Monday, October 14, 2013

Manga Review: Zenryaku, Yuri no Sono Yori volumes 1 and 2

Suga Atsushi's Zenryaku, Yuri no Sono Yori is one of the series that ran in the now defunct Tsubomi yuri magazine and wrapped up online. I like this series, but not as much as a lot of people do. It's cute, but I never found myself excitedly talking about it with someone, which I think is a pretty good yardstick for how much of a favorite something I'm reading is. This is a cute series. It just didn't particularly light my fire even though I can see why other people like it more.

Our protagonist is named Yuri. Because one of her grandparents is white, Yuri has blonde hair like her mom but otherwise looks Japanese. Other kids bullied her for it when she was little, so between dealing with that and standing up for another bullied girl named Shinobu, she developed a hard-edged persona that people find intimidating. Now in high school, her only friend is Shinobu. After school everyday, Yuri and Shinobu create BL manga. Shinobu writes it and Yuri draws it.

Yuri's love interest is Misono, a rich girl who is top student at their school and admired by everyone. Talented though she is, Misono knows most of that admiration is driven by how wealthy and powerful her family is. Although she is perfectly polite and helpful to her classmates, she's pretty snarky. That side comes out when she finds the notebook of Shinobu's writing Yuri accidentally left in her desk after leaving school one day.

After Misono helps Yuri get out of trouble with a teacher, Yuri begrudgingly allows Misono to read the notebook. The story in the notebook is about a rich young man and his butler, and they are similar enough, respectively, to Misono and Yuri, that Misono assumes Yuri wrote it as a gender-flipped version of her fantasies. She thus tries to tease Yuri by reading the story aloud.

By the end of Yuri and Misono's portion of volume 1, Misono makes it clear that she doesn't just like teasing Yuri for the sake of teasing- they're friends, with a whiff of something more. Their portion of volume 1 is pretty much set-up.

I say their portion because a chunk of volume 1 is taken up by a side story focusing on an unrelated couple- Yuki, a quiet girl with no friends who thinks the love letter she received from another girl is just a prank, since she has gotten a lot of prank love letters from asshole classmates, and Akane, the chipper, outgoing girl who sent the love letter.

I liked the extra focusing on Shinobu, in which we find out that she was once in love with Yuri but is over it and now has a girlfriend named Azusa who she is happy with.

Volume 2 is when the meat of Yuri and Misono's story happens. Misono helps her classmates see that they misjudged Yuri, and Yuri starts making other friends. Doing so, she realizes that her classmates find Misono intimidating because of her family, and wonder if she, with her middle class background, is good enough to be close to Misono.

Yuri's insecurity causes Misono to feel she's losing Yuri as the only person who doesn't care about her status, and she cuts her off. Yuri figures things out and makes it clear to Misono that she doesn't care. They end the portion of volume 2 that was serialized online both obviously having feelings for each other and closer to coupledom than they were before, but not quite there. Shinobu, who serves as the Greek chorus for this story, starts writing a yuri manga based on Yuri and Misono.

As a bonus, we see Shinobu help Azusa study and plan a post-exam trip with her.

Suga made great use of the remaining volume 2 extras by including how Yuri and Misono pretty much got together, Yuri and Shinobu introducing their girlfriends to each other (this was the funniest of the extras and my second favorite), and my favorite extra, a look at Misono as a college student and Yuri as a professional manga artist working from home, before Misono comes home to Yuri. You will be shocked to know that the extras are my favorite part of this volume.

Yuki and Akane's story is cute but forgettable. Based on what we see of them in volume 1 alone, I would say the same about Yuri and Misono's story, but it developed some meat and became good in volume 2. A lot of people have noted that, unusually for yuri couples, Yuri and Misono both have short hair. (And similar hairstyles to boot.) Given her discovery of Yuri's secret, Misono could have easily become a gender-flipped version of the rich asshole male love interest common in shoujo and BL (like I guess the rich character in Shinobu's manga), but she wasn't. She and Yuri are both likeable and complement each other well, although Misono is my favorite for her zippy comebacks, I think.

Story: Starts pleasant but forgettable, becomes good.
Art: Does what it's supposed to, but really not this series' strong suit. C
Overall: C+ for volume 1, a solid B for volume 2, plus a sparkly star for that last extra.

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