Yuri Manga: Fujyourina Atashi-tachi ( 不条理なあたし達)

May 24th, 2017

One of the qualities of a maturing genre is inclusion of non-trope material.For Yuri that means relationships involving adult women, especially women not in a school/college situation, and relationships that aren’t all rosy cheeks and “We’ll be together forever.”

In Fujyourina Atashi-tachi ( 不条理なあたし達) by Takemiya Jin, we get both these things at the same time. In the first short story, a woman has terrible taste in men and complains to her kouhai constantly until they kind of realize they might want to be together. In the second stoy, a woman is necessarily cruel to a coworker who likes her, because she likes her, which gives her a measure of power over the other woman.

The bulk of the book is a convoluted and, in many ways, dysfunctional relationship between Yamanaka and Taneda, colleagues in an office. Yamanaka is a selfish person, uninterested in other people. When she starts feeling a little attracted to Taneda, on the assumption that Taneda’s straight, she basically is barely civil. When Taneda invites her out to a local lesbian bar, their relationship becomes more  a lot more mean-spirited and fascinatingly (rather than destructively) manipulative. Yamanak starts of thinking she’s manipulating Tanedabut she’s not right. Where Taneda appears at first to be the baby seal waiting to be clubbed, in the end she’s the one who manges to train Yamanaka into being a human.

It’s a story about two crappy people who end up with a happy ending that they actually deserve. It was such a decent story, I read it twice through.

Ratings:

Art – 8 Her ability to capture complex expressions is still her strong point
Characters – 8 Not one of these people who be invited over for lunch. They are all kind of assholes. ^_^
Story – 8 Complex, adult, bitter and deep
Lesbian – 10

Overall – 8

This is Takemiya-sensei at her best, drawing short, pithy stories of lesbian life. Even when you don’t like the characters, she pulls a good story out of them. And this, while no “happily-ever-after,” is a good story.

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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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How Lesbian Social and Political Activism Helped Give Birth to Yuri Manga

May 21st, 2017

This was originally presented at the Queers & Comics conference, on April 14th, 2017 as part of the “History of Queer Manga” panel.

Here on Okazu, we’ve gone over the history of Yuri in previous essays, tracing the tropes developed in literary roots of “S” stories of early 20th century Japan, to mid-century exploration of sexuality and gender by the Magnificent 49ers.

But it’s worth reminding ourselves that, in the late 20th century, sexual and gender revolutions occurred on a scale that had never previously been seen in the social and political spheres. Anti-war protests and feminism all became part of public discourse and media coverage in the late 1960s and early 1970s in Japan, just as they were doing in America. Communities of intention were built by feminists, by lesbians both inside and outside of feminist groups and by radical feminists and lesbian separatists, looking to create a new kind of society. Today I want to briefly discuss the place lesbian communications had in the birth of what, 30 years later, would become a new genre of Japanese media.

In America, the oldest lesbian organization is known as the Daughters of Bilitis. Founded in 1955, the group was active through 1972. During that time, the founders collected many books and periodicals both about and by lesbians to assist them in their stated goals.  These publications included The Ladder, The Daughter of Bilitis’ own newsletter that included information, interviews, opinions, stories and news about lesbian life. Collections of these publications can be found at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in NYC and GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, if you’re interested in taking a look.

1971 was, for our discussion today, a significant moment. As feminism grew in importance, the first known formal lesbian community was established in Japan, Wakakusa no Kai (Fresh Green Club). This name was meant to literally represent the fact that it was a “grassroots” organization. Wakakusa no Kai did not disband completely until the mid-80s. 

1971 also saw the creation of Japan’s first commercial gay magazine, Barazoku. By 1976 , the editor, Itou Bungaku, included a page for lesbians, which provided information on how to get in touch with lesbian groups and printed letters by lesbians looking to meet other women. This page was called “Yurizoku no Heya” the “Lily Tribe’s Room”. This is generally credited as the origin of the term “Yuri” in regards to lesbian-themed media. 

In the days before the Internet, the most common way a lesbian had to meet other woman like herself was to go to a gay bar that allowed lesbians or, perhaps, a lesbian party night at a gay bar. If she lived near enough to a big enough city, there might even be a lesbian bar. A Japanese lesbian would find, as her American counterpart might, flyers for lesbian events or groups. Letter columns and personal ads in magazines like Gekkou or Barazoku could function as a lifeline, especially for more provincial lesbians, for whom the big city was both literally and figuratively far away. But a lesbian life was a fantasy that few could embrace. Manga of this period that included lesbians at all, tended to show one partner leaving to be married or dying, leaving the other with unfulfilled longing that could never be resolved. This image shows a flyer from 1981 that advertises a “marriage meeting” for gay men and lesbians who wished to marry to fulfill familial obligations. 

As lesbian groups developed and grew, it made sense to create newsletters to communicate with and among members and non-member readers.  In 1976 Subarashi Onnatachi, the first lesbian feminist newsletter was begun. It only lasted one issue, but others publications arose: Hikari Guruma and Za Daiku  in 1978. By 1982, “Lesbian Communications” by groups like Regumi Studio and mini-magazines were popular in the lesbian community for sharing information, interviews, opinions, stories and news about lesbian life. 

These newsletters and mini-magazines, somewhat naturally led to the creation of the first lesbian magazines in Japan.

In 1995, Japan’s first lesbian magazine, Phryne premiered.

 

While Phryne only lasted 2 issues, editor Hagiwara Mami went on to create Anise magazine in 1997. Like Phryne, and the lesbian “communications” of the 1980s, these magazines included interviews with lesbians, guides to women’s bars and lesbian parties,  comics, fiction, reviews of media and even horoscopes. 

At the same time, LOUD (Lesbians of Unusual Drive) was created as a sex-positive organization. They took their communications online, to a lesbian-focused BBS and, eventually a blog. Inevitably, these media would still provide space for sharing event information, personal ads, comics and interviews, opinions, stories and news about lesbian life. 

Among the comics creators being published in these magazines and on these websites were names that would go on to put out self-published works at the increasingly popular comic markets being held in Tokyo and other Japanese cities. These doujinshi could be informative publications about gay life or fan works pairing up characters from popular anime or manga series. Even well-known novelists got their start in these magazines, in which chapters, that would later be collected, were originally published.

Lesbian newsletters had morphed from typed and mimeographed creations to slick publications with color photos, original art and stories, but the core concepts – stories and news about lesbian life – remained at the center.

These lesbian newsletters provided an environment that fostered creativity by and for lesbians, covered issues of immediate interest to lesbians and made it possible for young artists to create lesbian work long before the word “lesbian” was something one uttered in public. Some of these artists moved on to mainstream publishers and left their lesbian roots behind them in order to reach a broader audience. Other artists went on to build a following by creating parody comics of popular series and evolving over time to creating original art that was picked up by magazine publishers.  Many of the most popular names in Yuri manga got their start this way, using the  springboard of lesbian communications to launch a career.

And, in this way, these lesbian communications – these newsletters, magazines and doujinshi – made room for an entire generation of lesbian artists to openly draw the stories they wanted to read, about the characters they wanted to read about, and helped to eventually give birth to the Yuri genre.

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Yuri Network News – (百合ネットワークニュース) – May 20, 2017

May 20th, 2017

Get ready for some great reading!

Yuri Manga

In the wake of the buzz for My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, let’s not forget the other notable series out in English this year. A couple of folks have commented to me recently that they are tired of schoolgirls and moe. Of course I sympathize. But let me also recommend to you a soul-healing schoolgirl series, Kase-san by Takahashi Hiromi, if you aren’t already reading it. I’ve reviewed the first book, Kase-san and Morning Glories and the second book Kase-san and Bento is hitting the shelves this week. Yes, it’s about schoolgirls, but there’s something real and relatable about it in a way that I rarely see in schoolgirl Yuri.

And, to this point, we have some very exciting news about the Kase-san series! The fourth collected volume (the first since Pure Yuri Anthology Hirari went out of print in 2014) has been announced! Apron to Kase-san. (エプロンと加瀬さん。) is slated for a late July 2017 release date.  There’s so much significance about this news. It’s the first Yuri manga series that has continued to be successful with no print magazine, that has been not just wrapped up online, but is actually getting multiple digital venues for new releases – and of course, has that wonderful animation clip, which the production company has intimated might lead to bigger and better things. Thanks to our Special YNN Correspondent Verso S for keeping us up to date on this news and thanks to Shinsokan and Seven Seas for investing in this series!

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The 6th volume of Canno’s hit, Anoko ni Kiss to Shirayuri wo (あの娘にキスと白百合を ) was really quite interesting and, is now available on the Yuricon Store (along with the other titles mentioned here.) One of the strengths of the series is that the relationships are all very different. This isn’t just a matter of  pairing all the couples up, but that relationships – especially love – can be very complicated.

Minamoto Hisanari’s flight of fancy, Kanaete! Yuri Yousei ( かなえて! ゆりようせい) about the Yuri Fairy who grants Yuri couples their wishes, has now been collected into a volume of it’s own. It’s ridiculous and adorable. ^_^

Now Loading…! by Mikanshi was a short, but pleasant, look into adult life at a independent game development company that ran in Comic Yuri Hime and is now collected.

Almost defying belief, the seventh volume of Kuzushiro’s gag comedy set in the Heian-Kyo, the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, Kimi no Tamenara Shineru, Volume 7 (姫のためなら死ねる ), hit shelves this month.

 

Yuri Anime

Ichijinsha has made it pretty plain that they are never going to animate anything we consider good Yuri here at Okazu. ^_^; For people who prefer dysfunctional, abusive, not-really Yuri, NTR: Netsuzou Trap and Citrus anime are launching this summer and for people who enjoy Yuri with animal-eared girls, they’ve announced Konohana Kitan, the one series that they never got rid of from Comic Yuri Hime S, according to ANN. (In the meantime, those of us who find functional human women who fall in love with one another appealing, get nothing. Grrr.)

 

Other News

ANN reports that the final Sailor Moon Musical, -Le Mouvement Final-, has been announced for autumn 2017, with the return of a former Sailor Moon as Sailor Cosmos.

This is something to stay aware of – an important case in the Netherlands was decided upon this year that makes fansubs illegal.

Fansubbers, of course, maintain that they are doing a Good Thing by allowing millions more people to enjoy films and TV shows that they might not otherwise be able to understand. BREIN, however, asserts that subtitles are mostly used by people who download pirated media, and thus fansubbers are not only violating copyright themselves but also inciting piracy and damaging the market.

The Dutch court sided with the IP owners, stating that “subtitles can only be created and distributed with permission from the rights holders. Doing so without permission is copyright infringement, and thus punishable with either jail time or a fine, depending on where you live.” The emphasis is mine, but Ars Technica has the full report and it’s worth reading. 

Nippon.com reports on ground-breaking manga translator Frederick Schodt, who spoke at the Japan Foundation’s Tokyo office on his four decades of work in manga and about his his newest work, The Osamu Tezuka Story

 

Know some cool Yuri News you want people to know about? Become a Yuri Network Correspondent by sending me any Yuri-related news you find.Emails go to anilesbocon01 at hotmail dot com. Not to the comments here, please, or they might be forgotten or missed. There’s a reason for this madness. This way I know you are a real human, not Anonymous (which I do not encourage – stand by your words with your name!) and I can send you a YNN correspondent’s badge.

Thanks to all of you – you make this a great Yuri Network!

 

 

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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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