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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5 comments:

  1. You read it. You took the time to "leave a review of it" .... you are just as guilty for bringing this trash to the public eye as the author and the publishers. So get off your freaking high horse and stop trashing something that you are very willing to bring to the publics eye.

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    1. Hmmm, it took me a while to decide whether to publish the above comment since I need to approve all comments before posting. I elected to so that I can remind the community of a couple things.

      1) you don't have to agree me with, this is all just subjective opinions, yours and mine.
      2) what I like, you might not, and what I don't like, you might. And that's okay.
      3) constructive dialogue would be expounding on why we each respond or don't to something, and I am curious about opinions other than mine. That's how we all grow.

      However, I am not sure I understand this comment. I bought the volume, not knowing what it was about other than an amazon.com description. I believe that reviews serve a public purpose by helping others have more information to decide for themselves whether something is a good fit for them (if they have yet to buy it) or to have another point of view to contrast with their own if they have experienced it already. There may be many people who read my review, and although disagreeing with my assessment, learn something about the manga that stimulates them to buy it, or maybe not to buy it based on their own personal tastes.

      My intention is never to shame or humiliate artists, writers, publishers or other creators. My views are my opinions of how I responded to the work, not any objective assessment. Unlike measuring the wavelength of light or the pitch of a violin string, this is art, and I can only comment on how it made me feel. When I do write a poor review, although I may promote the review on twitter, I am conscious not to tag the creator or publisher. They don't need to see or hear my negative reactions, they aren't intended for them, and I want to honor their hard work even if I didn't like the content. They took time and energy and put themselves out there into the world, and I am amazed by all of that, even if I don't actually like the work of art itself.

      And that is important. Whether I like content or not has nothing to do with its value in the larger sense. I am against censorship, so even though I found content in this particular manga objectionable, and this is certainly not the only time I've felt that way about a manga, I am glad people are creating a huge diversity of material in all fields, that can only enrich us as a society.

      What I struggle with in the above comment on my review is the anonymous writers statement that by objecting to the material and publishing my objection on a personal blog, that I am promoting the manga or "bring[ing it] to the publics (sic) eye." If anything, I may be helping others avoid it who would be similarly bothered by the content.

      Also, "freaking high horse"? First, we should not have ad hominem attacks. Even though I didn't like the work, I never insulted the creator or publisher as people, so I don't like being subjected to it myself.

      Also, expressing a personal opinion is not getting on a high horse. Is it getting on a high horse to say something is awesome? That's no more extreme a position than really not liking something. I enumerated why I did not like it, as a personal response only. Everyone is entitled to be moved or not moved, to respond with joy or not, to things in the arts. There is no universal, only subjective with our emotional reaction to art forms. We each bring different lived realities and histories to bear on art we encounter, therefore there is no way we would each respond similarly. Strongly disliking something and expressing that on a personal blog, does not set me on a high horse. If you didn't want to read opinions (good and bad) about manga, then I don't know why you were on my blog in the first place.

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    2. I would encourage whomever left the above comment (anonymously of course) to either explain why they liked or didn't like the manga itself, or if they have not read the manga, to explain more clearly why they object to someone else personally not liking something and sharing why they didn't like it with other people through a blog post. If we refrain from sharing negative opinions, then those who might benefit from knowing how others feel might lose out on valuable information. But the comment above gives me no understanding on that person's feelings about the manga, nor on why they object to negative reviews of something. Do they object to all negative reviews, including of movies, restaurants, uber drivers, etc...? They give no details, only meanspirited attacks. Details form counter-arguments, attacks and being mean do not.

      So remember, you will like things I don't, I will like things you don't. But we are both allowed to share our opinions. And this is my personal blog and I am allowed to share when I don't like things. Choosing to let people know why I don't like something is just as valuable as sharing why I do like something. A review is meant to expand other's ability to assess their own desire to engage with the art or compare against their own experiences with the art by contemplating another point of view.

      I hope whomever left the above comment will consider explaining more why they had such intense feelings about my review and do so without hurling more personal insults. I am curious why my review sparked such intense feelings in another person.

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  2. This review was very useful. I was thinking about buying this manga, but now I know it's not worth it. It saved my money and my emotions. Even though someone complained "you are just as guilty for bringing this trash to the public eye as the author and the publishers" I'm very glad you did it. I'm so tired of bad manga with full of fetishes and yuck stuff. They are just hurtful.

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    1. >_< Thank you and I'm glad this review helped. My opinions are just my own, but if I can highlight things that may benefit others (both by pointing them to something they might not have otherwise considered, or by making them aware of content they may chose to avoid) then I've done my job as a reviewer. Thanks again for the kind words.

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