Monday, April 4, 2011

Manga Review: Love My Life

About time I did a Yamaji Ebine review. In the early 2000's Yamaji published three single volume yuri stories- Love My Life (2001), Indigo Blue (2002), and Free Soul (2004)- that starred adults and addressed lesbian identity in an unambiguous manner that's still rare today. She also published a tankoubon called Sweet Lovin' Baby in 2003, half composed of yuri one-shots, half non-yuri. In a nutshell, the main relationship in Free Soul could be described as "Will they get together?" ("get together" = "have a relationship", not "have no-strings-attached sex"), with Indigo Blue as, "Will they stay together?", and Love My Life, the most mellow (and famous) of the three, as, "They're definitely together- now what?"

Izumiya Ichiko is an upbeat 18 year old university student who is studying to become an English-to-Japanese translator, like her dad. Her mom, a designer, died 7 years earlier. She's in a serious relationship with her girlfriend Joujima Eri, who is studying to become a lawyer.

Ichiko comes out to her dad by introducing Eri to him as her girlfriend. When she's alone with him later, he tells her that he's gay too, and so was her mom. (Amusingly, she has the exact same stupefied look on her face when her dad comes out to her as he had when she came out to him.) While this is a shock to Ichiko (in a "Wait, my parents weren't really in love? I didn't know about this massive chunk of their identity?" sense), Eri, who isn't out to her family and has a homophobic, sexist father, reminds her that she's lucky.

The rest of the story takes a slice-of-life approach, as Ichiko attends school with her friend Take-chan, who's gay too, meets her dad's boyfriend and the woman her mom was in a relationship with and thinks about where her and Eri's future will go. The biggest threat pops up when Eri can't see her in person for a while because of her studies. But yes, it ends happily. ^_^ (I love the big reveal about Eri towards the end.)

Love My Life, like any good realistic story, has characters who feel like they could be real. (All pleasantly real, in this case- aside from Eri's dad, who shows up briefly.) Not only Ichiko's relationship with Eri, but her relationships with the other important people in her life (her dad and Take-chan) are richly developed and heart-warming. The story doesn't shy away from drama, but it isn't heavy-handed. (And it has some incredibly memorable lines. For example, "Human beings are very complicated...The one you love isn't necessarily the one who manages to emancipate you." <- About Ichiko's parents' relationship.) The point is that, whatever problems Ichiko might have, she really does love her life. 

While most people who come out don't find out that their parents are actually gay, it gives a great twist to the coming out story in LML. I'd like to see more yuri stories in which the protagonist comes out to her family- or is in the aftermath of coming to her family-, especially since the prospect of coming out to one's close family is usually the most intimidating. The only other examples I can think of are in Free Soul, "More Rica'tte Kanji!?" in Yuri Monogatari 4, "My Sister's Wedding" in Tadeno Eriko's Works, and Ushio in Sasameki Koto. But I'm veering off track.

If you haven't tried Love My Life, it's a must-read- a great pick if you want something that's realistic and smile-inducing at the same time.

Story: A
Art: A
Overall: A


Code537 said...

After I saw this author/title mentioned in your slide, I was looking to add the manga to my reading list. Luckily, my friend had the live action film and I ended up watching the film (w/ subtitles) last weekend before reading the manga.

What did you think of the film in terms of it's adaption and character development compared to the manga?

I personally find Japanese acting a bit awkward to watch. I cannot tell if it is the culture and therefore, I might have missed a lot of mannerism and gestures or subtleties. The actress for Ichiko was the least impressive. Again, it could be due to the director's interpretation...sometimes she would just stare off screen but not be in a dream-like state. That just makes her look like a live action version of Osaka from Azumanga Daioh.

I did enjoy the ending...even the five minutes of real time running scene from Ichiko. The whole time I thought, oh, no, a car is gonna hit her, oh, no...they're gonna kill off another lesbian...

I hope that I might enjoy the manga more...I think I will after reading your review. Thanks!

Katherine Hanson said...

@Code537- The manga is definitely better, but I still thought the movie was sweet. (Better simply on its merits as a cute, romantic movie than on its merits as an adaptation, imho. It's the only non-terrible live Japanese lesbian movie I've seen, to boot.)

I agree about Ichiko's actress being the weakest- but I really liked the actress for Eri. ^__^ (I thought the other actors fit their roles well too.) And I thought the actresses playing Ichiko and Eri had nice chemistry.

The running scene was pretty special...but I still thought that the ending was cute too.

Code537 said...

I think it's been a long time since we had any decent lesbian films! This is my first Japanese lesbian film...I shouldn't even ask for recommendations after seeing your comment.

They all have their "flaws" like Butterfly, Imagine Me & You, I Can't Think Straight, The World Unseen, and Spider Lillies, but we're all more than willing to forgive for various reasons. Maybe it's because we're desparate for gay content/entertainment or maybe simply watching the "lives of others" in the lesbian context pinched our hearts ever so slightly....

Rakki said...

Yay Yamaji Ebine!!! Love my Life is amazing, spot on review. The first of her works I read was Indigo Blue so it has a special place in my heart; what are you thoughts on it? I like that her characters aren't easily stereotyped; butch/femme, etc...they're just two women...I LOVE her art style. Minimal like Kiriko Nananan but still more expressive. Great proportions, use of negative space... Do you know if she has any current projects?

Katherine Hanson said...

@Code537- "but we're all more than willing to forgive for various reasons. Maybe it's because we're desparate for gay content/entertainment or maybe simply watching the "lives of others" in the lesbian context pinched our hearts ever so slightly...." <- I agree, although paradoxically, people are often critical of gay content/entertainment for the same reasons. ("There aren't enough representations of people who share my sexual identity, and visibility counts. Does this [insert entertainment medium of choice] get it right?")

I didn't know about Butterfly. Now it's on my radar- thanks! :-)

@Rakki- Indigo Blue is great also. I liked how richly the characters were developed, and I thought the exploration of Rutsu as a writer (how her life affected her writing, and vice versa) was an interesting way to frame the plot. (Especially since Yamaji has explored similar themes in Free Soul and Sweet Lovin' Baby.)

I don't know what she's working on right now. Her profile on the website for Feel Young magazine (where she's done most of her work) shows that she put out a new non-yuri ballet-themed romance titled "鳥のように飛べるまで", or "To Fly Like A Bird", on 11/08/2010.