Saturday, November 5, 2011

The First Yuri Manga: Shiroi Heya no Futari

Yamagishi Ryouko's Shiroi Heya no Futari ("The Couple of the White Room") is the first manga that had the chutzpah to star a canon, no-bones-made-about-it yuri couple. It ran in Ribon in 1971, as part of a larger collection of one-shots. Naturally, it's a must-read for yuri fans.

The story is set in France. Resine de Poisson is an orphan moving out of her aunt's place to board at her mother's alma mater, a private girls' school. Petite, delicate, blonde Resine's roommate is tall, cool, dark-haired Simone D'Arc, who likes sneaking out at night to drink and perform with the theater troupe she belongs to. She gives Resine a poor first impression by teasing her for being a sheltered "princess," but it quickly becomes apparent that they like each other more than they- or really, Resine, is willing to let on.

Resine has a hard time figuring out Simone, but Simone's indifferent bad girl mask slips when she's called to translate a poem in class and, instead of reading it, she improvises: "Once I have known her, I must die. For that shining smile, that is so difficult to describe, I must die. For those light, delicate hands, I must die. For her sake, I must..." The teacher interrupts before she can finish, right when she starts looking at Resine.

In her school's production of Romeo and Juliet, Resine is cast as the Juliet to Simone's Romeo. They deliver a great performance (the audience thinks that gosh, they sure seem like real lovers), and Simone later confesses what Resine already knows- that she loves her. An observant classmate starts a rumor about them, causing Resine to panic. To calm Resine down, Simone takes her to the bar her acting troupe meets in to help her find a boyfriend- but Resine can only look at Simone. Resine tries to like Rounaud, the boy who likes her, but Simone jealously confronts her about her real feelings. (On a tangent, I can't be the only one who noticed that Simone's confrontation with Resine- "I won't entrust my heart to a stone statue as you have!!"- was referenced in Sei's confrontation with Shiori about her decision to become a nun in Marimite.)

Resine runs away to her aunt's, and Simone gets drunk and taunts the boy who loves her into stabbing her. She dies holding a rose while thinking of Resine, and Resine learns about Simone's death from Rounaud before receiving a final letter from Simone.

Another feel-good title from the 70s. ^_^ Because of its groundbreaking place in yuri history, it would be worth reading even if it weren't good, which thankfully isn't the case. It's definitely a product of its time, with its hyper-over-the-top melodrama and sparkly old school art, but that's what makes it kind of... fun. Even though Simone and Resine influenced later yuri couples like Chikane and Himeko, Sachiko and Yumi, Shizuma and Nagisa, etc, Simone isn't as refined as most of the later "onee-sama/Yamato Nadesico"-types in yuri, and Resine doesn't really idealize her- until she completely loses her. (Whose memory of a past love hasn't been exaggerated to some extent, for better or for worse?)

Unlike Ikeda Riyoko's also groundbreaking Rose of Versailles and Oniisama E, which will probably be reprinted until the end of time (RoV will, at the very least), Shiroi Heya no Futari is out of print and unlisted on Amazon JP, so it would be really hard to track down a hard copy of it if you want one. If you still really, really, really want one, your best bet is keeping an eye on the Yahoo Japan Auctions, by searching for the title or the author's name and hoping someone is willing to give up their copy at some point.

Anyway- if you read yuri, you've read something influenced by Shiroi Heya no Futari.

Story: 『彼人を叱ったからには死なねばならぬ。名状しがたいその微笑の輝きのために死なねばならぬ。その軽やかな双手のために死なねばならぬ。彼女のために。。。』
Art: B+
Overall: A

Fun fact: Hagio Moto's Thomas no Shinzou, the earliest well-known example of BL, takes place at an elite single-sex boarding school in Germany. I guess there was something about European boarding schools that screamed "Homosexuality!" to both Yamagishi and Hagio back then.

BGM: "Dear Future" - Coaltar of the Deepers


Joker said...

Ah, read this some time ago. Didn't really expect this was the first yuri manga!

Quite heart-wrenching one.
I love that poem a lot!!

yukimi87 said...

I remember 5-6 years ago aprox. when I still was a newbie in all the find-yuri-in-the-internet that I tried using emule to look for yuri manga.

I was pretty lucky because I downloaded a bundle of yuri manga, many translated by Lililicious, and between them were some great titles (many incomplete unfortunagely) and I devoured them.

It was my only yuri source for a very long and this manga was only one of the few who were there (iirc) that was complete and wasn't a one-shot (blue drop was a bit too much atm for me although I like it XP) and it served as a base even with all the sparkly eyes art and I'm very grateful to this title :) It was very nice to remember my beginings :D

Katherine Hanson said...

@Joker- Yeah, it's a neat discovery. ^^

I love the poem also.

@yukimi87- Aww. :-) I know what you mean. I have a soft spot for the earliest yuri titles I enjoyed also.