Yuri Manga: Comic Yuri Hime September 2017 (コミック百合姫2017年9月号)

August 18th, 2017

While the management of Comic Yuri Hime focuses on their blitz of creepy Yuri anime this summer, the rest of the reading audience might be expected to just suck it up in front of the promotional wave.

Oddly, this does not happen. Of course there is a focus on series I’m not interested in covering here, but once we move past those, there’s actually some really good stuff in Comic Yuri Hime September 2017 (コミック百合姫2017年9月号).

“Watashi no Yuri ha Oshigoto desu!” by miman has gone somewhere unexpected and typical, but what it will do there and why are still unpredictable enough that I’m still reading. 

Tokuwotsumu’s “Tsume no iro” was pleasant, as as Hisona’s “Ha no Hanabatake to Hakashirube.”

In Ohsawa Yayoi’s “2DK, GPen Mezamashitokei” Nanami’s confession has thrown everyone – Nanami, Kaede and Koyuki – into a tizzy. Koyuki tells Nanami that’s she’s confessed to Kaede which officially puts this series into love triangle mode.

As usual there are any number of other entries, both ongoing and one-shots that are worth reading. Overall I felt like, yes, this issue still has a metric ton of schoolgirls, but the stories themselves felt a little more varied. I am a bit concerned about the shift into gimmick (schoolgirls with animal ears or who are game prodigies or are half-human) but I still found this issue to be readable.

Ratings:

Overall – 8  

For “2DK, GPen Mezamashitokei,” alone, this issue would have been good.

 

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Yuri Anime: Yurikuma Arashi The Complete Series, Disk 1 (English)

August 17th, 2017

In early 2015. Yuri fans were treated to a dream collaboration – Morishima Akiko and Kunihiko Ikuhara were working on a blatantly Yuri anime and manga series, Yuri Kuma Arashi. I reviewed the anime in Spring 2015, and the manga (Volume 1Volume 2 | Volume 3) between 2015-17.

As we were watching the anime I came to the conclusion that we were watching a “Cards for Humanity” Yuri edition. The word Yuri was repeated so often, with such little context, that it quickly ceased to have meaning. I quite like non-linear, multiple perspective stories. Ikuhara’s Mawaru Penguindrum kept me riveted right through the end.  But the service, the repeated footage of an uneeded naked transformation with use of both lily and phallic imagery, as well as the Court scenes that established little, made for tough going in this series. It was a relief, in fact, to be able to read the manga, in which a coherent story was built up, even if it did end symbolically. There was no such story here in Yurikuma Arashi: The Complete Series,Disk 1.

Which gives us time to ponder things, like why are bears considered so ferocious in Japanese folklore?

It’s not hard to grasp the place that, in every culture, the apex predators own in stories through the ages. Wolves, bears, lions, tigers. No one has to “explain” why Robin Riding Hood is threatened by the Big Bad Wolf or why Shere Khan ruled the Jungle.

It might be heard for someone looking at this to really think about the ferocity and power of a bear. 

We’re just forced to remember Colbert’s warning that bears are not our friends.

And we are reminded, repeatedly, that bears eat humans.

BUT. We’re also told that bears are only allowed to eat invisible girls – girls that have been “excluded.”

And maybe in that oft-repeated footage of the court that makes little sense, except to provide us with boy bears (there are no male humans in this world, only mothers and female teachers)…maybe…we can see a parable of bullying, of ostracization, of the kind of othering that homogeneous groups are prone to.

Or maybe it’s all a really sloppily-conceived series of fairytales that uses concepts like “bears,” “Yuri” and Stalingrad Fuyu Keshiki all mushed together.

Ratings:

Art – 8 Two great tastes that tasted deeply odd together
Story – 7 Once upon a time…oh fuck it.
Characters – 7 Bears all the way down
Yuri – 14 million
Service – 7

Overall – 7 

Ultimately the two things about this series worth seeing are Morishima-sensei’s art animated and the obviously Evil Psycho Lesbian bear (Spoilers. But surely it was the most obvious thing ever.) Yurika.

Many thanks to Okazu Superhero Dan P, for sponsoring today’s review and the fetching gift bag in which it arrived!

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Yuri Artbook: Toccata II by Shilin Huang

August 16th, 2017

Thanks to everyone who offered birthday thanks this week! I’ve been thinking hard about what I wanted as my first post-birthday review, and decided that today, I’m talking about something that fully embraces the idea that if you don’t see what you want to read in the world you should just go ahead and make it.

Shilin Huang is an artist I have been following for some years. Her webcomic, Carciphona is excellent in every way; art, story and characters. In 2014 I was fortunate enough to be at TCAF and be able to purchase her first artbook, Toccata from the artist directly. 

This year at Otakuthon, I was ecstatic to see her in the artist alley and to pick up her newest artbook,  Toccata II. Shilin’s art has…well, matured isn’t the right word, exactly. It’s approaching mastery. I’m not being entirely hyperbolic, either. A few of the pictures in this book were positively Raphael-esque in depth of color, pose and texture. 

Of the pictures I like best, many of them are riffing on the main characters from Carciphona; sorcerer Veloce Visrin and her archenemy(?) Blackbird who, particularly set out of context in realish-world situations, make for a really sexy couple. The comic itself is a high fantasy, so it’s always kind of fun to see Veloce and Blackbird in modern clothes in a modern apartment, as well as in their native elaborate fantasy setting. You can take a look at many of the images as posters in Shilin’s shop  – and she sometimes does drawing online in live sessions, which is always entertaining.

I have yet to actually review Carciphona, (although it is on the list, along with any number of other webcomics I read) but let me take a moment to recommend it highly if you like emotionally intense stories of high fantasy and magic and spirits and lots of fighting and swirly art. And if you like it, the first 6 collected volumes are all available in print as a set or as single issues.

In the meantime, I’ll sit here enjoying this picture, Autumn, with Veloce and Blackbird in uncharacteristic (for them) pose on an anachronistic (for them) motorcycle. ^_^

Ratings: 

Overall – 10

This book has some damn fine work in it. 

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Happy 15th Birthday, Okazu!

August 14th, 2017

On August 14, 2002, I created the domain okazu.blogspot.com and wrote,

Welcome to Okazu!

“Okazu” (おかず) is Japanese for appetizers – and is slang for lesbian sex because, you know it’s not *real* sex. ^_^

It’s also a good name for dribbles of writing that aren’t stories – just thoughts and comments and updates on things I’m doing. Most of those “things” will be Yuri-related, some will be about women in comics and others will be me screwing around as I travel the world. Whatever it is that brings you here, welcome and enjoy the tasty Okazu. ^_^

The day after, I wrote,

“Day Two Blog –

Water is running low, I’m feeling weak. There is no end in sight.” ^_^;

I didn’t have a point, or a mission, particularly. I was planning an event at Meow Mix in New York Cit and I thought having a central place to communicate from seemed like a good idea. I think. Because, honestly, I don’t remember what I was thinking, exactly. 15 years is a really long time. At first, Okazu was mostly a list of the events I participated in, promoting Yuricon and the Revolutionary Girl Utena Movie with CPM’s blessing. (Which, like a genius, I never actually wrote about. The first Film Festival post here was the BFI Gay and Lesbian Film Fest in London, in March 2002.)

I know that I was planning on running the first Yuricon in 2003 and as running an event was kind of complicated, but people seemed to think it was as easy as ordering a pizza, I wanted a place to write about some of the issues we’d face.

By October I said,

In effect, 2002 is over for me. Now the Yuricon staff and I will be focusing on entirely dull and uninteresting administrative things – signing up vendors, advertisers, sponsors, etc.

 

In November, I buckled down and really started talking about building a convention. I wrote The Anatomy of an Anime Convention 101, Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5.

And, as the year came to an end, I went, willy-nilly, to Japan to see Comiket. Because why not? That was the beginning of the Tokyo Journal category here.

***

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***

Can you see what’s missing? Up to this point, I really never once thought about writing reviews. It just never occurred to me, honestly. You can really see that I assumed no one but me was reading this blog because the first news/review I posted was on the New Hana no Asuka-gumi manga in March 2003. I’ve never been delusional about this series – it’s complicated and obscure and was not of interest to too many people in the United States in 2003. In fact, including me and Rica Takashima…the total number was probably 2. 

By May, I was fully focused on the upcoming Yuricon event. but I took a moment to write up what was the first of what would become the Yuri Network News. Tokyopop had licensed Between the Sheets by Erica Sakaruzawa – that was certainly newsworthy! And I had, for reasons , decided to go into manga publishing and was pushing our first book, Rica ‘tte Kanji!? by Rica Takashima. It bears repeating that the reason I met Rica was that she had come to that Meow Mix event in 2002. When she told me she was a Yuri manga artist, we both knew our meeting was kismet. 

June 2003 came and with it, an obsessive chronicling of Yuricon 2003.  It rocked and I’m really glad we did it. ^_^

That summer was filled with any number of events and it wasn’t until November 2003 that I reviewed my first anime. All these years I’ve remembered it as being Air Master, but it turns out I’m wrong and the first anime I ever reviewed here was Stellvia of the Universe! Remember that one? I was just thinking about it the other day. Maybe it’s time for a rewatch, huh? ^_^

Another surprise for me is that my first Maria-sama ga Miteru post came before the end of 2003. You’re able to watch my obsession with that series grow in realtime in my posts, from “Hey, this is an interesting thing you should know about,” right to “Must consume all of this immediately.”

I’m not at all surprised at the continuing appeal of many of the foundational series for us, series that set Yuri fans on the path to understanding and enjoy this genre, like Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena. I’m thrilled to pieces that old classics like Rose of Versailles and Dear Brother have found renewed interest in a modern age.  I’m still waiting for everyone to rediscover the wonderfulness of Devilman Lady. ^_^ And we’ve encountered so many new series that have established their place in the Yuri canon, from action-adventure like R.O.D and Bodacious Space Pirates, to “new classics” like Sweet Blue Flowers and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Not to mention amazing, moving series over the years like Simoun, Kaleido Star, and the Girls with guns on the Run trilogy of Noir, Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja, which gave us so many hours of conversation! And let’s not forget the “classic” Yuri parody series Strawberry Panic!  and Kannazuki no Miko, a series that launched a whole new kind of Yuri fan in the mid-2000s.

We were able to run Yuricon 2005 in Tokyo and the Yurisai and  Onna! in 2007, both of which I like to think helped set Yuri on a whole new track toward genrehood. As we hit the 10 year mark, the country was heading towards a depression, publishing and distribution was radically altered and the end result was that we shuttered doing both manga publishing and events, but Okazu and Yuricon pivoted to an exciting new focus – public speaking and writing articles on Yuri that would help establish Yuri’s genre bona fides.

And so it has gone, for 15 years, juggling events (both mine and other people’s), talking  and writing about Yuri anime and manga. This blog has been through a few renewals over the last decade and a half (and we’re looking at another one in the near future,) but it’s basically stayed the same. I’ve basically stayed the same, I think. Maybe. Or maybe not, but I don’t feel different, although I have less patience with spending time on stuff I’m not going to like, especially as there’s so much great stuff being released these days.  ^_^

What absolute has stayed with me for 15 years as the primary focus on Okazu is this:

Yuri is a way to build a bridge from American lesbian culture to Japanese lesbian culture. It’s true that Yuri is not “ours” as such, having so many owners, but it centers around our stories. That’s really the core concept to me. It’s true that readers, publishers and creators may not be LGBTQ or even interested in telling LGBTQ stories with any sense of  realism or honesty, but in the end, it’s our stories, and our opinions about those stories, that turn Okazu and Yuricon into a community for people all over the world. In 2017, I’d say we’ve been successful. I see more genuinely LGBTQ content in manga and comics and cartoons this year than I ever have before. Anime is still lagging behind, but that’s not all that surprising.

And above all other things, it’s that community that I want to celebrate today. I thank you YNN Correspondents, Guest Reviewers, my staff who travel with me and help keep this place running, folks who comment, folks who correct my mistakes and folks who simply enjoy the posts here – you, the Yuri Network, are the pride and joy of Okazu.  

My sincere and heartfelt thanks to Okazu Patrons.You are a major part of why I can keep doing this day after day. You’ve gotten me closer than ever to being able to pay Guest Reviewers, and allow me to give them tokens in thanks now. You’re helping me travel to events I report to you and with the media I consume and review. You’re all an important part of the team here at Okazu, thank you. This post was made just for you at your request. ^_^

I want to end with especial thanks to my wife who is my editor, my #1 fan and greatest supporter (as well as the best clever idea generator a person could ever ask for!) I can never thank you enough. Love you.

Thank you all and a very Happy Birthday to all of us!

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Revolutionary Girl Utena 20th Anniversary Manga: After the Revolution (少女革命ウテナ20年記念日新作)

August 13th, 2017

“I…I have to go.”
“Go where?”
“To look for Lady Utena. When she and I meet once again…that is when this will begin.
The world…awaits the Power of Dios…
And that power begins with us…!”

20 years have passed since the Revolutionary Girl Utena series began.

In “After the Revolution,” a new original chapter of Revolutionary Girl Utena 20th Anniversary Manga, (少女革命ウテナ20年記念日新作) from Saitou Chiho in Flowers magazine, 20 years have, indeed, passed.

If you recall, in both anime and manga, Tenjou Utena disappeared from Ohtori and with her, people’s memory of everything that had happened. Only Himemiya Anthy could remember her. And, in both versions, the end of the series came when Anthy – and the remainder of the magic at Ohtori – left to look for Utena, with complete confidence that she would find her.

20 years have passed.

We begin with Touga and Saionji. They are bidding against each other on a Picasso painting. They are rich, powerful men in this world, just as they were in Ohtori. But you and I remember how easily they were manipulated there. They do not. They haven’t changed. 20 years has not lessened Touga’s confidence or Saionji’s displeasure at coming in second.

Touga receives a letter – “Those concerned with the Revolution of the World should return to Ohtori.” And, of course Saionji has also received that letter. They enter the school with flashlights as thieves in the night. Two rich, sophisticated leaders of men, creeping around a closed school. What did we just say about “easily manipulated?”

20 years have passed. They remember nothing. Until the tower is struck by lightning and they share a dream of a girl in a coffin. They dream of a castle in the sky and dueling. They wake to find that they both had that dream, but have no idea what it means.

When Touga finds a picture of Anthy and Akio, he asks aloud who is this? And a voice says, “Me and my sister.” Akio, in his final battle uniform appears. “But,” Touga says, “you’re dead!” Akio confirms that he is indeed dead. And nonetheless wants to gain the power of Dios.

They break into the chairman’s room and find a picture of a naked Anthy. Akio provokes a fight, Saionji finds it in himself to remember his friendship with his rival and protects Touga. Touga and Akio duel….Remember again the phrase “easily manipulated.” Keep remembering it, because neither Touga nor Saiojni have. Touga slays the ghost and they see another picture, of two young women, laying together clothed, but intimately entwined.

And they start to remember. The power to revolutionize the world, the young woman who wanted to be a Prince and their friendship.

This chapter was perfect. This story cannot possibly begin with Utena and Anthy. It will, I hope, end with them. But it could not possible have begun with them. (I submit almost all my own fanfic as a corroborating witness. )

We’ll be getting a second chapter in the winter, and, if my guess is good, it will follow Juri and Miki as they remember. I hope so, at any rate.  But it still won’t follow Anthy and Utena. Not yet…maybe not ever. Their absence is the story.

Ratings:

Art – 9 I *have* mentioned that Saitou-sensei’s art is amazing.
Story – 9 Exactly what it needed to be
Characters 8 – No one will blame me that I still don’t give a shit about Touga and Saionji, right?
Yuri – 8 Did you not look at that picture and see what I saw?
Service – 3 Naked Anthy still a thing.

Overall – 9

The second thing I hope for from this story is a glimpse of Anthy and Utena 20 years later. I’m willing to wait as long as it takes. Thank you Saitou-sensei for this fantastic chapter and that gorgeous cover.

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