Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yuri Manga: Yuri Monogatari 6 (English)

I wasn't able to get a larger cover picture than this... -_-;;

For my final Josei Week review (although certainly not the last josei review I will post here), I'm reviewing a brand spanking new English translated (well, partly translated and partly OEL) yuri manga, Yuri Monogatari 6.

Yuri Monogatari is a yuri anthology published annually containing manga one-shots by Japanese artists and OEL "world" artists. This is the first one I've read, so I can't compare it to previous volumes. Anthologies are always somewhat difficult to review because they're a mixed bag by nature, although my opinion on the various stories contained here varies dramatically. I'll briefly go over each story.

"Grass" and "Make a style" by Nishi UKO: This is a good way to begin the volume. "Grass" and "Make a style" are both slice-of life vignettes giving a peek into the lives of two female high school teachers who are in a committed relationship together. The art is clean and realistic (by manga standards), and the laid-back tone reminded me a little of Akiko Morishima's The Conditions for Paradise. Setting aside the fact that I really like seeing yuri teacher romances that don't involve students (which are all too rare, unfortunately... hell, I'm still in college and I wouldn't consider dating a high schooler, so I have a hard time empathizing with a teacher finding one appealing), my main caveat is that I wish that "Grass" and "Make a style" were longer, so that they could expand on the characters' personalities more.

"40 Minutes" by Maria Bieganska: This story stands out in this anthology for its delicately low-key fantasy plot. "40 Minutes" is about a woman searching for her lost love in what appears to be the afterlife, but the ending throws in a plot complication that I didn't expect. While the art is occasionally a little inconsistent, Bieganska does a good job of conveying the melancholy aesthetic that carries the story. When much of YM6 consists of uber-tough women doing uber-tough things, and/or happily-ever-after romance, this understated love story that evokes a feeling of mono no aware (an awareness of the transience of something, and a bittersweet sadness at its passing) provides a refreshing balance.

"Sakura Gun (London)" by J.D. Glass: Unfortunately, this was probably my least favorite of the stories in YM6. As someone who hasn't read American Goth, which this story is supposed to be tied to, I wasn't able to follow what was what. The storytelling wasn't terribly complex, but it was told in such a way that it seemed like the reader is expected to know who's who and why one should care about them. (At least the Matsukaze reference was a nice touch.) Plus, the art was terrible. Proportions were wonky, and as a whole, the character drawings looked like something that anybody could have drawn using a Microsoft art program.

"Cause x Play" by Hope Donovan: A decent but unremarkable story of cosplay and gender identity at a yuri convention. The premise sounds promising, but it gets muddled by a convoluted beginning and an overly preachy, saccharine ending.

"Miho-chan's Memories" by Rica Takashima: As usual from Takashima, this was a cute, funny, surprisingly self-contained one chapter spin-off from Rica'tte Kanji?! visiting Miho's childhood and an early (maybe her first?) crush. While I was a little concerned that the story might be overly-correlating Miho's tomboy personality with the fact that she is gay, this story is sweet and good-natured enough that it's easy to overlook. I'm looking forward to the next installment in Takashima's manga.

"Jaded" by Cheryl Ingro (Story) and Sirkrozz (Art): The idea for the story is pretty snazzy (two women involved in crime gang wars), but the execution doesn't really live up to it. The resolution towards the ending in particular came across as anti-climactic, and the art ranged from quite good to way overly sketchy. Movements, especially, could have been drawn better at key times. It isn't bad and the ending is cute, but it isn't very good, either.

"For the Girl Who Has Everything" by Althea Keaton: This story definitely wasn't what I expected based on the title. Even though it is well executed, I couldn't really get into it. The premise just doesn't do much for me (woman who frequents a sex shop gets together with a woman who works at the sex shop). The very end was cute, and I'm sure that plenty of people will get more out of it than I did, but... I didn't personally like it much. That happens.

"Sinful" by Houjou Koz: This was a charming music-centric story about a singer and her girlfriend, and the high school-aged groupie who crushes on the singer from a distance. It was short, sweet, and simple, with a cute ending. ^^ There isn't much more to say. The art is clean and simple, but not overly so.

(Un)Invited Guests by Jessie B: This is the most unequivocally non-manga emulating OEL story in the anthology. Assuming that one doesn't mind that, the art is pretty good, with few inconsistencies and a completely unsentimental, bold-lined style (no softly blushing cheeks or flower imagery here) that does a good job at conveying this non sequitur comedy about the birthday party from hell. (Hint: It's chock full of exes.) It isn't brilliant, but it's entertaining.

Simple by Sophia Kudo: Good characters, so-so story. The protagonist's Sei Satou-like best friend, especially, would have been an interesting character to create a story around, but the main plot (girl with low self-esteem discovers untapped superpower) was pretty "meh" to me. The art was fine, but it mostly didn't rise above mediocre.

Speak Love by Greyscaled: A mature, bittersweet story about a couple's therapist who discovers that her lover has been using her as the "other woman" when said lover and her original girlfriend come to her for help to save their relationship. Not quite. -_-;; The story is actually told from the point of view of the cheating a----le, who did not get the ending that I felt that she deserved. Setting that caveat aside, this was pretty good, especially considering that it evoked some strong sympathy from me for the two women who were two-timed. (The therapist got the better deal in the end, imo.)

"3oth Christmas" by Eriko Tadeno: Honestly, this is probably my favorite story in YM6. This O. Henry-like story follows an elderly couple celebrating their 30th anniversary on Christmas Eve, with one of them planning to buy her wife a ring (being in Japan, they can't legally marry, but I think that "partner" sounds a little weird... I associate the word with people who I work on school projects with... ^^;; the characters are basically married) to celebrate, using money that she's saved over the past ten years. Outside the jewelry shop where she wants to buy the ring, she gets robbed of her money and tries to get it back in time to buy the ring for the anniversary. The art is fairly typical josei style without being generic, and some of the facial expressions are adorable. ^^ This is just a super-cute story with a clear beginning, middle, and end, while still maintaining a sense of continuity in the character's lives.

Story: Variable from D to A.
Art: Variable from D- to B+
Overall: Variable from D- to A...I guess that for an all around grade, I'll go with B

Like a box of randomly assorted chocolates, there are a few stories that I really like, a few stories that are okay, and a few stories that I don't care for in YM6, as with virtually any manga anthology. Keeping that in mind, it's a solid pick for yuri fans, especially those who want something different from the norm.


Erin said...

Thanks for the review! "30th Christmas" was my favorite as well.

You should pick up YM5 if you get the chance--I think you'd like it. Nishi UKO's story is about those same teachers.

Hiroki said...

Hi I am Hiroki.

Do you remember me.

I taught you about meaning of this word "boke".

Your review is really good and well known about Yuri.

I am looking forward to talk again.

Katherine said...

@ Erin- Being a hardcore collector, I'll probably get all of the Yuri Monogatari volumes (at least from YM3 on), but it's nice to know that Nishi UKO writes about the same two teachers in YM5. :) Thanks for the tip!

@ Hiroki- Yes, I remember you from our earlier forum conversation. Thanks for the compliments! :)