Saturday, September 24, 2011

More Yamaji Ebine: Sweet Lovin' Baby

Unlike Yamaji Ebine's famous trio- Love My Life, Indigo Blue, and Free Soul- Sweet Lovin' Baby is a collection of short stories, half of which are yuri.

"Sweet Lovin' Baby" is about Kyou, an OL who becomes close friends with a seemingly perfect lesbian couple, Rei and Magobee...shortly before they break up. Over the course of the story, Kyou realizes that she's gay herself. (In one amusing subplot, the co-worker who's always nagging Kyou about getting a boyfriend sets her up with a man who tells her that it can't work because he's gay. He and Kyou become friends instead.) Kyou remains on friendly terms with both Rei and Magobee, and admits that she has feelings for Rei...but still misses the time she spent with Rei and Magobee as a couple. I found this story poignant because I know what it's like to see two friends who seem perfectly happy with their long-term relationship suddenly break up. It adds a bittersweet extra layer to the age old discovery-of-one's-sexual-identity narrative. (I also love that Kyou comes out to her co-worker.)

"Rain Was Falling" isn't nearly as complex, but it's a very cute story about 18 year-old Toriko, who thinks she's "broken" because she hasn't fallen in love with a man. She spaces out and doesn't notice when it starts raining. A novelist named Sumire holds an umbrella over Toriko and invites her to dry off in her apartment. They drink cocoa and discuss art, and when Toriko tells Sumire what she's worried about, Sumire gives her a kiss. Sumire lends Toriko an umbrella when she leaves, and Toriko looks forward to returning it. (As a wise friend once commented when we were watching Sense & Sensibility, "Why doesn't shit like this happen when I get caught in the rain?")

"Doomed Love" is about Yukako, a gay high school student who, alas, only gets love confessions from boys. The girl Yukako likes, tall, boyish-looking Nanami, is straight but only attracts girls. Yukako confesses to Nanami, who rejects her and vents that she's jealous because the boy she likes confessed to Yukako. A crying Yukako points out that she and Nanami both share the painful feeling of being rejected by the person they like, and Nanami apologizes. Even though I don't like "Doomed Love" as much as "Sweet Lovin' Baby" and "Rain Was Falling", it's still a well-written, more-complicated-than-normal take on a one-sided crush.

"Miyuki" is Yamaji Ebine's professional debut. (Fun fact: Along with Love My Life and Ariyoshi Kyouko's Applause, it's a personal favorite of Plica-chan's Amamiya Sae.) Ichiko, an art school student, is in love with her school mate Miyuki, but thinks that her feelings aren't requited. Luckily, she's wrong. ^^ "Miyuki" is good, but the fact that it's Yamaji's debut shows. The art is sketchy- less clean and confident than her later style; and her storytelling feels more tentative, as it naturally would for a budding talent who's still finding her voice. It's a must-read if you want to see where Yamaji Ebine's career as a mangaka began.

Of course, it's a given that you should check out this collection if you like like Yamaji Ebine's work or realistic yuri in general.

Story: B+
Art: B for "Miyuki", A for the rest
Overall: A-

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