Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Yuri Gem From The Past: Butt Attack Punisher Girl Gautaman OVA

Short review:
Wtf. o_O;

Longer Review:
This 2 episode OVA is one obscure little piece of crap. Created during the terrible-OVA boom of the early 90’s, Butt Attack Punisher Girl Gautaman cobbles together nearly every imaginable puerile fan service idea (pre-Moe Era) into one hallucinatory, B-movie package. The story: Mari Amachi is a stupid loveably ditzy, devout Catholic high school girl who transfers to a private school in which students who practice all faiths are brought together to learn how to live in peace. There she befriends Saori, her motorcycle-riding tomboy roommate who is voiced by Miki Itou (Sachiko in Maria-sama ga Miteru), who begins developing some more than friendly feelings for Mari.

When an evil cult called the Black Buddha gang kidnaps Saori, Mari receives unexpected aid from Luna the Buddha,

who enables her to transform into Butt Attack Punisher Girl Gautaman, a sumo belt-wearing defender of truth, love, and justice in the name of the moon Buddha! After saving Saori, Mari must continue to lead a double life and do sentai-style battle with the minions of the Black Buddha cult—the leader of whom is an evil bishounen with terrible 80’s hair,

who develops feelings for Mari while swearing to kill Gautaman.

Due to (abysmally) low expectations, I enjoyed Butt Attack Punisher Girl Gautaman as the cracktastic OVA that it is (one of Gautaman's adversaries is Darth Vader- renamed "Dark Vader" here- as a sumo wrestler, for the love of God!!).

*snort* Ahem... ^^;

And yes, the "Butt Attack" portion of the title comes from Mari/Gautaman knocking her opponents out a couple of times by slamming her butt against them and leaving a butt-print. This is stupid, crass comedy at its goofiest and most unapologetic, and it actually worked for me during the first OVA. It helped that there was a small pinch of surprisingly decent, non-servicey yuri (non-servicey for this title, at least).

But while the sequel OVA, Butt Attack Punisher Girl Gautaman R, still had its entertaining moments (the best scene being Gautaman's showdown with the Terminator in the end)

it wasn't as (stupidly) enjoyable as the first OVA. The service became more...blagh, and the yuri became more servicey, period. Saori's now very Tamao-like attraction to Mari remains one-sided, even though they have one last decent (for this OVA) moment towards the end.

And thus the story ends with Mari having completed her mission of defeating Darth Vader, a squad of ninja-octopi, her bishounen admirer, and the Terminator. The end.

Story: Wtf
Art: D (Crappy, inconsistent early 90’s art.)
Overall: Who cares?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Idiotic/Senseless Fan Rant (Now updated with an extra dash of fangirling.)

YES!!! THIS is exactly what I want for CANAAN promo art, Newtype!!!!!!!!! (See the second half of yesterday's post.)

(Other anime magazines should also take note. ;-) )

I just found the picture above on Anime Paper, and it encompasses exactly what I want to see more of. Non-moe women with guns!!! I have no idea which magazine it's from, but kudos to them! (Unless it's Megami or Nyantype magazines, to which I would say: It's about time they had something good!)

Anyway, I'm just posting this exceptionally appealing CANAAN pic here for anybody else who might like it. ^^ (Although chiefly so that I could geek out over it.)

Oh, and massive props to Newtype for including a "girl x girl relationships" special in the September issue! ^_^ I'll be sure to write effusively about it as soon as I get it.

On an extra note, tomorrow I'll be posting a review of a long-buried anime obscure treasure (*cough*), that is so unbelievably terrible, it's incredibly entertaining. ^^

And even though it's unrelated, only 1 more week until I go back to college!! W00t!! (Yes, freak that I am, I enjoy returning to school, especially after a long vacation. :) )

Next Day Update:

I just watched episode 9 of CANAAN!! OMFG, it was great!! XD Yaaaay, for more on Yunyun, Natsume, and Hakko's backgrounds! ^^ There wasn't much to work with for Maria x Canaan, but this episode had everything else in spades. Helicopter fights!! Gun fights!! Hakko even fighting...sort of!! And I can't be the only person who thought of Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei when Alphard told Canaan, "Your Despair." The only real moment of stupidity was when Maria said that she didn't think Alphard was the sort of person who would mastermind the Ua virus attack on the village. ...Really, Maria? Based on what you've seen, you don't think she's capable of that? o_o; Plus, letting Liang and Cummings live after threatening to kill them (and shooting at Liang from a helicopter) is probably Alphard's biggest mistake ever. Additionally...

Alphard seems to like pinning Canaan down an awful lot. Just sayin'. Of course, I'm still all for Canaan x Maria!! ^^ Really....


Screw it. I like Canaan x Maria as the adorable, snuggly, much more viable "couple", and Canaan x Alphard as the massively dysfunctional, never-going-to-happen-yet-they-still-intrigue-me slash pair. It provides a nice balance. :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Special Aoi Hana Edition of Manga Erotics F Magazine Coming September 4! ^ ^

Yay/ack!! Another item to add to my next bundle of Amazon Japan goods!! The September issue of Manga Erotics F, the bimonthly manga magazine that serializes Aoi Hana, is currently up for pre-order, and this issue is going to be a "special edition" Aoi Hana issue with some bonus Aoi Hana-related content.

Plus, according to the Aoi Hana website, it looks like they're releasing an Aoi Hana official guidebook, with a ton of neat-looking content- like interviews with the animation staff, voice cast, and Takako Shimura herself, along with a comic essay by Shimura-sensei, anime art, Aoi Hana illustrations by Shimura, a "guide to Fujigaya" (not Matsuoka? o_o I guess because Fujigaya is the more rarefied, "elite" school of the two...), a side story comic, etc.

*squeals* I love the cover picture of Fumi and Akira!! ^^

At first, I thought that the guidebook was going to be part of the special Aoi Hana issue of Manga Erotics F, but it's listed as having a separate price (1280 yen), so... whenever it's coming out, it's going in the cart also. ^^;; (It hasn't appeared on Amazon JP yet- for some reason, Amazon Japan doesn't list items up for pre-order until just over a week or so before they're due for release.) Edit on 08/29: The Aoi Hana guidebook is set for release on September 4 also.

Additionally, I got the August issue of Newtype in the mail today! ^_^ (The Japanese version; Akadot doesn't have the September issue in yet.) I ordered it partly for the K-On! and Sengoku Basara posters that I want to use for the dorm, and partly for the articles about series I'm especially interested in- like CANAAN (Two pithy suggestions for the editors of Newtype: Include some CANAAN posters!! And try avoiding any more solo pictures of Liang Qi for your future CANAAN articles- I don't really care to see her in the bathtub, even though I'm sure that plenty of your readers do- how about Maria and Canaan just looking yuri-ish cute together,

or Alphard looking yuri-ish badass while facing off against Canaan again?

Granted, she looks far more homicidal than yuri-ish in this picture- but it works! (^^)b

), the second season of Kuroshitsuji (I didn't think that there was any room for a second season when the first season ended, but if they can come up with new material, then yay!! ^^ I'm looking forward to some more over-the-top faux-yaoi Victorian demonic-bishonen angst!), K-On!, Haruhi Suzumiya (now that Endless Eight has finally run its course), FMA: Brotherhood, and Evangelion 2.0: You Are (Not) Alone. Plus, now I have a little gashapon-like figurine of Mari from Rebuild of Evangelion! ^^ It's much easier to assemble/keep standing upright than the previous gashapon I've assembled- either it's exceptionally well-made, or I'm just not very good at assembling figures. ^^; lol

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yuri Manga: Sasameki Koto volume 2- Advent of the Yuri Otaku

These past two days, I'd been on my family's annual summer trip to Key West. It was a lot of fun!! ^^ (Although, for the first time, I felt a little lame next to the other young adults who were there to live it up instead of traveling with family. -_-;) The last time I was there, I went to the local Gay and Lesbian Community Center for advice on how to come out to my best friend without alienating her. (Spoiler: I didn't. Alienate her, that is; although by the time I half-walked, half-ran to the G&LCC from my family's hotel, it was closed.) On that note (loosely)...

Sasameki Koto volume 2 is a delightful medley of summer fun at the beach/pool/annual GL festival/omatsuri, romantic hijinks between Sumi, Ushio, and Sumi's growing network of admirers (while, of course, Sumi only has eyes for Ushio), and more otaku humor than you can shake a stick at.

The first chapter of this volume wraps up the Masaki Akemiya arc, in which Masaki's freaky little sister coerces Sumi into going on a pity-date with him- the best part of the date is easily the ending, when Sumi runs into the stereotypical creepy otaku who Masaki's sister hired so that Masaki could save Sumi from them, and in a delicious round of irony, Sumi pwns them XD and they go for Masaki instead (and of course, Sumi saves him). (Hands-down best line: "We're supposed to admire the third dimension without touching it!")

Next is the arc that introduces Azusa Aoi, a yuri otaku obsessed with the shoujo yuri light novels written by Konno Oyuki Orino Masaka, who Aoi imagines as a lovely, mysterious female writer who lives in a beautiful house surrounded by flowers- when it's really Ushio's brother, living in a messy, cramped apartment. :) (Ushio pantomimes the best line in the entire volume: "You don't understand the way fans think, Sumi-chan! The pure passion of teenagers can transform into negative energy all too easily." Too true. lol) While Aoi becomes smitten with Sumi, and ropes her into attending Yuri-Fes together, a jealous Ushio must keep enough distance so that Aoi doesn't discover Orino Masaka's real identity, while Sumi tries her damnedest to spend time with Ushio. In the last chapter (after Aoi's story ends), Sumi gets her wish when she leaves to visit her extended family for two days, but because of one thing after another, isn't able to contact Ushio. For the first time, Ushio makes the initiative and goes to the town where Sumi is and they just barely miss each other- but not for long. ^_^

This series is so close to absolute-win at this point. Even though we've seen manga stories in which the characters go to the pool/beach (which is hilariously subverted in chapter 10)/festival a thousand and one times, Sasameki Koto keeps it fresh and funny throughout this volume- although it doesn't become 100% fabulous until the next volume, which gives the series more focus and shakes up the status quo between Ushio and Sumi.

As an extra note, I can't help dissecting what Takashi Ikeda was trying to say with the "Orino Masaka" parody. It could merely be a simple parody, but it also seems like a pointed (if humorous) critique of how much value some manga fans put on their "image" of the mangaka, as opposed to solely judging a story on its merits- particularly female yuri fans, who have had to overcome the hoary old "this here yuri's s'pposed to be by men, for men" platitude, and might, conversely, exalt a story for being written by a woman (especially if she openly identifies as gay or bi- although I haven't seen any openly bi mangaka, for some reason) and attribute any negative qualities of a story written by a man to his gender- that isn't completely unjustified, but- exactly how much is it justified, and how much should one's perception of an author influence the merit of his or her story? Would we perceive Maria-sama ga Miteru differently if it were written by Noboru Yamaguchi instead of Konno Oyuki, and would Gokujou Drops receive more criticism if it were by, say, Satoru Akahori instead of Mikuni Hazime? But in any serious discussion of a literary work (regardless of its perceived merit), ignoring the author who produced it would be considered beyond idiotic- for example, try writing a paper about The Faerie Queene while ignoring Spenser's religious and political background. I'm taking this way too seriously, lol but it's intriguing to speculate on. Of course, I don't think that I can really, fully pass judgement on this issue in relation to yuri manga, since I live outside of the cultural context in which manga/light novels are created, as well as the context that the primary audience for manga/light novels grow up and live in (Japan)- even though that doesn't necessarily invalidate my commentary, either. :) (I didn't grow up in 16th century England, and that didn't stop me from writing that Faerie Queene paper.)

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

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More Horror(?) Goodness From Ryukishi07

Not yuri-related, but I don't care. Ryukishi07 recently collaborated with fan fave Peach-Pit to release a new "mystery adventure" game called Ōkamikakushi for the Sony PSP console on August 20.

And happily for those of us who like Higurashi and Umineko, this game is being green-lit for an anime adaptation. Since Higurashi's great (within its genre), and Umineko is SO much better now than it was when it began airing, I'm massively excited to see another anime mystery series from the twisted mind that bought us killer moe-girls and corpses stuffed with cookies and candy. :) I have no idea what the plot will be, but I'm not that concerned.

I'm not much of a fan of Peach-Pit. I thought Rozen Maiden was okay, haven't tried Shugo Chara, and as for DearS... currently, I think it's terrible, but... in high school, I thought the anime adaptation was pretty funny- sort of a guilty pleasure for myself and another friend. ^^; (Shaddup.)

The art in Ryukishi07's games, not to mince words, looks like crap,

but the character designs always translate well into anime; I'll kind of miss them, next to Peach-Pit's uber-moe style, but Peach-Pit's art could actually be perfect if Ryukishi07 is going for the "cute characters who kill"-schtick that made Higurashi popular in the first place.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Yuri Manga: Tokimeki Mononoke Jogakuen volume 1

As a kid, I used to be fascinated with "creepy" things like the witch trials, vampire lore, and the origins of Halloween (sacrifices to Samhain, anybody?), so discovering Banana Nangoku's Tokimeki Mononoke Jougakuen (Heart-Pounding Excitement at Mononoke Girls' Academy), a yuri manga drenched in Japanese obake (monster) lore, was a real treat.

Tokimeki begins with Arare, a seemingly normal human girl whose mother is a rain woman (a harmless youkai that causes rain). As Arare cuts through a cemetery on the way to her first day of high school, she gets intercepted by Rokurokubi-sensei (rokurokubi = a youkai with an extra-long neck) who drags Arare to Mononoke Jougakuen, an all-girl's boarding school for youkai. After Arare finds that she can't leave the school, she has to pretend to be a youkai, which involves hiding her belly-button from the other students since real youkai aren't supposed to have one. Two students discover Arare's secret early on and help her fit in- Pero, Arare's roommate who is an aka-name ("filth licker", a youkai that licks, uh, filth in public baths and dilapidated houses), and Kiri, Arare's eventual love interest who is a neko-mata (a youkai that was once a cat, and gained a forked tail after becoming a youkai). Further complicating things, even though Arare and Kiri do fall in love, they can't do a certain sex act because if a human does it with a youkai, said human will become a youkai as well. Crazy stuff, isn't it? ^_^

I don't even need to say that this is one of the more "out-there" manga titles around- within both the yuri genre and the comedy genre. Banana Nagoku has a rich imagination, pulling off some seriously weird, yet hilarious gags- like Arare and Pero's method of making peace with their classmates after Arare gives them a terrible makeup job, or Arare's solution to her classmates asking her to make it rain on the day that they have to run in gym class.

The characters are all likeable, and the camaraderie among the youkai students at Monoke Jougakuen is quite pleasant, compared to the usual snarky rivalries/angst found in many high school shoujo manga (setting aside the threat of what would happen if Arare's belly-button were discovered), especially the different dynamics that appear when Arare interacts with carefree, slightly air-headed Pero versus down-to-earth, reliable Kiri. Kiri and Pero's laid back dispositions also make an amusing contrast with Arare's (normally) understandable confusion and situational blunders in her new setting.

I really like Banana Nangoku's art also. Her characters designs, especially, are an appealing blend of pretty and weird/surreal/eerie, and the physical comedy gags are done with great timing.

With Nangoku's fecund imagination and a cast of likeable characters in a host of funny/weird situations, one would think that Tokimeki would be a fan favorite among Yuri Hime readers on the level of Strawberry Shake Sweet, or Miyabi Fujieda and Akiko Morishima's work. It partly isn't for me because Arare unequivocally isn't "disposed towards yuri" (as Nagoku herself notes at the end of the tankoubon), if you catch my drift. I always look forward to new chapters, but... I prefer my yuri protagonists to be disposed towards yuri. Or at least, not denying disposition towards it. And the forbidden scissoring plot point doesn't work the way, say, a fictional straight couple not being able to do intercourse, would, which is what it feels like it's supposed to. But I still want to see what ultimately happens to Arare and Kiri. (And Rokurokubi-sensei.)

This manga isn't a must-own, but it's still recommended- especially if you want a fun yuri comedy that doesn't rely on gags that have already been done multiple times.

Art: B+
Story: B
Overall: B

Speaking of the supernatural, even though it's 5 days late, Happy Obon! (Obon is a Japanese holiday lasting from August 13-16, in which people honor their dead ancestors and the spirits of the dead are said to return to earth to visit their families. It's my favorite Japanese holiday. ^^)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

To Aru Marimite no Index Yuri Anime Trailer

The website for To Aru Kagaku no Railgun (also known as "A Certain Scientific Railgun", or "The Yuri(ish) Fall 2009 Anime That Isn't Sasameki Koto") now has a trailer streaming on its front page. ^^

After watching it, my impression of this series is still pretty lukewarm, but I'm not writing it off yet without watching it. I like Mikoto, the protagonist, from what I've seen of her in To Aru Majutsu no Index, but nothing else has really piqued my interest.

Maybe I'm growing too cynical, but what with the mishmash of blatantly recycled anime/yuri tropes in the advertising for Railgun- including Mikoto's kouhai squealing "Onee-sama!!" (her nasal, high-pitched voice doesn't help ^^;) and the all-girls' school setting-, watching this trailer is an experience akin to having the show's sponsors breathing down my neck with dollar signs in their eyes, screaming "Hey you!! Yes, you!! You like Maria-sama ga Miteru, don't you? And you like Aoi Hana, right? And Strawberry Panic? And Mai Otome? Well, we've got another series set at an all-girls' school with a light glaze of that 'yuri' you crazy anime fans spend so much money on (aside from those parasite-fans who never pay anything), and we're hoping you'll eat this up, too!! Plus, it has psychics!! And shower scenes!!" This trailer's just terribly easy to pick apart. ^^

I'm open to being pleasantly surprised, however.

Anyway, for now I'm still waiting for a Sasameki Koto trailer! ^^ (And anything indicating a second season of Aoi Hana. *crosses fingers*)

Small update: I've added Nanae Haruno's Double House and Pieta to the list of anime and manga containing college-aged yuri characters, and I've added Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora and Re: Cutey Honey to the new list of anime containing adult yuri characters. (I can't believe I forgot them the first time! o_o;)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Delayed Posting

Augh... darn you, Japanese manga industry, for giving me so much yuri to read and write about!! *shakes fist*

Blast it...

Just kidding. Of course, the more good yuri there is to read, the better! ^^

But I still haven't completed the new list. I underestimated how much time the titles I hadn't yet read (that I'm able to read) would take, but didn't want to burn through them all in one sitting.

I'm tentatively expecting to post the new list later today. ^^;

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Anime Containing Adult Yuri Characters: Version 2.0

I wasn't able to finish listing every single anime and manga containing adult yuri characters today (which is a very good thing, if I look at it optimistically...without thinking about how I'm making soup from stones from some of these series), so I decided to create two new separate lists- one for anime containing adult yuri characters and one for manga containing adult yuri characters. The anime list is the one I'm posting today and the new manga list will go up tomorrow. Again, please feel free to suggest any series I've missed. ^^ I also decided to add pictures of the series listed to make the list more aesthetically appealing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

List of College-Aged Characters Fully Updated! Plus, A Little More On The Sasameki Koto Anime

Now I'll just update the all-around "series with adult yuri characters" list tomorrow. ^^

(It really needs to be updated... @_@;)

Then I'll return to writing more manga reviews/news/mindless drivel about whatever yuri-ish thing catches my eye- I'm also rabidly anticipating the new Sasameki Koto anime trailer that should be out around now. (The people working on SK were hoping to have it ready for Comiket.)

Speaking of Sasameki Koto, the OP will be "Kanashii Hodo Aoku" (悲しいほど青く) and the ED will be "Niji-iro Pocket" (虹色ポケット). I have no idea what they'll sound like, but I have no doubt that they'll both be lovely, being sung by Natsumi Kiyoura. ^^

And as an extra bit of fan-geekery, even though Eiji Suganuma, the director of Sasameki Koto, doesn't have much actual directing experience under his belt, I'm happy to see that Hideyuki Kurata, the scriptwriter for SK, also wrote the script (and was the original creator!) of the Read or Die OAV and TV series, did the screenplays for Kamichu!, Now and Then, Here and There (which I haven't seen yet, -_-; although it's been very highly praised), and Kannagi (cute show, although I don't care for it as much as many people seem to), and wrote the scripts for Excel Saga, the Hellsing OAV series, and Battle Athletes Victory (haven't seen this one either, although it's supposed to be a "classic" yuri sports title that's gotten good buzz). Of course, Suganuma and Kurata both have Takashi Ikeda's awesome source material to work from!! XD

Friday, August 14, 2009

Yuri Lists Under Construction

Today I've updated the list I posted of anime and manga containing college-aged yuri characters (courtesy of Erin's excellent suggestions), although I haven't filled in descriptions for the last several titles- I will tomorrow after I finish reading them. I'll also update my list of yuri anime and manga containing adult yuri characters, and finish that up a.s.a.p.

In the meantime, it's good to be back home! ^^

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Blog on Hiatus While Traveling!!

I'm leaving at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow (ugh) for a 5 day trip to Boston (yay!), so I won't be able to post here from tomorrow through Friday. After that, I'll be back in business.

As an aside- I won't be going to the beach on this trip, so the picture above isn't terribly relevant, but it looks vacation-y. ^^

Anime and Manga Including College-Aged Yuri Characters

This list is about a nice within a niche within a niche, but I really wanted to make it anyway. ^^ Enjoy!

The characters in this list don't necessarily need to be matriculated in college. Whether a young adult has just left home to attend college or to start full-time work, she will usually be dealing with the same issues: "What do I really want to do with my life?", "Am I on the right path?", "This microwaved dinner tastes terrible...", and other such coming-of-age questions. (Take that with a grain of salt- I'm assuming this based on my own limited experiences. ^^;) So, basically, characters who are definitely in the "traditional student" college age range and/or in college- e.g. a 23-24 year-old college senior who took a year or two to pass the college exams, or an 18-19 year-old studying to pass the entrance exams, could count.


Maria-sama ga Miteru (seasons 2-4)- Sei, Youko, and Eriko reappear a few times after they graduate, with Sei majoring in Comparative lit at Lillian women's university (yay, women's colleges! ^^ It's extra-cool to me since I attend a women's college.), Eriko attending a different university to study the fine arts (...I think...correct me if I'm wrong), and Youko studying law at another university.

Kanamemo- ... -_-; Four out of six of the main characters are college-aged women, with Yume attending a patisserie academy to become a chef, Hinata studying to pass her college exams, Yuuki not doing anything besides working for the newspaper, as far as I saw, and Haruka studying make beer on demand, I guess. I've already explained why, despite having a cute yuri couple, this series leaves a horrible taste in my mouth.

I need more to work with here… come on, animation companies! (Idea: Forget Hanadera. We need a Marimite spin-off about Sei attending Lillian university, where she is eventually joined by Sachiko who pines for her beloved Yumi, until Yumi graduates and enrolls in Lillian university and becomes entangled in a love square with Sachiko, Sei, and a jealous Kei!! XD Certainly Probably won't happen, but that's why we have fanfic- or our imaginations. ^^)


Published in English:

Rica'tte Kanji!? by Rica Takashima- A cute slice-of-life comedy about Rica, a young woman studying education at a women's college in Tokyo, and Miho, her girlfriend who's studying the fine arts.

Maka-Maka by Kishi Torajiro- A manga about two friends, Jun and Nene, who both attend college and have boyfriends, but still have sex with each other. I tried this one after hearing all the hype about it, but didn't care for it much, quite honestly…

Works by Eriko Tadeno- I got this one after liking what I saw of Tadeno's work on Yurizuki and in Yuri Monogatari. Works is a collection of Ladies Comics stories that all focus on adults, with one story ("I Like You The Way You Are") focusing on two women in college who were once had a sempai-kouhai relationship in high school. I normally don't go for manga this explicit- call me a prude-, but I like these stories since they don't focus on the adult material (one story is completely clean) and include middle-aged (!) yuri characters, which are about as common as snow in the Caribbean.

Manga not published in English (btw, if you enjoy any of these titles via scanlation, you should really support the artist who made them by buying them so that they can continue to create good yuri):

Love My Life by Yamaji Ebine- A slice-of-life drama about Ichiko, a college student who comes out to her dad, which causes him to tell her that he's gay, as well as her (now deceased) mother. Ichiko has a girlfriend named Eri, another student who's studying to become a lawyer.

Free Soul by Yamaji Ebine- Another slice-of-life drama about an aspiring mangaka named Keito who draws yuri manga while working at a record store. She falls in love with and tries to win the heart of a jazz musician named Niki.

Kawaii Anata by Hiyori Otsu- A collection of one-shots, my favorite being “Maple Love”, which is about how two college students become a couple. (A shout out of thanks to Nakayo for suggesting this one! ^^)

Octave by Haru Akiyama- An ongoing multi-volume series about an assistant manager working at a talent agency and a song composer (both former idols) who fall in love.

Claudine by Riyoko Ikeda- A little known 1 volume manga by Ikeda, about a transgendered man (a man in a woman’s body- although some people might debate whether Claudine is FtM or not) who falls in love with several women who return his affections (for a while, at least). Well-done, but it has a sad ending. (Read Honey & Honey for a better/non-depressing story that includes FtM characters. ^^)

"Hands Off My Girl" by Minami Q-ta- A one-shot about how jealousy brings two college students together. I must admit that I’m not a fan of Minami Q-ta’s work, even though it’s...well… different, and worth checking out.

Moonlight Flowers by Mutsumi Tsukumo: The second part of the book, “Midnight Flowers”, follows Kaoru realizing her sexual identity in college, while also learning about a relationship between her boyfriend’s stepmother and her “special friend” (Oh, snap.) who runs an art gallery.

That’s all that I can think of for now. Feel free to suggest any I’ve missed! :)

Added on 08/14/2009 (Many thanks to Erin for suggesting these titles! ^^):

"For You, My Beloved" by Nagi Yoshizaki and Aya Sasaki: A sweet one-shot about two women attending a nursing school in the country.

Honey & Honey by Sachiko Takeuchi: A slice-of-life manga about Sachiko, a college student, and her girlfriend Masako (not sure whether she's a college student ^^;), that strives to provide a humorously realistic look at lgbtq life in Japan.

"Instinct and a Chromosome" by Haruko Okai and Maiko Akiyama: A one-shot about a woman attending business school and the woman who she falls in love with there, along with the obstacles they face before they can have a happy (?) ending. I didn't care for this one either, quite honestly, although it's worth checking out for fans of josei yuri.

"Soft-Boiled Fujoshi" by Akiko Morishima: A one-shot published in Yuri Hime magazine about Chie, the older sister of one of the protagonists of Morishima's Hanjuku Joshi- who happens to be a raving otaku. XD This one-shot follows her quest to experience yuri "moe", but in the process she winds up finding love with another girl otaku. :)

Ruriiro no Yume by Akiko Morshima: This Yuri Hime collection (coming out on July 18!), which will include numerous adult yuri characters (score! ^^), will contain a one-shot titled "Princess of the Stars" (published in issue 11 of Yuri Hime) that contains college-aged characters; I haven't read this story yet since I don't own issue 11 of Yuri Hime, but I'm sure that it's excellent.

Love Vibes by Erica Sakurazawa: The protagonist, Mako, is a college student (admittedly, one who doesn't seem to take her studies very seriously) who finds love with Mika, another young woman around her age. This story is very well-done, although I can't say that I really like any of the characters much. <-- Edit on 11/01/2010: Wtf. No. Read this.

"P=NP?" by Amaguri Taroh: A one-shot published in issue 1 of Phryne (a lesbian magazine), about a college student who isn't sure about whether her girlfriend really likes her, or just wants her to do her homework.

"A Cruel God" by Youko Takano and Toko Shouya: Another one-shot from issue 1 of Phryne, about a 20 year-old OL who falls for a woman at the gym she belongs to (although not for any reason I can really understand...but hey, whatever floats her boat) and later sees her at a lesbian bar.

"Sweet Exercise" by Amano Shuninta: A one-shot in issue 3 of Yuri Hime Wildrose; it hasn't been scanlated yet, but it should be out soon.

"Traces of Snow" by Mako Takahashi: A one-shot in issue 1 of Sayuri-hime (a special mini-edition of Yuri Hime magazine) about a woman who receives a visit from a friend she was once (and probably still is) in love with.

Added on 08/20/2009:

Double House by Nanae Haruno: An excellent story about a transgender woman named Maho who saves and befriends a woman named Fujiko who falls in love with her. Fujiko is taking a break from college to raise money so that she can attend school again.

Pieta by NanaeHaruno: Also excellent, about two classmates, Sahoko and Rio, who become friends despite Rio having numerous issues and Sahoko seeming to have everything together. Saying too much would constitute a spoiler, but this title belongs on this list.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Yuri Manga: Octave volume 1

I know how thoroughly brainwashed spoiled I am by Saki when I read this announcement about a "politics x mahjong action" manga being green-lit, and think "...but does it have yuri?" It sounds like it may be worth checking out, at least as a one-episode novelty. But without further ado....

Haru Akiyama's Octave is a prime example of a manga title that I know is exceptionally well-done, but I wouldn't necessarily call myself a "fan" of it. It's extremely well-written, has (often frustratingly) human characters, and possesses a knack for ensnaring one into caring about what will happen to its two leads. Plus, it's a multiple-volume canon yuri series starring an adult cast! ^_^ (Volume 3 will be released this month on the 21st.)

But strangely, it isn't one of my personal favorites, despite the fact that I've recommended it at my two most recent yuri panels.

Octave is about Yukino Miyashita, an 18 year-old woman who used to be a member of a teen idol group called Shes’n. When the group disbanded after failing to take off, she returned to her hometown to attend high school, but couldn't get along with her classmates—the boys and girls alike incessantly bullied her—so she dropped out of high school a year before graduating and returned to Tokyo, working as an assistant manager at the talent agency she used to belong to, but not really enjoying it. She feels invisible but still craves the spotlight—especially as she spends her days working alongside other idols hired by her agency- and later, when she sees that Mika, a former member of Shes'n, has launched a successful solo career. Yukino’s routine gets interrupted when she meets and begins to fall for Setsuko Iwai, a charismatic song composer who also once performed in a failed idol duo, called Fennel- although unlike Yukino, Setsuko really likes her job and seems much more comfortable in her own skin. When Yukino goes to Setsuko’s place for dinner, they wind up sleeping together, much to Yukino’s surprise (but not Setsuko’s), which shakes up Yukino’s idea of how her life "should" play out. (Namely: to continue working at a steady job and eventually settle down with a nice husband.) She nearly quits her job (which Setsuko prevents her from doing), and begins to pursue a deeper relationship with Setsuko. Towards the end volume 1, things seem to be looking up for Yukino- although Setsuko tells Yukino one thing- one offhand comment- that will come back to massively bite her and Yukino when Yukino follows through with it after Setsuko has long forgotten about it.

It's ironic that Octave bills itself as a "mystery-filled romance" when it's one of the more straightforward romance titles out there, especially within the yuri genre. It's pretty abnormal, actually- the characters don't continually dance around issues surrounding sex and relationships, using implied meanings and suggestions of what they may or may not be thinking about- they discuss their feelings openly (but not in a sappy way) and even explore issues of sexual identity with a refreshing candor. (Or in Yukino's case, her lack of certainty in that area.)

Even though the romance is certainly a draw, Octave addresses some other issues that I found appealing- the different career paths the characters take, and what causes them to find satisfaction with what they do (especially the contrast between Yukino and Setsuko's satisfaction with their jobs and personal lives, despite their similar backgrounds, as well as Yukino learning what happened to the other members of Shes'n), Yukino drifting apart from old friends and realizing how much they have (or haven't) changed since they were close, and Yukino's fervent desire to not be average- even if it's for the wrong reasons.

And therein lies a major strength and weakness of the series- Yukino's a well-developed, believably flawed character, but her constant self-pity can get grating at times. Like just about every other person who's read Octave, I prefer cool-headed, magnetic Setsuko, who seems to find Yukino irresistible in a way that I can't entirely fathom (but can't dismiss at this point in the story either). At this point, Yukino's still likeable enough.

The art, like the story, conveys what needs to be said but doesn't indulge in any unnecessary flourishes or gimmickry. It looks clean and spare, but not overly simplistic, with character designs that suit each character's personality. I really like how even the "pretty" character designs don't look impossibly pretty or super-thin. (The latter being the one issue I have with Ai Yazawa's art.) It isn't remarkable, but it's appealing.

Art: B
Story: B+
Overall: B+

As an aside:

I'd really like to see more yuri manga about college-aged women (being in college myself) who are actually in college. (It's a smidgen more difficult to empathize with somebody's decision to drop out of high school to get a full-time job.) It's nice to see a yuri manga starring an adult professional female lead, but when I re-read this volume and realized, "Yeesh, she's roughly the same age I am, but she's paying all of her expenses (not that that's a negative) and already working at a full-time job she hates", ^^; I realized that, as rare as yuri manga (or manga in general, really) starring adults are, there doesn't seem to be much depicting the space between graduating from high school and being a full-fledged businesswoman/OL/teacher/cafe-owner whatever. Just something I thought I'd comment on. ^^

Maybe I should post a list of yuri manga starring college-aged women- with bonus points for characters who are attending college.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

An Eerily True Webcomic

Today's Anime News Nina strip is hysterical!! XD As several posters in the accompanying forum noted, it takes the meaning of "moeblob" to an entirely new level. But it's funny because it's so damnably true. lol ^^ For anybody unfamiliar with Robin Sevakis's Anime News Nina, it's a webcomic that follows the lives of three hardcore anime and manga fans who are friends (Nina, Kevin, and Paula), and mercilessly amusingly skewers just about everything under the otaku sun. I would definitely recommend it to any anime fan who hasn't tried it. :) A new strip gets posted on the Anime News Network three times per month (it used to be updated once each week), so it's quite easy to follow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Yuri figures (and... a mahjong set?) ftw!! ^ ^

Good belated news for Saki fans! According to the Saki website, they've released four gashapon of Saki, Nodoka, Yuuki (meh), and Koromo (meh)- this past May, to be precise.

This month they've also released a Saki mahjong set (what a surprise ^^),

but it costs 10,290 yen! I don't know how that compares to the price of an average mahjong set, but it seems pretty exorbitant to me- especially with Japan's economy in the state it's in. (Granted, it doesn't cost much more than two R1 DVDs. -_-;)

Better still, I've found something else at the Hobbystock blog. (Warning: since it's an anime figure website, some pictures are nsfw, although most of them are fine.)

Canaan and Alphard Nendoroids!! XD They're soooo cute!!!!!

I want them.

I especially like Nendoroids of characters who tend to be grim and angry in their respective series, like Zetsubou-sensei or the gun-toting women in CANAAN. I'm actually not a big fan of figures (I only own a few gashapon and one 1/10 scale pre-painted figure that I bought nearly 2 years ago), but these are so cuuute!! ^^ The website doesn't say when they're being released, however. (They need to make a miniature Maria to go with the miniature Canaan!! XD)

Update: According to Hobby Link Japan, the CANAAN Nendoroids are coming out this December. ^^

There's also going to be a Canaan action figure released on an unspecified date, although I'm not too keen on action figures, from whichever series.

Plus, there's a cool-looking sculpted figure that's being released this January. ^^ (I wonder how much it'll cost.... ^^;;)

But it looks like it's based on the image in this photo...

which means that they might make a similar figure of Alphard aiming back at Canaan. XD

Speaking of which, keep an eye out for the next, rather intriguing−looking episode of CANAAN this week! ^^ (Is it bad that I'm hoping Canaan gets jealous of the scene below? ^^; Hahaha...)

And of course, check out this week's new episodes of Aoi Hana (it's still brilliant) and Saki (still chock full of yuri−mahjong fun)! ^^

Finally, there's a very yuri-ish-looking pair of figures for the leads in the upcoming fall series, A Certain Scientific Railgun.

Maybe this means that ACSR will have more yuri than I initially predicted... Or maybe it's simply false advertising. lol

If some well-made Aoi Hana figures ever pop up (like Nedoroid Fumi and Akira ^^), I am so getting them.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Yuri Manga: Aoi Hana volume 3

It's always fun to reread a favorite series with a new layer of knowledge of how events will play out. After reading the end of volume 4 of Aoi Hana (and seeing the foreshadowing in the anime),

I can't help seeing Fumi and Akira's interactions in a radically different light than the first time I read this volume. Hopefully that doesn't sound too arcane... ^^; Anyway...

In this volume, Akira, Fumi, Kyouko, Yassan, Pon-chan, and Mogii go to Kyouko's summer home, with Akira's brother tagging along to Akira's annoyance driving them there. The girls go hiking in the forest where Kou (Kyouko's fiancee) saved her when she got lost as a kid. I love the moment when Fumi catches Akira right when she slips (cue the yuri fangirl squeals ^^), but when Pon-chan falls, she complains about nobody catching her. The girls spend a night making curry and telling ghost stories in a cabin, and Akira and Fumi stay up to watch the stars at night, causing them to catch matching colds. Back at Kyouko's summer home, Akira inadvertently overhears a private conversation between Kou's mother and aunt, revealing that Kyouko's mother has, uh, issues, and she gets caught. ^^; After the trip, Akira and her brother attend Yasuko's sister and Kagami-sensei's wedding, and she and Fumi go to Enoshima, with Akira's brother tagging along just because and Yasuko coming along for obvious reasons. ^^; Fumi and Akira mostly walk separately from Akira's brother (I forget his name...) and Yasuko, but when Yasuko gets a chance, she apologizes to Fumi for how they broke up. (Maybe it's just me, but Yasuko's apology seems to mirror Kou's apology to Kyouko at the end of the camping trip arc.) Back at Fujigaya, the news spreads that Yasuko and the girl who played Catherine in Wuthering Heights are going to study abroad/live together in England. I'm hoping that Yasuko and "Catherine" get together at some point, as a dark horse couple. ^^; (I'm probably the only person thinking that. lol) As Akira and Kou become closer friends, Fumi begins feeling jealous, setting the stage for volume 4.

There are also a few short stories that focus on Yasuko's sisters when they attended Fujigaya, along with some of their classmates. My favorite of these stories is easily the one that ends with a subtle romance between two adult women (score! (^.^)b).

There isn't much new to say about the execution/art here. Volume 3 is excellent as usual, although I liked seeing the story shift to a different setting during the summer vacation and wedding arcs. Of course, the end takes a bit of a darker turn, but, refreshingly, without the "woe is me" histrionics that often accompany this sort of plot complication. (Probably because- thankfully- Fumi's love for Akira isn't the first time she's fallen in love with a woman.)

A not very small digression...
Even though some yuri fans have occasionally complained about some of the longer-running yuri manga being "slow" in their build-up towards the lead couple getting together, like Aoi Hana, Girl Friends, and Sasameki Koto, I can't help wondering how many non-yuri romance manga that the people who make those complaints have read as a point of comparison. For one classic example, it takes approximately 14 volumes for Kyouko and Yusaku to get together in Maison Ikkoku, even though the reader knows that they'll eventually get together from volume 1. (Don't get me started on Rumiko Takahashi's other series.) Plus, innumerable other romance manga have spent a considerable amount of time with their leads dancing a multi-volume gavotte between friendship and love. The point is that I prefer seeing more multi-volume yuri manga being written with their leads realizing and processing their feelings at a slower, more deliberate pace than the 1 to 2 volume yuri collections that many yuri fans are used to. (Granted, I enjoy many of those 1-2 volume titles as well. ^^;)

I have no idea when Akira and Fumi will get together (which I think/hope they will do eventually), but for now, I'm simply enjoying the ride. Even assuming that they don't get together, Fumi is still clearly gay whether she's part of a couple or not. (Which, imo, provides a nonpareil satisfaction that can't be found in the numerous same-sex romances found in manga and other media in which the heroine denies being interested in "women", but only in "this particular, exceptional individual who happens to be a woman.") But ideally, I'm still rooting for Fumi x Akira! ^^

Art: A-
Story: A
Overall: A