Friday, April 5, 2019

Transparent Light Blue - a very bad self-contained yuri volume (Manga Review)

Kiyoko Iwami
I'm am always thrilled when a self-contained yuri volume is released. Transparent Light Blue by Kiyoko Iwami and published in the US by Seven Seas is five chapters that cover two stories about high-schoolers in love. Could have been amazing, but it ended up being a pretty awful volume.

The first story is three chapters and is the titular story of the volume. It concerns three friends who grew up together in an apartment complex since they were little children and are now in high-school. At the start of the story, Ichika has started dating Shun (the lone guy in the group) and Ritsu is showing her jealousy.

I'm not going to bother sharing much else because it's only three chapters long. But it starts on a VERY bad note with what seems like a heavy petting session between the girls depicted with sounds, phrases, and depictions that are downright pornographic.

So let's stop right here and make very clear that I have little to no tolerance for fetishizing high-school sex. I get that high-schoolers have sex and it is entirely possible to tell a story about that and do so without turning it into child porn. But the way this story opens is not okay. However, it's also not what it appears to be. That being said, that scene could have been handled much more subtly and achieved the same story effect.

That scene and its relation to the rest of the story is still pretty gross and unbelievable even if it isn't porn. In fact, this whole story reads like a man's fantasy about lesbian high-school girls. I don't know anything about the mangaka, but it appears to be a female name. I won't make any assumptions about their sexuality or gender since I have no background knowledge about the mangaka, but if it is from a woman, it's surprisingly crass. The depictions of sexuality are not realistic nor appropriate, there is manipulation between characters (also not cool), there is lack of consent in various ways (really not cool), and so many other problematic moments that it's hard to imagine it isn't coming from the mind of a perverted man. But who knows, maybe there are creepy women out there too.

The second story does a little better, but not much. It's about a couple of waiters/waitresses in a cafe. One girl is interested in another girl. But when she accidentally takes the girls apron with her, she dresses up her co-worker in it and fantasizes while touching the co-worker (all without consent). I also can't tell you much because there is a twist, and I don't hate the twist itself. I just hate the way it was depicted and written.

In the story we also end up with an adult (manager) kissing a minor child, and we have fetishization of cross-dressing. All that does is harm trans and gender-nonconforming people and it's time to stop accepting it in manga/anime.

The five chapters of this volume (2 stories) have about as many problematic moments as you could reasonably fit in if you were actually trying to see how many you could cram in. The fact that doing so probably wasn't the point is really scary. At least if that was their goal, then it would have been job well done. However, while titilation was clearly part of the deal, in a series labeled "teen," this is so far from okay as to be a blight on Seven Seas record. The fact that this got published at all and then picked up in the US when there are so many not-okay things in the story is really disappointing. This reads like bad male fantasy lesbian fan-fiction or something. Yuck.

I actually liked the art. It has a detailed but slightly sketchy quality. People are easily distinguishable. There are some nice backgrounds, and clothing, and shading. Too bad it was wasted on some pretty sickening content.

Basically, these two stories in Transparent Light Blue, are not what I consider yuri. Sure they have girls in sexual situations with other girls, but this is all about fetishization, not about people. People can have complex emotions, people can do bad things, people can be a mess, people can be mean, people can be all sorts of things and make for important literature out of it. But what's here is nothing but fan service in the worst ways - dressed as something benign. This is a very trashy volume. It gets an "unacceptable content" 3/10 rating. Too bad. This continues a string of single volume misses over the past year. There must be better stuff out there to bring to the U.S.

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