Tuesday, December 31, 2019

She-Ra Season 4 is tedious, mostly (LGBTQ Cartoon Review)

Catra surrounded by her team including Double Trouble
She-Ra Season 4 - 6/10

I didn't get into She-Ra and the Princesses of Power until it was too late to really review it on this blog. Too many others had written too many great reviews of the first season (and the following ones as well). So before I review season 4, here's a recap of what I would have said, had I reviewed the seasons at the time:

Season 1 - OMG this show is so...OMG!!!! The explicit and implicit queer representation, the body positivity, the racial diversity, the women leading things without needing to "be" men, the overall high ratio of women to men, the crispness of the writing, the art direction, the humor, the intense emotional insight...I could go on and on, I love this season so very much. I was blown away, as were so many other people.

Seasons 2 and 3 - Oh...oh no...it's sort of...boring? blandly written? rehashing the same stuff but not as insightfully? just sort of another action cartoon? confused about where it's going? stuck in too much of a season-long single story that's now at least three seasons long?

Friday, December 27, 2019

Our Dreams at Dusk volume 4 makes me wish it was a longer series (Manga Review)

two women in wedding dresses with other couples in the background
Our Dreams at Dusk vol. 4 - 8/10

I really, really wished I could give this final volume of Our Dreams at Dusk (Seven Seas) a higher rating. But unfortunately, it ends too quickly. So much is jammed into this volume, so much is left unresolved, and so many things happen so quickly that the emotional impact is somewhat diminished.

That being said, it's still a wonderful volume for an incredible series. Our Dreams at Dusk dared to be open and honest about a range of LGBTQ issues in an incredibly realistic fashion. Volume 4 certainly upholds this important value, but doesn't rise to the heights I wish it had simply due to how much happens so quickly.

Volume 4 picks up with the Triangle House near completion. It is decided that it will be inaugurated with the wedding of Saki and Haru. It is also Christmas time, and we get deep insight into Tchaiko's personal life. We meet his partner (who is dying int he hospital) and learn about his partner's son and the intentional distance Tchaiko keeps from him.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Ao Haru Ride volume 8 - Kou misses his chance (Manga Review)

An attractive high school boy in uniform is smiling slightly
Ao Haru Ride vol. 8 - 8/10

Ao Haru Ride volume 8 continues this excellent series with complex characters and meaningful changes without over-dramatic plot points.

In "Ao Haru Ride" vol. 8 (Shojo Beat/Viz), Futaba has asked Kou for a clear rejection and he delivers. However, it is clear that he really does want to be with her, but is blocked by both his depression and his allegiance to a female friend who has suffered a similar family trauma to Kou's. With's Kou's mistake, Kikuchi finally makes his own feelings known to Futaba. The question is, will Futaba reciprocate and leave Kou behind?

Like the other volumes in the series so far, volume 8 delicately balances real emotional depth, with just enough drama to keep it interesting, without ever descending into soap-opera territory. Kou's motivations, even if a bit overwrought, are clear and consistent. The way Futaba's friend Yui roots for her even though she too liked Kou, protects Futaba from Kikuchi, but also begins to reconsider whether Kikuchi might be a good match for Futaba, demonstrates the depth of character writing. Even the side characters in this series are complex and thoughtful.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

If I Could Reach You volume 2 mixes good emotional exploration with a problematic premise (Manga Review)

A young adult woman, in a dress and jacket, looking up out a window with billowing curtains from an aerial perspective
If I Could Reach You vol. 2 - a cautious 7/10

If I Could Reach You volume 2 (Kodansha Comics) continues the story of high-schooler Uta who is in love with her sister-in-law, Kaoru. We'll explore several problematic aspects of the series. But the volume itself has good emotional exploration of the main and side characters, and depending on how the entire series wraps up, will either be a very good volume or the prelude to significant problems with the entire series.

In this volume, Uta is trying her best to put her feelings for her sister-in-law, Kaoru, out of her mind. She ultimately decides to stay over at a friend's house for a few days, ostensibly to study during finals (but really to avoid being alone with Kaoru while her brother is out of town on business).

During her time at her friend Chloe's house, Uta ends up taking a job at a diner in the same building and meeting the diner owner's daughter, Miyabi, only to find out that Chloe and Miyabi are "dating." The volume wraps up with a big potential "reveal" about Uta's brother that could set further developments in motion.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Missed it Monday - Takane & Hana vol. 3 (Manga Review)

Highschool girl eats a tomato, young man in a suit is yelling int he background, in a field of tomatoes
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't get to read/watch when they first came out.

Takane & Hana vol. 3 - 6.5/10

Look, "Takane & Hana" (Shojo Beat/Viz) is what it is. It's a not-very-deep, comedy about a young wealthy businessman and a high-school girl who are definitely NOT dating each other, spend most of their time picking on each other, and have some natural chemistry between them.

It's not emotionally sophisticated, it's not realistic, it's not even really okay morally/ehtically (the age difference at her young age). But it's also very chaste, kinda cute (because Takane really does like her, and while he's a dick, he isn't really a dick to her - he's actually sweet and caring in an idiotically incompetent and emotionally stunted way), and ultimately it's a fluffy read.

I'm not going to sit here and praise it as a series, but I'm not going to endlessly bash it for its various old-fashioned messages and themes either. By this point (three volumes in), either you roll with it for what it brings to your life in spite of its many problems, or you stay clear (and rightly so) because of its many problems. I still enjoy it, but want to acknowledge that its still basically upholding old social dynamics of the rich man who will take care of the young helpless girl who will become his housewife someday.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Blank Canvas volume 3 in which Akiko makes her debut (Manga Review)

A young adult woman in a white t-shirt, holding citrus fruit branches and wearing a bunny hat
Blank Canvas: My so-called artist's journey Volume 3 - 7.5/10

In Blank Canvas volume 3 (Seven Seas), our author and auto-biographer, finally bridges the gap between her schooling in painting and drawing and her work as a mangaka. However, the foreboding foreshadowing of the prior volumes (in which I think something bad eventually happens to her high-school drawing instructor) are mostly missing from this volume. Instead, it concentrates on her life after graduation and first steps towards getting published.

After graduation, Akiko is forced to move back with her parents and leave her boyfriend to finish his studies. While with her parents, she gets a job working in her sensei's art studio where she displays a natural talent for pushing the promising students even further along. The two make a formidable teaching pair, but ultimately it won't pay the bills and her family insists she get a "real" job. But somehow she manages to still go to sensei's studio and also finally submits her first manga one-shot.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Fruits Basket Another volume 3 is a fun conclusion to a fun side story (Manga Review)

A high-school boy in a school uniform stands proud and confident but warmly so
Fruits Basket Another vol. 3 - 7.5/10

Let's be clear, Fruits Basket Another is meant for fans of the original Fruits Basket manga. It certainly could stand on its own, but the depth that comes from unpacking the relationships between the characters and their parents, and who those parents are from the original Fruits Basket series, is at least half the fun.

With volume 3, Fruits Basket Another  (Yen Press) wraps up in a satisfying way. And the journey to do so is filled with all the pathos and internal suffering we'd expect from Natsuki Takaya. Thankfully, it also balances the kindness, humor, and fun of the early Fruits Basket chapters in this cute next-generation story.

Sowa Mitoma is the only daughter of a single mother who is frequently away for weeks-on-end with work and who is mercilessly (but usually passive aggressively) cruel to her daughter when she does come home. In this volume, we also find out why Sowa's elementary school friends rejected her, and it definitely connects some dots. Like most of Takaya-sensei's best work, this one concerns a lot of parental rejection of children. I can only wonder, imagine, and perhaps pray for Takaya-sensei. To write so much about parental rejection, I wonder what she may have been through in her own life and I hope her works are therapeutic for her.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Still Sick volume 1 is a welcome adult yuri/LGBTQ manga (Manga Review)

two adult women at work, one sitting, the other standing, papers fluttering around
Still Sick vol. 1 - 7/10

I'm really split on yuri manga as a genre. On one hand, I love the really great ones where there are deep, complex feelings between girls, where the gazes and blushes are filled with so much sub-text. The best of them speak to me on so many levels.

But on the other hand, some yuri is geared more towards a male gaze and audience (and is often just gross). And somewhere in the middle, is the yuri that just fails to commit itself to same-sex relationships at all, feeling more like queer-baiting than anything else. Add to that, a lot of yuri is focused on school girls and sometimes I just want actual adults in my manga. Overall it can get a bit hard to separate the wheat from the chaff in yuri.

So I'm always on the lookout for yuri involving adult women, and even more so for manga that might actually represent these women as lesbians, true LGBTQ+ representation. While not a perfect first volume by any stretch, Still Sick vol. 1 (Tokyopop), is promising enough in both regards to be well worth a read and with room to grow in authenticity as the story progresses.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Missed it Monday - Tales from Earthsea (Anime Review)

A young man opens his arms to a large dragon at sunrise
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review anime/manga that I didn't watch/read when they first came out.

Tales from Earthsea (anime) - 5.5/10

I put off watching Tales from Earthsea (Studio Ghibli) for a looooooong time. I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan. And even though Hayao Miyazaki is undeniably a genius, my favorite Studio Ghibli movie is actually From Up On Poppy Hill which was directed by his son, Goro.

Goro also directed a Tales from Earthsea and the reviews at the time were not kind. Coupled with the fact that I have read and reread the original Earthsea trilogy (now 5 books) by Ursula Le Guin countless times, it just didn't seem like I should tarnish my thoughts of Earthsea by watching the movie.

Finally though, I felt I could watch it and not have it affect my love for the books. I'm sad to say that it isn't a very good Earthsea movie. It also isn't a telling of the stories from the novels. But more so, it isn't really a very good movie in its own right. That being said, it also isn't a bad movie, so long as one does not try and compare it to the books, and the world those books describe.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Our Wonderful Days volume 1 is...weirdly bland (Manga Review)

Two high school girls on a train, one asleep on the others shoulder
Our Wonderful Days vol. 1 - 6.5/10

There were so many yuri manga series that started publication this month. Sadly, Our Wonderful Days volume 1 (Seven Seas) was the most bland of them all. It wasn't that it was bad, but it was just so weirdly not-memorable as to be somewhat useless. It wasn't without any value, and I'm a bit curious how one character (and the side characters) might evolve. But there isn't much to this volume either.

Koharu and Mafuyu were friends when they were little. Mafuyu moved to Tokyo. Now she's back and they meet on the first day of school. They become friends again and also hang out with two of Koharu's other friends. There isn't actually much between Mafuyu and Koharu that suggests where the series will go other than that it's a yuri series, so it's a foregone conclusion. It's actually their friends Nana and Minori that are the most interesting. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Hatsu*Haru volume 9 loses its way a bit (Manga Review)

A highschool boy lifts up his highschool girlfriend and they make eyes at each other
Hatsu*Haru vol. 9 - 6/10

I have really liked Hatsu*Haru (Yen Press) so far, but volume 9 fumbles a bit. It's really a mixed bag with some wonderful and amazing moments and some real head-scratching non-realistic random plot junk plus some new stuff with a side character that suggests that the series will go for a while just because it can, rather than having a tight narrative.

Summary: Riko is the petite but strong girl who has always protected other girls in the school. Kai was the playboy who grew up with Riko and has fallen deeply in love with her, wanting something so much more than he ever had with his casual flings. By this point in the series they have gotten together.

Sadly, like many a series before it, it just doesn't know what to do with them once they are together. Unlike seminal series such as Kimi Ni Todoke that uses the relationship to springboard truly deep character growth and emotional exploration, Hatsu*Haru can't quite leave the broad comedy behind to find any solid emotional truth.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Missed it Monday - the Fruits Basket reboot fails (Anime Review)

A high school girl and two boys smile as they come down stairs out of a home
It pains me to use this art, Tohru looks like an 80's
space alien here.
Fruits Basket (reboot anime) season 1- uhhhhhhh 5.5/10?????? I guess?

This was a nearly impossible review for me to write. First, I LOVE the Fruits Basket manga. Natsuki Takaya is my all-time favorite mangaka. Her series Twinkle Stars is my all-time favorite, but if that didn't exist, then Fruits Basket would be my all time favorite. They're like 1A and 1B truthfully. In fact, I feel as though everything that Takaya sensei worked out in characters, plot, themes, and her art development in Fruits Basket were perfectly synthesized and consolidated with Twinkle Stars. I don't see how that series could have been born without Fruits Basket, but I digress.

Quick obligatory synopsis of the season: Tohru Honda's mom has died and she's living in a tent in the woods while going to school and working. She stumbles on the house of two boys from her school, Yuki and Kyo Sohma. She ends up living there with their cousin Shigure. Turns out, many of the people in the Sohma family turn into animals from the Chinese Zodiac when hugged by a person of the opposite gender. What is Tohru's role to play in this complex family?

Friday, November 22, 2019

Daytime Shooting Star vol. 3 cements a disgusting possibility for the series (Manga Review)

Four attractive high-school boys in uniform on a purple background with stars
Daytime Shooting Star vol. 3 - 4/10 or 7/10 (depends on what happens next)

I'm so sorry that lately I seem to be giving mixed ratings. But sometimes an individual volume can't be judged in a vacuum and the way the story evolves later will change the way I feel about a current volume. Such is the case with Daytime Shooting Star vol. 3 (Shojo Beat/Viz).

The story: Suzume moves in with her uncle, falls for an older guy, who happens to be her teacher in school and a friend of her uncle's. In volume 3, she finally confesses to him. At the same time, she thinks he's getting back together with a former girlfriend.

Let's get the obvious concern out of the way first. I am not okay with adults dating teens, and I'm really really not okay with teachers dating their students or even contemplating it down the road. The whole set-up to this series hinges on that possibility. My sincere hope is that they never get together and that both of them grow up and grow on their own paths. But this volume seems to suggest that the teacher, Shishio, might harbor feelings for Suzume, the student. Yuck.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 1 was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise (Yuri Manga Review)

two teen girls hold hands, gaze into each others eyes, surrounded by a field of water and fish as though they were in or near an aquarium
A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 1- 8/10

Published by Viz (not Shojo Beat/Viz) and looking from the cover like it would be fairly pandering to the male yuri fandom, I can't say I was expecting much from A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 1. But boy howdy was I wrong. This was an unexpectedly sweet, slightly unique, and promising start to the series. I'm awfully excited for the next volume.

Konatsu's dad has to travel overseas for work and so she moves in with her aunt on a small rural island. Wandering around on her first day, she sees a weekend aquarium event at her highschool. It turns out that the aquarium club puts on a community event monthly, and it's actually pretty well done. There, she meets Koyuki who runs the club. They become friends and Konatsu joins the club. Konatsu is also befriended by Kaede, a strong, confident, and outgoing girl in her class. The volume ends with Konatsu helping out at her first monthly aquarium event.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Missed it Monday - After the Rain (Anime Review)

A high school girl, head tilted back against a wall on a bright blue day, an umbrella leaning against the wall
Missed it Monday is the column where I review anime/manga that I didn't get to watch/read when they first came out.

After the Rain (anime) - 5/10 (if you've read the manga) or 7/10 (if you haven't)

This was a very hard review to write. I waited to watch After the Rain until after all the volumes of the manga had  been published and after I had read them. That means that I would be judging the anime not on its own terms, but against the manga. And I loved the manga, and really really loved the way the manga concluded. I felt the manga was emotionally and characterizationally consistent and honest in its conclusion. While I liked the anime, it truly paled in comparison to the manga, particularly the ending. It's short running time of 12 episodes did it no favors.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Finally!!!!! - Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl volume 10 (Manga Review)

Two high school girls with smiles surrounded by lilies
Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl vol. 10 - 8/10

Finally! On two levels. Finally, after an excruciatingly long wait, we have volume 10 of Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl (K&WL) (Yen Press). And finally, after 10 volumes... (SPOILER...don't read the next sentence if you don't want to know)...Shiramine and Kurosawa get together! SQEEEEEEE >_<

The long and short: there was a lot I liked about this volume, truly a lot. But its one problem was indicative of a larger problem I had with the whole series. Still, I really did enjoy the volume and the series, so don't get me wrong.

Reminder: this is the story of an all-girls school and the many young ladies who inhabit it. It focuses on romance and friendships between them. Our primary couple is Shiramine and Kurosawa with Shiramine being the "main" character, if one can define it as such.

Structurally, this volume gives the reader small glimpses of many of the couples from the series but spends the majority of its time on Shiramine and Kurosawa. I always liked the other couples in the series, but I wished the series was a little more focused on its main couple, Shiramine and Kurosawa. So I liked that they were the main focus of this volume.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Shortcake Cake volume 6 starts the romance (Manga Review)

Two teen boys on the cover, looking sexy and likable
Shortcake Cake vol. 6 - 7/10

It would be hard to discuss Shortcake Cake vol. 6 (Shojo Beat/Viz) without spoilers. So this is your warning. The next few paragraphs of this review are all spoilers. Skip to the last 3 paragraphs if you don't want spoilers. You've been warned!

SPOILERS ahead (okay, you've been warned again!)

In volume 6, Ten, who lives in a boarding house with a few other students while attending high school, has fully realized that she likes Riku. But at the end of vol. 5, Chiaki finally confessed to her clearly. We start off with Ten making her feelings for Riku known to Chiaki and turning him down.

Ten then spends time with Riku, cementing her clarity of feelings, turning Chiaki down again so he knows for sure, and then finally confessing her feelings to Riku. But Riku just doesn't seem totally sure that she means what he is hearing and the volume leaves on the cliffhanger of Chiaki asking her if she really likes him the way he hopes.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Missed it Monday - Love at Fourteen Volume 3 (Manga Review)

A male and female student in the classroom, buy the window, laughing as they talk to each other
Missed it Monday is the column where I review manga and anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 3 - 8/10

In Love at Fourteen vol. 3 (Yen Press), we catch up with Kanata and Kazuki, our young love-birds, and the "most mature" two people in their school, whom everyone looks up to. With the dance, festival, and choral competition coming up, their classmates are showing frayed nerves. Things come to a head when there is a fight between a guy and girl in the classroom.

Kanata and Kazuki have been working hard to keep tension down, but their attempt to end this particular fight ends badly when they end up in a shouting match with each other in front of all their classmates. Worried that they've hurt their fledgling relationship, but unsure how to apologize, they keep missing opportunities to set things right.

Sensing the time is right, Shiki makes her move on Kanata, trying to steal her away from Kazuki. Needless to say, it doesn't work, and Kanata and Kazuki end up patching things up. The couple panels where they do are so cutely written and drawn, I almost couldn't take it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

O Maidens in Your Savage Season volume 4 loses some of its edge (Manga Review)

A high-school girl, eyes closed, finger tips on her lips, surrounded by lilies.
O Maidens in Your Savage Season vol. 4 - 7.5/10

The first couple volumes of O Maidens in Your Savage Season were an unexpected mix of rawness and compassion for the adolescent condition.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season vol. 4 (Kodansha Comics) doesn't quite rise up to that level of writing or narrative prowess, but is still a good continuation of the five characters' stories. The question for the series as a whole, is will it keep giving us complex insight or will it lapse into typicality? It's too soon to say, but Volume 4 doesn't quite have the edge or depth of the prior volumes.

The overall story centers on the five female members of the literature club. They read the classics looking to discuss the complexities of the human condition, with a strong emphasis on exploring love, lust, and intimacy through writing. At the same time, they are five teens going through puberty, and the early parts of the series took an unflinching look at the mind-f#ck that adolescence encompasses.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Updates and where I've been

Sorry for no updates since last Monday. My laptop broke in several ways and I didn't want to type everything on my phone. Thankfully, my laptop is now repaired and I'm back at work. I added Chapter 7 of the original yuri I've been posting (see the Original Yuri tab above). I'll also be posting some reviews this week. Missed you all!

- Jaime

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Missed it Monday - Waiting for Spring volume 3 (Manga Review)

A older high-school boy in uniform, raises his glasses, peers out sexily, and holds a basketball
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review anime/manga that I didn't get a change to watch/read when they first came out.

Waiting for Spring vol. 3 - 6/10

Just like the prior volumes in the series, Waiting for Spring Vol. 3 (Kodansha Comics) is a pretty by-the-numbers shoujo romance. It's predictable and bland, but that's not always a bad thing. Sometimes you just want what you already know, but truthfully, I'm pretty bored with it. However, that's not why we're here today, there's a little something unexpected in this volume I want to focus on.

I won't bother talking much about the plot of this series: it's basically girl likes guy, guy likes girl, some other guy tries to get between them, no one really says what they feel out loud or otherwise the story would have ended quickly. But I do want to talk about a small moment where this series rose well above its cliche, trope-heavy predictability, and did something extraordinary.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Breath of Flowers volume 2 tries to tackle a big LGBTQ fear but falls flat in the execution (Manga-inspired Comic Review)

Two high-school girls sit on a couch smiling at each other
Breath of Flowers vol. 2 - 4/10

After a promising first volume, Breath of Flowers vol. 2 (Tokyopop) goes off the rails. It tries to tackle a really important fear within some members of the LGBTQ community (two fears in fact) but does so in a clunky, in-delicate way. But even before that, this volume was already weaker than the first. Sad because I sort of liked the first one, but I really can't recommend volume 2, which is the conclusion to the series.

In volume 1 we meet Azami who has a crush on Gwyn, the star player on her school's boy's basketball team. Quickly though, Azami finds out that Gwyn is actually a girl. What's great about that volume is that Azami says that Gwyn's gender has nothing to do with her feelings, and it turns out Gwyn's been crushing on Azami. They get together, and we have the makings of a cute lesbian romance.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Missed it Monday - Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty Volume 2 (Manga Review)

A high school boy and girl back to back surrounded by flowers
Missed it Monday is the ongoing series where I review manga or anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty  vol. 2 - 6.5/10

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty (Kodansha Comics) is a series about an only child, Shizu, who is inhabited by the spirits of several deceased people, including her grandfather. Several good spirits ensure that no malevolent spirits take over her consciousness. But at the same time, Shizu shares her waking time with these good spirits. As she so eloquently says at one point in volume 2, "I don't really know what myself is."

But the story really centers around Tetsu, the high-schooler working part time as a housekeeper in her rich parent's house. At the end of volume 1 he is asked to spend time with her since she is more or less locked away from the world. In volume 1, he is shocked when a malevolent spirit shows itself in her body. In volume 2, this concept is explored further, while Shizu takes some important steps forward thanks to Tetsu's commitment to her.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Original Yuri Comic Scripts - Chapter 5 up now - REMINDER

Hi, just a reminder that I'm posting the scripts for my original yuri comic "In the Morning, I'll Say Hello" under the Original Yuri tab above or at: https://www.yuristargirl.com/p/in-morning-ill-say-hello-original-yuri.html

Hope you enjoy!!!!! Chapter 5 is up now.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip to Love (LGBTQ comic review)

Two young women pose on a motorcycle
Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip to Love - 6/10

In short, I wanted to love it, but I only sort of liked it. Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip to Love (Seven Seas) despite it's flaws, is also a lesbian graphic novel, and you can never have too many of them. Representation alone makes it valuable. But unfortunately, the story is corny, tropey, and obvious and the artwork is only okay. It's not without its virtues, but it isn't a landmark comic either.

In Roadqueen, we meet highschooler Leo: the hot, bad-ass motorcycle riding senior girl at the Princess Andromeda Academy (which sounds more interesting than it is and which barely features in the story at all). She's too cool for school, and while every girl wants to ask her out, she turns every one down, every time. She's actually a loner other than her friend and her friend's girlfriend. She's emotionally blocked and hides behind a false bravado.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Osamu Dazai: "The Setting Sun" (Book Review)

The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai book cover 1956 edition
1956 translation
"The Setting Sun" - 8.5/10

There is absolutely nothing I could say that hasn't been said about the incredible, and tragic, author Osamu Dazai or his brilliant novel "The Setting Sun." I'm not Japanese, nor an expert in Japanese culture, literature, or history, so I'm not really in any place to discuss this book with any nuance. Instead, consider this a review for people who have never heard of him or this novel. Because, at the very least, more people should be reading his works.

Osamu Dazai led a short and tragic life, leaving behind several stunning novels and other works of fiction. I came across his name in several anime and manga whose characters make reference to reading him, so I figured it was a good place to start (since the only other Japanese author I've read is Haruki Murakami - whom I LOVE!).

Monday, October 14, 2019

Missed it Monday - Love at Fourteen volume 2 (Manga Review)

A teen boy and girl dancing in front of a classroom window, their arms align to form a heart
Missed it Mondays is the ongoing series where I review manga and anime I didn't read/watch when they first came out. 

Love at Fourteen vol. 2 - 7/10

Like the first volume, Love at Fourteen vol. 2 (Yen Press) is light, sweet, slightly funny, cute, and a little bit insightful. In short, a worthwhile read.

The series follows Kanata Tanaka and Kazuki Yoshikawa, two fourteen year-olds in love. In volume 1 they started as childhood friends, who just sort of realized that their friendship had naturally grown into more. In volume 2, they continue to grow together, and enjoy each others company, while we also get to know some of the surrounding people in their school lives.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Kase-san and Morning Glories Blu-Ray suffers from its short run time (Anime Review)

Disc cover with two high school girls surrounded by plants at school
Kase-san and Morning Glories (Blu-ray) - 7/10

Oh how it pained me to type that rating above and not a higher one. I wanted to gush about Kase-san and Morning Glories (the OVA) because I love the manga series so much. But for all its wonderful qualities, there were some tough decisions that had to get made to bring this to light, and so it's an imperfect anime. But one that surely will appeal to existing fans, like me.

For those unaware, "Kase-san and..." is a manga series that had some publication trouble between the magazine it was published in getting stopped and moving to a web publisher, etc... and yet somehow managed to build an audience, keep going, and actually building up enough steam to go into a second, sequel, series. So the thought that it would ever get an anime was out of the question, and yet here we are reviewing it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Ao Haru Ride volume 7 is filled to the brim with plot and emotion (Manga Review)

Ao Haru Ride vol. 7 - 7.5/10

My favorite part of Ao Haru Ride vol. 7 (Shojo Beat/Viz) is that we get to see another side of Shuko, one of the side characters. We also see that Kou is completely aware of his complex feelings regarding Futaba and Narumi, and stuck with what to do about them. Further, that other boy, Kikuchi, keeps showing up. How long can Kou deny Futaba before Kikuchi scoops her up? That's a lot to pack into a volume, and this one is just as good as the rest of the series has been so far.

To catch up, Futaba and Kou had a mutual crush in middle school before Kou mysteriously vanished. Now back, with a new last name, we find out Kou was taking care of his sick mother and when she died, he moved back in with his father. But during that time away, he met a young lady named Narumi who was also going through something similar. Just as Kou and Futaba seem about to rekindle their romance, Narumi shows up and Kou seems determined not to let her suffer in silence like he did. But to do so, he's drifting away from Futaba.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Missed It Monday - Iroduku: The world in colors (anime review)

two school girls sit on a bridge in misty backlight
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review anime and manga that I missed when they first came out.

Iroduku: The world in colors - 5.5/10

Let me be blunt. "Iroduku: The world in colors" was an overwrought, under developed, and exceedingly boring anime. I also think it served mostly as a vehicle for male fantasy. In short. I didn't really like it.

Hitomi lives in 2078. She is a high-school student in a world where some people can use magic and that is a normal part of society (in some ways, like a huge rip off of the Someday's Dreamers series of manga and anime - a far far better series). For whatever reason, and we'll come back to this later, she cannot see colors. She is also sad (oh so sad) and her grandmother decides to send her back in time 60 years without warning.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Nameless Asterism Volume 4 opens up Washio's experience (Manga Review)

three teen girls sit on a couch doing their hair surrounded by stars
Nameless Asterism vol. 4 - 7.5/10

Nameless Asterism vol. 4 (Seven Seas) is split between Washio's back story and Subaru's current story. Both add some needed depth to the characters, and overall it's a strong volume.

To catch up, since it's been a while since volume 3 came out. Nameless Asterism is the story of three female friends trapped in a love triangle. Tsukasa is in love with Washio, Washio is in love with Kotooka, and Kotooka is in love with Tsukasa. Got it?! Then we have Tsukasa's twin brother Subaru who is strangely tied to his sister (maybe it's a twin thing and not a gross thing) who has become friends with Asakura who is in love with Tsukasa. Got it?!

This could be a hot mess, but it's a dramedy so while there is some moping and angst, there are also funny moments and levity. In volume 4, Washio's story, particularly how she met and fell for Kotooka, takes center stage. Through that story, the reader watches as both those girls wrestle with their attraction to girls in vastly different ways. Washio doesn't even bother pretending to be interested in boys, and as she thinks more about her feelings for Kotooka, she realizes that it is romantic love. However, we see Kotooka in her early stages of denial, as she hops from boy to boy trying to find something that will work for her.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Our Dreams at Dusk volume 3 explores the painful complexity of identity (Manga Review)

Two teen boys, one looking out, one looking away, stand on a bridge
Our Dreams at Dusk vol. 3 - 9/10

Wow. This was the most challenging and difficult volume in the series so far, but in some ways the most direct about its feelings. Our Dreams at Dusk vol. 3 (Seven Seas) picks up with Tasuku's crush, Tsubaki, spending more and more time helping out with Cat Clutter leading to significant conflict.

While Tasuku and Tsubaki spend more time at Cat Clutter, Tsubaki also starts associating with Tasuku more frequently both in and out of school. This leads Tasuku to begin questioning whether there could ever be something more between them.

However, several times, in several situations, it becomes clear that Tsubaki is struggling with his own identity and lashes out at the LGBTQ+ community as a result. We are left watching as Tasuku gets hurt again and again, but also concerned that Tsubaki might be gay/bi and in denial, punishing himself and those around him in the process of his struggle.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Missed It Monday - Love at Fourteen volume 1 (Manga Review)

two teens, a boy and girl, sit on desks in school with a blue sky behind them
Missed It Monday is the ongoing column where I review anime and manga I missed when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 1 - 7.5/10

Love at Fourteen volume 1 (Yen Press) was a pleasant surprise, different than I expected, and with room to keep developing. I went in expecting a serious, dramatic, brooding take on young people in love. Instead, it's a heartwarming, cute, light, funny, sweet, and gentle romance between two people whose love is moving from friendship to romantic.

The series introduces us to two middle-schoolers, Kanata and Kazuki, who are both tall and "mature" for their ages. At least that's what their classmates think. In truth, they're just kids who've been friends forever, and enjoy spending time goofing off in endlessly silly ways. They only pretend in school to be the "cool" mature types because that's what the rest of the kids expect from them.

In the Morning, I'll Say Hello Chapter 2 now posted (Original Yuri)

Just a reminder, I'm posting chapters for my original yuri romance every week. Chapter 2 is now up: https://www.yuristargirl.com/p/in-morning-ill-say-hello-original-yuri.html


Friday, September 27, 2019

After the Rain volume 5 delivers the right ending to the series (Manga Review)

Teenage girl with an umbrella over her shoulder smiling
After the Rain vol. 5 - 9.5/10

I've been waiting for this final volume of After the Rain (Vertical Comics) since I read the first volume. That's a strange thing to say, but my feelings about the entire series were going to be based on how the outcome of this final volume made me reflect on all the prior ones. I am extremely happy to say that Mayuzuki-sensei pulled it off and After the Rain volume 5 is both the beautiful, satisfying, and "correct" ending to the series.

Akira Tachibana was a highschool track star until she injured her ankle and refused physical therapy. She took a job as a waitress at a local restaurant and promptly fell in love with her balding middle-aged boss. Her middle-aged boss was a failed writer who gave up, got divorced, and isn't going much of anywhere. This had all the makings of a really gross story: 17-year-old beauty somehow is attracted to a 40-ish middling man and somehow this man ends up with a girl way out of his league and which comes just shy of being statutory in her near-childness.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

If I Could Reach You volume 1 - obsessed much? (Manga Review)

Cover of manga with girl sitting in room at dusk
If I Could Reach You - volume 1 - 5.5/10

If I Could Reach You volume 1 (Kodansha Comics) is a yuri manga about a high-school girl in love with her older brother's wife. While that could be reasonable grounds to explore complex themes, it just doesn't come together in volume 1 at all.

Uta is our protagonist. Her sister-in-law, Kaoru, apparently spent years pining for Uta's brother, Reiichi, only to finally marry him. Things were apparently not good in Uta's household growing up and after Kaoru and Reiichi married, Uta moved in with them. As Uta is living with them, she realizes that her feelings for Kaoru are romantic love.

Fine. There are all sorts of ways that this could play out. Plenty of young people have had crushes on older people, including those they've looked up to for years. But "If I Could Reach You" doesn't do subtly well, it's all on the surface. The other biggest problem with this volume is that we don't learn anything about Uta as a person, even though she's our protagonist.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Missed it Monday - Waiting for Spring Volume 2 (Manga Review)

Boy on cover giving the peace sign in school uniform
Missed it Monday is the ongoing series where I review manga and anime that I missed when they first came out.

Waiting for Spring vol. 2 - 6/10

At the end of the first volume, there was a strong tease about what plot volume 2 of Waiting for Spring (Kodansha Comics) would introduce into the series. In volume 1, we meet Mitsuki, your average girl heroine who struggles to make friends, and the group of male basketball players she can't get away from. Leaving from watching their game, Mitsuki runs into an old friend, the girl she looked up to in elementary school, except "she's" a "he" (gasp) and the star of the best highschool basketball team in the area (double gasp)!

So my hope, I'm sure because I'm trans, is that this person, Aya, was a transgender man and actually transitioned from girl to boy. But alas, no. Volume 2 makes clear that Aya was always a boy and that Mitsuki just misunderstood the whole time they were in young (they met on the playground). Darn. The creator didn't do anything wrong with this version of the twist, but I was hopeful we'd get some real trans rep. Nope, just a mistaken identity.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Read the scripts for the yuri comic I wrote!

Hi, I spent nearly 4 years writing 82 chapters for an original yuri comic. I've decided to start posting them on this blog. I hope you'll read it and enjoy it as much as I did writing it. Here's the link:


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Emanon volume 2 - imperfect but beautiful (Manga Review)

Emanon wanderer part one
Emanon Vol. 2: Emanon Wanderer Part One - 8/10

Emanon vol. 2 (Dark Horse) is the continuation of the manga adaptation of the well known Japanese sci-fi story series by original author Shinji Kajio and illustrator Kenji Tsuruta. This volume adds a gloriously illustrated full-color story and some interesting insight into the lead character's psyche.

Emanon tells the story of a young woman with no name (hence" Emanon" - no name backwards) who is born into a new body with each generation but possesses all the memories of each of her prior lives, all the way back to single celled organisms.

Volume 2 contains an 8 chapter story and the beginning of a longer arc over the final seven chapters. In the first, self-contained story, she meets a young boy whom she entrusts something precious to for him to protect. Years later, she finds out whether he has kept his promise or not.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Missed It Monday - Takane & Hana volume 2 (Manga Review)

Yuki Shiwasu
Missed It Monday is the ongoing series where I review anime and manga I missed when they first came out.

Takane & Hana vol. 2 - 7/10

Takane & Hana is not normally the type of series I would read (broad comedy about older guy and high school girl), and yet, it continues to be charming and endearing in its own way with Volume 2 (Viz/Shojo Beat).

In Volume 1, we meet Hana, a high-school girl, who "saves" her older sister by going to an arranged marriage meeting in her place only to meet Takane, the heir to the biggest conglomerate in Japan, where she makes a total fool of his arrogance. Like so many series before it, this sets up the dynamic of the down-to-earth girl and the rich, beautiful, clueless, but has-potential guy. The only real concern I had was that she was still in high-school.

Thankfully, this series is really not concerned with romance, at all! We are not meant to take Takane & Hana seriously. Instead, and unlike horrid series like "Happy Marriage" which seem stuck in another century when it comes to male/female dynamics, Takane & Hana is all about the silly comedy and Hana is as spunky and assertive as it gets. No door mat here!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Daytime Shooting Star volume 2 is full of cliched tropes (Manga Review)

Mika Yamamori
Daytime Shooting Star vol. 2 - 6.5/10

I'm uneasy with the basic setup of Daytime Shooting Star (Viz/Shojo Beat) to begin with, and volume 2 is filled with a lot of cliche'd plot tropes. It was still a fine enough read, but I'm starting to wonder if this is a series I will continue with. For those looking for more of the same shoujo, this might be fine, but for those looking for something unique, Daytime Shooting Star is wanting so far.

In volume 1, we met Suzume who was from the country, has no sense of direction, and is helped to her uncles house (where she's staying - cliche alert - parents are gone, she must move to Tokyo!) by a young man who is friends with her uncle (literally the first chapter of 50% of all shoujo manga from what I can tell). It turns out that the hot young man who helped her get there is also her teacher in school (yup, you saw this coming). What's a young girl to do other than fall in love with her teacher? (which is how volume 1 ends).

In volume 2, Suzume goes on a class camping trip and guess what?

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Art of Forgery - a really superficial survey (Book Review)

Noah Charney
The Art of Forgery - 5.5/10

I love art, particularly turn-of-the-century realism and post-impressionism. I also love art forgery. I think it's incredible that people are either talented enough to fool others, or creative enough to hit on the gullible or corrupt nature of so-called professionals in the art sales industry (although I am fascinated, I would never advocate for it, and I am disgusted at the way it corrupts our understanding of artists and history). I've read many great books on the subject, each detailing a specific forger or forgery ring. I love the technical art details as well as the machinations behind the sales.

However, "The Art of Forgery" by Noah Charney, is not one of those great books. It reads like a survey course or the entries in an old-fashioned encyclopedia. It details a great many forgeries and forgers, organized by thematic topics, but does so in anywhere from just a few paragraphs to a mere few pages. Thus, there is no depth or detail in the discussion of any of them. Having read many books detailing individual forgers referenced in this volume, I was left feeling as though this book could best be viewed as a way for me to identify more forgers to get complete books on, but not as a valuable read in and of itself.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Blank Canvas volume 2 shows the college struggle is real (Manga Review)

Akiko Higashimura
Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist's Journey Volume 2 continues the autobiography of creator Akiko Higashimura, a well known mangaka. As is my general policy when reviewing autobiographies, I won't be giving this a numeric rating. After all, who am I to rate someone's actual life? I really liked volume 1, and volume 2 meaningfully continues that story.

Volume 2 opens with Akiko applying to her final art college. Disturbed by the news she didn't get into her first choices, she was too distracted to paint well during the exams for this one. Although she was sure she wouldn't get in there either, she was finally accepted.

The majority of volume 2 traces her college path and her visits home. She spends most of her first year unable to paint, skipping classes to avoid feeling like a failure, and just generally falling apart, her dream of being a mangaka slipping away.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Hatsu*Haru volume 8 is sweet and simple (Manga Review)

Shizuki Fujisawa
Hatsu*Haru vol. 8 - 7.5/10

I am still really enjoying Hatsu*Haru (Yen Press) as a series, but there is always the question of whether a series should end when the couple gets together, or whether their time together can be written to be even more interesting and meaningful than the set-up?

We can all think of shows that tanked after the couple got together ("Chuck" anyone?) and shows where the time together was even better ("Kimi Ni Todoke" is a manga that does this really well and "Dharma and Greg" [TV] nailed this by doing the meeting-each-other and the post-marriage relationship at the same time). With vol. 8, we start to see where this series is going to fall on the in-relationship interestingness spectrum (yes, that's a thing).

Volume 8 starts with two chapters focusing on our side couple, Taka and Shimura. To refresh our audience, Taka is Kai's best friend, and Shimura is the head of the newspaper. Shimura and Taka pretended to date to make it clear to Riko that Taka didn't like her so she could focus on Kai's feelings. Volume 8 opens with Shimura telling Taka that it's time to break-up from their fake relationship. This throws Taka for a loop and forces the two of them to do some real thinking about each other. These two chapters are well done, sweet, and open up some background story on Shimura to complement what we learned about Taka in earlier chapters.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Missed It Monday - O Maidens in Your Savage Season Volume 3 (Manga Review)

Mari Okada and Nao Emoto
Missed It Monday is an ongoing series where I review manga and anime I missed when they first came out in search of great series to keep reading.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season Vol. 3 - 9/10

Volume 3 cemented it. O Maidens in Your Savage Season is simply amazing. It so perfectly captures the mix of pubescent sexuality, naivete, lust, fear, anxiety, confusion, and passion with a mix of realism, drama, and comedy. And the art continues to be extraordinary. Basically, I loved this volume and I love this series. I don't say that lightly, I'm pretty "meh" on most series, hate a bunch of others, and only seldom rave.

O Maidens follows the exploits of the literature club, five high-school girls who read well-regarded literature and dissect it with a heavy focus on analyzing the sex scenes. In volume 2, they escaped being shut down when the got a faculty adviser. In addition, each girl is beginning to explore her own sexuality as well as open up (at least to the reader) about their own pasts.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Sarah McBride's heartbreaking memoir: Tomorrow Will Be Different (Book Review)

Sarah McBride
I was only aware of Sarah McBride in a cursory way before reading her memoir, "Tomorrow Will Be Different." I knew she was a strong advocate for transgender issues but that was about all. I simply had no idea just how intense, dynamic, loving, and devastating her young adulthood has been, just how many years she has lived in such a short amount of time. I also had no idea that this book, while certainly about many issues of importance to the transgender community, wasn't really a book about transitioning at all. Whatever it is about, you need to read this book. I don't say that lightly. I've never cried more when reading a book than I did during this one.

Note: As is my policy when reviewing memoirs and similarly personal accounts of a person's life, I will not do a traditional review with a numeric score nor a standard critique of the content as I would for fiction. How could I, or any one else, judge another person's life story? I want to honor the author's lived reality and so my review is only intended to highlight how I responded to their story. On to the review.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Breath of Flowers volume 1 - an original French (?) language "manga" (Manga-inspired Comic Review)

Breath of Flowers vol. 1 - 8/10

Whelp, that score really surprised me. I guess I really liked Breath of Flowers volume 1 (Tokyopop). It's not without its problems, but the truth is, it was cute and gave me lots of feels as I was reading it, and I think it's well deserving of that score. It did set itself apart a bit from the crowd.

Breath of Flowers is by Caly. I have no idea who this is, but reading the publishing page in the volume, it appears that this volume was first published in France. Given that it is not set in Japan or the US (from various context cues throughout) and that there are many western names, I imagine that it actually takes place in France as well. So my guess is that this is an Original French Language Manga (OFLM - a play on OELM, an older term for manga-style comics by American creators).

And the use of that term, "manga," is the first problem we need to address. Tokyopop clearly lists this as a manga, and even has an advertisement on a back page for other international "manga" creators. But can a comic, created by someone outside the Japanese publishing (or self-publishing) market, and who is not Japanese, be considered manga?

Monday, August 26, 2019

Missed It Monday - I Hear The Sunspot - a really beautiful romance and a look at my implicit bias (Manga Review)

Missed It Monday is the ongoing series where I review anime and manga that I missed when they first came out in search of great series to keep reading.

Yuki Fumino
I Hear the Sunspot - 8.5/10

I went out on a limb and picked up "I Hear the Sunspot" (One Peace Books) due to its critical praise. I don't normally read yaoi manga but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I wasn't disappointed. "I Hear the Sunspot" is a simple, beautifully told and drawn, romance between two young men. I was really struck by how much I enjoyed it.

So I want to talk briefly about implicit bias. Implicit bias is the collection of experiences one has had to date and the way those experiences then unconsciously impact how a person views new experiences. Implicit bias can have positive or negative effects. For example on the positive side, if you've had lots of great experiences with eating cake, you're likely to look at each new cake (as of yet uneaten) and assume it's delicious. On the negative side, we see implicit bias rear its ugly head when we talk about racism in the US.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Shortcake Cake volume 5 - a bit more romance on the horizon (Manga Review)

Suu Morishita
Shortcake Cake volume 5 - 7.5/10

We're really starting to get somewhere with Shortcake Cake volume 5. I still think of it as a really good second-tier quality shoujo series, but I think this volume was a step in the right direction.

Ten lives in a high-school boarding house with a couple other guys and girls. Both Riku and Chiaki are in love with Ten. We pick up volume 5 with Ten realizing she has feelings for Riku. However Riku had already been turned down earlier by her and Chiaki and Riku are uncertain how to reconcile their friendship with each other while also being rivals.

After a trip, Ten makes a slight move to let Riku know that she's thinking of him. It's subtle, but he seems to pick up on the message. At the same time, Chiaki is jealous as he notices that Ten is beginning to focus on Riku. Chiaki makes his move too. Without spoiling what he does, let's just say that although his action is pretty minor, he still doesn't get consent first which isn't good and continues to be a problem in manga.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Yuri Life - actual gosh darn adults in love! (Manga Review)

Yuri Life - 7/10

I really struggled with giving a rating to Yuri Life. It is a collection of unrelated very short comedy yuri stories about adult women in love. In some ways, it was pure fluff. In other ways it was really affecting to me. In the end, it made me feel lots of warm squishy feels so I think I liked it.

First and foremost, I am always excited to read yuri about adult women. I'm all for high-school girls in love, don't get me wrong. But as an adult, I definitely have a different set of feelings and emotions when I read about adult women in love with each other. So anything that adds to that canon is likely to be a good thing.

The stories in Yuri Life are all comedic in nature, nothing too heavy (with one pretty strange but interesting exception). It almost has the feel of a 4-koma, with each page being a joke with a punchline. Within each story, there is some flow between the pages but each page also stands on its own. Not my normal taste, as I like more narrative stories, but pretty well done none-the-less.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Missed It Monday - Wotakoi: Love is Hard For Otaku (Anime Review)

Missed It Monday is the ongoing series where I review anime and manga I missed when they first came out to see if there are great series out there that I need to add to my life.

Love is hard for otaku
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku - 6.5/10

Wotakoi: Love Is Hard For Otaku does an admirable job filling a much needed gap in my manga/anime habits: series focused on actual, honest to goodness, adults! Let's be honest. I'm 39. I can't only (notice I said "only") read about high-school girls in love with each other. Right? So I'm always on the lookout for great josei manga or adult-focused anime series.

Wotakoi isn't great, but it also isn't very problematic either. It does it's job and was pleasant enough to have been worth watching once, and since all the characters are adults, and those adults are kind to each other, it made it a good enough fit.

Momose is a young woman starting her first day at a new company. She's also a relentless fujoshi otaku and has either ruined every relationship she's been in because of it, or had to hide it in order to appear "normal." On her first day, she bumps into a middle-school friend, Nifuji, who is already working at the company and is also a gaming otaku. Comforted by his presence, they rekindle their friendship.