Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Top 11 Yuri Manga Highlights of 2012

Sorry about the neglect here as of late- I moved from my hometown in Florida to New York City last Thursday. Now that things have settled down, this blog will revert back to regular posting. Sorry again about the dry spell, and thank you for your patience!

The Top 11 titles below all came out in tankoubon format in Japan in 2012. Following them, I've listed a few series I really look forward to seeing as tankoubon and, last but not least, a summary of the goodies English-speaking yuri fans saw published in 2012. (In that respect, we have a lot more than we did after 2011 and 2010.)

Aoi Hana by Shimura Takako (7 volumes, ongoing):
Because like many of you, I love Fumi and Akira and am waiting with bated breath to see what becomes of them. I have more to say about their current relationship and its possible final outcomes, but will save that for my review of volume 7. Also- not in volume 7, but I love the increased focus Hinako and Orie got in recent chapters.

Collectors by Nishi Uko (1 volume, ongoing):
Collectors is that rarest of yuri delights- a series about two women who are already in love and well past "Does she like me back?" Takako's hobby is collecting fashionable clothes while Shinobu's is collecting books. Despite their very different interests, they clearly belong together. Nishi Uko has been drawing realistic yuri doujinshi as one half of a circle called UKOZ for years (some of which I own; you can read some of her earlier work in English in the Yuri Monogatari 5 and 6 anthologies), so it's great to see her going pro with this series, which is running in the josei magazine Rakuen Le Paradis.

Girl's Ride by Isomoto Tsuyoshi (1 volume, complete):
Wow, does this series make me grin. Simple premise- Sei is a new student at Nan's school, Nan befriends Sei, Nan picks up motorcycle riding because of Sei, and Sei and Nan go riding to different places- often out of town- together. This series has a bit of an old school seinen vibe, it isn't servicey (not even the beach chapter), and its characters are incredibly charming. And, well, it's part of a yuri imprint, so... ^^

Gunjo by Nakamura Ching (3 volumes, complete):
Volume 2 of this series was, as noted in my Yuri Manga Highlights of 2011 list, an emotionally gut-punching book. Volume three's resolution is... haha, I wont tell you. I'm not just being an asshole here- you really should read it without being spoiled. If someone had spoiled it for me prior to my reading it, I would feel like punching them in the face. On that heartwarming note, if you're following this series but haven't read its ending, I hope you get to asap. By far the most likely licensor for this title is Viz (because of its Sig Ikki line; Gunjo ran in Ikki magazine), but I could also see it fitting in, say, Vertical or Dark Horse's catalogues. (Basically, publishers that have shown interest in dark, offbeat seinen titles.)

Hatsukoi Kouzoushiki by Amano Shuninta (1 volume, complete): 
I've become such a big Amano Shuninta fangirl. This collection is a goodie bag of everything she does well- goofiness, sweetness, realism, weirdness, and, yes, sexiness. (She is one of the special few mangaka whose PWP work I find hot. See why this list is so subjective?) My favorite in this collection is one of the non-PWP stories, though- the one about a woman who decides to counter how boring and stuck-in-a-rut she's becoming by ordering a mega-spicy bowl of ramen and eating the entire thing before, eyes watering and lips swollen as an unintended side effect of the ramen, confessing to the co-worker she's in love with. It's utterly adorable, and I love its message.

Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo by Morinaga Milk (2 volumes, complete): 
Specifically, the Kuchibiru reboot, for giving Nana and Hitomi a more conclusive Happily Ever After, and their own place! ^_^ Morinaga has wanted to finish Nana and Hitomi's story for a long time, and Futabasha finally gave her the chance to do so. She did a wonderful job, and while I would be thrilled to see more of Nana and Hitomi, I'm happy with where they are at the end of this series.

Pie wo Agemasho, Anata ni Pie wo ne by Sakamoto Mano (1 volume):
For, quite simply, excellent execution of a variety of premises, featuring characters who feel like people I could know and make me want to see what will happen to them. My favorite in this collection is the one about an actress (a lesbian, happily in love with her girlfriend) moving on from how the idol duo she was once a part of broke up. I don't want to spoil too much, but it's a really lovely, poignant story. As with Nishi UKO, Nakamura Ching, Amano Shuninta, Goto Hayako and Morishima Akiko's work on this list, this collection's focus on adult characters is refreshing.

Poor Poor Lips by Goto Hayako (4 volumes, complete):
Ahhhhhhh! I don't want to spoil how this series resolves either. I will let you know that volume 4 ends happily, and that there is a completely unexpected plot twist in it. I'm so, so happy to see Ren and Nako get a happy ending, though. Those two had me rocking in a fetal position in a corner, hyperventilating, after the events of volume 3.

Renai Joshi File by Morishima Akiko (1 volume, sort of complete):
As long as Morishima Akiko continues putting out at least one yuri tankoubon a year, she'll always have a spot on these "Top Yuri Manga of Such-and-Such Year" lists. This entire collection was great, but it included two things I especially like- seeing a character who lost in a love triangle in another series find her own love, and a long-term, adult lesbian couple acting as role models for a younger lesbian couple finding their footing. I hope it's a long, long, long, long time before Morishima Akiko retires.

Sasameki Koto by Ikeda Takashi (9 volumes, complete):
Sasameki Koto's final chapter came out late in 2011, but its final tankoubon came out in early 2012. As you can see from volume 9's cover, our two lovebirds Sumi and Ushio finally graduate high school. The ending they got made me tear up, in a good way- particularly when I read the chalkboard message from their classmates.

Series That Haven't Been Published as Tankoubon Yet:
Cirque Arachne by Saida Nika:
This series' last chapter ran in the last issue of Yuri Hime to come out in 2012, but its tankoubon hasn't been published yet. It's due to (finally!) come out on February 18. Anyway, want to read something different- as in a yuri manga with an unusual setting? Check, this series is about two women who perform in a Cirque du Soleil-like troupe called Cirque Arachne. What's that, you want to know if the actual story is good? Yes, it's very sweet.  And have I seen Kaliedo Star? Yes, I enjoyed it quite a bit. If you liked it, you should like this series.

Kazuma Kowo's one-shots in Yuri Hime:
Count me as a Kazuma Kowo fangirl also. I've enjoyed Junsui Adolescence and Sayonara Folklore, her two other Yuri Hime collections (and Dear Tear, her het romance from Rakuen Le Paradis), but her one-shots are my favorite part of her body of work so far. I'm also glad she continued the couple from "Recalculation"'s story, since I liked them (especially Kisaragi) quite a bit in their original one-shot. Oh, but all of them are squee-worthy. ^.^

Hayashiya Shizuru's one-shots in Rakuen Le Paradis:
It's no secret that Hayashiya Shizuru's Strawberry Shake Sweet is one of my all-time most beloved series. As great as Hayate x Blade might be as a yuri-flavored action-comedy, I'm very glad to see Hayashiya also doing more romance-centric work in Rakuen Le Paradis. ^^

Under One Roof by Fujio:
I will probably die of old age before this series comes out in a collected volume (it being only 6 or so pages in each issue of Hirari), but man, this is such a delightful little series. Miho, a recent college graduate, decides to move out of her parents' house, so she tours a sharehouse where the only resident is a woman around her age named Fuuka. Fuuka and Miho get along swimmingly, and Fuuka tells Miho right off the bat that she's gay, just to be sure Miho's cool with it. Miho is, and they become housemates. What happens when Miho and Fuuka fall for each other? ^^ (Hint: Squeeee!)

Goodies English-speaking yuri fans got last year:

Cardcaptor Sakura omnibi 3 and 4 by CLAMP (release by Dark Horse):
Yeah, sucks for Tomoyo that she didn't get the girl, but she's still one of yuri's most iconic classic characters, and CCS is a great story all-around.

Girl Friends omnibus 1 by Morinaga Milk (release by Seven Seas): And omnibus 2, now that it's out. Want a realistic coming-of-age yuri romance? Girl Friends is just the ticket. Not only was having this series published in English an utterly delightful surprise, so was its selling well enough to make the New York Times best-selling graphic novel list, AND Seven Seas licensing Morinaga's Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo, which they will publish this summer.

Rica'tte Kanji!?: Tokyo Love by Takashima Rica:
This wonderful yuri classic about a lesbian college student named Rica- her moving from her hometown to Tokyo to attend a college and finally meet other women in the lesbian community, before getting together with her girlfriend, Miho- is now in electronic format, with the addition of Takashima's Rica chapters from the Yuri Monogatari anthologies, a cracktastic original doujinshi by Takashima, and some snazzy all-new content. This 2.0 version of Rica'tte Kanji!? is going to come out (hurr) in print at some point- but for now, it's available as a DRM-free downloadable e-book and can be read for free on ALC's website, which I think is quite neat.

Sailor Moon volumes 6 through 8 by Takeuchi Naoko (release by Kodansha): Haruka and Michiru. Enough said.

Lots of yuri on JManga, most of it published in partnership with ALC Publishing:
Thanks to the influx of yuri on JManga, I got to see some favorites licensed and released this past year (like Sweet Blue Flowers a.k.a. Aoi Hana, Hanjuku Joshi, Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu, and Poor Poor Lips) and check out titles I hadn't read (for the love of god, if you haven't read Tears of Thorn, READ IT). I'm glad Ameiro Kouchakan Kandan is on there as of today, and look forward to seeing what else comes next. ^_^


kitsune and neko said...

Oh Sakamoto Mano and Amano Shuninta are great mangaka; I love them, too! Though this oneshot from Shuninta wasn't very much to my liking.

Aoi Hana drags endlessly, has a very big cast, and the theatricals have gotten tiring. I'd like more of Akira's and Fumi's relationship.

Collectors is a very good manga, but oh well I can't say I'm enamored with it.

Under One Roof and Cirque Arachne are manga I follow and are soooo adorable!

Klonoa said...

Do you know where I can find a complete translation of Gunjo? Or is it still being scanlated? Seems very interesting.

Anonymous said...

I hope jmanga releases poor poor lips 4 soon! Dying to know what happens.

Also a fan of Kazuma Kowo. Really like the art.

Under one roof has grown on me. Surprisingly cute series. I hope it gets more time to develop.

Katherine Hanson said...

@kitsune and neko- Ah well, different stroke for different folks. I love that particular one-shot, disagree that Aoi Hana's gotten bad, and think Collectors is quite awesome. But I'm with you on the adorable-ness of Under One Roof and Cirque Arachne.

@Klonoa- It is really interesting! But there is no complete translation. (Still holding out hope that it'll be licensed soon-ish.)

@Anon- I'm with you on all three counts. I want English-speaking yuri fans who can't read Japanese to be able to read it soon. And I love Kowo Kazuma's art- there's just something very endearing about how she draws her characters. And I also want to see where Under One Roof goes, given ample time to develop.

A Day Without Me said...

Oh, dear, maybe I will have to try Sasamekikoto again...

Katherine Hanson said...

@Day- Do iiiit. Kidding. Maybe. If you do decide to try more of it, I certainly hope you like it, but if you don't try more or still don't care for it after trying more, I won't hold it against you. ;-)

Sirius シリウス said...

[Offtopic: Yay another yuri fan! ]Anyway I've heard of some of these, and I've only read a few. However, the series I haven't tried, I'll be sure to give them a try! In other words, thanks for these reviews. XD Now I have new series to try.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Sirius- My pleasure! ^^ Glad to help you find new titles you might like.

Valentina said...

This is cool!