Friday, June 5, 2009

Yuri Manga: Otome Kikan Gretel volume 1

Otome Kikan Gretel ("Maiden Organization Gretel") by Kaoru Sudoo is like a bag of M&M's- completely devoid of substance, but easy to finish quickly and pretty tasty regardless. Ahem...strange similes aside, this is a fun, light yuri action-comedy from Yuri Hime S, Yuri Hime magazine's sister, err, brother (?) magazine publication aimed at a male demographic.

The protagonist is Yuu, a girl who transfers to the prestigious all-girls' Saint Millefeuille Academy that she expects to be a rarefied, very yuri-riffic Lillian-clone. She's half right. After being shown around the school and randomly kissed by a student named Nagi, Yuu finds that the school is being attacked by sugar-eating monsters called Forniks. The students who inhabit Yuu's school are witches who fight the Forniks with magical powers called "aube" and prevent them from depleting the world's sugar supply (*snort*) by fighting them with their powers. Yuu's aube is "Copy", the ability to wield the aube belonging to whoever she exchanges body fluids with (read: whoever she kisses). Cue the yuri-charged magical battles, as Yuu teams up with the constantly flirtatious Nagi (who uses "Gigantic Aube" that gives her super strength) and hot-headed, pudding-obsessed Mariya (who uses "Operator Flame Aube" that gives her the ability to summon and control fire) to become a competent and cohesive Fornik-fighting team.

Gretel feels like the love child of Mai Hime and Strawberry Panic- in other words, it sells itself on brainless action and yuri service galore. And surprisingly, it works. ^^ The premise is silly, but it isn't trying or pretending to be anything more than it is. The charm for me partially lies in the characters: Yuu seems like she's going to be the ingenuous babe in the woods "little sister" protagonist found in most girls' school yuri series, but after the pristine image of her new school blows to smithereens, she reveals herself as an unapologetically frank, down-to-earth character (well, especially next to Nagi and Mariya) who doesn't mind Nagi's (or any other girl's) attention one bit- heck, she enjoys it. Nagi is the obligatory busty service-character, but she knows it and enjoys good-naturedly flirting with others- unlike most fan service characters, she seems to be in control of her sexuality instead of a naive victim of it, which is kind of refreshing. And Mariya obviously provides a foil to Nagi- while she is a hothead, she is much more reticent when it comes to expressing her feelings for Yuu, which seem to be developing shortly before the end of the volume. (Nagi doesn't really seem to be in love with Yuu- she's just having fun. ^^;;) Maybe I'm over-analyzing it. The characters are still shallow, but whatever. lol

Gretel's second primary asset is that Sudoo paces it briskly, making it a read that one can easily finish in one sitting.

The art is good. Not superb, but it tells the story well, conveys the action scenes well, and generally works well for the series.

Again, I know that the premise is incredibly stupid, but it makes for some entertaining light reading. I can't wait to see how the war of the kick-butt all-girls' school versus the sugar monsters resolves. ^^ lol

Story: C
Art: B
Overall: B

If I weren't a yuri fan, I probably wouldn't enjoy this series nearly as much. -_-;; Thankfully, I can appreciate this fine B-movie story to its fullest. ^^

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