Archive for the Yuri Shimai Category


Yuri Manga: Strawberry Shake (ストロベリーシェイク)

June 28th, 2015

downloadIt was the beginning of 2004. The magazine was called Yuri Shimai. The comic was an actual comedy, with physical gags blown way out of proportion. There was an idiot and a doofus and they fell in love, but didn’t realize it. The comedy was manzai-style, with blood and tears and extreme over-reactions to silly jokes. It was Hayashiya Shizuru’s professional Yuri debut. She’d been drawing doujinshi in that same style for years, and made her pro debut previously, but for those of us who were or would become fans, Strawberry Shake Sweet was the first time she was a pro “Yuri” artist.

Yuri Shimai was cancelled and in 2005,  Yuri Hime picked up the series. In 2006, a collected Volume 1 was released, followed by Volume 2 in 2009. Hayashiya-sensei left Yuri Hime and has gone on to do great things with Shuiesha. And so it is with both delight and trepidation that I review Shueisha’s re-release of this series as a one-volume collection, Strawberry Shake (ストロベリーシェイク).

The story follows Tachibana Julia a young “Talent” in Japanese TV. (Which is to say she does everything and anything, from starring in TV dramas, to advertisements, to quiz shows.) She’s asked to mentor a newcomer to the agency, Asakawa Ran, but instead, falls in love with Ran.

Ran isn’t the brightest bulb in the box, and Julia isn’t much better. Between the two of them and very much despite the objections of their manager, they’ll have to figure it all out on their own.

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Strawberry Shake is very much played for the laughs. Touching or romantic moments are frequently marked by massive nosebleeds. If you’re not used to Hayashiya-sensei’s style, or classic manzai, the amount of violence might surprise you. The other thing that might surprise you is the ending. As I said when I reviewed Volume 2, “I absolutely refuse to spoil the rest of the chapter, except to say that you will probably be outraged and/or disappointed by the end.”

So, here we are over a decade after the comic was originally begun and a lot of things have changed. Yuri is a genre of it’s own. Hayashiya-sensei is a star among Yuri artists. And same-sex marriage is a thing that is discussed in the news, in the courts. Even in Japan, where Shibuya is the only part of the country that allows same-sex marriage, the conversation has begun.

What does that mean for a comic like Strawberry Shake? It means that some of the jokes just don’t hold up that well. Saeki Ryouko, Julia and Ran’s manager, in 2004 was a comedic figure. In 2015, she seems just like a closeted homophobe. Sorry Saeki-san, but you protest *way* too much. ^_^ Comedy is harder than tragedy. In Strawberry Shake, the comedy is vaudevillian, and so, a relic of the past, rather than a joke we’re all laughing at now.

The essential love story is still cute and maddening and adorable and sweet. ZLAY is still absolutely fucked up hilarious. The climax of the manga is still fantastic. And the new extra chapter? “I absolutely refuse to spoil the rest of the chapter, except to say that you will probably be outraged and/or disappointed by the end.” ^_^;

Should you get it? Yes. This is an important book for Yuri fans. Will you like it? Maybe. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 9 It’s striking to see just how much better her art is now than it was in 2004. This volume has been touched up, but look at the first and final chapters to see a difference.
Story – 7 It has worn a little around the edges over time.
Characters – 8
Yuri – 8
Service – 2

Overall – 8

Again I will quote myself from 2009: “As funny as this manga is, I’m forced to conclude that this story is not *quite* as perfect for Hayashiya-sensei as Hayate x Blade. The action component just catapults that series to perfection.

But hey – this is a groundbreaking series. A Yuri series for Yuri magazine by a woman who has been drawing Yuri comedy for a long, long time. A must-have for any fan of Yuri.”

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Yuri Manga: Shoujo Bigaku

March 12th, 2007

Sometimes, when I type “Yuri Anime” or “Yuri Manga” in the title of a review, I know I’m being disingenuous. It may be there there is a little Yuri in the series or, that there is none but Yuri fandom insists on seeing some anyway, as we are wont to do. But in the case of Shoujo Bigaku by Chi-Ran, I have no guilt, as it is another 100% yuri collection of stories that ran in Yuri Shimai and Comic Yuri Hime.

Unlike some of the earlier collections, Shoujo Bigaku (which would translate to something like Girls Aesthetic) is a series of mostly unconnected one-shot stories. In each story, the aesthetic, as the title points out, is that of a girls’ world. Most of the stories take place in, or involve, girls at all-girl’s schools. The bulk of the stories involve akogare/idolization that becomes something more, and in two of the stories, one of the principal characters is an actual idol. The aesthetics of being a woman’s woman is actually touched upon in some of these stories, so the title is not out of place. (Also of note, many of the main characters in these stories are women-identified…they do not “hate men” or even dislike them, they are simply much more interested in women.)

The stories are not particularly deep, they all involve bed scenes and some slightly explicit sex. (Can explicit be qualified by “slightly?” I think so, yes. There’s explicit…and then there’s *explicit.* This is the former, not the latter.) Included in this volume are the color pages that ran in the both Yuri magazines – including the adult supplement (what fanfic writers call a “PWP”, a “Plot? What plot?” where the two characters fall into having sex without any context or buildup) which ran in Yuri Shimai.

The stories in this volume are primarily girl-has-already-met-girl-and-has-fallen-in-love, with complicating emotions because of their shared gender. As teen idol Matsuri puts it though, what’s the difference – if you love someone, you love someone. This is the same message we are given when, in a later story, Natsuki is revealed to be a girl after having deceived her girlfriend as to her gender. Only one of the stories contains characters that are a priori self-identified as “lesbian.”

The “mostly” in the “mostly unconnected” above comes from the final few pages, which contain an original piece for the collection. This story involves a girl who embarks upon “Lily’s” bus tour, after having broken up with her girlfriend. To her horror, she is surrounded by nothing by happy girl x girl couples…in fact, they are all the couples from the stories in the book. They cheer her up and cheer her on and in the end, she gets her girl back. Thus making a sort-of connection between the stories…but not really. ^_^

And then we all live happily ever after in this girls’ world, with shoujo bubbles and flowers and candy and stuffed toys and lots of Yuri sex. The End.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Characters – 6
Story – Variable, from 5-7
Yuri – 10
Service – 5 (the aesthetic may be for girls, but this is kind of unavoidable when you’re talking about naked chicks in bed…)

Overall – Not world shaking, but enjoyable at 7

There’s nothing challenging here – the art is pleasant, the characters not much more than names, the endings happy.

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Yuri Shimai Suspended

February 25th, 2005

The unofficial word is that Yuri Shimai is “on hiatus”. According to the report from a Japanese source sales were fine but, for various reasons, it has been suspended for the time being.

We will fervently hope that this is a restructuring, redesign, printing or distribution issue, and that it will be resolved and the magazine will be brought back soon!

This means that, once again, Yuri Monogatari is the only all-yuri anthology currently in print. (And we also fervently hope that, one day, it will be more than an annual publication.)

You can still order the existing issues of Yuri Shimai through Amazon Japan on the Yuricon Shop. If you do that it will show the powers that be there *is* an interested audience, which is never a bad thing.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to imagine how Ran and Julia get together….sigh.

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Yuri Manga: Yuri Shimai 5

December 28th, 2004

Part 2

More first love, more yuri drama and even a little more than that.

I left you hanging last week halfway through the latest and greatest issue of Yuri Shimai. Well, your wait is ovah!

We left off, just after the most recent installment of Morinaga Milk’s saga. Which brings us to a color insert story, “Uka: Aufbl�hen”, by Chi-Ran. This color insert ran for about 6 pages or so, 4 of which were sealed off as a special “present.” Of course, when you open the sealed section, this undeveloped and trite story of a kohai and her beloved sempai becomes an undeveloped romp in the hay. Unfortunately, all of Chi-Ran’s stories read exactly the same – two girls, no development, kiss. Because of the short page count, it ends up reading like a typical “Plot, what Plot?” sex-fic. I thought it fascinating that they chose to include sex in this issue…but desperately wished it had been part of a better story.

The rest of the sealed insert contains reviews of things that made me laugh. First and foremost was a review of the Marimite parody JAV (something made more amusing by the fact that Carmilla just reviewed it, too.) Following this, were a few popular computer games that have explicit yuri. Some of these games had been reviewed before in previous issues of Yuri Shimai, but this time more explicit pictures were included.

After this amusing interlude comes a really lovely story called “The Whisper Under the Rose,” (but I think if I were translating it for real, I’d call it “Sub Rosa,” since that’s what the story implies.) “Sub Rosa” is the story of Suzu, a student of a traditional girls’ school (and based on the clothes, I’m thinking that this is meant to be set in the early part of the 20th century, Meiji period. Everyone looks like Sakura from Sakura Taisen….) Suzu has returned to the school (after holidays? Graduation? I’m not sure) in part to make sure she sees a particular teacher whom she calls Inori-sama. There’s a plot based around Inori buying a bow for Suzu’s hair. Suzu confesses that she’s always admired Inori, and Inori tells Suzu that she once had a lover, someone Suzu reminds her of…alot…hint hint. The story ends with them having a moment…and the implication that they’ll have a lifetime. It was really quite sweet.

“Strange Umbrella, White Umbrella” was this issue’s story by Takahashi Mako, which I have universally found distasteful. For one thing, her characters look six – something that makes my eyes glaze over with disinterest. Also, her characters appear to be terminally insane, another turn-off for me. And her plots revolve around unbelievably boring non-conflicts – in this case a girl who doesn’t have an umbrella. I’m sorry, but…blecch. This story was this issue’s only real stinker.

The next 4 pages are color reviews of anime. I have to laugh again, because it looks like they’ve been eaves-dropping on the Yuricon Mailing List again, and have reviewed the exact same series we’ve been talking about, all of which I’ve reviewed here, too. :-)

Another yurified re-telling of a fairy tale (all of which I’ve really not liked terribly) text story with silly art is followed by a two-page review of Akaiito a popular new vampires-with-yuri-implication game.

32 whole pages have been given to the second installment of “Koi Shimai” which tells the story of the two characters on the cover of the first Yuri Shimai, Chika and Haruna. This is essentially a re-telling of the story as it was on the Drama CD, with a little embellishment. Haruna is even *more* uptight than she is on the CD, and there’s a new, inconsequential, side character, Chika’s and Akiho’s class president. The art for this story is quite decent – the story itself is okay…but I await with anticipation the manga for the second Drama CD and the arrival of Hiiragi Touko! Yum. :-) In any case, Koi Shimai is really pretty decent, even if Haruna’s got a major stick up her butt.

Koi Shimai manga is followed by a short text story, which simply seems to fill in some of the characters throughts, but doesn’t move the plot along at all.

“Voice” is, by far and away, the BEST manga so far by Nawoko, who has contributed to every issue. Music and singing seem to be a strong theme in her work, but as stories go, this one is really much better than the prevoius examples. Kana-chan is a classic otaku. She tends to stay at home and live vicariously through her computer. Unusually, she decides to go outside and take a walk. With her earphones on, she listens to her favorite artist, Hina (whom she calls her “goddess,”) as she gets a new haircut and buys some sweets, all the time musing on how sad and lonely Hina sounds as she sings. Thinking about Hina, Kana looks up, only to see Hina herself walk by. Kana freaks, and ends up handing her box of sweets over to Hina, saying only, “Please, be happy!”

Hina goes home and has a crisis of conscience. Moved to tears over Kana’s simple words, she eats the girls’ sweets and runs off to place an entry on her online diary (something she’s typically uncomfortable with.) Hina thanks the “daifuku girl” for the sweets, and hopes to see her again. The story ends with Hina and Kana meeting up, and the line, “It’s like a dream, isn’t it? To become friends with a goddess.” Really – not yuri, per se, (although we can certainly project potential if we want,) but I thought it was a truly excellent story and the best so far from this artist.

The last manga, “Testify” is a short, tiresome and IMHO, trite vampire story. I guess its a kind of love to let your best friend suck your blood, but, whatever, its been done about a gazillion times. I’m over it.

The remainder of volume 5 is doujinshi reviews and the usual mail bag and assorted fan art, which I always like to look at.

All in all, 260 pages of exceptional work, with few nose-holders. Yuri Shimai 5 gives me hope for future issues and yuri in general. Definitely a end-of-year thumbs up from me.

One last plug for this – if you’re thinking of buying any Yuri Shimai, let me recommend you go through the Yuricon Shop, and support Yuricon and ALC by doing so.

Next time on Okazu – the stereotypical end-of-the-year-countdown! :-)

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Yuri Manga: Yuri Shimai 5

December 24th, 2004

Part 1

One of the best yuri-related gets of the year, Yuri Shimai 5 was awfully close to being perfect.

I’ve reviewed Yuri Shimai volumes 1 and 2,3 and 4 and it is pretty clear that they have been getting better. It’s not a monthly magazine, yet, and there’s no way to tell whether it’s even doing well financially, but based solely on the quality of the stories, and the increasing size of the book (260 pages for Vol. 5) Yuri Shimai is looking good from this reader’s perspective.

My biggest complaints about Yuri Shimai have always been the schoolgirl obsession and the trend towards a confession and *maybe* a kiss as the climax of the story. Well, Yuri Shimai 5 seems to have taken a few steps past those limitations and, as a result is a much more interesting read.

The first story of this volume, First Kiss? is drawn and written by a team that are better known for their yaoi work, Zaoh Taishi and Eiki Eiki. A surprising continuation (well, surprising to me, anyway) of Volume 4’s Onna Ookami (Female Wolf), this story starts with Fuyuka speaking to the school counselor as she tries to determine her changing feelings for Natsuki (the female wolf of the last volume.) Fuyuka leaves before the counselor can answer, but the conversation sets the doctor off on reminiscences of her own about her first love, her best friend…who happens to be a teacher at the same school. The story is uncomfortable and awkward and for once, about the grown-ups. I am SO hoping we get more of this story – I really liked it. As an added bonus, we get some very nice color pages of Reiko, the counselor, and Ayano, the teacher 10 years earlier. This was a great story and my teeny synopsis does not do it justice, trust me!

Next comes the 5th installment of Strawberry Shake, and once again, Julia and Ran’s antics are adorable. It’s pretty clear that Saeki-san, their manager, has little hope anymore of keeping them apart. Of course there’s yet another complication, this time, a male actor that asks Julia out, but in the end, Julia and Ran are one step closer to becoming an item. At this point, I am simply hoping that we get enough page count on this one to make it work Sun taking it to a tankubon format, and maybe even get a happily-ever-after ending, too. I want everything. :-)

The third story is also surprising – a continuation of the witch and miko story with the long title I never bothered to translate, from Vol. 4. Now out in the real world, Letty the witch is guiding Sai, the naive ex-priestess, around her native country. To keep them connected Letty creates a magic red thread that binds them – but is mortified to learn what that means to Sai. (You all know about the red thread of love, right?) Sai asks Letty about the kiss from the last chapter, but Letty quickly passes that off as magic-related, nothing to do with love. Sai’s a little bummed, but she is having fun being with Letty so, she confesses her feelings for Letty. Long, fun, story short, it looks like Letty’s lying, because she’s obviously falling in love. The end the story hand in hand. To Be Continued – cool.

Fourth comes a really amusing one-shot called Kaikan Spiral – billed as a “hentai love comedy” it’s a farcical story of a foul-mouthed transfer student, Midori, and Ayaka, a girl who falls for her crude nastiness. Since I also think nasty women are sexy, I was kind of with Ayaka on this one. LOL It was goofy and made me laugh.

Lastly for today’s review/synopses is the latest from Morinaga Milk, which takes alot of the conventions of love confessions and screws with ’em a bit. On the first page of Honto no Kimochi, (Real Feelings,) Michiru confesses her love to her sempai and asks her out. For her part, Nojo is flattered, but squicked by the usual – what will people think, is she interested in loving another girl, etc, etc. Michiru has no doubts, however, and takes Nojo out on a date and generally makes herself incredibly desirable, to melt Nojo’s concerns. One night, while studying, Michiru tries to kiss Nojo who, startled and scared, slaps her. For the next few days, she hears nothing from Michiru, but while walking with a classmate, runs into her on the street. Nojo is shocked to see Michiru’s shorn locks and is filled with guilt, but Michiru laughs and tells her not to blame herself – she had this haircut appointment from a long time ago. In front of Nojo’s classmate, she reaffirms her love for her sempai. Classmate is surprised, but accepting and the story ends with Michiru having devoted herself publicly to Nojo’s well-being and happiness, and sitting with her at lunch (with Nojo’s friends) planning Nojo’s future love affairs. Another fun entry from Morinaga Milk.

And that takes us to about 1/2 way through this monster magazine! Next time I post, we’ll finish it up – and trust me, there’s some really good stuff coming up. :-)

In the meantime, if you’re thinking of getting Yuri Shimai 5, think to get it through the Yuricon Shop. Using this link will support Yuricon, ALC Publishing and Okazu, and earn our undying appreciation and gratitude!

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