Yuri Manga: Hana & Hina Afterschool, Volume 2 (English)

November 16th, 2017

In Volume 1, Hana and her kouhai (at school and at their illicit afterschool job in a characters goods shop), Hina, have become friendly and. Hana is also starting to feel things she’s never felt before, although she doesn’t yet have a name for them.

In Volume 2 of Hana & Hina Afterschool, Hina, however feels more than just “friendly.” Hina does have a name for those feelings, but it isn’t a good name. She’s concerned about getting too close, too intense.

When they spend a little time alone together, Hina’s fears are realized, and Hana’s interest is piqued. Both have no idea what to do ot say, but it looks like they won’t be able to work together a while anyway….so why is Hana’s heart pounding so hard? And why is Hina avoiding her?

Volume 2 has all the hallmarks of Morinaga Milk-sensei’s typical “tension before recognition/confession”, the space she works so well. Will they break past the barriers and figure out what we can all see? Well..yes, we know they will, so tune into Volume 3 when it hits shelves at the end of the month!

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Service – 4
Yuri – 5 for Maiko

Overall – 7 +1 for the existence of a former girlfriend.

I’m always hopeful that there’ll be some LGBTQ content in Morinaga’s work someday.

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Yuri Manga: MURCIÉLAGO, Volume 4 (English)

November 15th, 2017

In Volume 4 of MURCIÉLAGO, by Yoshimurkana, terrible, awful violent things are going on a private girls-only school, Virginal Rose. So who better to send in than Koumori Kuroko, self-indulgent lesbian and part-time serial killer?

I love this volume. Yes, it’s full of horrible, terrible things happening to young women, most of whom don’t deserve it, but it also contains consensual adult lesbian sex drawn unappealingly, and one of the best sword vs naginata fights I’ve ever read, between Chiyo and Teresa. No joke – this is a really good fight.

This also is the first glimpse we’ve had behind Chiyo’s facade of pretending to not care about Kuroko, too. So that’s two confirmed lesbian characters.

We also get to see a couple of different ways for Hinako to fly her freak flag. I honestly believe that the video game she designed using only herself as a character is the more disturbing way. (And it’s a joke that will not go away for some time, as well.)

Ratings:

Art – 6 Even when it’s supposed to be “pretty” it’s really ugly
Story – 7 Several kinds of violence and lesbian sex
Characters – 8 More Evil Psycho Lesbians per page than anything else I read
Service – 10 Nothin’ but
Yuri – 9 Not cute, not sweet, not pleasant, but still very Yuri

Overall – 9

As I said about the Japanese volume, “I’m not going to lie, this manga is ugly and gross in many ways, but I really like it. I’m not recommending it. I just like it.”

Volume 5. which will put us into my second-least favorite arc so far (because there’s so many degrees of horrible between one arc where girls are killed horribly than another), comes out in January 2018.

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Seven Seas Licenses “My Solo Exchange Diary” by Kabi Nagata

November 14th, 2017

“Seven Seas Entertainment is thrilled to announce the license acquisition of the manga My Solo Exchange Diary by Nagata Kabi, the heavily requested sequel to 2017’s smash hit My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness!

In this follow-up to the viral sensation, Nagata Kabi uses engaging diary comics to explore her personal issues surrounding mental health, identity, and intimacy. Her relationship with her parents is growing more difficult than ever, and she struggles with the idea of living alone for the first time. Join her on her heart-wrenching, relatable journey through the challenges of adulthood.

Seven Seas will publish the My Solo Exchange Diary manga title for the first time in North America on June 5, 2018 for $13.99 USA / $16.99 CAN.”

The Japanese volume, Hitori Koukannikki (一人交換日記), will be available in December 2017 from East Press.

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Western Comic: Strong Female Protagonist, Volume 2 (English)

November 13th, 2017

In 2015, Molly Ostertag and Brennan Lee Mulligan successfully crowdfunded the first volume of their webcomic, Strong Female Protagonist. I positively gushed about it in my review, because it provided me with all the nuance and adult thought I had ever craved in a comic. And this year, Molly and Brennan concluded a second successful Kickstarter for Volume 2. 

Strong Female Protagonist, Volume 2 is an amazing, thoughtful, densely-written, nuanced superhero comic.

Volume 1 was pretty intense, so, one has to ask, where does the series go in Volume 2? I’m not going to lie to you, it goes in a very dark direction…but one that makes perfect sense and is wholly consistent with the idea of “super-powered people in the real world.”

While Allison is attempting to have what approaches a normal life at school, she is 1) developing new powers and 2) still struggling with the collateral damage caused by her work as a “hero.” She’s trying to date, and finding herself encountering serious social problems, including an increasing need for inclusiveness and understanding and a rejection of privilege…all to a backdrop of a government which wants to register all biodynamics.  And, on top of all of this, Alison thinks that one of her former teammates may be behind a rash of murders. It’s a lot to handle for Alison…and the reader.

There are a few bright spots, even in the middle of this. Significantly, Feral’s story is given an almost miraculous handwave, which allows her to use her biodynamic body to help people and live a more normal life. And so, we are treated to Feral and Alison going out to a lesbian bar and Feral naturally picking up a few women. Who wouldn’t love her? 

Ratings:

Art – 8 Clear, strong art
Story – 10 All the nuance. ALL OF IT.
Characters – 9
LGBTQ – 3 Feral, ftw!

Overall – 9

Strong Female Protagonist, Volume 2 is not yet available in retail, but if you have ever asked yourself, “No, seriously, what would it be like to have superheroes in the real world?” this should go on your holiday wish-list when it becomes available. In the meantime, feel free to hop over to the Strong Female Protagonist website for the heads up when it goes on sale.

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Winter Reading: “Abyss” Novel Series by Emily Skrustkie

November 12th, 2017

 It’s kind of obvious to most people interested in and embedded in pop culture that we are going through a massive cultural cramp right now as previously silenced and controlled voices find that they don’t actually have to be quiet to protect other people’s fragile sensibilities.

The folks who have decided that gaming and perverting the awards systems to fuel their egos; Gamergate, the few people left arguing that Jane Foster as Thor or female Ghostbusters destroys their childhoods and the Sad and Rabid Puppies are, in a nutshell, pathetic. But they, and their political counterparts, have done the rest of us a service. They serve as a sign post to a miserable, regressive position on the future.  And by being those signposts, we can just as easily look in the opposite direction for inspiration.  And so, I have been spending my days reading science fiction and fantasy again as I had not in many years. I’m using the puppies’ “Do Not Want” lists as my to-read list, and it’s been great.I don’t think I’ve been this happy reading science fiction and fantasy in decades. It’s not suitable for Okazu, but I finished Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor last week. If you have a YA reader of any age who liked Harry Potter or who wished not all magic users were white or male, have them start with Akata Witch. Brilliant stuff. I’m also reading Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series, which I’ll be reviewing here. 

But today I want to talk about a different kind of monster than those who inhabits the Internets. Today we’re talking about giant monsters. Giant Sea Monsters.

Emily Skrutskie’s The Abyss Surrounds Us follows sea-beast trainer Cassandra Leung on her first day testing her skills in controlling the giant monster, the Reckoner, she has trained to fight pirates. Instead of taking down the pirates, Cassandra is captured and forced to train a Reckoner that will belong to the pirates themselves.  

The dialogue and plot are pretty-high tension, as befits both Cas’ character and the situation. There’s violence which is wholly appropriate to the story. And there’s a sexual tension and relationship that builds up between Cas and her captor Swift, who is one of four trainees’ being groomed by their strict, strong and openly manipulative captain, Santa Elena. Swift wants to be captain someday and she’s probably going to be.

The two best things about the series are the way that pirates are portrayed as pretty much terrible people and the Reckoners. There’s alliances, rather than friendships among the pirates…even within a crew. And Santa Elena plays the trainees off of one another, so none of them know enough to take over individually and they don’t know enough to gang up on her and take over together. Skrutskie takes the kind of manipulation and maneuvering we all know from school and work and lays it out as the actual standard operating procedure of the ship.  The beasts are portrayed as beasts. No warm fuzzy mammal-bonding here. These are giant sea-going creatures like squids and whales and turtles, trained to be ship-destroying machines. They are terrifying.

Edge of the Abyss begins a few weeks after Cas has been captured and has negotiated her place in the crew. It opens the world of the pirates up a little larger, and we can see the symbiosis between the pirates and the oceans and their prey, the ships from the land countries. The story swirls more tightly around Swift and Cas’ relationship and how it affects their work, the crew and the larger political relationship with the other pirates, and their relationship with the boats they attack.  But mostly, it’s about Cas and Swift. Their relationship is tempestuous, to say the least. 

The ending of Edge of the Abyss is abrupt, however, I felt it was the right choice to make. Stretching this book into a third story would have been forced and exhausting. By ending it the way she did, Skrutskie left room for a third book without needing cleanup of leftovers, and equally, she could leave this book where it is, wrapped up tightly without need for a sequel. 

Most importantly, Skrutskie has given us a more modern, more realistic, and yet still futuristic idea of pirates and piracy that fails to glorify the lifestyle, even as it is embedded within it. And it gives us an image of women and men as pirates on more or less equal footing without explanation or handwave. And, for us, it provides a same-sex young female couple without  coming of age or coming out clogging up the larger story.

Ratings:

Overall – 8

I found these two books to be enjoyable. Perfect for teen or older reader looking for a more realistic image of pirates and less historical fantasy. No Johnny Depps need apply, but Natalie Portman would make a damn fine Santa Elena. 

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