Monday, November 26, 2012

Manga Review: Paros no Ken volume 1

Paros no Ken (The Sword of Paros) is a three volume fantasy series written by Kurimoto Kaoru (Guin Saga's author) and drawn by Igarashi Yumiko (Candy Candy's artist). It ran from 1986-1987 in Monthly Asuka. It is, as far as I know, the earliest example of a yuri romance that doesn't end with either half of its couple being killed off, committing suicide, or marrying a man. Incredible progressiveness for its time aside, it holds up today as a ripping good yarn.

Paros no Ken begins and ends described by an unnamed wandering minstrel to us as a legend based on events from long ago.

The kingdom of Paros was once in a dark period, in which it was threatened by a militant neighboring kingdom called Kauros.

Although Kauros could have gained control of Paros by invading, its leaders tried to save themselves the trouble by uniting the two kingdoms through marriage. Paros's King Aldius doesn't want his kingdom to lose its independence to Kauros by any means and tries to politely decline them. But he's running out of excuses, so he pressures his only heir, Erminia, to pick a Parosian man to wed. Unfortunately for him, Erminia isn't interested in men and makes no secret of it.

Erminia spends most of her free time riding horses with her best friend since childhood Yurias. One day Erminia saves one of the castle's laundry maids, Fiona, from being run over by a runaway horse. Neither can stop thinking about the other after that- Erminia because Fiona's her type, and Fiona because Erminia reminds her of the "prince" she met once as a child who she has always wanted to meet again. Of course, the person from Fiona's childhood is Erminia. I've mentioned before that I find the "I have been in love with you since we were kids, even though I haven't seen you at all since then!" trope stupid, but I actually don't mind it here. Fiona has had such a godawful life that it sadly makes sense that she would cling like a drowning person to a memory like that. 

But anyway, Erminia's sex doesn't make any difference to Fiona, and Fiona and Erminia spend more and more time together. Erminia becomes further smitten because Fiona is not only kind, she's the only person Erminia knows who isn't like "You're a woman, so you should do this and that and this! And be interested in these things!" Yurias, who is in love with Erminia, instantly pegs where things are heading between Erminia and Fiona. Some knights from Kauros attack Erminia when she is with Fiona. After Erminia and Yurias fend them off, Erminia notes that the Kaurian knights had several chances to kill her, but didn't. They were just testing her, for some reason.

Erminia's father finally gives her an ultimatum to chose a groom within ten days' time, and has her confined to her room until she chooses. This volume ends on a cliffhanger.

Erminia, who has justifiably been compared a lot to Rose of Versailles' Oscar, is a charismatic, ass-kicking lead- and, of course, groundbreaking for avoiding certain negative tropes and being happily outspoken about who she likes. In a high fantasy setting, but still. Erminia's out-ness is a big deal within the world she lives in because Paros no Ken's world is brimming with heterosexism, not to mention sexism. It can be incredibly, wonderfully refreshing to read something like Malinda Lo's Ash (one of my favorite novels), in which the characters live in a world where homophobia is nil and being openly interested in other women/other men need not come with any potentially negative consequences (because, you know, that's how things should be and will be someday)- but stories in which the characters work through (or have worked through) the less pretty aspects of coming out are, in a way, more... Well, let me put it this way. As a high schooler in the "What do these feelings mean!?" phase, I loved how utterly not a big deal the romances between Strawberry Panic!'s characters were. But for its much lower amount of out-and-out yuri, I found Maria-sama ga Miteru more comforting because the one canon lesbian among its leads, Sei, dealt with the less pretty aspects of coming out and ultimately came out happy even though she didn't get the girl she liked when she was questioning.

The point of that rambling tangent is that, even though Paros no Ken takes place in a high fantasy setting, it's written in such a way that Erminia's development parallels a lot of folks' real life experiences with coming out/being out as lgbtq, for better and worse, such as when Erminia tells Fiona (after mentioning that Yurias called her selfish for her time spent romancing Fiona), "If I express anything of a free will at the castle, I am accused of being selfish. One day, I simply realized that I needed to be true to myself, even if it caused others to curse my existence. I have just one chance... One chance to live a life that belongs to none but me."

One thing that does date this series is the ambiguity between trans male and lesbian identity in it. To quote what I wrote about that ambiguity in my essay on lesbian identity in yuri:
In some early works like Ikeda Riyoko’s Claudine…! and Kurimoto Kaoru and Igarashi Yumiko’s Paros no Ken, there is some ambiguity between lesbian identity and transgender identity. Oniisama E’s Rei is an example of a character whose description of being like a man—having the aura of a man, as Nanako [Oniisama's E's protagonist] describes her—was pretty obviously the closest thing that you were going to see to the word “butch” (or the Japanese equivalent) in a 70’s shoujo manga. That may have been the case with Claudine (the lead in Claudine…!) and Erminia (the lead in Paros no Ken) as well. Sailor Moon’s Haruka is described by creator Takeuchi Naoko, as having the “heart of a guy,” although when Takeuchi Naoko was asked if Haruka had been a man in her past life, she said no, and affirmed that she intended to create a relationship between two girls.  Just as the concept of akogare in Japan has a Western historical parallel in the idea of “smashings” between Victorian schoolgirls, the association between lesbian and transgender identity in older examples of Yuri has a parallel in the numerous historical examples of lesbians who passed themselves as men or adopted a masculine identity in order to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities men enjoyed, like La Maupin.  Some characters are clearly butch, but for some, like Claudine, one can’t be certain whether they are asserting themselves as transsexuals or as lesbians who want the privileges exclusive to men. Yuri fans have fondly dubbed cool, butchy yuri characters “Girl Princes,” partly because their earliest ancestor (who actually isn’t a Yuri character) is Ribon no Kishi’s Sapphire, who is literally a girl prince.
In short, like Claudine, you can read Erminia as a butchy lesbian or a straight trans man (or genderqueer, since the text leaves room for that), whatever suits you. That ambiguity is actually a plot point in this series, but it doesn't come into play majorly until later on.

I should also, finally, mention that Erminia and Fiona are sweet as a couple, but Fiona is more passive and damsel-in-distressy than I'd like for the first two volumes of this series. Thankfully, she moves away from that in volume three and (SPOILER!) saves Erminia from the biggest threat she faces- and Erminia likes Fiona's heightened competence, even if the risk Fiona takes because of it scares the shit out of her. But I'm getting ahead of myself. More romantic intrigue and political skulduggery coming in volume 2~

Story: B+
Art: A LOT of beautiful detail. A
Overall: B+

Monday, November 19, 2012

Manga Review: Concerto

Concerto is an all-yuri series of one-shots that Hattori Mitsuru (better known to anime fans as the creator of Sankarea... which I haven't seen or read) published in Young Animal magazine from 2005 to 2011. The quality of Concerto's stories is highly variable, but overall, I like it.

Ino plays the guitar and Hitomi plays the piano. They've been best friends since they took music lessons at the same place as small children. They've kissed, but their relationship is still in the gray area between friends and lovers. In "Concerto", Ino and Hitomi's school asks them to perform together at the end of their graduation ceremony. A crisis crops up when Hitomi and Ino question the nature of their relationship (or put less sentimentally, Ino: "After we graduate, we'll always be friends!" Hitomi: "I don't just want to be friends. IF YOU CATCH MY DRIFT. *bow chicka wow wow*" Ino: "Wait, what? *runs away*" Hitomi: ";_; ..."), causing Hitomi to stop showing up at school. After Ino tells Hitomi that she returns her feelings (shouting from outside Hitomi's house while strumming a guitar, which I thought was cute in a dopey romantic comedy movie kind of way), Hitomi makes it to the ceremony and she and Ino make up by performing, capping it off with a kiss in front of the entire school. Despite the ham-handedness of its confession scene, this is a cute story- helped by that especially nice ending. :-)

"Longing" wins the Story That Feels Like It Should Be a Skit in the Vagina Monologues award. At Ino and Hitomi's school, a few years after their graduaton, Kyouko is in love with Touko, her cool, stoic sempai in the kyuudo club. Kyouko learns that Touko hates her body for being "manly." Touko has always felt that way, but has been beating herself up more over it and slumping in kyuudo since her boyfriend dumped her for the same reason. Kyouko tells Touko that she has always thought Touko was beautiful and doesn't understand her self-loathing. They get together. Touko pulls out of her slump and publicly dedicates her next competitive kyuudo win "to my beloved Kyouko!" As you can imagine, I liked that ending also. :-) Kyouko and Touko's connection isn't as developed as those between the other couples in this book (excluding the characters in "Spice"), but it's still a cute story.

"Spice" is a dumb, PWP-ish story about a glasses-wearing plain Jane named Kotori, and Rui, the hot young teacher who everyone wants.

"Innocent"'s couple is my favorite. Fumiko, a high school first-year, is in the art club. One day after painting in the art room, she looks at a painting discarded by a third-year she hadn't seen there before. The painting is a realistic rendering of a naked woman.

A friend of Fumiko's tells her that the third-year, Ritsu, has been a school pariah since she unwittingly outed herself in her third year of middle school. Despite Fumiko's friend's warning to stay away from Ritsu and Ritsu's obvious distrust of her schoolmates, Fumiko befriends Ritsu, bonding over their love of painting.

Fumiko falls in love with Ritsu and, remembering her friend's warning about how folks reacted to Ritsu's outing, agrees to pose nude for Ritsu's graduation project. As Ritsu paints Fumiko, the tension between them, as expected, becomes thick enough to cut with a knife. Fumiko finally tells Ritsu she is "of the same mind", and they kiss. As much as I like the public coming outs in "Concerto" and "Longing", this private one made me squee the most.

Fast forward two years, and we see Fumiko looking at Ritsu's graduation painting in the art room. Smiling, Fumiko plans to do a painting of her "beloved" for her graduation project. This book's bonus art confirms that Ritsu is the subject of Fumiko's graduation painting.  ^_^

In "Rendezvous," Chizu's girlfriend Yayoi is temporarily living with Chizu and her family. When Chizu's mom catches Chizu and Yayoi kissing, Chizu and Yayoi run away. They return home after running out of money, expecting to be separated but ready to show their parents they're serious about each other. But. When Chizu's mom sees them, she goes all blushy and nostalgic and tells them that she'll keep their relationship a secret from Chizu's dad since she gets how they feel, because she dated some girls when she was young. That works. lol I agree with Erica that this plot point has a potentially problematic reading, but I'm choosing not to read it that way and just taking it as a lucky break for Chizu and Yayoi. So anyway- now that Chizu and Yayoi have returned, there are rumors about them at school, but they don't care and are confident that the god of marriage will always watch over them. :-)

So like I said, this collection is a mixed bag, although really, it's only the third story that I wouldn't miss. For its problems (including some obvious male gazeyness; see the magazine it ran in), I still enjoyed it overall.

Story: I'll give "Innocent" a B+, "Concerto" and "Rendezvous" a B, "Longing" a B-, and a plain old "blah" to "Spice."
Art: It's fine. Starts out pretty sketchy, gets much more polished by the fifth story. C+
Overall: B

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-

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Manga Review: Tears of Thorn (Ibara no Namida)

Rikachi's Tears of Thorn is about a lesbian college student finding love after learning not to let opportunity pass her by. As I mentioned in my review of Fujieda Miyabi's wonderful Kotonoha no Miko to Kotodama no Majyo to, I love seeing fairytale tropes given a lesbian spin, which Tears of Thorn does with its influence from Sleeping Beauty.

Basically, Tears of Thorn is full of win.

On their first day of college, Maki and her best friend Lilia meet another freshman named Kanna. Maki and Kanna hit it off, and Maki gets a crush on Kanna. Kanna asks Maki out, but in her surprise (and momentary stupidity), Maki blurts that she doesn't feel the same way. Maki wants to apologize and tell Kanna she didn't mean what she said, but when she finally works up the nerve to do so, she realizes Kanna has been snagged by another girl. Rubbing salt in the wound, the girl Kanna likes resembles Juli, the girl who Hiromi, Maki's first love and former best friend, fell in love with several years ago.

As Maki remembers the words Juli taunted her with ("Have you heard of Briar Rose? She just lay in wait, safe behind the briars."), the story flashes back to how she fell for Hiromi. Maki was always timid, and Hiromi saved her from bullies and brought her into her circle of friends in grade school. In middle school, Hiromi saved a new transfer student named Juli from isolation also. Juli pursued Hiromi, quickly making her her girlfriend and rubbing it in Maki's face.

After that, Maki went to a high school far from where she and Hiromi attended school, where Lilia became her first new friend. Lilia silently pined after Maki while Maki silently pined after their friend Yuki. Maki misread Lilia as being in love with Yuki also, and realizing Lilia noticed her feelings, worried about possibly looking like an interloper/another Juli to Lilia. Until she and Lilia saw Yuki kiss her new girlfriend.

When the story returns to the present, Maki and Lilia are having dinner at a restaurant, Maki ordering lots of booze to drown out her frustration at how she screwed up her chance with Kanna. When Maki dozes off after Lilia makes sure she gets home safely, Lilia gives her a kiss, not realizing that Maki was still awake. (SUBTLE HINT FOR WHAT THE KISS REPRESENTS: When they're riding to Maki's place in a cab, Maki slurs "I... wish I'd been born a princess" while leaning against Lilia and Lilia says "...You are princess." And then there's what Lilia says when she leaves Maki's apartment.)

Maki has a hard time acting normal around Lilia now. She never thought of Lilia in that light before, but now that she knows how Lilia sees her... Lilia keeps acting the same- but one day she stops attending class and Maki can't reach her. The more time she spends without Lilia, the more she realizes how much she really misses her.

She finds out why Lilia disappeared from Yuki, who, kind of hilariously, thinks they're already a couple. ("Go bring her some Valentine's chocolate, or something. She's crazy about you, y'know.") Seeing that Yuki knows a lot more about Lilia's situation than she does (Lilia's misguided attempt at giving Maki as little to worry about as possible), Maki wonders if Lilia still cares about her.

But she finds Lilia anyway and gives her a lovely confession. ^__^ The entire scene is really squee-worthy.

Then the story wraps up, and Happily-Ever-After. Unlike the Happily-Ever-After in Rikachi's other yuri series, Sky-colored Girlfriend, it's a Happily-Ever-After I feel happy about. There's also a short bonus chapter, giving a little more insight into Lilia's perspective.

So, yeah, I really enjoyed this series- SO much more than Sky-colored Girlfriend. I like Maki and Lilia, and I like them as a couple. The college aspect and the fairytale-influenced aspect are selling points for me, but both of those things are moot if I'm not sold on the characters and story. (See: The awfulness of Kimi Koi Limit, which features college students, and Sky-colored Girlfriend, which plays with fairytale tropes also.) I also have a soft spot for stories that follow their leads' growth through different phases of their lives- like Ashihara Hinako's Sand Chronicles, Ikeda Riyoko's Rose of Versailles, Takahashi Rumiko's Maison Ikkoku, Umino Chica's Honey & Clover, and so on. Tears of Thorn has a lot less length to work with than those series, but it makes great use of what it does have. Highly recommended, if you're looking for a good romantic drama. Reaaaad it. XD

Tears of Thorn is another JManga release. ALC worked on it, so, as expected, the translation reads smoothly and naturally. No complaints there again.

Story: A-
Art: B+
Overall: A-

*still doing cartwheels over the election results*

BGM: "Darlin'" - Beni

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's Election Day! Nanoha and Fate Want You To Vote (UPDATE 2)

Hey my readers in the U.S.,

You know what would make puppies weep and and cause the sun to crash into the Earth in a fiery blaze? Your not voting if you are eligible to vote.

Please don't make puppies sad, or cause the apocalypse. If you haven't voted and you are eligible to vote, please be sure to vote before Election Day voting wraps up today.

If you aren't registered to vote, you can do so at the polls today in Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Washington D.C., Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Here is a great resource for finding your local polling place, and finding out what each state's ID requirements are. Here is the Spanish version. (Not every state requires a state-issued ID- in Pennsylvania, for example- despite what some voter suppression efforts may lead people to believe. ^_^ )

Last but certainly not least- marriage equality is on the ballot in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, so be a love if you live in those states and support marriage equality (or in Minnesota's case, no greater obstacle in the push for equality) with your ballot! ^_^

Update: If you have a problem at your polling place, you can call 1-866-OURVOTE for support. Also, best not to photograph your vote in some areas.

Update 2: As long as you are in line before the doors close at your polling location, you must be allowed to vote. Again, 1-866-OURVOTE is the number to call if you have problems with that.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Manga Review: Sky-colored Girlfriend (Sora-iro Girlfriend)

Rikachi's Sky-colored Girlfried, originally titled Sora-iro Girlfriend, is...hmm, well...

Hiromi has always been tomboyish. When she was younger, she loved the Princess Knight anime, because she wanted to be a prince like Sapphire. She didn't just want to be princely- she wanted to get together with the witch Heckett instead of Prince Charming. Cute, but that's where the cuteness in this story ends. ^_^;

A girl named Juli transfers into Hiromi's class. Her brusque manner causes the other girls to ignore her, but Hiromi tries to befriend her anyway because she hates bullying. Her friends follow suit. Juli immediately decides that Hiromi must be the prince to her princess, the Romeo to her she only calls her "Romeo." Hiromi is visibly uncomfortable with this, but has feelings for Juli despite that, while Juli is dazzled by her fantasy about Hiromi- and never moves beyond that fantasy.

As Hiromi and Juli spend more and more time together, Hiromi's best friend Maki, who is in love with Hiromi, starts to worry that Juli's delusion of her and Hiromi being a couple won't be a delusion for long.

Hiromi and Juli play Romeo and Juliet, respectively, in their school play. Hiromi shoves Juli away when Juli kisses her in the final act, and stays home from school for several days after that.

When Hiromi returns to school, she learns that Juli has been bullied by homophobic classmates since the school play. I felt bad for Juli, while feeling that this story's bullying plot point is an emotionally manipulative move by the author to drum up instant sympathy for a previously not very sympathetic character. Hiromi feels bad for Juli and admires her for holding up under the bullying, and then and there decides to be her girlfriend.

The only character I liked in this series is Maki. After Hiromi and Juli become a couple, she confesses her feelings to Hiromi- not because she expects anything, but because she wants closure as quickly as possible. ("I realized it when I saw you hugging her- after the cultural festival, as she cried in our classroom- that there was no room for me in there at all... I even kind of hoped that if I went out with a boy, you'd get jealous... and come after me... But I knew it was futile... That's why I wanted to come out and say it and get dumped. I love you, Hiromi...") Hiromi still loves Maki as a friend, but as we later see, they don't stay in touch as the years go on. Rikachi felt there was much more she could do with Maki's character, so after writing this series, she gave Maki her own series, Tears of Thorn (Ibara no Namida), following her love life in college. Thankfully, Tears of Thorn stands perfectly well on its own.

Back to Juli and Hiromi. Juli finds out that her dad's company is transferring him again, so she has to move soon. Fast forward a few years, when Hiromi is attending an all-girls' school, having lost touch with Juli a while ago. She has been cast as the school Prince and everyone's calling her Romeo- it's never explained why. A new transfer student arrives, and what do you know, it's Juli. Juli and Hiromi run away from everyone else's view to kiss. Juli tells Hiromi that "I came here because I wanted to see you" and "I never forgot about you for one second." Happy-ever-after...

I'm probably beating a dead horse at this point, but yeah- I didn't like Juli, and I didn't like her with Hiromi. At least the art was nice.

I'm reviewing JManga and ALC's release of this series- hence my referring to it by an English-translated title. While the story is not my cup of tea, I have no complaints about the translation. It's up to par with ALC's usual.

Story: ... : \
Art: B
Overall: D+

Friday, November 2, 2012

Kimi Koi Limit: A Guide to Life

I wanted to like Kimi Koi Limit because its three leads are of college age (two of them being college students- really, how many yuri titles focus on college students?) and its protagonist likes women and knows it. But alas, Kimi Koi Limit feels like the manga equivalent of watching a friend start dating a horrible ex again, blindly thinking that it can work out this time. Meaning, Kimi Koi Limit's characters are really stupid when it comes to their love lives.

In high school, Sono fell in love with her friend Satomi. When she asked Satomi out, Satomi said she wasn't interested, but continued to treat Sono like a friend. Sono never got over her, and after high school, followed her to Tokyo.

Being a shitty stalker, Sono had no idea where Satomi was and ended up crying her eyes out at a lesbian bar. There, she met Hiroko, a student attending the same university Satomi got into. Sono went home with Hiroko and never left, spending her time eating and playing video games and not looking for a job, while continuing to get friendly texts from Satomi that she mooned over but never replied to. Hiroko stayed with Sono knowing that she was still in love with Satomi.

After Sono says Satomi's name while having sex with Hiroko, not for the first time, Hiroko snaps and kicks her out with no possessions or money beyond three thousand yen.

Sono loses her money right away and starts sleeping under a bridge until Satomi finds her and invites her to stay in her apartment.

To her credit, Sono realizes that she should have looked for a job when she lived with Hiroko, and starts job-hunting right away.

Conveniently, Satomi and Hiroko have the same shift at the same part-time job. Satomi starts talking about her roommate, who became homeless after being kicked out by her ex, and Hiroko is reminded of her ex, who she recently kicked out, and they put two and two together when Satomi sees Hiroko's cell phone wallpaper of her and Sono. When Sono sees them together, she faints because of a fever and wakes up at Hiroko's apartment. Like Satomi, Hiroko finds Sono charming for some reason, and wants to win her back.

In short, Hiroko fails, Satomi realizes that she loves Sono (she has never been interested in a woman before, and cringed at the idea of having lesbian sex when Hiroko brought her to a lesbian bar, "but if it's Sono, then..." EDIT: I may have misread the bar scene- see the comments for more on that), and Sono runs away from everything to return to the place where she slept when she was homeless. Sono and Satomi get together, and Happily-Ever-After... I guess.

Hiroko came out of this situation better than anyone- but I don't like any of them, really. While Kimi Koi Limit's characters made me cringe, I'll guiltily admit to having become morbidly curious, about halfway through, about how these three dumbasses would resolve their love triangle, despite the fact that who would be paired off with who was obvious from a mile away.

Story: D+
Art: Actually pretty nice. B+
Overall: D+

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Manga Review: Candy volume 2

Volume 2 of Candy picks up right where volume 1 left off- with Chiaki meeting Tamaki after receiving her note. She handles the situation like a champ, and it seems like she and Kanan can finally just be happy.

But of course not. Chiaki and Kanan have to deal with something even more frightening than rumors and Tamaki's wrath...codependency, wooooooooooo~

Chiaki's graduation is coming up soon, and Kanan asks her if they can live together after she (Kanan) graduates. Kanan's seriousness about their relationship makes Chiaki happy...until she finds out that Kanan's grades and kyuudo performance have been slipping lately, because she's been focusing on their relationship at the expense of the other areas in her life ever since they first had sex. Kanan becomes afraid that Chiaki's feelings have cooled since she isn't spending as much time with Kanan as she used to because she's neck-deep in preparing for her college entrance exams.

Tamaki recommends that Kanan speak to the cool, young school nurse Eri-sensei about whatever's bothering her, since Eri-sensei gave Tamaki some good advice recently.

Unfortunately, Eri-sensei gives Kanan advice that just makes things worse.

This point is where the story took a detour into "Wtf is happening?" town. After Chiaki breaks up with Kanan for her own good (but without telling her why), she starts getting a lot of clingy texts from Kanan. Chiaki thinks that this isn't in Kanan's character, so there must be someone else manipulating her into doing it, but...really? Kanan acted codependent before Chiaki dumped her, and then, well, Chiaki dumped her without telling her why. But hey- Chiaki needs to follow that train of thought so she can relay her suspicions about Kanan being manipulated to Ichijou, so Ichijou can tell her that, hmmm, Kanan's been spending a lot of time in the school nurse's office, getting advice...

Things come to a head when Eri-sensei reveals her true colors to Kanan. This plot point wins the Most Ham-Fisted Means of Making a Character Realize What She Did Wrong in Her Relationship award. The other situations in this volume feel believable (or at least believable-ish), but I felt like I was reading something like Hot Gimmick when Eri-sensei started to reveal her true colors. On one hand, I'm very glad that the thing I was afraid was going to happen didn't happen; on the other, I was annoyed by how pat its resolution was, and the fact that Eri-sensei was, ultimately, just a lazy plot device.

But anyway, Kanan realizes that she needs to get it together.

She does so, but she and Chiaki remain estranged.

Graduation day arrives, and Kanan congratulates Chiaki on graduating. After some awkward conversation, Chiaki walks away, and it seems like this is it for them...but nope. Now well over her issues, Kanan asks Chiaki if she can fall in love with her again. Chiaki responds the same way she did when Kanan first asked if she could fall in love with her. ^_^

Hanging out at Chiaki's apartment later, Kanan gets the full story on why Eri-sensei had it out for them. I have mixed feelings about Kanan's reaction: on one hand, yes Kanan, way to finally come to the conclusion that Eri-sensei is messed up, on the other, Kanan's comment about not getting Chiaki's first kiss was really asinine, even if she was half-joking.

Then the ending becomes sweet again, and we get a pretty wonderful epilogue, showing what Ichijou and Tamaki end up doing as adults, before transitioning to Chiaki and Kanan's adult lives, in which they are both working and happily living together. ^_^

A short bonus chapter covers Eri-sensei's perspective, for the three people who care.

Another bonus chapter focuses on Tamaki getting closure for her feelings for Kanan.

The final bonus chapter (titled "Oyasumi") gives us more of Kanan and Chiaki's lovey-dovey home life. ^__^

Story: So variable. I hated the Eri-sensei arc and the fact that Chiaki never spoke with Kanan about their problems when it was obvious that Kanan had no clue what she was worried about. But I liked the rest of the story and loved what the story showed of Kanan and Chiaki's adult lives. I want a Candy sequel.
Art: B
Overall: B