Sunday, December 14, 2008

Criticism of Cliches: Girl's School Vs. Non-Girl's School Yuri

(Listening to "Sensitive" by KOTOKO.)

Yesterday Erica Friedman was kind enough to point out on her Okazu blog that a new movie adaptation of the old yuri classic manga Sakura no Sono (that I'd never heard about before yesterday) is being made, and she even provided links to the trailers for what seems to be an older movie adaptation, which was creepy as heck (not what anybody's looking for in a romance movie, no? It reminded me of a freaky movie that was made in the early 90's that I had to watch in gym class, at the high school that I studied abroad at in Japan), and a trailer for the new movie adaptation, which looked good enough to be worth checking out.

However, my mostly apathetic reaction to the movie trailer made me realize... just how sick I am of the "all girl's school" subgenre of yuri anime and manga, even though Maria-sama ga Miteru is still one of my favorite series (not only because of its excellent writing and character development, but it was the cause, not a result, of the influx of "all girl's yuri" series that have been created en masse in the past few years; it's like what Tenchi Muyo is to the harem genre) and I like Strawberry Panic (not just because it, along with Marimite, was one of the first "all girl's school" series I watched, it also doesn't take itself too seriously). But seriously, to the mangaka and anime story writers who are involved in making series with yuri: think of something new. Don't fall back on a setting/plot vehicle that's getting as trite as the "loser guy meets a hot goddess/chobit/robot/vampire/alien/whatever and she falls for him because he's 'nice'" idea. To back up my criticism, here's a list of every anime and manga with significant yuri, set at at an all-girl's school (not in any special order) that I can think of off the top of my head:

1.Shiroi Heya no Futari by Ryoko Yamagishi
2.Oniisama E... by Riyoko Ikeda
3.Aoi Hana by Shimura Takako
4.Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo (or in English, the more Harlequin-sounding title "Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink") by Milk Morinaga
5.Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga (She loves those girl's schools.)
6.Maria-sama ga Miteru (manga version's story by Konno Oyuki (author of the light novels) and art by Satoru Nagasawa.)
7.Strawberry Panic (manga version's story by Sakurako Kimino (author of the light novels) and art by Namuchi Takumi.)
8.Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru (it pains me to include this one)
9.Blue Drop (the anime version, made as a prelude to the manga by Yoshitomi Akihito that I've only read one chapter of)
10.Hatsukoi Shimai (story by Mako Komao, art by Mizuo Shinonome, and design (whatever that means, exactly) by Reine Hibiki)
11.The Last Uniform by Mera Hakamada
12.Hayate X Blade by Shizuru Hayashiya (which at least distinguishes itself by not taking itself too seriously, and making the school a setting for sword-fight matches students need to win to move up in rank, instead of being another meandering slice-of-life story.)
13.Sakura no Sono by Akimi Yoshida
14.Shoujo Sect (manga version by by Ken Kurogane)
15.Candy Boy
16.Hanjuku Joshi by Morishima Akiko
17.Applause by Kyouko Ariyoshi (only volume 1)
Etc, etc, etc.

My-Otome could also, debatably, be included on this list, although it goes far and beyond in creating a plot that doesn't rely on the "girl's school" draw, and including male characters who play meaningful roles (unlike the school in Strawberry Panic, which seems to have some sort of invisible barrier that bars anybody with a Y chromosome from entering). And Gokujou Seitokai contains one canon yuri character, and some nudge-nudge wink-wink humor poking fun at how some yuri is expected in a girl's school series (like the paya-paya episode). Heck, even Girl's High, which is probably the most accurate anime depiction of what an all-girl's school is like, pokes fun at the "all-girl's school" yuri subgenre a few times.

On that note, this past week I re-watched the first 2 episodes of Kannazuki no Miko (that's all I had time for), and found that I enjoyed it a lot more than I did the last time I tried watching the first two episodes. Although it doesn't reach the stellar level of writing and storytelling achieved by Simoun (an excellent yuri sci-fi/fantasy that isn't set at an all-girl's school either ^^ ), it feels like a breath of fresh air to watch a yuri anime set at a co-ed school, with a real plot. (Two shinto priestesses representing the sun and moon must be continuously reincarnated together to seal away the evil god Orochi each time it begins reviving, and of course there's more to it...) But I'm looking forward to watching more over winter break, and finding what my impression is at the end. (Since the ending used to make me cry, or at least tear up every time I watched it. ^^;;) In fact, I'll make a list off anime and manga with significant yuri that aren't set at an all-girl's school (again, in no particular order):

1.Simoun (manga version by Hayase Hashiba)
2.Kannazuki no Miko (manga version by Kaishaku; the anime is a lot better)
3.Strawberry Shake Sweet by Shizuru Hayashiya
4.Sasamekikoto by Takashi Ikeda (with over 3 volumes published, and still running strong! XD )
5.The Devil Lady
6.Read or Die television series (barely makes it, though)
8.Revolutionary Girl Utena (manga by Chiho Saito; silly me, how could I include it this late? ^^;;)
9.Sailor Moon (manga version by Naoko Takeuchi)
10.Azumanga Daioh (also stretching it, since it's only one side character, but the yuri is hilarious enough to be noteworthy)
11.Ameiro Koucha Kandan ("The Amber Teahouse") by Miyabi Fujieda (my favorite manga by him so far! ^^)
12.The Miko's Words and the Witch's Incantations by Miyabi Fujieda
13.Iono-sama Fanatics by Miyabi Fujieda
14.Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito
15.Kashimashi (manga version's story by Satoru Akahori and art by Yukimaru Katsura)
16.Love My Life by Yamaji Ebine
17.Free Soul by Yamaji Ebine
18.Indigo Blue by Yamaji Ebine (I haven't read this one at all yet; I like all of Ebine's yuri manga, although I wish she would create a story that lasted for more than one volume)
19.Miyuki-chan in Wonderland by CLAMP (but does it really count if it's a trippy version of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland populated entirely by female nymphomaniacs?)
20.Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP (really stretching it)
21.Puni Puni Poemy (the protagonist's best friend Futaba, who is a very blatant parody of CCS's Tomoyo)
22.Hyakko (only for Nene, another side character who, unlike Azumanga Daioh's Kaorin, isn't that funny)
23.Transistor ni Venus by Izumi Takemoto (I haven't read much, but what I read so far made for fun reading; it's about a female spy named April living in the year 2269.)
24.Rica'tte Kanji by Rika Takashima (the main character does attend a women's college in Tokyo, but it isn't the focus at all)
25.Applause by Kyouko Ariyoshi (volumes 2 through 4)
26.Maya no Souretsu ("Maya's Funeral Procession") by Yukari Ichijou
27.Mnemosyne (which I've seen through episode 3, but personally wouldn't recommend)
28.Moonlight Flowers by Tsukumo Mutsumi (which I wouldn't recommend, because I don't like how it portrays all of its male characters negatively, and raises women by comparison on a ridiculously self-righteous pedestal. "Bah," is all I can say to that. I've met as many women as men who I consider asinine and obnoxious. -_-).
27.Shibuya District, Maruyama Neighborhood: After School by Mari Okazaki (Random comment: I feel more compelled to read or watch stories that feature Shibuya. ^^)
28.Creo the Crimson Crises by Takewakamaru (Can you say "lesbian Oh My Goddess" meets "Meru Puri"? I thought that this was "awesome" stuff when I read the first chapter in Yuri Hime. Even though, like OMG and Meru Puri, I see through the vicarious wish fulfillment elements like Saran wrap (as Zac Bertschy put it in his review of Meru Puri), it's still a cute series, from what I've read so far. Recommended for anybody looking for a light fantasy/comedy yuri manga with pretty, "flowy" art. ^^ Heh, and here I was criticizing the magical girfreind subgenre earlier in this post... ^^;; *hypocrite*)
29.Etc,etc,etc. (A one-shot I would highly recommend by an author who hasn't been mentioned so far here is, "Snowflakes Fluttering Down Through the Clear Sky" by Himawari Souya, which has already been scanlated by Lililicious.)

This second list as a whole makes me feel more positive now, even (or especially) after removing the crappy/non-recommended titles and the titles that only have one minor yuri side character. ^^

Edit (Added the next morning at 11:37 a.m.):
An unrelated question: Why doesn't one ever hear the term "magical boyfriend" used to describe an anime or manga? I can think of several series that would technically qualify as "magical girlfriend" if the genders were reversed, like Hino Matsuri's Meru Puri (Airi/Aram and every other magical guy vying for her affections) and Vampire Knight (Yuuki/Kaname and Zero; brilliantly subverts the "magical boyfriend" dynamic later on though... ^^ Heh, my bias is showing again. ^^;;); Yuu Watase's Fushigi Yuugi (Miaka/Tamahome and Hotohori), Ayashi no Ceres (Aya/Tooya), and Absolute Boyfriend (Riiko/Night); Arina Tanemura's Full Moon o Sagashite (Mitsuki/Takuto); Pretear (Himeno/Hayate, Sasame/?; manga version's story by Junichi Sato and art by Kaori Naruse); and even, arguably, Rumiko Takahashi's Inu Yasha (Kagome/you-know-who).

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