Yuri Manga: Soirée Gakkyuu, Volume 1 (ソワレ学級)

February 5th, 2018

Yanagi is a decent guy who, after dropping out of more prestigious school, decided to go for a more laid-back trade school. And so he finds himself at Shirabuji. The students at Shirabuji wander in after lunch, head to the lounge and generally take a very relaxed view of classwork. Yanagi likes it here.

In Soirée Gakkyuu, Volume 1 (ソワレ学級) Yanagi befriends two classmates, tall Ruri and cute Kureha, known as Beni (bothKureha and beni being a shade of red). Beni and Ruri are very close, having been friends since middle school. Beni often hangs on Ruri, although they don’t appear to be a couple. 

In working on a video project, Yanagi films Ruri, dressed boyishly and wearing a fedora and Beni dressed girlishly in a skirt, dancing. It becomes a viral hit, and other classmates end up involved as the video project starts to build momentum for the school festival. During the festival a guy (who clearly thinks we should know who he is) hits on Ruri and is first pushed away by Beni and ultimately by the rest of the group, but things get very tense.

Beni is unhappy. She hates that this guy hit on Ruri, it bugs her. She’s begun to realize that Yanagi likes Ruri and it bugs her more. It bugs her so much that on a night of a summer festival, she asks Ruri to kiss her…then can’t go through with it. What will happen to them I don’t yet know, but I’m interested in finding out!

One of the primary strengths of this story is the complete and utter normality of all the characters. In early days, we meet another male classmate, Gin, who works at a yakisoba place and is therefore a pretty good cook. He and Yanagi seems nice and normal. They aren’t creepy in any way. You can’t really blame them at all if they fall for Ruri or Beni, because they, too, see kind of nice and normal.

Nothing “happens” in this series, but as the subtitle says:  “Soirée Gakkyuu, Ruri and Beni. It’s a Wonderful high school life!”

Ratings:

Art – 6 Plain, but competent
Story – 6 Small, but pleasant
Characters – 6 Normal and likeable
Yuri – 3, with potential
Service – 2 if you consider the dance scene service. And you could. ^_^

Overall – a strong 6, with room  for more. 

This another one of the volumes I picked up at the Ikebukuro Animate Yurimate section. It was one of several series I had no idea existed, so I’m pretty pleased with taking a gamble on it.

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LGBTQ Comic: Legend of Korra: Turf Wars, Part 2 (English)

February 4th, 2018

Legend of Korra: Turf Wars, Part 2 has all the strengths and weaknesses of part of 2 of a 3-part anime OVA in a 78 page comic.

This part of the story is what I call “the storm before the calm.” The team is broken up and become physically and emotionally distant from each other. They will have to pull together for them to win, but they are being assailed on too many fronts to do that right now. As if this isn’t enough, an extra piece is on the board now, making a whole ‘nother set of complications.

Korra is facing opposition from the Triads, the government and the spirits..and now another organized crime leader. As usual, she’s trying to do it all herself and her relationship with Asami is suffering because of it. Everyone is doing their best to help, but they are all isolated in their own verticals. They need coordination. And in this, this issue does two things that made it absolutely worth reading. Asami identifies the perfect coordinator, Zhu Li (although she is thinking on a larger scale than just their immediate needs, which is also a great piece of writing). Placing Zhu Li’s competence at the forefront of the story made me quite happy, and Varrick’s reaction of pure joy at the idea of Zhu Li as President put a period on it. This was a scene I would have loved to see and hear animated.

The color work in this issue is notably excellent. One of the defining characteristics of the Avatar world are the color palettes and art styles of the various kingdoms. This series has had to balance that with a palette of its own in which to tell this particular story. I really like the choices made here. Irene Koh’s work is getting better and better.

Also notable was a narrative buried in the story of President Raiko’s handling of the refugees which leads to Zhu Li considering a political campaign. There was no doubt in my mind at all  that this section contained a clear rebuke on current politics, especially in reference to Puerto Rico’s sabotaged recovery after Hurricane Maria. Over 400,000 Puerto Ricans are still without power and the emergency management there under our current administration has been openly corrupt and incompetent.

The fast pacing is not helping this comic. This arc needs time to develop and time for us to have some relief from the multiple tensions of the emotional and physical conflicts. It’s almost a shame that it’ll have to wrap up next issue and so we’ll get the cathartic ending we’ll need, without the appropriate pacing for any of it. It’s all too rushed. Every four pages is another episode of this super-dense narrative. Yes, Korra and Asami will b reunited but, will they be given time to talk about what’s happening with them? Asami is so much emotionally mature than Korra. The Avatar’s going to have to be given the chance to do the work to get to Asami’s level. I hope so, at any rate.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 0
Yuri – 10

Overall – A very solid 9

Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko and Irene Koh have a lot on their plate to make the third volume of this comic work. I have to believe they are up to the challenge. ^_^

Today’s review was once again sponsored by the kindness and generosity of Okazu Superhero Eric P.! Thank you very much for the chance to read and review this series!

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Yuri Network News – (百合ネットワークニュース) – February 3, 2018

February 3rd, 2018

Yuri Events

2018 is shaping up to be a really good year for Yuri-friendly events in North America and Japan! 

In addition to the Galette magazine event, we reported on last week, the Yuriten Yuri Fair looks like it will have a host of Yuri artists participating. The Yuriten website is being worked on right now, but highlighted creators are being listed regularly on their Twitter feed and it pretty much looks like all of the top names in Yuri will be there. And so will I. I can’t make the Galette event, but I’m going to run halfway around the world for the Yuriten.  The event will be in Ikebukuro from March 17th to 25th, then goes on the road to Osaka from April 1st to 8th and from there to Fukuoka in April, dates TBA.  (Can I take a moment to just kvell a bit about Ikebukuro becoming Yuri central in Tokyo? ^_^ Squee. ) Because Bruce is no longer with us, if you happen to be planning on being in Tokyo for the Yuriten, let me know. I’ve become accustomed to traveling with an entourage and would love to have your company. ^_^

In April, I and Anne Ishii will be giving another talk at Hunter College in NYC on queer manga. Details TBA.

In May, we have Toronto Comics Arts Festival in Toronto, Canada, which is always LGBTQ-friendly. 

In June, I’ll be a Featured Panelist at AnimeNEXT 2018 in Atlantic City, NJ! Because this is my local convention, I am bringing a literal car-load of prizes, giveaways and auction items with me. You won’t want to miss this year’s event and all the Yuri we’ll be talking about.

All that brings us just through the first half of the year!  I’ve got some things I’m working on, as well, so fingers crossed. If you would like me to speak at your event, university or school, please contact me! (I’m still hoping for an invitation from Y-Con in France… ^_^. I’m looking for good excuses to return to Paris. )

Yuri Visual Novel

Our friends at Luscious Spirit Studios have an interesting new game that is an Asexual Yuri romance VN called Lovely Anemone.

“Salena’s afraid to commit to another relationship and has lost confidence in herself. She still wants a girlfriend, but is refusing sexual intimacy a deal-breaker? That’s when she accidentally finds herself falling in love with another girl, but is afraid to come out to her.  At the same time her ex-girlfriend pleads for her forgiveness and wants her back. What will she do?”

This VN was developed as part of the ACE Jam, which is pretty cool.  I hope you’ll visit the Luscious Spirit page and take a look at their work, they’ve got other Yuri games, as well.

I quite like the game jam concept. If you like games and VNs, I recommend you bookmark the Yuri Game Jam for new stuff to try out.

 

Yuri Drama CD

I recently came across Drama CD store Takumi 18 online. As the name suggests, some of their content is 18+. They have several Yuri Drama CDs (none of which I have purchased, so I have no idea about the quality thereof.) I found them because of a new Drama CD they’ve just put out called Ano Sorashita de Otometachi ha Yume o Miru, (あの空の下で乙女たちは夢を見る(パッケージ版), a 2-CD set. The first CD is the Drama which, frankly, sounsd identical to every Yuri thing ever, and the second contains songs sung by the lead actress. Could be fun, but I kind wish we could call a moratorium on the use of the word Otome-tachi for Yuri stories. ^_^; Check out their other Yuri CDs on their site.

 

Other News

Very interesting news from BL scholar Mark McLelland – Yale University has a Special Library Collection of LGBTQ Japanese publications. Hrm, as I’m up at Yale from time to time, I guess this is going to have to go on my to-see list. ^_^ 

I cannot think of a better thing to end on than this tidbit. The name of the first newspaper in the United States by women was called….The Lily. :-DDDD  The Lily is back via the Washington Post and has both a Twitter account and a newsletter that you can sign up for.

 

Become a YNN Correspondent by reporting any Yuri-related news to anilesbocon01 at hotmail dot com with your name and an email I can reply to!

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

 
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Yuri Anime: Citrus (English) Guest Review by Yurimother

January 31st, 2018

Hello and welcome to Guest Review Wednesday on Okazu! It is my very sincere pleasure to offer both a brand new Okazu Guest Reviewer and a counterpoint review to my review yesterday. ^_^ I hope you’ll all give a warm Okazu welcome to our newest Guest Reviewer, Yurimother! 

Passione’s anime adaptation of Saburouta’s Citrus is finally out with three episodes having aired time of writing. Fans of the popular manga rejoice while outsiders are somewhat more skeptical. The first thing that a potential viewer needs to know about this Yuri anime is that the main characters, Yuzu and Mei, are stepsisters. Citrus is an incest story which is not for everyone.

The story’s lead, Yuzu Aihara, a fashionable and brash teen, transfers to a prestigious school when her mother remarries. There she quickly begins to clash with the stern student council president and granddaughter of the school’s chairman, Mei. Yuzu’s situation becomes more complicated with the revelation that Mei is her new stepsister. This development thrusts them into two different relationships with each other, an unwanted sisterly one, and a confused sexual one.

Saburouta set the bar extremely high in the manga’s art, and Passione delivered. The characters look amazing, backgrounds are gorgeous, and everything from the sky to bathwater has a fantastic polish that takes the art to the next level. I found myself skipping backward more than once to watch a sequence again and marvel at the animation. This artwork is all accompanied by an above-average musical score that adds an extra layer of emotion to many parts of the anime.

The high school setting is overused and rather dull at this point, however, Citrus manages to present an interesting plot. However, this accomplishment is despite the setting rather than because of it. The school environment is at least convenient for introducing characters, problems, and even some levity. An example of this is when the school’s rule against cell phones allowed the anime to execute one of the few breast jokes that I have ever truly found hilarious.

Citrus wastes no time getting straight to a dramatic story, in which the characters’ development is rapid and interesting. Just a few episodes in Yuzu already landed her school career, family, and relationship with Mei in hot water. The plot has kept me both engaged and excited. Without outside knowledge of the manga, I would have no idea what development would happen next, even if the results of the situations are somewhat predictable.

Early episodes of Citrus do not have many interesting or diverse characters. Everyone introduced so far can be categorized as either happy and outgoing (Yuzu, her friend Harumi, and her mother) or uptight and strict (Mei, the other student council members, and the school chairman). That is not to say that these characters cannot be enjoyable to watch, but I eagerly await their growth. While individual characters have seen little early development, their relationships have, specifically Yuzu and Mei’s. These two become more sisterly even as Yuzu’s affections for Mei blossom.

The most outspoken critics of Citrus point out that the sexual moments between Yuzu and Mei are not consensual. During their first kiss, Mei pins her stepsister to the ground and kisses her for an uncomfortably long time among groans of protests. While this is certainly off-putting to many viewers, it is not meant to be cute or sexy service. I propose that the scene is intended to be disconcerting. As readers of the manga will know, there is more to Mei than meets the eye. There are complexities to her character and her relationship with Yuzu that will likely unfold, explaining, although not excusing her actions. These hidden layers are hinted at in emotional fanservice scenes that usually end with one of the characters (and at least once me) in tears (although I tear up whenever I see animated homosexuality). Assuming Citrus plays its proverbial cards right, it will win over some of its skeptics. 

While it is by no means perfect if you stick with Citrus and overlook some of its faults you will find a dramatic and salacious Yuri.

Subtitled episodes of Citrus are simulcast on Crunchyroll.

Ratings: 

Art: 10
Story: 7
Characters: 4 (Although more time with the series will likely increase this)
Music – 7
Service – 8 (it may be uncomfortable at times but there is plenty of it)
Yuri – 9 (no Yuri Goggles needed here)

Overall: 8

Erica here;:Thank you so much for this review!  It was great to see this from a wholly different pair of eyes than my own.

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Yuri Anime: Citrus (English)

January 30th, 2018

This review is going to get a counterpoint review tomorrow, so if you disagree with this review or any of the points made here, please consider tuning in tomorrow for a Guest Review by Yurimother, with a different point of view! Today, however I felt it absolutely incumbent upon me to provide you with my view of the anime adaption of Sabuouta’s citrus manga. 

I sat down to watch Citrus anime, streaming on Crunchyroll, with my wife. She has never so much as looked at this series, so I felt confident that she would bring a fresh perspective with her, while I was going into watching this anime with already negative opinion of the series as a whole. ^_^;

The anime was moderately well-animated, which was nice. I wouldn’t have paroxysms of ecstasy over the animation or anything, but it looked good. 

As a modern version of the traditional dark-haired, emotionally intense classic Japanese beauty and the energetic lighter-haired girl (the same exact couple we’ve seen in many Yuri series throughout the last century,) neither Yuzu nor Mei are original character types nor particularly well-wrought examples of their types.  

Yuzu is not overtly clumsy or stupid, but she is presented as critically naive. Every school I have ever even considered applying to sends parents and students a metric ton of “Dos and Don’ts.’  While things have changed, I know for 100% sure from teacher friends that – here in the US, at least – schools communicate more with parents and students, not less. A student arriving at an elite school without the slightest clue of anything at all was irritating in 2007, when Aoi Nagisa did it. In 2017 it is simply, flatly, unbelievable. That said, Yuzu’s obliviousness naivete is an important component of this series.

When Yuzu gets to school, somehow wholly unaware that the school has rules (rules that are commonly deployed as plot complications in every single existent form of entertainment in Japan and could be guessed at, even if she was too lazy to read the documentation,) she is sexually assaulted for not knowing the rules. The search she undergoes has nothing at all to do with “looking for a phone.” No one keeps their phone tucked under or between their butt cheeks.

Mei’s behavior is not sensible…except that nonconsensual, passive-aggressive assaults are wholly consistent with a girl who has endured sexual abuse. Mei’s sexual assault of Yuzu continues, moving from groping to a deep kiss and later forceful undressing, without any of the steps that must come before such behavior – knowing the other person consents, primarily. You know, the the attraction and affection of two people who are looking to learn more about one another. The entirety of the relationship that we cherish in the Kase-san series is completely excised from citrus. The narrative refuses to admit sexual assault or anything Mei does as a consequence of it, and so, it throws the premise of the story into unacceptable implausibility. Even more implausible is the narrative’s assumption that I will somehow root for these two to become a couple. The only thing I am rooting for is for them to both seek therapy. 

Mei’s passive-aggression and sexual acting out works in this context because Yuzu is presented in the first few minutes as naive. She knows as much about sex as she does about the school rules. She is the kind of person who lies about her lack of experience rather than admit she has not had sex. Additionally, “having had sex with a boy” is left hanging as the benchmark for “sexually knowledgeable” as if they are one and the same thing. Let me assure you, they are not. Mei even uses this as a weapon against Yuzu. “Someone who has never kissed before can’t know anything.” Patently untrue, and it can only work if the audience as well as the characters believe that sexual experience is equivalent to knowledge is equalivalent to maturity. It is not. Neither is anything in this series indicative of “love” as Yuzu naively (and alarmingly) imagines.  

We also meet Yuzu’s mother, whose behavior is likewise implausible. This is when something dawned on me.

About the time we encountered Yuzu’s mother, I recoiled as I gasped, “Oh my god, they are playing this for comedy.” I watched, horrified, as the story demanded that I find a sexual assault amusing. Oh haha, look Yuzu was just sexually assaulted on her first day of school and she gets to live with that person! Hahah. How droll! As we’re dealing with #metoo and the repeated public flagellating of people for being brave enough to talk about their experiences with sexual assault, this is so far beyond insensitive, I am gobsmacked by it. Days after watching, I am still horrified that I was supposed to find it appealing in any way. (Update: I have just watched all I can manage of the third episode and this trend continues. We are repeatedly expected to find sexual assault acceptable, justifiable, romantic and, in some cases, comedic.) 

We made it through the first two episodes and then my wife and I debriefed. I offered her the chance to write part of this review. This is what she said. “I felt triggered by it.” Those of you who know my wife will understand that this may be the very first time in her life she has ever uttered this sentence. I have never heard her speak it in 34 years. She agreed with me that the assault was being played as comedy.

Along with the creepy fanservice added in many scenes, citrus anime was, in a word, grotesque.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – #metoo
Character – No. Absolutely not. This is not how healthy people behave, speak or deal with things.
Service – Infinity
Yuri – 100% Sexual Assault until Yuzu and we are groomed to believe it’s okay. It is not okay, not ever.

Overall – 1

Feel free to comment, but under no circumstances should you feel free to justify using sexual assault as a replacement for sexual attraction as a plot complication in this anime, or in life. I will not allow those comments.

For those of you who disagree, come back tomorrow for a completely different point of view!

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