Monday, November 1, 2010
Sakurazawa Erica's Love Vibes should interest people because of its pedigree (Sakurazawa is a famous, incredibly prolific josei mangaka), because it's an uncommon example of a yuri manga that has gotten a live-action movie adaptation (the other ones that I can think of are Love My Life and Sakura no Sono- and if you count light novels, Maria-sama ga Miteru), and simply because it's incredibly good.
Mako is a fairly introverted (but not wallflowery) college student who is dating a classmate named Shouji. She breaks things off with him after realizing that their relationship isn't really going anywhere. While sampling a CD in a music store, she meets the extroverted, hyper-confident Mika.
They hit it off as friends, even though Mika obviously wants to be Mako's girlfriend. Mika is so straightforward and lighthearted when mentioning her feelings that Mako doesn't get how serious Mika really is about her for a while. (Naturally, this causes some frustration on Mika's part.)
They have a fight after Mako gets back together with Shouji, and Mika starts (sort of) going out with a woman named Shouko (one of the more...erm...unique fictional love interests I've encountered in manga). Neither relationship works out, and Mako and Mika start dating.
More snags pop up involving both Mako and Mika's exes and an invitation from one of Mako's friends for her to attend a Christmas Eve mixer. But in the end, Mako and Mika wind up happily together.
Love Vibes' hook isn't tantalizing/frustrating its readers with a slow, methodical build-up to a confession. (Even given that it takes place within one volume.) Things move along at a brisk clip and the characters are refreshingly matter-of-fact. They are still very human- they screw up, they overcome hurdles, and they evoke sympathy (and the occasional "squee!" moment)- and their lives are involving, even upon re-reading. The ending is definitely happy, but with a nod to the uncertain future that most couples face that early in a relationship. This story is also noteworthy for featuring two yuri protagonists who are on nearly opposite ends of the Kinsey scale, and acknowledging it- not something you see much. My one real quibble is that I would have liked to see the ending (particularly the resolution to Mako and Mika's separation) fleshed out more. But the story achieves a lot for a single volume.
Sakurazawa's art is very stylish and pretty- like most josei, it's fairly loose and minimalistic, but it adroitly conveys its characters' emotions and gives everything a light, breezy look.
If you enjoy mature romantic drama that isn't heavy-handed, Love Vibes should be right up your alley.
The edition I'm reviewing is the re-print that came out around when the movie ("Kakera") was released. This volume includes Sakurazawa's Between the Sheets, which is also yuri but sucks pretty badly. For yuri by Sakurazawa, Love Vibes is the way to go.