PopLurker would like to thank Tokyo Pop for providing review copies of Futaribeya Vol. 1 by Yukiko and Konohana Kitan Vol. 1 by Sakuya Amano.
If there’s one thing I’ve kind of been saying for years, it’s that marketing good Yuri to a Western audience is a very difficult thing.
Hell, maybe it’s a very difficult thing to do in Japan as well, I don’t know.
I’ve been a big fan of Erica Friedman’s Okazu Yuricon blog for ages now. She reads Yuri manga, primarily in Japanese, then rates and reviews them. It’s very insightful in seeing which tropes are repeating in Yuri, and what is a fresh idea. (I’ll talk about the male queer manga counterpart Yaoi in just a moment).
One big trope I see repeated in Yuri stories is that they often take place in High School, and often, the romance or romantic attraction happens when males aren’t present (as pointed out by my contemporary Vrai Kaiser, another author whose work I deeply admire). This was a theme in Citrus (even though I was totally a fan of it). It happens in Sakura Trick and Strawberry Panic (which are two series I absolutely mix up all the time, because in my head they’re the same), or you have these kind of cute, squeaky, almost Super Deformed Chibi characters whose “romance” I can’t take seriously because they look like children and I feel like a creep watching it.
Like when Digi Charat was a thing in the early 2000s. That was a sad and upsetting time.
Futaribeya (A Room For Two) adheres to like, all of these tropes. It’s cute, sure, but it’s fluffy and kawaii and energetic and well…safe. But in that regard, the actual romance (a term I use loosely) suffers because it’s very shallow. Unlike Tokyo Pop’s venture in Boy’s Love with Hanger (which I reviewed recently for Nerdbot) which was a fully, exciting, action packed world where the sexuality of the characters was secondary. Also, in another book I read and reviewed recently from SuBLime Manga called Coyote, the world was rich and supernatural. Yes, there were men having sex. But there were rules and a story being built. Why is this okay in Yaoi, but in Yuri, it’s still taboo?
Now, I’m not sure if it’s just the nature of this story. Maybe it’s a reflection on Japanese culture and their on-going stance with LGBT tolerance. Perhaps the homosexuality is played for laughs. Or you know, this story might be another example of “girls admiring each other” and there’s no romantic or sexual agenda. But I’ll say this– I know Futaribeya is being marketed as Girl’s Love.
Back of Book:
As her exciting first year of high school begins, Sakurako Kawawa settles into her new lodgings. There, she meets her roommate– the stunningly beautiful Kasumi Yamabuki, who lives life at her own pace. From day one, responsible, level-headed Sakurako and lazy, easygoing Kasumi find themselves at odds with one another. But with their matching mugs and one bed to share, Sakurako and Kasumi’s friendship is just beginning!
The artwork in this story is, again, cute. But for me, with my adult sensibilities with dies for the slow burn of a good romance, it’s just another slice of life. Cute girls doing cute things and it didn’t do anything to change or affect the status quo of its genre.
I give Futaribeya 3 out of 5 stars.
Now, moving onto our second book, Konohana Kitan. Why am I combining these two books into a singular review? Because this story went completely over my head. Like…oh my god, wow. I could not follow this world at all. It was so culturally Japanese that I understood nothing. And honestly, I’m a pretty cultured person! Definitely open minded and appreciative of culture and traditions. But there was something in this story that just didn’t connect with the fibers in my brain.
Back of Book:
Yuzu is a brand new employee at Konohanatei, the hot-springs inn that sits on the crossroads between worlds. A simple, clumsy but charmingly earnest girl, Yuzu must now figure out her new life working alongside all the other fox-spirits who run the inn under one cardinal rule – at Konohanatei, every guest is a god!
Konohana Kitan follows Yuzu’s day to day life working at the inn, meeting the other employees and ever-eclectic guests, and learning to appreciate the beauty of the world around her.
It seems like this story is comprised of mini stories. Individual tales that are little standalone tales. And they are. At first, I thought this would be like Pet Shop of Horrors at a hot springs. Guests coming in who have lessons to learn. But it’s not quite exactly that.
Basically, new guests file through and each kitsune Fox girl that works at the spring has a different response to them. It’s a little odd and just wasn’t a story I clicked with. While the artwork was gorgeous, I really didn’t understand the Yuri ties or why this series is considered Girl’s Love.
I give Konohana Kitan 3 out of 5 stars.
Loryn is picking flowers on Twitter. Because you know…yuri means ‘lily’ and…::jumps out window::