What has Chimmy been reading lately?
Almost everything has been manga…and all of that has been yuri. Let’s take a look, shall we?
I’ll do my best to avoid big spoilers, but keep in mind that a lot of these titles have been out for quite some time. If any interest you, they are all available from Seven Seas Entertainment. Not everything they publish is yuri, but they do seem to have the American market cornered on what little we get.
Seriously though, they have a lot of titles they publish. (You can also follow them on Twitter.) I’m actually quite fond of them; their translations and localizations are quite good from what I’ve read, they don’t censor, and they keep honorifics in place, which, especially in slice-of-life stories, is really important in seeing how characters perceive each other socially.
Anyways, let’s get into the actual reviews, shall we?
Manga and Light Novel Collection
Written by Sakurako Kimino, Illustrated by Takuminamuchi
Some time ago, I gave a review of the Strawberry Panic! anime. Looking back, I probably did a disservice in my description by not reading the light novel first, and by not doing a bit more research.
The anime and manga/light novel can certainly be enjoyed without each other. While most of the characters and their personalities are the same or similar, there are a lot of major differences. The main one is that the light novel concerns itself almost entirely with the Etoile competition, and the anime shoehorns it in right near the end. Shizuma’s and Nagisa’s relationship is still the primary character focus, with Hikari’s and Amane’s the second.
(By the way, the manga was serialized in 2005, but only covers about the first third of the light novels. For the full story, the light novels are the way to go.)
The novels are written in a way that I can best describe as “flowery.” I honestly wasn’t enjoying them much until near the second half, when all of a sudden the amount of intrigue, backstabbing, shocking twists, and shocking secrets went through the roof. At that point I was hooked. The reason why Shizuma acts the way she does is a bit more dark than it was in the anime, by the way.
I do actually prefer the anime to the light novels, however. I enjoy the inter-school friendships that are missing from the novels, and I enjoy Kaname’s and Momomi’s messed up relationship, which is anime only.
The novels are a lot less cut-and-dry when it comes to the characters’ sexualities, however. I said in my review of the anime something to the effect of “every main character is basically a lesbian” and no one ever questions it, not even themselves. That might not be entirely true, but it works well enough.
The novels, however, are more obvious in that some feelings are similar to idol worship, which, while definitely present in the anime in crowd scenes, seems more personal here. The idea of a romantic friendship is toyed with a bit, and one might, depending on one’s interpretation, see this as a bit of a Class S story, where same-sex relationships between girls can be considered a normal thing, during adolescence.
In any case, some of the characters do actually question their own sexuality from time to time, and there are a couple mentions of Yaya Nanto being the only “true” lesbian on campus, a distinction never made in the anime.
So in the end, is it worth reading? If you like these kinds of stories, yes, it’s worth a go, but the intrigue and melodrama really take center stage, with the actual relationship building a bit in the back. Not as strong as the anime, I feel, but to each their own.
Written and Illustrated by Milk Morinaga
Girlfriends is a lovingly written and beautifully illustrated story about two girls, Mari Kumakura and Akiko (Akko) Oohashi, who become friends and (obviously) that friendship eventually evolves into a romantic relationship.
It’s a very sweet, heartfelt story, but it does conform to standard yuri tropes in that there is a lot of crying, and a lot of obstacles Mari and Akko have to get past to solidify their relationship. New schools, new friends, new boyfriends, and of course, misunderstandings and jealousy get in their way constantly, although no one is actually against their relationship. In fact, outside of possibly one savvy character, no one is really even aware of the changing nature of their relationship.
The first half of the story is primarily from Mari’s point of view. She’s smart, but introverted, and keeps to herself. One day, Akko, a beautiful, popular girl, practically assaults Mari with well-intentioned demands for friendship. They quickly become fast friends, but Mari continues to feel out of place until one of their mutual friends points out that she’s actually Akko’s best friend. It isn’t long before she develops feelings for Akko that confuse and shame her.
The second half of the story is from Akko’s point of view, and we learn that her initial interest in Mari might not have been so one-dimensional. They slowly enter into an actual romantic relationship, but several missteps occur along the way before they finally cement themselves into a love that will stand the test of time.
It’s a beautifully written, slowly paced story that is full of sweet, endearing moments. It certainly portrays the concept that love between girls can be romantic and still be innocent; that’s obvious bullshit, but it’s one of the frequent conceits (and charms) of the genre. I definitely recommend it. If you’re looking for something sexually charged, this isn’t it, however. There is some kissing and nudity but the focus is on emotions and conversations, not sex.
KISSES, SIGHS, AND CHERRY BLOSSOM PINK
Written and Illustrated by Milk Morinaga
I purchased this book basically as a time filler while waiting for Citrus Volume 3 (See below) despite some less-than-stellar reviews. It’s a compilation of short stories (in Milk’s own words) “from many years ago, unpublished episodes, and new material.”
Unfortunately, it shows.
It’s been worked so that unrelated stories have some links, however, either through characters or schools, but realistically, there is one several-chapter-long story and several other one-shots. It certainly is beautiful to look at, and there are some great moments, but overall it’s just not anywhere near the level of Girlfriends (though I doubt it was ever meant to be.)
Nana and Hitomi’s story make up the most of the book. It’s cute and fairly well written, but it comes off kind of like a much faster moving version of Girlfriends with much less conflict. It doesn’t help that Nana and Hitomi are dead ringers for Mari and Akko.
The side story about Eri and Chiharu is also sweet, but ends abruptly with no real resolution. Life doesn’t always have happy endings, but it really feels like a good story that just suddenly stops. The other side stories left so little impact on me that I don’t really remember them!
If you enjoy yuri to the point that you collect it, Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink is a beautiful book to own, but story-wise, it doesn’t really hold up that well.
(By the way, Milk Morinaga has an ongoing yuri series called Gakuen Polizi. I haven’t read any of, yet.)
Written and Illustrated by SABUROUTA
Citrus is an on-going series (volume 3 comes out later in August) about two girls, Yuzu and Mei. Yuzu is a well-meaning, big-hearted person who’s into fashion and boys, though she won’t admit to anyone that she’s never had a boyfriend, let alone a first kiss.
When she transfers schools due to her mother’s remarriage, she gets in trouble with the student body president, Mei, for dressing like a delinquent on her first day. Off to a bad start, she makes a friend in Harumin, who does her best to guide Yuzu in the ways of her new school.
Of course, the twist is that Yuzu’s mom’s new husband just happens to be Mei’s dad, so now these instant enemies have to share not just a house and a family, but a bedroom as well. Yuzu had earlier caught Mei’s betrothed, a teacher at her school, forcefully making out with her, and in the process of blabbing about it and assaulting Mei with well-intentioned questions, raises her ire. Allegedly, as it was the “quickest way to shut her up,” Mei kisses Yuzu passionately, and says “That’s what it was like.”
This sends Yuzu’s sense of self spiraling out of control as she has just lost her first kiss to another girl, and before long realizes she’s developing feelings for her. It doesn’t help her understanding any when Harumin tells her, “Even if they’re stuck at an all-girls’ high school, well, hormones are still running high…another girl is better than nothing.”
Mei is a bit of an ice queen, and a total, well, bitch. However, Yuzu quickly learns that it’s a combination of severe daddy issues and the crushing responsibility of working for and attending a school that she will inherit one day that has made Mei the broken woman she is. Yuzu begins slowly breaking down her walls to the best of her ability.
At the end of volume 2, it’s pretty clear that they will eventually form some kind of relationship, but already there are two possible suitors about to get in the way.
Citrus plays lightly with the “sisterly love” taboo, but since they’re unrelated, it’s not really an issue outside of what their parents would expect of them. It’s sexually charged from time to time, though (so far) only partial nudity has been depicted and despite what the covers would suggest, none of the characters have engaged in particularly intense acts (again, so far.)
I adore the art. The character designs are great, really pretty and very expressive. I’ve enjoyed the writing enough to re-read it more than once, and probably will read it again once volume 3 releases. There are some very fun characters here, too. Besides Yuzu and Harumin, Mei’s best friend Momokino and her ridiculous dog Pucchi provide both drama and comedic relief to the story.
There are a couple issues, one being that Yuzu falls for Mei VERY quickly, but I can overlook that. There’s also the question of exactly how Mei’s dad and Yuzu’s mom met and got married when he’s never home, but hopefully that will be explained in a future volume. As I said, this series is currently ongoing.
And that there is my yuri round-up! Thanks for reading!