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-

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