Friday, January 30, 2009

Things on the Internet I Don't Understand: Candy Boy

2008 saw many strange things, not least of which was one of the most vacuous years of yuri anime in all of the time that I've been in the yuri fandom. (Since 2006... which isn't really saying much...) Aside from the Yoriko/Kananko subplot in Mouryou no Hako (which is still being fansubbed, so I can't speak for how it resolves yet...I still say that it's an excellent series), 2008 has had a 3 episode hentai OVA (Shoujo Sect, which again, I am never watching), a few side characters (pervy Nene from Hyakko which I haven't finshed, pervy Sei and whatsherface from Koihime Musou which I haven't finished, and Elliot from Mai Otome S.ifr- she looks like a genteel Victorian maiden next to the others), and a crappy internet show called Candy Boy. If there was ever a way to measure how bereft the fandom was of decent yuri this past year, it would be the fact that Candy Boy received such an enthusiastic response.

Here's a synopsis of the show, beginning with its origins: A generic pop idol named Meilin releases a single called "Candy Boy," and it gets extra promotion by having a (roughly) 8 minute short yuri anime attached to it. Yay, right? Only, to grab extra attention (and because the people who came up with the concept are probably Megami-reading creeps), the yuri in question is about (wait for it) twin sisters in high school named Kanade and Yukino. In the initial short, a younger girl named Sakuya asks the younger twin, Yukino, to help her win over Kanade, the older twin. Kanade gets jealous when she thinks that Yukino and Sakuya are going out, only to find out that her sister has feelings for her. Whew! Crisis averted!! (That's the sound of my stomach churning and a piece of my soul flying away.)

Because this 8 minute piece of tripe was so popular, it's been getting released as a 7 episode series online, with one 15 minute episode getting released...once a month, I think. A wise decision on the part of the creators, because if they aired a full-length episode of this once every week, no doubt more people would realize how deadly dull it is. (If incest isn't enough of a turn-off.) The art is pretty and the backgrounds are well-done, but that's hardly a saving grace when there are plenty of better-looking shows, both yuri and otherwise, that have real plots. (Aside from, "Oh my god, how can she leave me for a girl outside our gene pool??!") Not to mention the dialogue is a perfect example of the more insipid side of the slice-of-life genre.

Not recommended, unless you're really desperate for yuri, and have read/watched everything out there, and don't mind incest. (Yes, that element creeps the hell out of me, especially since it's caused a number of fans on "teh internet" to start defending it as perfectly normal. Please.)

Rating: 1 out of 5 (With that 1 point for the art.)

Just thought I'd get that opinion off of my chest, since just about everybody in the internet yuri fandom seems to think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Extra Note: this review covers all released episodes of Candy Boy from the 8 minute ONA (episode 0) through episode 5.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Strawberry Shake Sweet Chapter 14: Concise Commentary

The writer of this blog has passed out due to the overwhelming yuri romance/comedy contained in Strawberry Shake Sweet chapter 14. Her last words were, "Thank you...Hayashiya-senseiii...and Lililicious...."

Rating: If she were to comment, she would give this chapter an overwhelming 5 out of 5.

Random SSS pic.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Strawberry Shake Sweet Chapter 13

Lililicious just released chapter 13 of Strawberry Shake Sweet!!! XD Praise be to their name!!!!!!! (Or rather, names!!!!!!) Mwahahahahahhahahaha!!!!!! This was an amazing chapter!! The best yet!! The only awkward part was when my dad walked into the office while I was giggling while hunched over the computer reading page 7. >.> (He acted like he didn't see/hear anything, but I refuse to believe it!) Anyway, this chapter was yet another installment of the rom-com brilliance that is Strawberry Shake Sweet, with Julia and Ran being roped into performing as the opening act in Zlay's concert, and being told that they have to kiss as a part of their performance. (Thank you, yuri gods!! Or goddesses!! Or yuri deities!!! Whatever!! Thank youuuu!!!) Julia and Ran come SO. CLOSE. TO CONFESSING!! I need to read the next chapter a.s.a.p.!! There honestly wasn't any one moment that I could single out as my favorite shining moment. That's how damn good this is. If any yuri fan hasn't read this, they must either read it, or turn in their yuri fan card. (Just kidding about that last part... kind of.) And content aside, it's pretty remarkable to see how Hayashiya Shizuru's art style has refined and improved over the time that she's drawn Strawberry Shake Sweet (even though it was always good). The line-work is more clean and crisp, and subsequently, the character designs are more refined. (Plus, I love Julia and Ran's stylish gothic lolita outfits.) This series is solid win, and this chapter is no different.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5. More subjectively, 5!!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Maria-sama ga Miteru Season 4, Episodes 1 and 2

This season rocks just for Maria-sama ga Miteru season 4! ^.^ I am a shameless Marimite fan girl, and so far, the first two episodes have not disappointed me. The first two episodes cover the 18th novel, in which the Yamayurikai put on yet another play for the Lillian School Festival, with the cooperation of the Hanadera Boys' Academy student council. Exactly one year after the events that began season 1 (and novel 1) of Maria-sama ga Miteru, Yumi is wondering what special thing she should do to celebrate the anniversary of the day that she and Sachiko became soeurs, Touko is blowing off practice for the drama club play she was supposed to be in (Little Women, in which she had the leading role as Amy), and Kanako deals with her idiot reason for hating men (daddy issues- what would she do if she had a crappy dad and a crappy mom, I wonder...hate everyone?).

In the first episode, Yumi convinces Touko to return to the drama club (because we know that despite her brash outward abrasiveness, Touko really can't say no to Yumi :) ), and the Yamayurikai otherwise just works on their play, business as usual (aside from Sachiko spontaneously deciding to switch the girls to male roles and the boys to female roles lol).

In the second episode, fans are treated to the greatest cameo appearance ever (one guess as to who that is), Sachiko brilliantly manipulates Kanako into meeting her father and resolving the issues between them- along with Kanako's former sempai Yuuko, Yumi and Sachiko arrive slightly late to Touko's play (but at least before Touko's first line :), but Touko still notices), the Yamayurikai performs their historical gender-bendy play, and, in front of the statue of Maria-sama, exactly one year after she made Yumi into her petite soeur, Sachiko asks Yumi to *dun dun dun* choose her own petite soeur. (After Sachiko makes another one of those spontaneous, lovely speeches that she's so good at. :) ) And finally, the drama of the final scene of that episode is all but wiped from the viewer's mind by the now widely screen-capped, yuri-riffic ending theme.

There were so many things that I (as a faithful fan) loved about these episodes, especially...

Sachiko using her oneesama charm to make Yumi (very happily) agree to switch to a male role in the play.

And Yuuki in drag. lol Speaking of which...

Alice-kun! XD I loved his reaction to the unexpected blessing that was bestowed upon him. :) And of course more of Sachiko (the mastermind behind the gender flip-flopping) being uber-cool...

The greatest cameo ever...

(And a thousand fan girls screamed:) Sei!!! XD Seiseiseiseiseiseisei!!!!!!! It was cool to see Youko again too, of course. ^^ The previews also promised an Eriko appearance in episode 3. :) At first I thought that the brunette girl climbing over the wall was Eriko (with a different hairstyle), knowing her.

Sei and faux-Eriko (Yuuko, Kanako's former sempai). I really did think she might be Eriko before she turned around. >_>;; And courtesy of faux-Eriko, we get one of (in my opinion) the sweetest scenes in Marimite to date. I don't want to screencap it (because that would constitute major spoilers for Kanako's storyline), but it was a lovely scene. :) Speaking of lovely, courtesy of Touko's role in Little Women, she finally lets her hair out of their usual curly pigtails, and looks surprisingly prettier and more mature. :)

Lastly, the gender-bendy play...

*chortle* And...

The climactic anniversary scene between Yumi and Sachiko. ^^

Overall Rating: 4.5 (Feel free to subtract from the rating if you have a precipitously lower appreciation for shoujo, slice-of-life, yuri, character-driven stories, or historical dramas.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bridge and Yuri

Not much has really been happening since the holidays. Today, four of my dad's friends visited for dinner, including a Smith alumna. ^^ She asked a ton of questions about what it's like to attend Smith now. Apparently, when this particular alumna was a student at Smith, the residential houses had "house mothers", 10:00 p.m. weekday curfews, and weekend curfews at midnight (she attended Smith about 50 years ago). Almost every party that I've heard/read about at college starts at 10:00! @_@ I still have to get a summer job, too. Starting next week, I'll be working for a few days a week as an assistant at my dad's bridge classes (he works teaching bridge, the card game, at bridge clubs and country clubs), for something to do on weekdays (while accruing funds to support my hobbies ;) ). This basically means handing out whichever papers the students need, as well as four pre-arranged card decks per table (pre-arranged to suit the lesson of the day), and filling in as a player if one of the tables needs it (since bridge is normally played with four people, but the total amount of people who arrive at each class isn't always divisible by four).

It is also that wonderful time of the year when anime/manga/yuri fans everywhere are chiming in with their opinions as to what the best anime/manga/yuri of the year is. Even though I haven't come close to seeing enough anime or reading enough manga that premiered this year to form an authoritative opinion, from what I've watched, I would choose Mouryou no Hako as both the best anime series and best yuri anime (or rather, anime containing yuri). Sigh, -_- it looks like I'm the only person who voted for it on the "Best 2008 Yuri Anime" poll on the Shoujo-Ai discussion forum. (With Candy Boy winning by a landslide.)

As for yuri manga, each new chapter of Shizuru Hayashiya's Strawberry Shake Sweet leaves me in a quivering pile of fan girl goo, easily maintaining its #1 spot. However... I know that it ends after 2 volumes!!! ;_; (The last chapter has already been published...) Nevertheless, Strawberry Shake Sweet already looks to be getting serious competition from Takashi Ikeda's fabulous rom-com, Sasamekikoto, which has already had 3 volumes published and doesn't look like it's stopping anytime soon. XD (Darn you Yuri Hime, with your quarterly release schedule! ;_;) And I'm saying this after only having read 3 chapters (since that's all that's been scanlated, and I've heard promising things about the crack-tastic later chapters). So I'm definitely looking forward to more wonderful Sasamekikoto. ^_^ After Strawberry Shake Sweet and Sasamekikoto, my fave is a tie between Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga and Octave by Haru Akiyama. Morinaga already won me over with her Yuri Hime works, and Girl Friends is no less charming. (Granted, it's more serious than Morinaga's previous works, but it totally works for me.) Octave has a more mature, josei feel, but I like it more than Yamaji Ebine's works, actually (which I'm sorry to say, since I know that Ebine's manga titles are the darlings of josei yuri fans... they are extremely good, though, but nowadays I'm really favoring yuri manga that last beyond one volume- ideally multiple volumes). It's really a little hard to articulate why I like Octave so much (maybe because it also features a college-age protagonist who's figuring out wants she really wants to do with her life?). After Octave and Girl Friends, my next two favorites are Hanjuku Joshi by Akiko Morishima and Chatting at the Amber Teahouse by Miyabi Fujieda. Hanjuku Joshi showcases yuri veteran Akiko Morishima's signature blend of believable yet quirky drama and humor with her pretty character designs (I like the distinctive style of eyes Morishima uses, along with the slightly rounded look of her character designs), while debunking various "girl's school" tropes. Plus, I especially like the character Mari. I just really like her smarmy confidence and blunt self-honesty, along with the fact that characters like her seem to be rare in yuri (at least as protagonists). And Chatting at the Amber Teahouse is deliciously sweet (Fujieda is the master of undiluted sweetness XD), with some of the loveliest one-liners and one of the most memorable metaphors I've read in romance manga (the teapot and cozy metaphor; it's worth reading this manga just for that! ^^ I wonder if anybody who's read the manga has tried to use it in real life. Because I could just see that. XD). Finally, next I'm enjoying Takewakamaru's Creo the Crimson Crisis. It's not terribly deep, but it's a fun fantasy that makes me giggle at each chapter. ^^ That has to count for something.