Sunday, December 14, 2008

Criticism of Cliches: Girl's School Vs. Non-Girl's School Yuri

(Listening to "Sensitive" by KOTOKO.)

Yesterday Erica Friedman was kind enough to point out on her Okazu blog that a new movie adaptation of the old yuri classic manga Sakura no Sono (that I'd never heard about before yesterday) is being made, and she even provided links to the trailers for what seems to be an older movie adaptation, which was creepy as heck (not what anybody's looking for in a romance movie, no? It reminded me of a freaky movie that was made in the early 90's that I had to watch in gym class, at the high school that I studied abroad at in Japan), and a trailer for the new movie adaptation, which looked good enough to be worth checking out.

However, my mostly apathetic reaction to the movie trailer made me realize... just how sick I am of the "all girl's school" subgenre of yuri anime and manga, even though Maria-sama ga Miteru is still one of my favorite series (not only because of its excellent writing and character development, but it was the cause, not a result, of the influx of "all girl's yuri" series that have been created en masse in the past few years; it's like what Tenchi Muyo is to the harem genre) and I like Strawberry Panic (not just because it, along with Marimite, was one of the first "all girl's school" series I watched, it also doesn't take itself too seriously). But seriously, to the mangaka and anime story writers who are involved in making series with yuri: think of something new. Don't fall back on a setting/plot vehicle that's getting as trite as the "loser guy meets a hot goddess/chobit/robot/vampire/alien/whatever and she falls for him because he's 'nice'" idea. To back up my criticism, here's a list of every anime and manga with significant yuri, set at at an all-girl's school (not in any special order) that I can think of off the top of my head:

1.Shiroi Heya no Futari by Ryoko Yamagishi
2.Oniisama E... by Riyoko Ikeda
3.Aoi Hana by Shimura Takako
4.Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo (or in English, the more Harlequin-sounding title "Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink") by Milk Morinaga
5.Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga (She loves those girl's schools.)
6.Maria-sama ga Miteru (manga version's story by Konno Oyuki (author of the light novels) and art by Satoru Nagasawa.)
7.Strawberry Panic (manga version's story by Sakurako Kimino (author of the light novels) and art by Namuchi Takumi.)
8.Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru (it pains me to include this one)
9.Blue Drop (the anime version, made as a prelude to the manga by Yoshitomi Akihito that I've only read one chapter of)
10.Hatsukoi Shimai (story by Mako Komao, art by Mizuo Shinonome, and design (whatever that means, exactly) by Reine Hibiki)
11.The Last Uniform by Mera Hakamada
12.Hayate X Blade by Shizuru Hayashiya (which at least distinguishes itself by not taking itself too seriously, and making the school a setting for sword-fight matches students need to win to move up in rank, instead of being another meandering slice-of-life story.)
13.Sakura no Sono by Akimi Yoshida
14.Shoujo Sect (manga version by by Ken Kurogane)
15.Candy Boy
16.Hanjuku Joshi by Morishima Akiko
17.Applause by Kyouko Ariyoshi (only volume 1)
Etc, etc, etc.

My-Otome could also, debatably, be included on this list, although it goes far and beyond in creating a plot that doesn't rely on the "girl's school" draw, and including male characters who play meaningful roles (unlike the school in Strawberry Panic, which seems to have some sort of invisible barrier that bars anybody with a Y chromosome from entering). And Gokujou Seitokai contains one canon yuri character, and some nudge-nudge wink-wink humor poking fun at how some yuri is expected in a girl's school series (like the paya-paya episode). Heck, even Girl's High, which is probably the most accurate anime depiction of what an all-girl's school is like, pokes fun at the "all-girl's school" yuri subgenre a few times.

On that note, this past week I re-watched the first 2 episodes of Kannazuki no Miko (that's all I had time for), and found that I enjoyed it a lot more than I did the last time I tried watching the first two episodes. Although it doesn't reach the stellar level of writing and storytelling achieved by Simoun (an excellent yuri sci-fi/fantasy that isn't set at an all-girl's school either ^^ ), it feels like a breath of fresh air to watch a yuri anime set at a co-ed school, with a real plot. (Two shinto priestesses representing the sun and moon must be continuously reincarnated together to seal away the evil god Orochi each time it begins reviving, and of course there's more to it...) But I'm looking forward to watching more over winter break, and finding what my impression is at the end. (Since the ending used to make me cry, or at least tear up every time I watched it. ^^;;) In fact, I'll make a list off anime and manga with significant yuri that aren't set at an all-girl's school (again, in no particular order):

1.Simoun (manga version by Hayase Hashiba)
2.Kannazuki no Miko (manga version by Kaishaku; the anime is a lot better)
3.Strawberry Shake Sweet by Shizuru Hayashiya
4.Sasamekikoto by Takashi Ikeda (with over 3 volumes published, and still running strong! XD )
5.The Devil Lady
6.Read or Die television series (barely makes it, though)
8.Revolutionary Girl Utena (manga by Chiho Saito; silly me, how could I include it this late? ^^;;)
9.Sailor Moon (manga version by Naoko Takeuchi)
10.Azumanga Daioh (also stretching it, since it's only one side character, but the yuri is hilarious enough to be noteworthy)
11.Ameiro Koucha Kandan ("The Amber Teahouse") by Miyabi Fujieda (my favorite manga by him so far! ^^)
12.The Miko's Words and the Witch's Incantations by Miyabi Fujieda
13.Iono-sama Fanatics by Miyabi Fujieda
14.Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito
15.Kashimashi (manga version's story by Satoru Akahori and art by Yukimaru Katsura)
16.Love My Life by Yamaji Ebine
17.Free Soul by Yamaji Ebine
18.Indigo Blue by Yamaji Ebine (I haven't read this one at all yet; I like all of Ebine's yuri manga, although I wish she would create a story that lasted for more than one volume)
19.Miyuki-chan in Wonderland by CLAMP (but does it really count if it's a trippy version of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland populated entirely by female nymphomaniacs?)
20.Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP (really stretching it)
21.Puni Puni Poemy (the protagonist's best friend Futaba, who is a very blatant parody of CCS's Tomoyo)
22.Hyakko (only for Nene, another side character who, unlike Azumanga Daioh's Kaorin, isn't that funny)
23.Transistor ni Venus by Izumi Takemoto (I haven't read much, but what I read so far made for fun reading; it's about a female spy named April living in the year 2269.)
24.Rica'tte Kanji by Rika Takashima (the main character does attend a women's college in Tokyo, but it isn't the focus at all)
25.Applause by Kyouko Ariyoshi (volumes 2 through 4)
26.Maya no Souretsu ("Maya's Funeral Procession") by Yukari Ichijou
27.Mnemosyne (which I've seen through episode 3, but personally wouldn't recommend)
28.Moonlight Flowers by Tsukumo Mutsumi (which I wouldn't recommend, because I don't like how it portrays all of its male characters negatively, and raises women by comparison on a ridiculously self-righteous pedestal. "Bah," is all I can say to that. I've met as many women as men who I consider asinine and obnoxious. -_-).
27.Shibuya District, Maruyama Neighborhood: After School by Mari Okazaki (Random comment: I feel more compelled to read or watch stories that feature Shibuya. ^^)
28.Creo the Crimson Crises by Takewakamaru (Can you say "lesbian Oh My Goddess" meets "Meru Puri"? I thought that this was "awesome" stuff when I read the first chapter in Yuri Hime. Even though, like OMG and Meru Puri, I see through the vicarious wish fulfillment elements like Saran wrap (as Zac Bertschy put it in his review of Meru Puri), it's still a cute series, from what I've read so far. Recommended for anybody looking for a light fantasy/comedy yuri manga with pretty, "flowy" art. ^^ Heh, and here I was criticizing the magical girfreind subgenre earlier in this post... ^^;; *hypocrite*)
29.Etc,etc,etc. (A one-shot I would highly recommend by an author who hasn't been mentioned so far here is, "Snowflakes Fluttering Down Through the Clear Sky" by Himawari Souya, which has already been scanlated by Lililicious.)

This second list as a whole makes me feel more positive now, even (or especially) after removing the crappy/non-recommended titles and the titles that only have one minor yuri side character. ^^

Edit (Added the next morning at 11:37 a.m.):
An unrelated question: Why doesn't one ever hear the term "magical boyfriend" used to describe an anime or manga? I can think of several series that would technically qualify as "magical girlfriend" if the genders were reversed, like Hino Matsuri's Meru Puri (Airi/Aram and every other magical guy vying for her affections) and Vampire Knight (Yuuki/Kaname and Zero; brilliantly subverts the "magical boyfriend" dynamic later on though... ^^ Heh, my bias is showing again. ^^;;); Yuu Watase's Fushigi Yuugi (Miaka/Tamahome and Hotohori), Ayashi no Ceres (Aya/Tooya), and Absolute Boyfriend (Riiko/Night); Arina Tanemura's Full Moon o Sagashite (Mitsuki/Takuto); Pretear (Himeno/Hayate, Sasame/?; manga version's story by Junichi Sato and art by Kaori Naruse); and even, arguably, Rumiko Takahashi's Inu Yasha (Kagome/you-know-who).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Maria-sama Christmas Album: Inane Commentary

Darn it, I want that album. Is it worth it to order it today? By the time it gets here, it will almost be Christmas. That's not enough time to be worth getting it by this Christmas, right? Plus, when it arrives at my house in Florida, no doubt my dad will be like, "Oh, can I see what you ordered?" And when he sees that it's a Christmas CD from Japan he'll want to listen to it. (Like, "We can play that now also to celebrate Christmas!") I checked to see if the CD was there, and found the list of tracks:

01 JOY TO THE WORLD(もろびとこぞりて)
02 Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town(サンタが町にやってくる)
03 O come,all ye faithful(神の御子は今宵しも)
04 Silent Night(きよしこの夜)
05 Angels we have heard on high(あら野のはてに)
06 We wish you a Merry Christmas

Sooo...back to my imaginary story. My dad will want to listen to this Christmas CD that I felt strongly enough about to import from Japan, and most likely hear some random Christmas carols being sung in "engrish" or Japanese (or both), and be like, "... o__o;;" (because no doubt it will be sung by the seiyuu), while I'll be like "Yayyy!!! Kana Uedaaaa!!! Miki Itou!!! Sachiko-sama!!! XD " And he'll be like, "How much did you pay for this...?" Alas, none of my friends at home (or people who I'm friends with at college, as far as I know) are into Maria-sama, so the appeal would likely be lost on them. (Although I'm going to show the series to Adrianna this winter break.)

Darn those fans in Japan who were able to just pick it up yesterday, or could order it so it would arrive by today! TT_TT

Maria-sama ga Miteru Season 4, and Subsequent Fannishness

Kyaah!! XD The Maria-sama ga Miteru season 4 trailer was released todaaaaay! ^^ posted it on its website. Each new second of Maria-sama animation is like being granted a teasing glimpse of heaven. ^___^ Yes, I'm using hyperbole, but such is the nature of fandom. The animation looks a little better than the previous television seasons (closer to the 3rd season OVA), and of course the art is as beautiful as always. ^^ Today I picked up my Maria-sama ga Miteru season 2 box set at the campus center post office. I don't have time to watch it now, but that's what winter break is for! ^^

And I found a new picture for...

a Maria-sama ga Miteru Christmas album! Perfect for the Maria-sama ga Miteru junkie in anyone's life. (A Christmas album actually makes sense, given the setting.) I'm intrigued as to what it would sound like.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Season, and Yasumicon 2009

Ack, what a tedious, yet fastidiously detailed post I put up yesterday. ^^;; Goes to show what people write when they're tired. I decided, since Christmas is coming up, to look up a few anime and manga I might either ask for or just buy for myself. I have to find out what other people I know want for Christmas too... My dad's pretty impossible to shop for, since he never says that he wants anything. So I usually give him coupons that say things like, "One Day of Household Chores All Done By Kathy," "One Pie (Any Flavor)," etc, although last year I also gave my dad a copy of Tuesdays With Morrie since he likes "inspirational" books like that (and I admit, I love Tuesdays With Morrie also), and I felt like I had to give something besides the same coupon idea that I've been using since...I don't even remember exactly when (several years). My mom, on the other hand, has always had something specific she'd like. My friends and I usually stick to manga, with handmade, normally anime-themed cards. A couple of years ago, my friend Adrianna even offered to draw me any character I wanted, and I chose Al, my favorite character from Fullmetal Alchemist back then (although now I think that I'm more of an Edward person, even though Al's still adorable).

I also recently received an e-mail from Austin, the person who's in charge of panels at Yasumicon (a medium-size anime convention that the Florida International University Anime Club hosts each summer in Miami). He e-mailed me to ask if I would like to do a yuri panel again at Yasumicon 2009. Definitely!! ^__^

Even though pickings have been slim this year as far as new yuri-themed anime, or at least anime with enough yuri included to be of interest to yuri fans, this year's panel will still have some new and improved aspects to it. For one, instead of making the manga portion of the panel "Top 5 Yuri Manga," it will be "Top 5 Yuri Mangaka," i.e. if you see this person's name on a yuri manga, you'll get an enjoyable, quality story. (Especially with all of the mangaka who put out a plethora of good yuri now like Shizuru Hayashiya, Morishima Akiko, Milk Morinaga, Miyabi Fujieda, Shimura Takako, Takashi Ikeda, etc.)

Plus, since I'm picky when choosing "quality" titles for my panel, I decided to turn that aspect of the panel on its head by creating a section titled, "Yuri to Show to People Who You Despise." This section won't include titles that I wouldn't consider quality but have (along with many other fans) found entertaining at some point or another, like Kannazuki no Miko and Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito. These will be the few, special titles that even the most desperate 4chan user would consider terrible. (I look forward to showing them! ^^) This section will be composed of two anime titles: the Iczer-One OVA and the ICE OVA (neither of which I finished, and probably never will).

Prior to the "Top 5 Yuri Mangaka" and "Yuri to Show to People Who You Despise" sections, there will be the same "What is Yuri?" and "History of Yuri" sections I had last year, along with "Yuri That You Can Call A Good Anime, Not Just A Good Yuri Anime," with an "Honorable Mention" section for Azumanga Daioh and Strawberry Panic.

I'm still waiting to see how Mouryou no Hako turns out, to see how much it should be included in the panel. For the first episode alone, I think it's at least worth mentioning, as long as it doesn't pull a Mnemosyne. (I started out loving Mnemosyne, but I stopped watching it after episode 3, when the story crossed the line from "edgy" to repugnantly exploitive. Two words: Poor Mimi.)

I remember how towards the end of my panel last year, Austin popped into the room where I was hosting it and asked me if I wanted him to show an episode of Candy Boy, and I freaked out and said "no." ^^;; (The poor guy; he was well-meaning, but if I wasn't going to show clips from Kashimashi and Kannazuki no Miko, why would I show Candy Boy? o_o;;) Unfortunately, the two highest profile new yuri titles this year have been Candy Boy and Shoujo Sect, neither of which I care to mention at the panel. (Even though I haven't seen Shoujo Sect, and don't plan to.) Arrgh! > < style="font-style: italic;">Simoun?! Or even the next Strawberry Panic?! Here's to placing my hopes on Mouryou no Hako, or for some other good surprise title to pop up, like Blue Drop did last year.

Mouryou no Hako: Absolutely worth watching regardless of the yuri.

Edit on 11/29/2009: Wow...this post is quite a trip down memory lane. ^^; It makes me realize how much has changed since I published it last year. There were certainly less yuri series to watch/anticipate watching than in 2009, and I was a little more of a hard-ass picky (in some respects) about what I watched/enjoyed/praised than I am today (and I hadn't started this blog yet; this post was originally published in my personal blog). I did include KnM in my subsequent panels, by the way. (And I didn't include Mouryou no Hako in my summer 2009 panel.) KnM isn't really, objectively a very good series- too many B-movie elements and camp moments-, but I like it and hold a fair amount of sentimental value for it. -///- I bought Kawasumi Ayako's "Primary" CD in Akihabara just because she voiced Chikane, after all. lol (I wasn't familiar with any of her other roles at the time- spring 2007-, aside from KyoSora's Kaon and Hitohira's Nono.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Vampire Knight Episode 9

Heh, so many posts these past few days... ^^;; (This blog is in danger of turning into Vampire Knightholics Anonymous.) I just had the opportunity to catch episode 9 of Vampire Knight Guilty, and I thought that I would summarize my reaction to that episode with this pic:

Drat, that picture was supposed to be a gif of Yuuki Cross doing the Caramelldansen dance. ^^;; Well, you get the idea. :) Episode 9 was not only a great episode on its own entertainment/writing/plot merits, but it also dispelled my minor yet niggling fears (triggered by the last episode, despite what Kaname said in it), that VK was going to pull an Angel Sanctuary. Not only that, but prior to this episode I was pulling for Team YuukixZero. Now...honestly, after this episode, I'm stuck between who Yuuki should choose! XD (Zero...Kaname....agghh!!! But it's a happy type of pain. ^^;;)

At this point, Vampire Knight Guilty is the only new anime I'm still interested in following each week. (Although I want to watch the third and final Mai Otome 0~s.ifr- however you spell it- OVA, once it's subbed. I still can't forgive the story writers for naming the principal of Garderobe before Natsuki "Una Shamrock." It sucked all of the cool out of her character. > < style="font-style: italic;">Lucky Charms every time her name gets mentioned.) The rest of the fall 2008 anime, really, I can put off finishing until I have time during winter break. (Yay, marathons! XD) It's not that VK is (objectively) the absolute highest quality series airing this season (that would probably be Mouryou no Hako). I just have to. See. What Happens Next Week!!

Spring 2009 Anime

While many anime fans are avidly anticipating the premiere of Kyoto Animation's new television series, Sora o Miageru Shoujo no Hitomi ni Utsuru Sekai, or "The World Reflected in the Eyes of a Girl Looking Up at the Heavens" (which is based on the Munto OVA they released in 2003-2005), I'm actually looking forward to a much more mainstream looking series...Mainichi Kaasan ("Daily/Everyday Mom").

A picture of the Munto OVA (for some reason it reminds me of Air). Everybody who knows about the upcoming series is probably either drooling with anticipation, or planning to boycott it since it means another Haruhi Suzumiya-free season. I'm willing to watch this new series, but I'm growing tired of waiting for new Haruhi Suzumiya. ^^;;

The Mainichi Kaasan anime is based on a gag manga of the same title that has been running in the morning edition of the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper every week since 2002. Interestingly, the mangaka behind Mainichi Kaasan is a woman named Reiko Saibara, who bases the manga on her own real-life experiences with her two kids.

Better still, although Reiko Saibara won the Japan Media Arts Festival Award in 2004 and the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2005 for Mainichi Kaasan, she got into a dispute with her son's school, due to some less than flattering obervations she made (drawing five children in one comic that was printed in 2004, labeling them "the five class dummies"). I could understand the principal or Saibara's son's teacher or somebody just asking her to be careful not to make it obvious which specific kids she's talking about (because of course that would be a pretty nasty thing to do, even though she has the right to it), but they went further when her son's class teacher asked her to refrain from depicting any school scenes. Rightfully, Saibara refused, saying that she has the right to freedom of expression.

Here are a couple of images from the Mainichi Kaasan manga:

Mainichi Kaasan looks like Sazae-san on acid. I'm looking forward to it. ^^