This month the Pride Festivals around the world come to an end for this year. Before that, though, let’s see some GL manga that take their protagonists’ sexuality seriously.
Burges -Applause is the title of the manga where the oneshot comes from.- On the right is Megumu.
Mangaka: Ariyoshi Kyouko
A woman goes to visit an old friend who’s an out lesbian living in San Francisco.
Written in 1981, A San Fransisco Story, bears the ethereal semi-realistic art of the era (just look at the magnificent eyes above!). Yuuko, a journalist, is on a business trip to San Fransisco and stays at Megumu’s place. Megumu is an old friend from their all-girls school, and at the moment worries for her partner, Chelle, who is hospitalized for stomach cancer. Tracy, a friend of Megumu, who is also lesbian, passes by to check how things go, and ends up providing a mini guide-tour to the queerness of the San Fransisco Pride Parade for Yuuko. She also stays with her for the night since Megumu returns to the hospital. Revelations and realizations dominate the latter half of the manga that lead to a charming open end.
Although some parts of the story are a bit cliche, the setting is quite innovative and in the few pages it spans, the significance of the Parade, the nature of homosexuality, the queer fashion choices, gender roles and identities are discussed honestly. As for the characters’ feelings, they are conveyed effectively through the appropriate panel layout, the close-ups, the multiple facial expressions and the body language. It might not be something that stirrs strong emotions, but A San Fransisco Story definitely has its own merits!
The two main heroines on the covers- wonderful expressions, ne? And full lips on adolescent girls!
Mangaka: Haruno Nanae
A story about two classmates, Sahoko and Rio. Rio is depressed and self-abusive due to lack of loving relationships with her “family” — which consists of her negligent father, overbearing, selfish stepmother and stepbrother; and Sahoko soon becomes her only comfort in life. Sahoko on her part has a frigid relationship with her overprotective parents, and lives with her aunt by consequence.
Pieta never mentions the word lesbianism and yet I couldn’t leave this title out of this list. It simply rejects labels with sincerity; they are too constrictive- especially for Sahoko and Rio and their story. Rio has been given too many wounds in her soul from a very young age and thus has adopted a ‘je m’en fous’ facade and appears cold-hearted while the truth is that she has difficulties sympathizing with others. And then comes Sahoko who has troubles being herself and not just impersonations of roles. The unloved child finds the young lady who has received lots of love and the two of them fit each other perfectly. While Rio’s previous date had sexual undertones, her relationship with Sahoko is full of tenderness whose nature is hard to pin down with only one word. Both she and Sahoko found a person to open up to.
It is a little dramatic with themes like attempted suicide, parental abandonment and the evil stepmother stereotype, so whoever is sensitive, take out some handkerchiefs. It gladly doesn’t descend to mellow thanks to the wonderful side-characters Rio’s doctors are. The man is more of a romantic and his wife is the rational ‘pure’ scientist, but both help to retain an air of realism to the work with all the medical and psychological terms they use without overdoing it. Doctor Shoumitsu’s theory that the two girls with high levels of sensitivity are a step forward on the evolutionary ladder and they need each other to survive along with his comment on how Rio and Sahoko stand out like unicorns (an lgbt symbol) gives a sweet twist on the notion of lesbianism- and I like it. It’s a nice contrast to doctor Kyoko’s first doubts, and keeps the right balance.
Pieta has a really unique atmosphere; at the end of the story you feel like a fluffy warm blanket is wrapped around you and a soft breeze grazes your face.
Indigo is interestingly a color associated with lesbianism. It also stands for intution, integrity, solitude and inner communication. Indigo blue in Japanese is ai, that sounds the same as the word for love…
Mangaka: Yamaji Ebine
Rutsu is content with her life. She has a budding career as a novelist and a functional relationship with her boyfriend/editor, Ryuuji. However, when she meets Tamaki, a lesbian fan of her work who sees homoerotic subtext in her writing, Rutsu is forced to reconsider her sexuality and what she wants from life.
Love triangles are usually used in manga to create drama and stregthen the main couple. It might be played for the laughs or as an excuse for more titilating sex scenes. Indigo Blue doesn’t follow any of these roads. Indigo Blue is about the complexity of sexual attraction, romantic feelings and the compatibility with your partner, about cheating, guiltiness, bitterness, jealousness and break-ups, about people struggling to find what they want in life. If we use modern labels, Rutsu is a bisexual woman that is aromantic in her heterosexual relationships. But Yamaji Ebine talks to us with simple words that convey the protagonist’s confusion or clarity of mind. She uses minimalistic art and takes advantage of negative space to highlight the inner conflicts of the characters, the sadness, the lust, the happiness. And everything comes off so natural.
Indigo Blue is considered the best manga by Yamaji Ebine and there’s a reason for it. All characters, Rutsu, Tamaki, Ryuuji and Den-san with his daughter (who act as the supporting characters), are likeable, everyone can find a situation they can relate to, and the storytelling is straightforward and classy. It’s a little masterpiece, which no matter how many words I might try spending on it, I’m afraid I can’t do it justice enough. Just go and read it!
Reminding the scale of hotness- it ranges from 0 to 3 and describes both how graphic the sex scenes are and how much emotional influence the story might have on the reader.
3 has depictions of sexual organs and is totally ‘hot’,
2 includes sex scenes but doesn’t show much, and you feel very warm inside,
1 is about just cute kisses, holding hands or embraces,
and 0 denotes a quite matter-of-fact narration with almost no emotional excitement as there’s not much romantic/sexual contact.