Monday, March 14, 2011
Ichijou Yukari has only done two yuri stories, both shorts- but they are both more memorable and complex than the vast majority of short manga stories out there. Where her much later "That's Why I Sigh" is a funny story about coming out and self-acceptance, Maya no Souretsu (published in 1972, one year after Shiroi Heya no Futari) unfurls a dark Sturm und Drang-style horror-mystery with two girls tangled in the center of it.
Bubbly blonde 17 year old Harukawa Reina is vacationing at her wealthy parents' country home for the summer. When her horse goes berserk while she's out riding, a tall, cool, dark-haired stranger named Maya saves her. Maya lives with her older sister in a house nearby and invites Reina to "Come over and see me sometime, whenever you'd like."
Because Reina doesn't know that tall, cool, dark-haired x cute, naïve, blonde couples inevitably attract trouble (the story cheerfully begins with, "Each person begins a journey on their destined rail, riding in a train by the name of fate. They are not allowed to leave, nor to turn back. The train progresses more punctually than a clock ticking off the minutes. Even 'death' is a final present granted to us by fate. It is the train's final stop...") and she would much rather spend time with Maya than her arranged fiancee, "Taku-niisan", she visits Maya and soon realizes that she likes her.
Unfortunately, Maya and her sister have grown up with a grudge against Reina's parents for setting their house on fire and killing their parents when they were kids. Maya falls for Reina, which screws up her plan and causes tension between her and her sister, who knows about Maya's feelings. Taku pinpoints Reina's feelings surprisingly quickly also. (Or maybe not so surprisingly, when she stares at Maya and says, "Well, she's an amazing person, isn't she? Aesthetically." in front of him.)
Maya and Reina confess their love to each other and a body count starts to rack up- what will happen!? Dun dun dun. *glancing at the title*
Every single terrible thing that could happen in this story happens, but I like it. It's like Maya goes so far down the doom and gloom tunnel that it comes out on the other side and manages to be an incredibly entertaining revenge story (imparting the age-old lesson that being consumed by vengeance can ruin someone's life as much as what happened to them in the first place) with a sweet, doomed love story providing some light in the middle of the human morass. The melodrama is amusingly over-the-top, which helps too. :-)
Maya isn't the story to read if you want something happy, but if you're in the mood for a classic that's dark and a little twisted, or you like horror and want some yuri mixed in, give this title a shot.
My "discovery" of Maya was an act of serendipity. (Again) while studying abroad in Japan, I bought whatever yuri manga I knew about (basically KnM, Kyosora, and issues of Yuri Hime) just so that I could stare at the girl x girl scenes. (And squirrel them away from my host family like a dragon guarding its gold.) I bought Maya while browsing shoujo manga because it had a trippy, cool-looking cover, and was happily surprised that it was yuri.