Thursday, November 15, 2012

Manga Review: Butterfly 69

Like most Yuri Hime tankoubon, Natsuneko's Butterfly 69 is a collection of one-shots. Most yuri manga aim for a delicately pretty or cute look, but Natsuneko's work, while still festooned with pretty characters, goes for a more hard-edged, sleek, occasionally punk-flavored aesthetic. Her strong linework and heavy use of black and white contrast really make her artwork pop. Thankfully, most of the stories in this collection are at least as enjoyable to read as they are to look at.

"Butterfly 69" is about a half-Japanese rocker named Maria and her girlfriend Ageha (pictured on the cover), who attend a Classical music academy for proper young ladies where Maria doesn't fit in. A U.S. record label offers to sign Maria's band, Butterfly 69, but Maria is willing to turn them down so she can stay in Japan with Ageha. ("I can sing anywhere! Who cares about my dream if it means I have to leave you...?!") Ageha feels icky about being the reason for Maria sacrificing her dream, and roundly tells her so. At the school cultural festival, Maria plays one last concert before leaving for Los Angeles, promising she'll come back for Ageha. Time skip a few years ahead, when Maria and Ageha reunite with a kiss (to squealing from some of Maria's fans) after Maria's band returns to Japan to tour after becoming popular abroad. ^_^

"Quilt Queen" is also very squee-worthy. In high school, Sakura and Dahlia promised each other they would be a famous designer-model duo someday. Sakura would create a prêt-à-porter fashion line and Dahlia would be her #1 model. Years laters as adults, they're still in love but their dreams have panned out very differently. While Dahlia's modeling career has taken off, Sakura's designs are still obscure. Dahlia's manager urges Sakura to break up with Dahlia, insisting that she's holding her back, and Sakura complies. Sakura decides to throw in the towel for trying to be a famous designer, until she sees Dahlia wear a dress she gave her on TV. (This story's one significant handwave- you'd think having a world famous super model girlfriend who publicly wears your designs would give you some fame as a designer, but... eh. I love this story anyway. XD ) At a major fashion competition, the model who was hired to wear Sakura's final design isn't able to do it, so Dahlia steps in and models it. Sakura and Dahlia reunite with a big old kiss on the runway, Sakura's designs win the competition, and Sakura's clothing line finally becomes famous.

"Beautiful Pain" is the only story in this collection that I wouldn't miss at all. Lily and Hokuto are half-sisters from a rich family. As the family's only legitimate child, Hokuto is being pressured to enter an arranged marriage. She and Lily decide to run away together, but like, five minutes into running away, Hokuto gets hit by a truck. Hokuto is now paralyzed, so the arranged marriage is off. Lily's glad the engagement is off, and Hokuto's glad the aftermath of her being hit by that truck panned out exactly as she'd hoped. So, uh, I guess they're meant to be.

Where "Beautiful Pain" is closer to what I'd expect from Yuri Hime S, Yuri Hime magazine's now defunct/partially absorbed offshoot that pandered to the Megami magazine crowd, "Rooftop Miracle", the other story in this collection that ran in Yuri Hime S instead of Yuri Hime, is good. (Yuri Hime S had some quality content, like the early chapters of Fu~fu and most of Kurata Uso's earlier work and this story, but really, the vast majority of it was disposable. That said, I... I did like Otome Kikan Gretel...)

So, "Rooftop Miracle." To Kyouko's irritation, another woman, Mirai, chose the same building to jump off that she chose, on the same day, at the same time, for the same reason- a horrible experience with an ex-girlfriend. Happy to meet someone who understands her feelings, Kyouko stops the other woman from jumping. They realize they have the exact same engagement ring, given to each of them by an ex who conned them out of their savings. They laugh about being tricked by the same woman, marvel at the odds of their meeting just in time to prevent the other from dying, and start going out. Definitely one of the more unique approaches to a new relationship starting. Like the story following it, "Rooftop Miracle" effectively puts a cracked, humorous spin on a potentially grim situation without making light of it.

"Spicy Sweets" blends yakuza, coming out, and romance into a tasty confection. (Couldn't resist.) Coming out to a homophobic parent may be scary, but can you imagine coming out to one who runs a yakuza syndicate? Yuu, the daughter of a yakuza family, is hiding the fact that she's gay from her family and what her family does from her girlfriend Aki, since all of her past girlfriends dumped her once they found out what her family does. When Yuu's mother visits her apartment (along with some scary underlings) while Aki's there... well, her mother already knows about Aki, and isn't pleased. And! Yuu has to come clean with Aki and tell her mother to piss off and stop trying to drag her into the family business. Against all odds, things turn out happily, and Yuu and Aki look forward to their future together. Aki aims to run her own patisserie someday, while Yuu decides to enter law enforcement.

Finally, "Butterfly Effect" shows how Maria and Ageha stayed in touch when Maria's band was still abroad. Not even a big-shot producer could keep them apart. ^^ (Maria punches him out when he's like "You're not agreeing to meet with me tomorrow because that's when you're meeting your lover? Oh yeah, you're a lesbian. You should break up, since I'm sure she's just some gold digger.") Of course, Maria meets up with Ageha, and the story ends on a perfect note. ^_^

Great collection. Do read, if you want a strong yuri collection featuring a variety of ages and settings.

Art: A good-looking, but not-as-strong-and-confident-as-the-rest B for Natsuneko's earliest story, "Spicy Sweets." B+ to A- for the rest. "Quilt Queen" and the "Butterfly" chapters are the stories that give Natsuneko the greatest opportunity for visual flourish.
Story: Highly variable, because of one story. But I'm ignoring it.
Overall: A-


Anonymous said...

I also enjoyed this collection. Too bad Natsuneko didn't continue drawing for Yuri Hime. Hope Jmanga picks it up for English release.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Anon- I wish she'd continued also. And I'd like to see it on JManga too! =) The more great yuri licensed the better, eh?