What is the setting of most yuri-themed manga? Yeah, you guessed it: (junior) high school. Not all of them manage to make for an interesting and emotive story though. Here I present you some that caught my eye.
Mangaka: Yufuko Suzuki
This charming story follows Kanan Miyamoto who, ignorant of her popularity, is confessed to by Bessho Chiaki, the school’s most intelligent and beautiful girl.
Candy was published in Tsubomi, and since I loved this magazine for its quality content, it deserves to be at least mentioned here. It might not hold a very special place in my heart, but it’s a decent yuri reading. It’s a story of ‘opposites attract’ in an all-girl high school with some real problems interspersed along the way. The athletic 2nd year oddball, Kanan, and the ‘mysterious’ 3rd year honor student, Chiaki, in order to preserve their relationship have to find common grounds once they date out of school, to keep the situation under wraps, and control their sexual needs while school, clubs and exams demand more of their time. I shouldn’t forget mentioning Ichijou, the cool, relaxed and very straightforward friend of Kanan who plays the babysitter, the mediator and the school tutor, and pops up a lot throughout the story (she even appears in the last chapter’s time skip).
There are two ideas brought up that left me with very positive impressions: a. staying calm when facing whatever opponent (eg. a jealous antagonist for the heart of your partner) is a quite effective strategy; b. throwing away yourself for someone is not love- sacrifice being a worn out idea tossed at so many romantic stories I was happy here this wasn’t the case. Noteworthy is also the use of a few splash pages to establish a contemplative or bittersweet atmosphere. Additionally, the mangaka uses wide shots to depict intimate moments, choosing to give a sense of privacy to her characters. The only exception is Kanan’s flashback of the sex she had with Chiaki, where the mangaka uses middle shots and close-ups, most probably on purpose to contrast it with the previous intimate moments and highlight the impact it had on Kanan- plus express her POV of course.
On the other hand, Kanan falls in love with Chiaki out of the blue and the last-minute arrival and meddling of the teacher complicated the situation unnecessarily. Another minus is that the iconic theme of candy appears in the first volume in a quite corny way (“I’m being violated by this sweet poison”) and is totally forgotten in the second. Nevertheless, the overall presentation and narrative are good enough, so unless you can’t stand little sappy monologue and you have more important things to do, you should give Candy a chance.
Mangaka: Ootomo Megane
Tsugumi has just been dumped by her boyfriend. Walking around while deep in irate thoughts about his attitude towards her, she suddenly bumps into the gorgeous, calm and confident brunette Shiraishi Megumi. Megumi taunts and embarrasses her, but leaves behind these words as well; “You’re cute”…
If I had to describe Green in one word, it would be ‘refreshing’. Cute design, i.e. soft attractive eyes, distinctive eyelashes and clear fragile lines, combined with conceited, stubborn, and insecure personalities makes for memorable results. Youthfulness is after all characterized by cheekiness and audacity. I really like how sex is handled as a matter of fact part of the teenagers’ lives both through words and through pictures, namely the after intercourse scene where the clothes lie on the floor, they wake up next to each other and Tsugumi searches her glasses. Talking about the technical and artistic aspect of this title, the neat minimalistic paneling plays a great role on creating the feeling of lightness and of floating. Ootomo-sensei manipulates deftly the screentones, the density of panels in a page and the different type shots to also generate dramatic tension or sadness. I’m honestly very fascinated by how beautiful the outcome is.
You might not find the characters likeable; sometimes they’re even dull, like the side couple. Especially the ex-teacher and Tsugumi’s sister-in-law is the type of person who cares more about living a convenient life and doesn’t take into account the feelings of others much. But it’s the interactions between the characters that are so tangible and kind of cynical that the work becomes appealing. The need to express something clearly in words; the need for honesty and moving on; the facts given as excuses the characters knew from the beginning; the longing and the anxiety of the future, particularly the fear of heteronormativity; all of these are examined adequately considering Green‘s length. It’s highly recommendable!
When a transfer student arrives from Tokyo, Chizuru immediately develops a crush. Surprisingly, the beautiful and stylish transfer student joins Chizuru’s group of friends. Will a closer relationship develop between Chizuru and Kanae?
Rokuroichi is a hentai artist more or less. His character design isn’t the style I usually go for. And yet Orange Lipstick has charmed me. I’ve read other works of his and this one certainly stands out. For once, it isn’t that lewd comparatively. Secondly, it is built on a unifying idea: the lipstick. There is a certain repetitiveness in referencing it and the words used in the monologues are on the flowery side but the result is modestly romantic and not overly saccharine. What’s more, Rokuroichi has achieved a balance between the sweetness of doki doki and the erotic. He utilizes shoujo elements like sparkles, flowers and darkness to denote romantic excitement, adoration and transition into a sexual fantasy. At the same time, the ‘movements’ of legs and fingers, and the focus on plump lips are titillating. Moreover, the lipstick itself alludes to cum and its container is of phallic shape. The mix is deliciously irresistible.
It’s a simple story but executed so well. It is told from Kanae’s POV and thus shy people with low self-esteem will relate a lot to her. And not only those: becoming invisible in your old clique when there’s a newcomer and having a secret love you think you can’t reach are experiences most people have gone through. So, we have a finely crafted atmosphere, relatable memories and an excellent display of teen sexuality. Kanae is moe but not child-like or doll-like; she actually is sexually active. In other words, just because she has a cute demeanor it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have libido. Her obsession of collecting accessories that Chizuru possesses is the manifestation of her plain desire to be one with the object of her lust, to forge links between them. Especially the blond wig she bought shows that we fall in love with individuals that have traits we think we lack and in an attempt to feel complete we want to ‘devour’ them. And although it may come off as creepy, the romance sweeps off our feet and we go along. Orange Lipstick is a superb read.