Sunday, April 19, 2009
Before I start this review, I want to thank my super-cool fellow Japanophile and college classmate Sara for lending me her copy of this manga. Thank you for contributing to the cause, Sara. I would fain own this title myself, but by the time I tried to buy it online, it was out of print (and I still can't find it... ;_; Why, Yuri Hime?!).
Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo (or Kisses [more literally translated as Lips, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink) by Milk Morinaga is an adorably girly volume of yuri one-shots, only two of which feature the same protagonists, fan favorite couple Nana and Hitomi (seen in the picture above). The unifying theme of this collection is that the main characters of each story attend the same all-girl's high school. While the stories vary somewhat in quality, from the dizzying romantic heights of Even If We're Not Friends and If I Kiss Her Ring Finger to the comparatively so-so one-sided love that goes nowhere in This Love From I Can't Remember When, the entire volume as a whole makes for a very enjoyable light reading experience, and a must-read for yuri fans.
While Morinaga does a good job crafting the stories in this volume (aided by the protagonists of the different one-shots briefly appearing in each other's stories), being in the format that it is, Kuchibiru lacks the cohesion, immersive worldbuilding, and more painstakingly developed characterization found in Morinaga's ongoing monthly serialized manga, Girl Friends, which fans of Girl Friends may notice. On the plus side, Kuchibiru cuts through the thicket of its characters' emotions and misunderstandings in a far more speedy fashion, providing the satisfying romantic resolutions that impatient readers are still hopefully anticipating in Girl Friends. I normally don't compare two titles by the same mangaka too much when evaluating each, but since most people who have read Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo read it before reading Girl Friends (as I originally did), I should acknowledge how one may view this title in retrospect after reading Morinaga's later work. One of the key differences between the two titles is that in KTS, the characters exist as vehicles to drive the romance, while in Girl Friends, the romance exists as a vehicle to move the characters forward, if that makes any sense. ^^;;
As for the art, the character designs are pretty and cute, and Morinaga conveys moods and emotions adeptly. The layouts, while not especially inventive, aren't tediously conventional or overly crowded either, and they allow the story (err- stories) to flow smoothly without distracting from one's reading experience at all. Morinaga's use of layouts on certain key pages sometimes produce an especially lovely visual effect.
Although the characters in this manga do a lot of reflecting, this isn't by any means a deeply introspective work, but a fun, enjoyable, light shoujo romance collection that one can reread without detracting from one's overall enjoyment. It's like a slice of homemade chocolate cake- not terribly substantive, but very satisfying, comforting, and sweet.
Milk Morinaga created two more stories in Yuri Hime magazine that aren't printed in this volume (Chocolate Kiss Kiss and Wishing on the Moon) that star the protagonists of Even If We're Not Friends and If I Kiss Her Ring Finger. I hope they get published in tankoubon format someday, since they're delightful stories that really deserve to be printed outside of their respective issues of Yuri Hime magazine. (Maybe include them in a second deluxe printing of this collection, Ichijinsha? ^^ *hint hint*)