has the English subtitle “The key to her room will be opend by her music” which nicely, if inaccurately sums up the story. Alternarock is short for “alternative rock.” Kai is a shell, a symbol that is relevant to the story. An Alternative rock guitarist does get the protagonist to come out of her shell, but it still wins this year for the most awkward title to explain in English. ^_^

Makino is an asshole boss. Intolerant, rude and impatient, she treats the people in her department poorly as a course of matter. She’s a mope and a grouch.

And yet, Seo just can’t hate her. Seo isn’t trying to play Makino, she’s not trying to seduce her, she just wants her miserable wretch of a boss to enjoy something. Seo invites Makino to see her play with her band live and somehow or other, something starts to crack in Makiko’s thick and bitter exterior.  And almost without either of them realizing it, they are kind of an item. The big boss, an old friend of Makino’s, is pleased to see her friend less unhappy. It takes some time before Makino finally comes clean about the personal history that has made her so unhappy, but of all people in the world, Seo is the last to judge Makino poorly.

Sadly we don’t get to see Makino at work after she open up, but I’d like to think she isn’t any different. ^_^

This manga is pretty well-used plot for an office romance in manga, but I don’t know, I still kind of like it, as unrealistic as it seems to me. (Maybe not to you, but you haven’t had my bosses!)

Nako’s art is not complicated, but not precise, either, with very light use of tone. It’s easy to follow, but then this is a mostly “talking head” manga and didn’t need complicated backgrounds. I quite liked that the manga was preachy about the evils of smoking and drinking. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 8
Character – 8 Seo’s sincerity won Makino’s heart and mine
Story – 8 Nothing new, but that can be okay, too
Yuri- 6
Service – 0

Overall – 8

Yay for Yuri about adults adulting! More please!

I would like to dedicate today’s review to our first-ever Kami-level Patron here on Okazu, Ivan L! With his and your help we’re just about in range to pay our Guest Reviewers. Thanks to all the Okazu patrons! We can’t do it without you.

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Yuri Manga: Galette, Issue 3 (ガレット )

September 18th, 2017

…and we have a winner!

Galette, Issue 3 is the third volume of the quarterly Galette Yuri Anthology created by a bunch of folks whose love for Yuri equals or exceeds my own. It is the first Yuri anthology you can get on US Kindle (albeit still in Japanese language) as well as on JP Kindle and in print from Amazon and in print from another system, Booth, that will ship overseas. (People in Japan also have options of buying it at Comic Zin, Animate, Shosen Book Tower, Gamers, Melon Books and more.)  And you can support it on Patreon-like crowdfunding platform Enty and get – depending on what level you support the work at – early copies of the magazine digitally and various extras. In every way, other than in content, Galette is ground-breaking. So let’s talk about the content.

Galette still has a lot of school-girl stories, from Amano Shuninta’s emotional look at a one-sided love in “Fuma-kun” to Hiyori Otsu’s interesting take on the girl wearing earphones in “Nutmeg”. When you remember how much of Japanese kids’ life is tied up in school activities (teams and clubs, which in the USA can also be community-based are largely school-based in Japan) it makes sense that this is where one might also find friendship, love and lust.

But lesbians don’t die when they graduate and many of us end up in college or careers, still trying to find ourselves. Gotou’s “Takaramono” (which I dubbed “Dude, what do I have to do to get you to notice I want to kiss you” ) was a decent example of that. Ringo Hamano’s “Cotton Candy” took a bit of a twist to show us just how important having adult role models can be to a young woman. And Yatosaki Haru’s “Futari no Arcadia” took a tired trope and turned it into a tale of human frailty.

Fantasy gets played with a lot in Galette. Hakamada Mera takes the innate love of uniforms and Rose of Versailles so many of us have (^_^;) and turned it into a nice little story about two very likable young ladies in “Fuwafuwa Futashika Yumemitai.” Takemiya Jin gets to play around in the darker desires of some humans in the creepy-sexy “Marionette.” I like that Takemiya-sensei is looking at more manipulative characters. She’s established her lesbian cred with her audience, and gets to talk about how not all love is healthy. It’s one thing to be pathologized by straight artists, and another to have one of us note that some people are just not good people.

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Morinaga Milk tells a story that will resonate with a lot of adult lesbians who fall for the straight women in their lives…who then awkwardly begin to question their sexuality in “Watashi no Kawaii Neko-chan” (a story that I feared based on the title, but has turned out to be more about human mortification than cats.)

And Kita Izumi and Momono Moto’s “Liberty” has continued to be excellent, with a silly twist, but one that keeps the story firmly rooted in adult life. I look forward to this story with every issue, as it hits the right notes of setting, character design, and tension for me.

I love the guest art – Etsuko’s color spread is very nice – and I like the photography by Takahashi Minori. The cover design is just lovely.  Issue 3 came with a copy of Petit Galette, an omake volume with a few short comics and a prose story.

Issue 3 has a pretty all-star lineup, with a few notable omissions. Luckily for us, one of those obvious names – Morishima Akiko – will be joining the lineup next issue. Now all I need is for Nishi UKO and Hojou KOZ (UKOZ) and Hayashiya Shizuru to join them and I’ll have all my faves in one place. ^_^ Still, Galette is turning out to be the Yuri magazine I’d hoped it could be. I now hope to see a bit more lesbian identity and it’ll be perfect. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story- 9
Characters – 8
Service – 6 Nudity 
Yuri – 10

Overall – 9

Way back in 2005 or 2007 or so, I joked that odd-numbered years are always really good for Yuri. That’s switched around here and there, but here we are in 2017 and I think this is the best year we have ever had for Yuri in the almost-20 years I’ve been doing this. May our tribe increase.

Issue 4 will be out at the end of November and available at Comitia (which I am planning on being at, if all goes well.)

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Yuri Manga: Comic Yuri Hime October 2017 (コミック百合姫2017年10月号)

September 17th, 2017

The October 2017 issue of Comic Yuri Hime (コミック百合姫2017年10月号) surprised the heck out of me. Yes, it’s still got a bunch of stuff that makes my eyes roll and yes, the editorial staff is reallllllllly into characters that are manipulative and two-timing, but I probably read more of the actual stories from this issue than I have in months.

I want to skip to the end of the volume to start, to note that “Missing Rink”, a two-part story by Gotou Yuuki, was pretty good, for all that it was also really tiresome and a gigantic waste of an opportunity. Set on a high school swim team, a rumor is being spread that two of the girls are a couple. Upperclassman Rina, who is, in fact, one of those girls, tries to calm the waters, only to have the team members insist on a witchhunt. The girls who are indicted by the team will be asked to resign – without proof, mind you. Rina’s appalled that her girlfriend, Ayumi, is named and the member who shared the rumor in the first place, Saki. But when we take a look at the story from a different member, Syuuri’s, perspective, we see that Saki and Ayumi are indeed a couple. Syuuri isn’t above manipulating Rina to get what she wants.  The reaction of homophobia might have been (and, legitimately might still be) a teaching moment, and it’s probably not unrealistic, but the story is not about that, but about the creepy Syuuri’s manipulation and Ayumi’s two-timing which is sort of ugh for me. But swim team story that isn’t overtly gross with fanservice, so I think it balances out. I’ll keep reading.

This was one of a bunch of new stories of which I read all, so I’m actually looking forward to next month. A couple of things wrapped up arcs – and Pikachis “Demi-Life” ended – with expected bland coupling so no extra points for those.

On the continuing side, Aoto Hibiki’s odd time-travel story “Kimi ni Aetara” took a turn for the extra-odd when it added the supernatural to the time-travel.

“Watashi no Yuri ha Oshigoto Desu!” by Miman also took a turn and I’m really glad it did. Hime’s self-awareness has gone from “Am I kind of  jerk?” to “Wow, I’m a total jerk.” to “How can I be not a jerk?” in rapid succession with another bold move towards a kind of resolution to her story. When this story arc does wrap up, I hope we’ll turn towards some of the other characters and see their lives and love, as well.  But the really big positive change here is that the customers coming to the Yuri cafe are, in some panels, recognizably female. Yay. The customers seem to be split evenly, which I really appreciate.

And this month’s chapter of “2DK, G Pen, Mezamashitokei” by Ohsawa Yayoi gets my vote for the manga that gets closest to everything I want in a manga about adults for 2017, as Koyuki and Nanami have a fantastic heart-to-heart talk, not about Kaede, but about themselves and each other. This one was a winner. I really need to resurrect my Stargazer Awards for outstanding moments in Yuri. This deserves one. (Note to self: Do that for the end of the year lists.) This series would make a fantastic live-action web series.

Ratings:

Overall – 9

Good issue, some very strong stories. November Comic Yuri Hime hit shelves in Japan this week.

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Yuri Manga: Apron to Kase-san Special Edition with Animation Clip Blu-Ray “Kimi no Hikari” (「エプロンと加瀬さん。」特装版 アニメーションクリップ「キミノヒカリ」Blu-rayつき)

September 4th, 2017

The 4th volume of the Kase-san manga from Hirari Comics, Apron to Kase-san,  is available in two editions. The Regular Edition contains the manga alone, while the Special Edition includes a Blu-Ray of the 6-minute animation Clip, “Kimi no Hikari” (which is still up on Youtube for you to enjoy.) (「エプロンと加瀬さん。」特装版 アニメーションクリップ「キミノヒカリ」Blu-rayつき). I’ve watched the animation clip a dozen or more times this summer working on presentations and at panels, but watching it on Blu-Ray was, for the first time ever for me, a “wow!” moment. This was animated to be seen in high-resolution on a large screen on Blu-Ray. It looks and sounds amazing.

The Special Edition comes in a fetching box with the cover art from the 4th volume. It includes the Blu-Ray and a color pamphlet of the production notes and character designs for the animation clip. It also includes a short doujinshi “An toki no Kase-san” with a few adorable Kase and Yamada moments seen from Kase-san’s side.

Apron to Kase-san, the fourth book in the series, marks a subtle shift in the story. Up until now, Yamada has, to some extent been watching her relationship with Kase-san as if she wasn’t herself involved. In part, because it all seems so…fantastic…and in part, because of her own self-esteem issues. In Volume 4, this has changed and we’re allowed to see to what extent, specifically that has happened. 

Yamada’s still pretty humble and enthusiastic, but she’s started to find her own ground. She’s taking credit for her own hard work…and when she feels that she’s being teased too much by Kase-san’s former track sempai, she finally stands up for herself….and forces the sempai to back down.

For her own part, Kase-san is still trying too much to protect Yamada, leaving her vulnerable in other ways. But what has made this relationship work from the very beginning is the honesty with which Yamada and Kase speak to one another. So, when they speak of living together in Tokyo after graduation, we don’t cringe that they will be bringing a mess of communication baggage with them. Instead, we’re pretty convinced this is going to work. 

I’m thrilled to see the series be so successful even after the magazine it ran in ceased publication. Shinshokan has always been open to trying new things, even back when JManga launched. I think the success of Kase-san post-magazine life, is a significant change in the way manga is going to be read and sold. Online distribution for the chapters, with both physical and digital distribution for the collected volumes should satisfy most readers.

And, as we reported on YNN this weekend, we’ll be getting a new animation clip in 2018! The folks at the Official Asagao to Kase-san website are bilingual so do send them a message on Twitter or Youtube to let them know how happy you are for this news! (YNN Correspodent Verso points out, correctly that the announcement states that there will be new “animation,” the word “clip” is not used. They also do not say an “anime,” (or ONA)  so I presume that we will be getting another extended music video with highlights from Book 2, as this one had highlights from Book 1. It’s very likely I am wrong, but I will hold on to my assumption until more details are announced. ^_^)

Ratings:

Art – 8 Takashima-sensei’s art has really grown in confidence
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 8
Service – 5
Physical Extras – 10

Overall – 9

I don’t think I’ve ever rooted so hard for to characters (and a manga series) to succeed as I have for these two.

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