Friday, April 16, 2010

Yuri Manga: Love Slave

I wasn't sure what to expect from Onozucca Kahori's Love Slave when I began reading it. It seemed like a grittier, more modern version of Moonlight Flowers (a must-read if you're a card-carrying yuri fan and you haven't read it!), but with enough tweaks to turn it into a very different- and arguably, better- story by the end.

The protagonist is Ureha, a successful make-up artist living with her boyfriend-since-college, Ichiru, who works as a teacher at an all-girl's high school. Three months after proposing to Ureha, Ichiru's still waiting for an answer from her. At a cosmetics shop, Ureha runs into Sawori, who reminds her of the female classmate she (almost) slept with in high school. After breaking up with Ichiru, Ureha and Sawori get together, but things aren't quite happily-ever-after... Meanwhile, one of Ichiru's students, Mariya, comes out to him as a lesbian and encounters Ureha and Sawori when she starts going to lesbian clubs. Ichiru also runs into Sawori one day...

I really don't want to spoil too much, since a lot of the fun in reading Love Slave is in seeing where it'll go. (Although it was still really good when I re-read it. ^^)

In the beginning, Sawori seemed like she would be the heroic, Kaoru-esque prince(ss)-on-a-white-horse who sweeps Ureha off her feet and "initiates" her into self-awareness as a queer woman, but refreshingly, Sawori is painted in many shades of grey. (And the manga shows that Ureha was interested in women, albeit much more closeted, before Sawori. Points for that.) Even though I didn't like Sawori much during most of the story (especially in chapter 5...), she ultimately came across as a good person (or at least, not a bad person) who made some very, very stupid choices. None of the characters are sainted (including Ureha), and even the most horrific character has some multi-dimensionality.

Unlike most yuri manga, Love Slave isn't about the inception or growth of a relationship- it's about the growth of its protagonist. I hoped that Ureha would find somebody who she could be happy with, and she absolutely did- just not at all who I expected. :) The ending was extremely satisfying without feeling schmatlzy or mawkish. And that's all that I really wanted.

Story: B+
Art: B+ (I personally really like Onozucca's art style. It's a stylish, slightly loose josei look.)
Overall: A-

A solid pick if you want something more mature than the norm.

Edit: Added a link to my review of Moonlight Flowers.


furei kinoko said...

this is yuri manga with sad ending... or not?

Katherine said...

@ furei kinoko- It's a happy ending- just not the ending that I expected. :)

Yuriness - Shoujo-ai and Yuri Anime said...

I like this author's art style. The characters always have a sort of a creppy, psychotic look lol

嵐*CJ said...

This is one of the most bizzare yuri manga I've read because it was eerily realistic. All of the characters have flaws, and they all made stupid choices now and then. Ichiru was very annoying and he did some very terrible things, but I couldn't find myself to think he is very bad person. He is just a man, is what I thought at the end. Sawori was...well, very unexpected. I thought she would be sort of like a mentor or someone that'll take care of Ureha. But instead she was very....uh, true to herself?? The character development in this manga is done very well. : )

Katherine said...

@ Yuriness- lol I never thought of Onozucca's art style that way- although I can see your point of view. I like to think of the characters as "bold-looking" instead. :P

@ CJ- I agree; the character development was excellent- and realistic. :) I'm not as forgiving towards Ichiru (I still wanted his head on a platter by the end), but everything else you said about the characters is spot-on.

Erin said...

I found this manga to be a nice change of pace as well, though some parts are difficult to read through.
I particularly liked the ending.

Some critics say that Ichiru's behavior is unrealistic, but then I also see people (trolls, I hope) say things like "She had it coming" or "I don't think he did anything wrong." My own beliefs about the realism of his actions and attitude have changed over the years, too--from "Another male villain?" to "Unfortunately, this is the reality of some people's lives."

Katherine said...

@ Erin- The ending was what bumped up the grade for me, along with the exceptionally strong characterization. (It's refreshing to see a female protagonist in a realistic manga who's happy being single.) While some parts were difficult to read, I appreciated that they weren't presented in an exploitative way.

And...gosh, I hope those people really were just trolling. Even though Ichiru is just as bad as Kanou from Moonlight Flowers, his portrayal doesn't feel as problematic to me. (As you mentioned, it feels more "This is what some people's lives are like," than, "SEE! This is what all men are like.")

Erin said...

@Katherine: Yes, a lot of the stories--manga or otherwise--I've seen about single women are about wanting to find a significant other, being unhappy being alone, worrying they will never find someone to marry, etc. So it is refreshing to read about someone who doesn't need to be in a relationship to feel complete.

While some parts were difficult to read, I appreciated that they weren't presented in an exploitative way.

Some of the worst comments I read were in this thread, if you want to read them for yourself:
The last one was so far over the top that it looked like it was just trying to provoke a reaction from people. I don't know.

Katherine said...

@ Erin: Wow- that is a nasty thread. Whether or not that last comment was sincere, I'm sure it was meant to be provocative- but at least no one took the bait and responded.

Sapphire said...

Hi Katherine! I've been reading your blog for quite some time now..hmm maybe close to a year or so. Anyways I want to thank you for your recommendation for josei manga. Nakayo told me about them and said she had you to thank as well. I REALLY like josei manga! Much more realistic.

I read Love Slave but when Nakayo got to a very squeamish part, I skipped to the ending. -_- I know I'm SO BAD! I thought it was interesting. The art doesn't capture my fancy and the ending was quite lovely. Although I would have preferred seeing a happily ever after with the protagonist and another woman, it was nice.

Take care! Yuri Cheers!

Katherine said...

@ Sapphire- Thanks! ^^ I'm glad my recommendation helped (I really like reading josei yuri also- partly for the realism and partly because it's a refreshing change of pace from most of the yuri that's out there) and I'm flattered that you've been reading my blog for so long.