Saturday, February 25, 2012

Manga Review: JManga's release of Poor Poor Lips volume 1

I never wanted to review JManga's release of Girl Friends because, going by their preview of their release of it, its translation is pretty "meh." I'm going to review Seven Seas' print release of Girl Friends because they do quality translations.

ALC Publishing has translated everything they've released well, so I wasn't surprised that JManga's preview of Poor Poor Lips (translated by ALC's staff instead of whoever worked on Girl Friends) read smoothly. Subsequently, I signed up for a JManga subscription for the first time so that I could buy Poor Poor Lips.

When you register at JManga, you can get a free subscription, which means that you get to read longer previews (but nothing beyond that) and...erm, two or three other things that I don't remember. I can't find what comes with a free subscription handily on the User Guide- I did see it when I registered, though. You can get a monthly $10 subscription or a monthly $25 subscription, meaning that for each month you stay signed up, you'll get $10 or $25 worth in points. For $10, I got 1,000 points, plus an extra 500 since this is my first time getting a paid subscription. The 500 point bonus is nice. What's not so nice to me is that one can't buy manga volumes (or chapters- you can buy individual chapters from JManga as well) ad hoc, rather than having to buy $10 or $25 in points each month. If you run out of points, you can buy bonus points for $5, $10, or $25. Any points that you get from your monthly subscription will expire 12 months after you get them, and any bonus points will expire 3 months after you get them.

So. My suggestions for JManga: 1) Let people buy manga ad hoc. And 2) work more often with people who will provide translations that are worth buying. Like many other people, I have politely asked JManga to lift the region restrictions on Poor Poor Lips. Promisingly, they responded on Twitter with "@yuriboke Yes, we thank you for your concerns and are working on making it available worldwide. More news to come soon!" They've repeatedly made it clear that they are pushing for no region restrictions.

As others have pointed out, the chief hurdle for dropping region restrictions (for JManga, The Anime Network, whoever) is the original license holders. To quote what I said in a discussion I had with someone over this issue: "The rights holders really don't have anything to lose- and plenty to potentially gain, if they're willing to take the chance (and there's the big qualifier- aversion to anything that changes the rules/"how it's done", because changing the rules is associated with risk regardless of how low risk it actually it is- or how the high risk of not changing is)." JManga seems to be really trying to end the restrictions, and as fans, we should continue to respectfully let them know that we want their yuri titles available worldwide, not just in North America.

So after all of was Poor Poor Lips?

Last year, I reviewed Poor Poor Lips as a manga that I loved once I got past its creepy cover and read the actual story.

What do I have to add to my earlier review?

Re-reading this volume, I noticed Nako noticing Ren in a not completely platonic way more, and was reminded once again of how much I love Ren. She has become one of my favorite manga characters. She and Nako are still sweet and awkward together, Watase's still a good tsukkomi, Furui's still clueless, Ren's ex is still sketchy, and so on. All present and accounted for.

The brief moments alluding to Ren's family life stood out to me more because I know what happens later in the series. (The flashbacks to her childhood are mostly sweet, but she mentions that she can't see her family without being pressured to "give up being a lesbian.") In volume 3, Ren's mom ends Nako's debt on the condition that Ren will get married. I have faith that Ren won't actually have to go through with it, but I want to punch her mother in the gut regardless. For now, anyway, life is good. Volume 1 happily ends with Nako finding a stray kitten that Ren adopts. (Six months later, it's fat and lazy because Ren won't stop spoiling it with treats.)

If you don't like slice-of-life series, you obviously won't like Poor Poor Lips. But if you do, or you crave well-written, unambiguously lesbian characters who identify as such, Poor Poor Lips is a great series. Which is why it should be (and hopefully, soon will be) available in English worldwide. Update: Now it is!
Update: Argh, never mind.
Update: Now it really is!

Story: I love it. And it gets better. A-
Art: Not so great. C+
Overall: A-

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