Akarui Kiokusoushitsu, Volume 1 (明るい記憶喪失) Guest Review by Bruce P

November 8th, 2017

 I’m headed for Massachusetts to eat and drink and talk queer manga at Harvard tomorrow, heavy-hearted with the fresh loss of my dear friend Bruce. I’d like you all to read this and lift a glass of something tasty to his memory.  Here is the final Guest Review by Bruce P.

So you bought a copy of Practical Problems in the Forbidden Art of Reanimation, only to find it has nothing to do with Sailor Moon Crystal – but you’re having fun with it anyway, following the step-by-step instructions. Your hand-stitched project is now lying shackled and inert on the slab; electrodes have been implanted; dynamos are screaming in anticipation; lightning is crackling in the midnight sky outside – when you reach step 37 and realize, shoot, you forgot to pick up a brain. Well, no biggie. You pack a light snack and head down to the local morgue.

It’s dark as you creep in, hacksaw in hand, and begin opening the frosty vaults. You work at peeling back the rubber sheets – they tend to stick – and look over the corpses, trying to identify just the right kind of brain to harvest for use in…Maxine. But can you really gauge the quality of what’s inside those craniums from their frozen faces alone? Fortunately, you’ve broken into the Yuri wing, and your years as a fan are your guide…

 

Vault #1. 1940’s hairstyle done up in Play-Doh. Obviously a blithe Takemoto Izumi character. Too whimsical. Next.

 

#2. That aquiline nose and cold-chisel chin – clearly from the Takamiya Jin family. Bitter chocolate, when you’re looking for Milk Duds. Next.

 

#3. Eyes like pitted olives in search of a Martini. Must be a Morishima Akiko character. Too Perky.

 

 

#4. A double, how romantic. But cauliflower ears from the boxing rings of Hell – Oku Hiroya’s spawn of course (remember Hen?). These two have been on ice a while. Too pendulous (oh, you do remember Hen).

You are about to despair, when the final vault reveals a truly gruesome sight:

#5. Mouth gaping like a dirigible hangar – the unmistakable trademark of an Oku Tamamushi character. Overwrought, and potentially clinically insane. But on the plus side, this brain fits in a sandwich bag.

Excellent.

The preceding bit of seasonal froth highlights a curious fact: Oku Tamamushi has clearly made wide gaping mouths his personal artistic trademark. His work is instantly identifiable. This clever branding was a true flash of inspiration, the kind of thing you just don’t pick up in art school (not if it’s accredited). And he really gets to practice his yawning orifices in the 4-koma series Akarui Kiokusoushitsu, Volume 1  aka Cheerful Amnesia, (明るい記憶喪失). The title is honest and accurate. The cover character is in fact a violently cheerful Yuri amnesiac, and that is pretty much all there is to the story. It’s a long a haul to the end of the volume.

Arisa and Mari have been living together for some years. But as the story begins Arisa is lying comatose in the hospital, suffering from a severe case of plot device. When she awakens, she has no memory of Mari or their life together. Mouth wide open she wonders who this lovely, unfamiliar, unsmiling woman is sitting by the bed. When Mari informs her she’s her lover, Arisa’s little brain short-circuits. She blushes, shrieks, squirms, squees, wriggles, and generally provides evidence as to why Mari never once smiles through the rest of the Manga. What Arisa doesn’t do is close her mouth. Not now, not when they head home, not when she sees their big fluffy bed. Not much of ever, actually. Oku Tamamushi has a brand, and Arisa is intent on getting that contract for Volume 2.

From this point on Arisa has to get reacquainted with the intimacies that go with living as a couple. She doesn’t manage it well. She actually doesn’t manage it at all. She’s just so embarrassed and excited and squirmy to know that her lover is this lovely, unfamiliar, unsmiling woman (wait, wasn’t that page 1? Yes, and many, many pages beyond). It’s heavy going for Mari as they work their way from holding hands to soapy bath-times to the frilly underwear.  It’s heavy going for us all.

There’s one bright spot in all this. Mari heads out of the house for work in a sharp suit; Arisa follows her to find what office she works in. She is shocked to discover that Mari is in fact a welder. All she can do is stand with (guesses?) her mouth open. But really, there are far too few Yuri stories that feature skilled metalworkers, just my opinion. Obviously, even fewer good ones.

Arisa blunderingly (she really is a pill) outs Mari to her fellow workers. But the old guy in the shop is cool with it, to Mari’s relief, and the creepy young guy is just sad because he had a crush on her.

The essential Arisa is revealed in a flashback of how the two met. Mari is working the counter in a fast food place. Schoolgirl Arisa takes one look and is rooted to the spot in an agony of open-mouthed love. She returns to stare again day after day. Then one time Mari is not there, and Arisa, bewildered, simply sits faithfully waiting, pining away, hour after hour, heedless that the trains have stopped running. Mari shows up late and lugs the poor passed-out thing home. So, there it is, she’s Hachiko. If she was fuzzy it might be cute.

Four-komas are essentially newspaper comic strips, which are of course meant to be read on a one-strip-a-day basis. The majority of 4-komas are best approached in this fashion. This one would benefit from much greater intervals.

Ratings:

Art – 5.  Fairly routine 4-koma material.
Story – 4.  Without the amnesia, this could be a low-budget parody of Minamoto Hisanari’s Fu-Fu – the two women living together in each are even similar ‘types’: the free-spirited flake passionately in love with her taller, serious partner. But it does have the amnesia. And so much less.
Characters – 5.  A welder and an Akita. Unique, possibly, for a Yuri series, but not entirely healthy.
Yuri – 9.  A 10 would be %100 good Yuri. This is just %100 Yuri.
Service – 8.  Less in what is actually depicted, than in servicey situations, such as Mari arriving home with injured hands, requiring Arisa to wash her in the tub (blush, squee, squirm).

Overall – 5. This actually got a bump up to 5, less on merit, really, than as an encouragement for more Yuri stories with professional metalworkers. Or electricians. That just came to mind. Must be these screaming dynamos.

And if you think disinterred body parts electrified to walk the night are grotesque, consider that Akarui Kiokusoushitsu Volume 2 is now out.

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In Memoriam, Okazu Superhero Bruce P

November 7th, 2017

Hi folks. I have no idea what to say here. This is the second time I’ve lost someone important to me, someone who I met because of Yuri. Okazu Superhero, Guest Reviewer and my very dear friend Bruce Pregger has passed away.

If you’re a long time reader, you’ve read many of his hilarious reviews and his event reports (I’m putting them all, and this post, into a new category, so they can be found simply) here on Okazu. He’s traveled with me to several continents and I’m going to miss him so much, I can’t even express myself.

Ah, crap. I hate this. 

I had a guest review of his all scheduled to run on Wednesday, it will still run, but dammit, Bruce, you were supposed to go with us to Tokyo in 2 weeks. Dammit.

Goodbye Bruce, you will be missed.

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Light Novel: Mikagura School Suite: Stride After School

November 6th, 2017

Last spring we had the pleasure here on Okazu of reading a Guest Review by Mariko S on Mikagura School Suite Anime. In that review the protagonist, Eruna, was described as “an unusual/interesting heroine …. She is that rare anime heroine who has absolutely no lack of self-confidence. She always thinks she can handle whatever happens, and when she loses or someone is nasty to her she fights back with jokes and smiles and energy. She doesn’t mope or cry once. …you can’t help but love Eruna.”

This got me feeling hopeful, so when One Peace Books sent m a copy of the first volume of the Light Novel series, Mikagura School Suite: Stride After School, I happily made space for it on my to-read pile. And now have I read it. 

What a strange Light Novel. ^_^; The author is credited as “Last Note” which seems fitting.

The book appears to be a prequel to to the anime. We begin by meeting Ichinomiya Eruna, the aforementioned confident protagonist. But what may appear to be confidence in the anime turns out to be something closer to delusions of grandeur with a side of unhinged in the LN. But never in a bad way. Eruna just has a selective memory, which rarely includes most rational deductions based on normal external stimulus. If Eruna were to be reaching for a hot coal, and you screamed “Don’t touch that!” she’s likely to assume that you mean, because she’ll have a magic power that will make her unable to feel their heat. That kind of “confidence.”

Eruna is a generally lazy, unmotivated person. Eruna is also interested in girls. She choses the school entirely because of the beauty of the girl in the catalog. But when she goes to take her exam (running extremely late) she is basically alone in a room. The exam, which she has been told is really hard, isn’t. And she still sucks at it. Nonetheless, she’s accepted. This quickly becomes a pattern…no one explains anything, Eruna, too delusional to realize she’s missing info asks nothing useful and fails to be even remotely competent…and still she gets into the school. She’s told only that she must join a club, that all the clubs are culture clubs and they battle. The battles determine the student’s status in the school. We and Eruna are told these things about half a dozen times and by the end of the book, we know nothing more than that. Thanks, Eruna.

Because Eruna is the protagonist, of course she’ll be fine, but I have to admit a couple of times I wanted to put her through a wall. In any case, it was a good exercise in being inside the mind of a character I couldn’t cope with at all. ^_^

The art by Akina is blocky and kind of appealing, in a way I’m finding it hard to describe. It’s sort of Pixiv-y or fanartish, maybe?

Ratings:

Story – 7 Silly, goofy, contentless wackiness
Art – 7
Character – 5 Everyone is in on the school except Eruna, so no one explains anything
Yuri – 4 Eruna is absolutely into girls
Service – 0 Not really

Overall – 7

So with all the wackiness and nonsense, would I read the next book? I think I might, if only to see if anything about the school is explained at all. It was an entertaining, if occasionally vexing, read. Thanks to the folks at One Peace for the review copy!

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Yuri Manga: Bloom into You, Volume 2 (English)

November 5th, 2017

In Volume 1 of Nakatani Nio’s Yuri drama, we were introduced to Touko, the competent and driven Student Council President and the girl she falls for, Yuu, who responds not with love, but with loyalty.

In Volume 2 of  Bloom Into You, Yuu is “digging into her lack of response to Touko in an interesting way,” as I said in my review of Volume 2 in Japanese. She’s starting to understand what drives Touko (beyond just the example of a deceased older sister) and what Touko (thinks she) wants. But even as Yuu promises to be that for Touko, she actually wants something vastly different for herself.

Touko is playing unfair. Sshe’s insisting she wants Yuu to never change, but she will shortly begin to demand that Yuu change. 

And all of this is about to get wrapped up in the tension of an original play for the school festival, which will surface way more of what drives Touko than even she realizes, maybe.

In the meantime, I find myself obsessively watching Sayaka. Where Touko is hiding almost nothing of her feelings for Yuu, Sayaka is hiding everything about her feelings for Touko and she naturally resents Yuu for usurping her place by Touko’s side. There’s nothing dishonest about Sayaka’s position, although it might feel that way, but every gay girl knows that there is high risk in coming out just for that straight friend, However, it’s arguably dishonest to be taking her frustration out on Yuu.

I still – and always will – believe that Yuu really needs to learn about asexuality, even if she believes she wants to fall in love. At least having a word and a concept might giver her protection from the pressure she’s putting on herself. Again, to quote myself, “I’m still not sure if Yuu is supposed to be confused because she just hasn’t had an “a-ha!” moment or because she’s genuinely asexual. I don’t think the mangaka knows, either and I’m positive Yuu herself has no idea.”

The story here is tightly wound and Nakatani-sensei’s art is up to the challenge, but I’m often made uncomfortable while reading it. Not because it’s not good…but because I desperately want these kids to have some adult to talk to, even if it’s an Internet group or something. There’s just no reason to be so isolated now.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 6
Service – 1

Overall – 8 With scrunchy-face making moments, especially around Touko’s lack of gaining consent.

I think Bloom Into You is intriguing, rather than entertaining. What’s your take on it?

Volume 3 is available and has what I consider to be the best bits so far of the series.

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Yuri Network News – (百合ネットワークニュース) – November 4, 2017

November 4th, 2017

Yuri Manga

We’re starting today with some excellent news out of Italy from YNN Correspondent Laura C! She has these items to share: 

A new edition of Sailor Moon is being published by Star Comics. They call it Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon New Edition, in 16 volumes which should include the short stories and Sailor V. They also announced the Eternal Edition (12 volumes ), but no date has been announced.

Star Comics will also be releasing the Harmony manga next March. 

Murcielago started in May for Panini Comics. 
 
Italian fans are getting a new edition of Versailles no Bara (Rose of Versailles) which should include the new volumes.

Il marito di mio fratello (Otouto no Otto) hit the shelves last week from Panini Comics. Laura believes it’s the first proper “gay” manga to be published by a major comics publisher. It will be released in omnibus in 2 softcover volumes. 

Thanks for the news, Laura, this is really terrific!

The editorial team behind Rakuen Le Paradis (楽園 Le Paradis) magazine announces two new Yuri series:  from creator Kazuma Kowo will be a reprint of her Yuri Hime story Junsui Adolescence (my review of which you can find here on Okazu) and Preparat by Shigisawa Kaya in Volume 25 and 26.

Whoa! Via Comic Natalie prolific manga creator Nakamura Asumiko is turning her sights on Yuri with a new series Mejirobana Saku (メジロバナの咲く)! Also starting in Rakuen Le Paradis, Volume 25. Guess I’m getting that volume. 

Let me editorialize here for a moment. I’d been reading Rakuen Le Paradis since it began publishing. I especially like the early volumes of this quarterly when they had a weird, uncomfortable mix of BL, Yuri and straight manga all for adult women. Since the beginning, it included comics by Nishi UKO, quite possibly, my favorite manga artist ever, and a number of other Yuri titles, including runs by Hirao Auri, Hayashiya Shizuru, Mizutani Fuuka and others. 

Once Nishi UKO’s stellar series Collectors wrapped up, I moved my reading over to Bookwalker, because I just am out of room for magazines and I won their giveaway of $100 gift certificate, so I filled my Bookwalker box up with light novels and magazines. But the next several issues had no Yuri, or BL and was basically wholly straight romance and sex. I don’t mind that, however the fetishes weren’t mine. It had sort of settled down and hadn’t settled into my niche. So I decided to drop the magazine without prejudice. The last issue I read was Volume 24. … …. And here we are 3 months later, and I’m going to have to keep reading the next volume. Seriously, what happened there? Did a metric ton of people kill their subscriptions or something? I’m not complaining, but it does seem like interesting timing. ^_^

 

Support Yuri News and Reviews! 

 

Yuri Anime

ANN has the dub trailer for Viz Media’s release of Sailor Moon Crystal 3rd season.

From Crunchyroll News, Funimation has announced the dub cast for Konohana Kitan. (As of time of publication, Crunchyroll is down, but I hope they will fix their problems quickly. Just be warned.)

 

LGBTQ News

Maiden, Mother, and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes is a Bedside Press anthology of new fantastical short fiction by trans women and trans feminine writers curated by celebrated poet and author Gwen Benaway. They are taking submissions until December 15th, so get those stories in!

The Yodogawa section of Osaka has passed a pro-LGBT ordinance. It confers no legal status, but indicates that the section of town will respect LGBT people.

 

Other News

If you like beautiful Yuri artbooks, take a look at Shilin’s newest offering FANTASIA.

Over on Oh No They Didn’t on Livejournal(!), Zyuranger takes a look at the 5 Best and Worst Animators on the original Sailor Moon anime.

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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