Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yuri Manga: 12 Days (English)

June Kim's 12 Days is so *different* from most yuri manga that, despite the morbid subject matter (or perhaps because of it?), it’s a refreshing title to read that feels, in many ways, more like a novel translated into comic form than a “typical manga” created to squeeze dollars out of manga fans. Even though I’ve read several good reviews of it, I was (and I’m sure other people still are) reluctant to read it for a while because the story sounds…rather depressing. But I’m glad I read it.

12 Days is about Jackie, a young woman living in New York City whose girlfriend Noah recently died in a car accident. Noah died on the way home from her honeymoon after marrying a man in order to satisfy her conservative father. In the present, Jackie is trying to cope with her grief by drinking a portion of Noah’s ashes (which Noah’s half-brother Nick secretly brings to her) in a smoothie each day for twelve days. At the end of those twelve days, she hopes to be rid of her grief.

12 Days is very good. Anybody who wants to read a yuri manga available in English that depicts a fairly realistic adult same-sex relationship sans gender-switching sci-fi weirdness, wacky sword duels (as much as I enjoy sword duels in my yuri…you all know which series I’m talking about ^_^), all-girls’ schools, or miko rape should give this series a look.

Rather than a story set up with a clear beginning, middle, and end for the reader, 12 Days feels like a brief glimpse into the lives of a group of people whose stories continue beyond the limit of the pages, especially as the events of the present frequently melt into memories of the past, for better or worse, for the different characters. However, as impossible as it is not to sympathize with Jackie and Noah, after I finished reading this, I wasn't left with much of a lasting impression of the characters. They’re nearly all likeable and they do serve as vehicles for a very viscerally affecting story, but they mostly remain just that- vehicles.

The art is extremely good. Drawn by June Kim, a Korean-born OEL manga artist who lives in New York, the art is largely colored in stark blacks and whites, with little gray, and done in a realistic-ish style that looks josei-influenced. Backgrounds are excellent and detailed in their depiction of the characters’ surroundings (especially in New York), and I appreciated Kim’s frequent yet unobtrusive punctuations of (often black) humor throughout the story. The quality of the volume itself is excellent, with the elaborate cover illustration outlined with silver etchings, and an interesting author's bibliography in the back of the book that illustrate the influences that went into making 12 Days.

Art: A-
Story: B+
Overall: B+

With this, I’ve covered nearly all of Tokypop’s yuri releases, with 12 Days currently being unquestionably the best one. As much as I love Hayate x Blade and am thrilled that it seems to be doing well- at least well enough for Seven Seas to continue printing new volumes- , I would love to see a U.S. publisher take a chance with a new series like Sasameki Koto, which I could see appealing to more casual manga fans who don't normally follow yuri than titles like First Love Sisters, The Last Uniform, or Strawberry Panic. I’m still holding out hope that Hayate x Blade will pave the way for yuri fan favorite Strawberry Shake Sweet to be released here. (It’s only 2 volumes long!!! ;_; Come on, manga companies!!) But I digress.

For anybody who's still on the fence regarding this title, Tokypop's website actually has the first three chapters up online.


Erin said...

I enjoyed 12 Days as well, despite the depressing plot.

I've heard that a license of Strawberry Shake Sweet is unlikely due to the artist's own wishes, but who knows?

Katherine said...

@ Erin- Ah, I do remember reading that elsewhere now. I don't understand why Hayashiya wouldn't want SSS published in North America (especially considering that Hayate x Blade is already here), but I'm still maintaining a small, burning flame of hope that A) that isn't really the case, or B) she'll change her mind.

Erica Friedman said...

Seven Seas confirms this. The creator does not want it published in English. Why? Because it was work for hire and she wasn't happy with it, or there's some lingering emotion associated with it that makes her uncomfortable or she's embarrassed by it or something else. There's many reasons why a creator might not want a piece reproduced.

Katherine said...

@ Erica- Thanks for the clarification. Whatever Hayashiya's reasons are for not wanting Strawberry Shake Sweet published in English, I should respect them. I'm still glad that she created SSS in the first place, since it's one of my favorite manga titles.