Saturday, August 29, 2020

Still on Hiatus - still posting my yuri comic scripts - and a word about the world

Hi everyone. I'm still on hiatus, but my life is slowly being pulled back together. I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm continuing to post new chapters of "In the Morning, I'll Say Hello" on the "original yuri" page. It goes to chapter 82 and the whole thing is written, so it's just me remembering to post weekly! So keep checking.

On other matters, I want to express my most heartfelt sympathy to all those who have been impacted by COVID-19 and our federal government's absolutely horrific lack of leadership and undermining of science and health. 

I also want to take a moment, and no words can truly express how I feel, to send every ounce of my being out into the world in support of the #BLM movement, in support of all black, latino/latina/latinx, POC, indigenous peoples, and all other historically and/or currently marginalized peoples in the US and around the world. 

The fact that the US cannot, with all its privilege and wealth, with all its history of moral crusading, come to grips with its own history of, and current, colonization, marginalization, and dehumanizing individual and collective actions and take firm grip of being a leader in human rights first and foremost here at home makes me sick. 

I will never stop pushing until all human beings enjoy the protections, freedoms, dignity, rights, security, health, education, self-direction, and more that all people are inalienably imbued with and owed from their fellow humans and governments. I also will never stop pushing until we as a society make true amends, recognizing the inter-generational trauma that lives in the very blood and DNA of our fellow people as a result of our actions (and furthered by the actions our own government, hate-filled people, and police continue to take), and finding a way to secure a truly equitable, self-directed, future for each and every soul on this planet, starting first in our very own country, and which must include active repair of the harms perpetuated psychically, physically, intellectually, culturally, socially, and financially on those we have oppressed and on whose oppression white people have profited. 

For no matter how challenging any individual white person's life might be, and many surely do and have lived challenging lives, the fact of their whiteness has not doubled, tripled, infinitely made-worse their pain, suffering, and hardship the way the false conceits of race have been levied individually, systematically, and structurally as weapons of oppression against blacks, indigenous people, and other POC. We have committed genocide after genocide in this country, starting with the indigenous people, and then with the way we have built our society on the very oppression of blacks and POC and then maintained and furthered that oppression at every turn. I can never express all of what is in my heart, but please know that my heart and my actions are fully committed to ending oppression and marginalization. 

I cry with pain over what has occurred, with embarrassment over our current government, but with hope that so many more white people are recognizing what POC have always known about the world. Let this awakening of awareness be the first waves of a never ending tide of action and repair that sweeps through our society, cleaning it in the fresh waters of true freedom and liberation.

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Continuing my Yuri Comic

I'm still on hiatus from my regular review blog posts, but I'm going to continue posting chapters of the scripts for the yuri comic I wrote: "In the Morning, I'll Say Hello." I just posted three more today!

I can't draw, but I wrote the series as a love letter to the types of yuri manga I love. I'm still trying to find an artist and/or publisher, but until that happens I want to put it out into the world. So with that in mind, I'll keep posting the scripts. You can find them here: "In the Morning, I'll Say Hello" or by clicking on the "original yuri" link in the bar above.

Hope you enjoy!

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.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

I published a cookbook

So although I'm taking a hiatus from reviews on yuristargirl while I rebuild parts of my life, I did finally self-publish the cookbook I've been working on for 10 years. Each recipe has been made and tweaked countless times to create a huge repertoire of easy, healthy, tasty, weeknight meals with flavors from around the world.

If you're interested, here's a link to the FREE pdf (e-book) version of it: PDF E-Book

If by some strange chance you actually want a paper copy of it, you can order it as a paperback book from Amazon (I don't make almost anything off of this, so don't feel obligated in the least to buy it): Sick of Chicken: A Family's Cookbook by Jaime Lustig

I hope you enjoy some new recipes!

cover of a cookbook with six pictures of different entres


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.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Putting the blog on pause

Hi everyone. I know I haven't been posting many reviews lately, and it's time to share some sad news with everyone. There are some big changes happening in my family and financial situation and as a result, I won't have the ability to purchase manga or subscribe to streaming services anymore. This will drastically reduce my ability to review new manga releases as they aren't a priority at my local libraries either.

As you know, I will not read scanlations and will not use them for the basis of my reviews. Also, although I could switch to reviewing mostly anime, it isn't where my heart is, and just not something I see myself spending as much time with as I used to spend on manga.

I would also be lying if I said I was in a good emotional place to do reviews, but my mind is elsewhere and I think both my mind and my time will be used for other things for a while. Hopefully, I'll be able to pick up the pieces sooner rather than later and get back to doing reviews. My hope is to find a way to at least finish reading some of the series I'm most invested in. We'll see.

I am also going to work on getting the remaining chapters of my yuri story, "In the Morning, I'll Say Hello" up on the "Original Yuri" page. I've been doing one chapter a week, but I think I'll try and get them all up there relatively soon. So check that out as well. I'm proud of the story (wish I could draw or find an artist)!

It's been an amazing 2 1/2 years doing this and getting to know some of you. I'm so honored that people have read this blog. Hopefully I'll see you all again soon. Thanks for understanding my need to step away for a little while.

Much love,


Monday, June 8, 2020

Missed it Monday - Love at Fourteen vol. 8 (Manga Review)

Two teens in warm coats, stand under a barren tree
"Missed it Monday" is the regular column where I review anime/manga that I didn't get to watch/read when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 8 - 3.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

I think, in many ways, this series may have finally fallen off the cliff. I've had concerns that it was framing one relationship between a student and a teacher a little too positively, but after reading this volume, it seems to me that ALL the relationships are suddenly about adults and kids. And I'm just not cool with that.

In volume 8, the only storyline having to do with our "main" couple (who appear less and less in the volumes as this series has progressed) has Kazuki pretending to be the boyfriend of another girl so that she can prove she has an older boyfriend to her friends. He only does this to help out his friend Kato. And at least Kazuki tells Kanata about it. Making this story worse, the girl Kato is interested in ends up being in elementary school, like a 5th grader or something and he's ostensibly 14. So I'm WAY NOT OKAY when they start dating. Ughhhh. Just when I thought the adult/middle-schooler stories couldn't get worse, they throw in a middle-schooler/elementary-schooler romance. Jeez.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

My original yuri romance

Looking for something hopeful to read in these dark times? Each week I'm posting a chapter of an original yuri romance I've written. You can find it at the link above or right here:

I hope you enjoy!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Shortcake Cake volume 8 finally hints at the return of Rei (Manga Review)

A high school boy with an open collared white shirt
Shortcake Cake vol. 8 - 6.25/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Shortcake Cake (Shojo Beat/Viz) has been an up and down series for me so far. I like the main character, Ten, and the side characters. The early volumes introduced a complex back story for Riku in the form of some hidden relationship with the rich strange kid Rei. But then Rei went missing after a couple volumes and the story focused mostly on Ten and Riku coming together as a couple. But now that they are together, Rei pops up in volume 8. And so finally, we start getting a deeper and more interesting story than the bland romance we've had so far.

In volume 8, Ten and Riku are dating and go to visit her family over the Christmas Holiday. On New Years, Ten is leaving for home again, but gets off the bus and returns to the boarding house where she finds Riku alone. The two spend a wonderful night together celebrating the new year. But finally, Rei has popped back up in the story, and his minder (butler?) Shiraoka offers to let Ten know about Rei and Riku's connection. I won't spoil any details, because THAT's the part of this volume you need to read.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Daytime Shooting Star volume 6 - they're actually dating (Manga Review)

A teen boy with his shirt open stares upwards with a hand on his face
Daytime Shooting Star vol. 6 - 5/10 (*see below for full scoring rubric)

Daytime Shooting Star vol. 6 (Shojo Beat/Viz) sees our teen heroine Suzume actually start dating her teacher (and uncle's friend), Shishio. I don't like manga that has kids and adults in relationships, and I'm even more opposed when one is a teacher. But that's the premise of Daytime Shooting Star.

However, I've been assured that the series finds a meaningful way to resolve that situation that doesn't tie it up in a neat bow like nothing is wrong at all with that form of sexual abuse (and yes, I consider an adult with a child to be sexual abuse, I don't believe a child can consent to that, even if they're 16 or 17. And more so when the adult is a teacher which adds another layer to the power imbalance). On to the review of volume 6.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Missed It Monday: Someday's Dreamers - complete series (Manga Review)

A teen girl in a tank top and skirt walks up a road carrying a suitcase
Missed it Monday is the regular column where I review manga/anime that I didn't get to read/watch when they first came out.

Someday's Dreamers volumes 1 and 2 (complete series) - 5.5/10 (*see below for full scoring rubric)

Someday's Dreamers is a two volume manga that was originally published by Tokyopop in English in 2006. I've watched the anime based on it as well as the "sequel" anime "Someday's Dreamers II: Sora" (which was the far better anime, and definitely worth checking out). So I was glad to finally get my hands on the manga it was based on.

Someday's Dreamers takes place in our world, but with one difference: some people can use magic. There is a formal government agency which regulates those who use magic in adulthood and the magic users (mages in the anime) are public servants who work to help others on a contract basis. Someday's Dreamer's follows Yume, a senior in high school, as she goes off to Tokyo to study with a professional and take her final exam to become a licensed magic user.

Friday, May 22, 2020

She-Ra season 5 review - both miraculous and inconsistent

Adora, with a broken sword, see's an image of Horde Prime hovering above a destroyed landscape
She-Ra season 5 - 7/10
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power - whole series - 8/10

It's almost impossible to know how to write this review of She-Ra season 5. The show was both miraculous in so many ways and also inconsistent in writing and animation across its episodes (and seasons).

So I think I'm going to start by talking about the incredible and rewarding nature of this series/season before diving into the nit-picking. Please know that the nit-picking is just that, it isn't some pissed-off fan-girl, it's just a discussion about the quality of the writing and animation that should in no way detract from the incredible things this series did. This was a fun, funny, moving series that also added incredible representation in so many ways and layers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Love Me, Love Me Not volume 2 mines teens' raging emotions (Manga Review)

A high school boy puts a finger up to his lips to tell the girl to keep something a secret
Love Me, Love Me Not vol. 2 - 7.5/10 (*see full rubric below)

Love Me, Love Me Not volume 2 (Shojo Beat/Viz) is the second volume in Io Sakisaka's newest series to be translated into English. I'm a huge (HUGE) fan of her series Ao Haru Ride. While this doesn't quite rise up to that level, it shares much of its essential DNA: nothing happens but the characters feel a lot of feelings, everyone is nice but fighting their inner demons, and the art is amazing.

In volume 1 we met the four leads, old friends Yuna and Kazuomi, and siblings (actually step-siblings) Akari and Rio. This is a romance shoujo, so you know where all this is going: lots of complex will-they-won't-they and conflicting feelings. We find out at the end of volume 1 that Rio was in love with Akari before their parents met and married. He's determined to ensure they are good to their parents and he never lets Akari know his feelings.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow volume 3 - I'm still not sure about this series (Manga Review)

A teen girl holds another girl's hand against her face
A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 3 - 5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

I'm still not sure about "A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow" as a series. Volume 3 (Viz) only added to that slight unease. I can't quite put my finger on why, but something about it just doesn't feel genuine to me. There are lots of types of yuri out there, I'm just still not sure what type this is and why it needs to be so hard to decipher.

There's a forced quality to the internal dialogue of the characters and there also seems to be a forced confusion about their feelings and what they want. It doesn't feel like the genuine confusion of whether they're gay or not, nor does it feel like the simpler confusion of "am I attracted to this person or not?"

I think if I had to sum it up, the whole thing feels like queer baiting, when there's no need for that. Just make it clear that the purpose of this series is that the girls realize they like girls and that they are in love with each other OR make it clear that the purpose is exploring deep friendship between girls and not about romantic feelings. Either is fine. But by not being clear which of those two paths the series will take, everything feels like baiting without sincerity. I don't have specific examples for that, it's just the general feeling I'm left with in each and every interaction in the three volumes, and volume 3 seems to really be that confused. I just feel like I'm being teased by this series. And not in a good way.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto saved my life (Book Review)

A woman in a white dress stands in front of a picture of a large bowl turned upside down
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto - 8/10

This was hardly the book where I expected to come in contact with the story of a transgender woman. Written in the 1980s, set in Japan, I picked "Kitchen" up because I heard Banana Yoshimoto was a great author and I try to read as many books by women as I can, and I am trying to broaden the number of Japanese authors I read as well. I had absolutely no idea what the book was about.

"Kitchen" tells the story of Mikage, a young woman whose parents passed away when she was young and who grew up in the care of her grandmother who passes away just as the book opens, leaving her without family or connections or money. Mikage is just a normal young adult, working a job, who is now alone. She will face a choice, a silly little moment one night, where either choice she makes is equally fine, but each choice will lead down a very different path for her and another person. That she recognizes this moment for its significance is the beauty of this novel and the ultimate takeaway for our own lives.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Éclair Blanche: a predictably mixed batch of yuri stories (Manga Review)

Two high school girls staring deep into each others eyes
Éclair Blanche - 6/10

I'm not a huge fan of one-shot manga, so anthology collections like Éclair Blanche (Yen Press) aren't meant for me. So before reading my review, feel free to read Erika's over on Okazu since she both can talk about the important history of anthologies in women's literature in Japan as well as being a fan of anthologies in yuri manga. Since I know I'm biased against one-shots, Erika's review serves as a nice counter-point to mine.

Éclair Blanche is the second in the series of Éclair anthologies to be released in English. Like most anthologies, it is many individual stories by many mangakas. Some are cute, some are bittersweet, some are sad. But more to my main point, some are well done, and some...not so much. I enjoyed it none-the-less, but not because it was a consistently high quality collection. I enjoyed it because of the ones I liked and in spite of the ones that were either middling or outright problematic.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Missed it Monday: Wake Up Sleeping Beauty volume 6 - series conclusion (Manga Review)

A teen boy and girl hug while smiling with flowers between them
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.

Wake Up Sleeping Beauty vol. 6 - 8/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

This will be a simple and short review. Wake Up Sleeping Beauty (Kodansha Comics) came to its conclusion with volume 6. It was every bit the satisfying conclusion I'd hoped for in a series that gradually won me over with its sweetness, earnestness, and complete sincerity. It really was a very well done final volume to a wonderful series.

Series summary: Shizu, a young teen, is inhabited by several ghosts. Each one has time where they are in control of her body. They often communicate using a journal to write to one another. Her father and mother think she has multiple personality disorder and her father forces her to stay at home, in the outbuilding on their large property. One day, a new housekeeper, Tetsu, begins working there to prove to his father that he doesn't need to go to college. He believes he can't go to school because his mom is in a coma and her medical bills are hurting the family. By earning a wage, he can help keep her on life support longer.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Perfect World volume 1 strikes a great balance between characters and exploring the reality of living with a physical disability (Manga Review)

A young woman sits in a chair next to a young man in a wheelchair
Perfect World vol. 1 - 7.5/10 (*see scoring rubric below)

Perfect World vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics) by Rie Aruga is a josei manga about a paraplegic man and a young woman who knew each other in high school and reconnect as adults. First, I am so glad to have another josei series released in English. As much as I love my high-school romances, I really do like reading about adults and want a lot more josei to be translated. But, perhaps most importantly, Perfect World seems to do a tremendous job balancing depicting the hard realities of significant physical disability with the romantic genre.

Tsugumi is working to become an interior designer after art school. At a company get together, she is reunited with a former crush from high school, Itsuki, who is now a junior architect at a good firm. They have fun catching up and enjoy their time at the party, but when Itsuki leaves, she notes that he can't get up and that's when he asks the waiter to bring his wheelchair over.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Scientist and the Forger by Jehane Ragai (Book Review)

The Scientist and the Forger - 6/10

If you've been reading this blog for a long time (and I hope you have!) you may remember that one of the things I enjoy reading about the most is art forgery. I love art in general (late 19th century realism and post-impressionism), and I love forgery (Catch Me If You Can is one of my favorite movies, and I have a great personal forgery story from middle school for some other time too). So putting those two things together means art forgery is one of my favorite topics. I love the technical skill, I love the intrigue, I love the ultimate detective work that uncovers the truth, I love the psychology of the forgers. It's the complete package. So when I heard about this book, The Scientist and the Forger, about the intersection of modern analysis techniques with art forgery, I was super excited.

However, in practice, the book doesn't quite achieve what I had hoped. Published in 2015, it's a still pretty current look at state of the art scientific analysis of paintings. Each chapter is devoted to a particular analytic technique and some of the works it's been used on to confirm (or not) their legitimacy. The author tries to strike a balance between a rigorous explanation of the science behind each technique and the increasingly complex machinery needed for that analysis, and descriptions of the stories surrounding the forgeries, or the uncovering of previously unknown masterpieces.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Nameless Asterism volume 5 takes the cheap way out (Manga Review)

three middle school girls and two boys sit on a couch
Nameless Asterism vol. 5 - 7/10 (*see full scoring rubric below).

Nameless Asterism has been both a good and problematic series in turns, and with volume 5 it comes to a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion. There was a lot to like in this volume, but the final resolution to the central love triangle was disappointing. It's going to be hard to talk about this volume without spoilers, so you've been warned. This is a SPOILER HEAVY review of volume 5.

Series summary: Washio likes Kotooka, Kotooka likes Tsukasa, and Tsukasa likes Washio. That's been the dynamic from day one in this series. It follows these middle school girls as they develop their own romantic and (perhaps) sexual awakenings. Each is at a pretty different point of development as well as self-acceptance. But not only are they a love triangle, they are the closest of friends. There's also Asakura who likes Tsukasa and is friends with her brother, Subaru who dresses up like Tsukasa at times. Volume 5 is the final volume in the series and has to bring it all to a close. Sadly, it just can't quite pull it off, it's a slightly flippant ending especially given the angst of this volume.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Convenience Store Woman - liberating views of what is and is not valued by society (book Review)

An onigiri decorated like a young woman sits on a plate, on a pretty fabric napkin on a solid background
Convenience Store Woman - 8/10

I finally got a chance to read Sayaka Murata's "Convenience Store Woman," a quick and quirky novella about a 36 year old woman who has worked in a convenience store in Japan ever since she graduated high school. This book is by turns charming and revealing and was a very fast read.

Keiko, now 36, recounts how she never understood why people thought she was strange. Her actions always seemed logical to her, even in childhood. One amazing example was from elementary school. Two boys were fighting and everyone else was screaming "stop them stop them." So she does the logical thing, gets  a shovel, and beats one on the head. That got him to stop instantly. Problems solved. She can't understand why she was the one in trouble afterwards. So quickly enough she learns that the easiest way to get through the day was to mimic the social conventions of other people even if she didn't understand or care about the conventions (or the people) at all. As a result, she graduated high-school quietly and went on to start university.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Goodbye, My Rose Garden volume 1 isn't historically accurate but it is nice enough (manga review)

Two women, an aristocrat and a maid, are holding hands in a formal rose garden
Goodbye, My Rose Garden vol. 1 - 6/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

I don't normally read historical fiction manga, but as always, I'm so desperate for manga about adult women in relationships with each other that I'll try just about anything. So I bought and read "Goodbye, My Rose Garden" volume 1 (Seven Seas) not sure exactly what I'd find. What I found was a completely unrealistic but still enjoyable first volume in a melodramatic but kind story.

Hanako comes from Japan to England at the beginning of the 20th century looking to meet an author she is obsessed with. When the publisher turns her away, she realizes she has no where to go and no purpose in England. Then she meets Alice Douglas, a wealthy aristocrat in need of a new maid. Alice has Hanako be her personal assistant and they bond over their love of books. Eventually Hanako gets the sense that Alice might be interested in her as more than a friend and the feeling is mutual. However, Alice is engaged to Edward and the gossip is flying in all the circles that Alice used to love a woman, her former governess. Amidst all this, Alice agrees to help Hanako discover the person behind her favorite author's pen name in exchange for a promise, a promise that Hanako will help Alice end her own life.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Fragtime - not what I'd call yuri (Omnibus Manga Review)

Two teen girls in uniforms inside an hour glass
Fragtime (Omnibus) - 3.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Fragtime (Seven Seas) is pretty much the type of yuri I don't like: a shallow understanding of the inner lives of women mixed with fan service that serves no meaningful emotional or plot purpose and instead is just for the titillation of men. This is a review of the omnibus re-release.

Moritani is a high school girl who can stop time for three minutes each day. She uses this in order to escape uncomfortable social situations. As a result of this ability, she hasn't learned social skills and she hasn't learned coping mechanisms, all she knows is how to be alone and run away.

But Moritani's popular classmate, Murikami, is immune to the stoppage of time and begins to use Moritani's abilities to serve her own needs. Thus begins the manipulative, emotionally damaging, and not at all believable "romance" between these two as they both work to heal and learn to be better people. Sort of. Actually, I wish that description fit it better. It wants to be that story, but it really is just an excuse to see girls in underwear and pretend like the author understands the complexity of young women's thinking.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Bloom into You volume 7 hurtles towards the finish line (Manga Review)

Bloom into You vol. 7 - 8/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

We waited a long time between volumes 6 and 7 of Bloom into You (Seven Seas). I waited even longer because of the (rightful) decision by Amazon to delay non-essential shipments during the COVID-19 pandemic. By the time my copy had arrived, I had rewatched the anime, but still felt I needed to reread volume 6. And to be honest, I think that extra time processing both helped me to enjoy volume 7 more than I would have otherwise.

It's still an imperfect series in a lot of ways, but it is also a crucial series in the way Yuu and Maki provide media representation of aromantic/asexual people. Despite a lot of concern and criticism with Yuu finally confessing to Touko at the end of volume 6 and the "inevitability" of their relationship by the time the series ends in volume 8, I still think Yuu provides that representation, which I'll discuss later in this review.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Missed it Monday - Carole & Tuesday Part 2 - too much plot (Anime Review)

Young musicians stand around with their instruments
Missed it Monday is the weekly column where I review manga or anime that I wasn't able to read or watch when they first came out.

Carole & Tuesday - Part 2 - 5.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

There were things I liked and things I struggled with in regards to Part 1 (read my review here) of Carole & Tuesday. Some of those were improved in Part 2, but there were other structural problems in Part 2 that weren't yet apparent in part 1. Overall, Carole & Tuesday, particularly Part 2, could be best summarized as ambitious but not fully realized. It simply tried to do too much in too little time and didn't giving us deeply constructed characters with rich inner lives. Let's review Part 2:

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Blank Canvas volume 4 - now we know the heartbreak (Manga Review)

A young woman with art supplies in a red coat next to a flowering tree
Blank Canvas vol. 4 - 8/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Blank Canvas volume 4 (Seven Seas) continues the memoir of mangaka Akiko Higashimura as her career begins taking off. I love her work and it is amazing to read her manga memoir. All the subtle regret and fear that's been behind the scenes comes to the fore in this volume at its final page cliffhanger. Knowing that this is her real life makes it all the more poignant. I'm hooked, and sad, and sympathetic, and it's totally got me emotionally invested.

My only minor complaint with this volume, is that it did a lot more telling than showing. That's been a structure for the whole series, but it seemed a bit more prevalent in this volume. It's still well worth reading though.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Ao Haru Ride volume 10 - Is Kou losing Futaba to Kikuchi for good? (Manga Review)

A teen girl in her school uniform, looking back at the reader
Ao Haru Ride vol. 10 - 8.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Like all the volumes before it, Ao Haru Ride volume 10 (Shojo Beat/Viz) is some of the best romantic shoujo ever written or drawn. Look, it's not like I'm going to hide just how much I love this series. No review is subjective, but the truth is, this is just such a well executed series, with nothing problematic to detract from its sensitively written characters and interactions, plus amazing art on top of it all. I basically don't have anything to nitpick or gripe about. It's a great volume in a great series.

In volume 10, Kou is really bothered seeing Futaba and Kikuchi dating. While out, Futaba runs into Narumi and apologizes to her. While doing so, Futaba makes clear she still thinks Narumi and Kou are dating. Later, when Futaba runs into Kou on the way home, they talk and separate to go to their own homes. But as they do so, Futaba sees a shooting star, Kou shouts that he saw it too, but Futaba knows he only could have seen it if he had been turned around watching her. What does this mean? She won't let herself go down that path now that she has Kikuchi.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Cocoon Entwined volume 2 - it's just weird (Manga Review)

Two high school girls in uniforms embrace with long flowing hair
Cocoon Entwined vol. 2 - 6/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

I don't know what to say about Cocoon Entwined (Yen Press). It's just weird. Two volumes in and it sort of reminds me of that creepy yuri episode of Flip Flappers. Even more to the point, the entire school and setup of the series is very cult-like. And I think that may actually be the point. I think, as volume 2 unfolded, that I got a clearer sense of what the central plot is going to be.

I had to reread volume 1 before reading volume 2 because volume 2 jumps all over the place time-wise and with a range of characters. I didn't remember as much of volume 1 as I normally would have, probably because of its slightly ethereal and intentionally obtuse writing style. But after rereading volume 1, volume 2 came into better focus.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

If I Could Reach You volume 4 has some actual insight! (Manga Review)

A high-school girl in uniform, sitting outside in the sun
If I Could Reach You vol. 4 - 7/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Much to my surprise, If I Could Reach You volume 4 (Kodansha Comics) actually had a lot going for it this time around. Anyone who has read my reviews of the first three volumes knows that I'm concerned about two things: 1) a potential relationship between an adult and a child, and 2) that the adult seems to be potentially feeding into this. Well, volume 4 leaves us with some hope that the adult will ACT LIKE AN ADULT! There are also some real moments of wisdom presented throughout. I'm more hopeful for this series than I've yet been.

Synopsis of volume 4: Uta designs a valentines menu for the cafe. Kuro is being passive-aggressive with Miyabi because Miyabi has been spending time with her family instead of Kuro. Uta's mom comes back out of nowhere after being absent for five years and says she wants Uta to move back in with her and Uta's father. Uta clearly, really hates her mother. We get the backstory on a friend, Konatsu. And finally, Kaori makes a decision about how to handle Uta's feelings for her, but the volume ends on a cliff hanger. Whew, lots of stuff in this volume.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Missed it Monday - Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volume 2 (Manga Review)

Three 30-something women ready for battle
"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.

Tokyo Tarareba Girls vol. 2 - 8/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Tokyo Tarareba Girls is like "Sex in the City" if the characters were actually working on recognizing and self-reflecting on what not great people they were. This is taken up a notch in volume 2 (Kodansha Comics) where we learn more about Koyuki and Kaori than we did in volume 1, and all three women get themselves into some uncomfortable and complex romantic messes.

In volume 1 we were introduced to three thirty-something and single young women, Rinko, Kaori, and Koyuki. In volume 2, Rinko has just slept with Key, the younger male model, and she's not sure what this means. Key is also seen visiting a grave repeatedly.

We also learn about the one who "got away" (or should we say, was let go) by Kaori. Ryo was an aspiring musician whom she thought wouldn't make it big. Naturally, Key is the model in the videos for Ryo's new, fast rising, band. When they meet again, Ryo is very friendly towards Kaori despite having a girlfriend, and things lead where they lead.

Koyuki meets a man at the restaurant her family owns. As they begin to hit it off, he reveals that he is married, and she consents to an affair anyway.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Hatsu*Haru volume 11 is wholesome (Manga Review)

Two teens in uniforms embrace
Hatsu*Haru vol. 11 - 7.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Hatsu*Haru (Yen Press) started off strong as a series, and has settled into a nice, but conventional middle-age. As it nears its inevitable conclusion, Volume 11 focuses on getting some of the last remaining pairs of teens together in a relationship. It's absolutely kind, sweet, cute, funny, and risk-free. No complaints, I think I've accepted that this series which started with so much promise to exceed expectations is just happy to meet them instead. And that's okay too.

It's the new year, which means new classes. Kai and Riko are split up and Kai is certain that if he's not around, that Riko will forget she even has a boyfriend and just go about her business, given how un-romantic she typically is anyway.

As this is unfolding, it seems like he's forgotten her birthday. But instead, he has spent so much time working on it, only to get distracted at the last minute. When he finally shares with her all that he's been thinking and working on for her, he finally gets the deep loving acknowledgement of their relationship that he's been longing for. It's a really sweet moment.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Conditions of Paradise was actually decent (Manga Review)

Two adult women embrace
The Conditions of Paradise - 6/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

I know I sound a bit surprised in the headline, and honestly I was. The Conditions of Paradise (Seven Seas) is a stand-alone collection of yuri stories, many originally published in Comic Yuri Hime. I wasn't expecting much, I don't tend to like one-shots or brief series, and the nudity on the cover had me highly skeptical about the authenticity of the volume. I'm also not a fan of Akiko Morishima's work Yurikuma Arashi. But while far from perfect, it was better than I expected and some of it was pretty enjoyable. More than anything, it is a yuri manga about adult women! YAY!

The first three stories focus on long-time friends who finally come together romantically. One is a traveling, free-lance journalist who has loved the other one since high-school. The other has recently broken up with her boyfriend. Through a series of current events and flashbacks, we see them make progress, take the slow first steps together, and then become an intimate and close couple.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Missed it Monday - Wish by CLAMP omnibus (Manga Review)

A young man and a young angel embrace
"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.

Wish (Omnibus version) - 5/10 (*See below for full scoring rubric)

I wouldn't exactly say I'm a fan of manga supergroup CLAMP. I've tried to get into Cardcaptor Sakura a few times, but I'm not big on manga with little kids (tbh). However, I loved the art on their series Clover. I needed some stuff to read on a long and unexpected trip so I picked up the hefty omnibus of their series Wish (Dark Horse Publishing) because the art was very much my style - the super long, lean, "older" shoujo style that you don't see as much of today, at least not with what is getting translated into English.

The story itself is a pretty classic and tropey shoujo story: a young angel from heaven (Kohaku) is saved by a tall, reserved, but super handsome young man (28 year old Shuichiro). She promises him a wish, but he can't think of anything, so she decides to live with him until he comes up with one. Kohaku is supposed to be finding a missing angel, Hisui, who turns up having eloped with the son of Satan. The four of them share a house along with another demon and his assistants who frequently drop by as comic relief. Of course, it can't last, because God has other plans. But slowly, Kohaku and Shuichiro fall in love and Shuichiro's complex past an uncertain future come into focus. Will they or won't they end up together?

Friday, March 27, 2020

Carole & Tuesday Part 1 - a surprisingly bland story and characters with uneven racial and LGBTQ+ representation (Anime Review)

3/28/20 *after a series of comments/discussion at the bottom of this post, I wanted to make revisions in my review of Part 1 of Carole & Tuesday to clarify my concerns with some racial and LGBTQ+ stereotypes that bothered me. The commenter helped me to better understand the full context of the show (since I had only watched part 1 to this point) as well as the content creation process and representation in the show. I was still bothered and pulled out of the narrative by some choices that were made, but my original review likely took a heavy handed approach in highlighting these issues. I hope this revision is a more balanced and nuanced appraisal of the effort put into this show as well as the feelings I experienced watching it. As always, this is just my experience and others will have very different ones and thus different opinions, that's what makes art art. I will try and mark my edits as I go through and revise this review with brackets and asterisks [*].

Two young women with instruments
Carole & Tuesday Part 1 - [*5/10] (see below for full scoring rubric)

I had really taken my time even starting Carole & Tuesday (something about it had me skeptical - maybe that it was on Netflix) and then it took me a really long time to watch the first 13 episodes that comprise "part 1" because while I sort of enjoyed each episode in the moment, I didn't feel compelled to whip through it like other series.

But finally, amid too much time on my hands during this work closure, I finally finished part 1. I decided to review the series in two parts rather than as a single series, since it was labeled part 1 and 2 (for some reason). I haven't seen part 2 yet [*so there may be aspects of part 2 that put things in part 1 in a different perspective.]  I also found that writing this review was very tough, because there was a lot to wade through with this show. It ended up being a very long review, so I've put BOLD headings along the way if that helps.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Still Sick volume 2 - well, at least one is an adult lesbian and that's something! (Manga Review)

Two women, in the rain, under one umbrella
Still Sick vol. 2 - 7/10 (*See full scoring rubric below)

Still Sick volume 2 (Tokyopop) shows some real promise for this series. It is a stronger overall volume than the first one, and we get a much clearer sense of each character's strengths and weaknesses, and thus the emotional trajectory we hope for them over the course of the series. It isn't perfect, but it is a series about two adult women finding themselves. They are clearly adults and at least one of them is written as such. It's refreshing to have a yuri series about adults in love. More josei yuri please!!!!

The overall plot of this volume concerns Shimizu and Maekawa's burgeoning friendship outside of the office as Shimizu supports Maekawa trying to get back into being a professional manga artist. Volume 1 ended with a kiss from Maekawa that was supposedly meant only to tease Shimizu, but it clearly confused Shimizu. In this volume, they continue exploring this meaning, Maekawa tries working on an original series, and we learn a lot about their two personalities.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Missed it Monday - Takane & Hana volume 5 (Manga Review)

Young man in suit holding a rose and pointing at the viewer
"Missed it Monday" is the regular column where I review manga/anime that I didn't get to read/watch when they first came out.

Takane & Hana vol. 5 - 5/10 (*See full scoring rubric below)

I must admit, I was starting to get bored with Takane & Hana as I was reading volume 5 (Shojo Beat/Viz). By now, we're familiar with their shtick. It's fine, but it is very broad comedy in a very light romance. I do like Takane's tsundere-meets-arrogant jack ass personality against her very strong, self-assured, but still very caring personality. However, what I wasn't expecting was a random transgender character from Takane's past who got introduced late in this volume.

So for the sake of brevity with the main review: The art is simple and broad like the comedy. I still have problems with an adult (Takane) being in an arranged marriage arrangement (because they aren't yet married) with a high-schooler (Hana). But nothing romantic is happening, and at least they are doing it with her family's knowledge so it's a bit less icky for that reason. If you like very very broad romantic comedies and the stuff above doesn't bother you, then Takane & Hana is sure to please. Yadda, yadda, yadda, I feel like every review I write of this series says the same thing. So let's talk about Rino, a transgender woman who appears in this volume.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Love Me, Love Me Not volume 1 too cliche'd or just enough? (Manga Review)

two high school girls in uniforms, standing back to back, smiling and linking arms
Love Me, Love Me Not vol. 1 - 8/10 (*See full scoring rubric below)

It is my distinct pleasure to bring you the start of a new Io Sakisaka (Ao Haru Ride, Strobe Edge) series with Love Me, Love Me Not volume 1 (Shojo Beat/Viz). Ao Haru Ride in both manga and anime form is simply one of the greatest shojo series ever. Yes, I really mean ever. So my anticipation was great for her new series, and thankfully, volume 1 didn't let me down.

Is Love Me, Love Me Not vol. 1 perfect? No, but what little doubt I still have is easily assuaged by my trust in Sakisaka-sensei as a creator. Ao Haru Ride is the perfect example of a series in which there are no big dramatic elements, no dramatic characters, very little that actually happens, and yet is so deeply moving, heartfelt, engaging, and sympathetic that you just want to keep living forever with the characters. Love Me, Love Me Not has a very similar feel already. The biggest question mark for me is where does it go from the big reveal at the end of volume 1.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Daytime Shooting star volume 5 - what is Shishio thinking?! (Manga Review)

Daytime Shooting Star volume 5 - 5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

There are two saving graces with this series, 1) a regular reader of this blog assures me it will end in a satisfying and appropriate way and 2) in volume 5, the mangaka, Mika Yamamori, seems to acknowledge how problematic Shishio's behavior is and that suggests that she is aware and going to course correct. With that in mind, although I can't ignore the problematic aspects of this series/volume, I will try and relax a bit in my vehemence. On to the review of Daytime Shooting Star, volume 5 (Shojo Beat/Viz).

It's time for the school festival and Suzume's classroom is putting on a classic cafe with the girls in maid costumes and the boys in tuxes. Suzume's uncle brings Shishio, her teacher, into the cafe. Suzume is about to (nervously) seat him when Mamura takes over, and coldly at that.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Missed it Monday - Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty volume 5 (Manga Review)

A high-school girl with her eyes closed and a contented smile stretches up into the light, surrounded by roses
"Missed it Monday" is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't get a chance to read/watch when they first came out.

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty vol. 5 - 8/10 (*See full scoring rubric below)

I was already really liking Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty, but volume 5 (Kodansha Comics) cemented it for me. I think this was probably the strongest volume yet in the series with extremely powerful writing alternating between heartbreak, heartwarming, cute, intense, sad, warm, you name the emotion and this volume had it. And even though it had some slightly over-dramatic setups, they all worked as part of the whole and started pulling a bunch of threads together in some very interesting ways. Needless to say, I'm super excited for the concluding volume (volume 6).

Saturday, March 14, 2020

O Maidens in Your Savage Season volume 6 was polar extremes (Manga Review)

A teen boy and girl in uniform with their backs to each other with lilies
O Maidens in Your Savage Season vol. 6 - 6.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

I’m not sure where O Maidens in Your Savage Season is going as a series. In the first volume, it really felt like a fairly realistic, but comical, examination of puberty from the female perspective. However, by volume 6 (Kodansha Comics), the series is struggling to balance that realism against some very intense, and not altogether believable, drama. And it isn't so much the drama that's the issue, as the lack of story or authorial critique of that drama that concerns me. What message are we to be taking from this?

In volume 6, Kasuzu and Izumi have finally started dating. They have fun together on the way to school, but are super awkward with each other when she comes over to his house. I totally remember the feeling of not knowing what I should do once I started dating my high-school girlfriend. This scene was perfectly depicted, right down to each of them thinking that theirs are the hands that are sweating when they hold each other’s.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Shortcake Cake volume 7 inches things forward - but where's Rei? (Manga Review)

A highschool boy and girl back to back
Shortcake Cake vol. 7 - 5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Shortcake Cake vol. 7 (Shojo Beat/Viz) wasn't bad, nor was it good. It was just sort of there. Given that the middle third of it was consumed with the already cute Ten feeling like she needed to pretty herself up in a way that wasn't who she normally was, I ended up being more disappointed in this volume than just bored.

Ten has just confessed to Riku. But instead of waiting for an answer from Riku, she thinks he no longer likes her and declares that she'll make him come around. He, either being sweet or sadistic, plays along even though he's still madly in love with her. She then goes through a period of trying to make herself look more desirable (ughhh), which is unfortunate because the beany-hat wearing Ten from the early volumes was totally cute as she was.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Missed it Monday - Love at Fourteen volume 7 (Manga Review)

Two middle school students in school uniforms hold hands in front of a wall of flower bushes
"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.

Love at Fourteen vol. 7 - 6.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

After the mixed bag that was volume 6 (great Kanata/Kazuki relationship stuff, problematic Nagai/Hinohara-sensei relationship stuff), Love at Fourteen volume 7 (Yen Press) takes a mostly calmer, lower-key stance. At least, until it doesn't. But that big emotional kick comes as Hinohara-sensei appears to finally be wrestling with just how wrong it is that she feels romantically attracted to a fourteen-year-old.

The first major story portion covers the school newspaper researching ghost stories around the school. It's light-hearted, but we get to see an interesting side of Kanata. She's actually pretty scared but won't let on for a while, instead acting quite intensely angry towards Kazuki. This level of intensity is new, but also makes sense for a teen and it's nice to see another facet of her personality (and how they resolve it together).

Friday, March 6, 2020

My Androgynous Boyfriend volume 1 wasn't what I was expecting (Manga Review)

My Androgynous Boyfriend Vol. 1 - 6/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

On first read, I was disappointed with My Androgynous Boyfriend vol. 1 (Seven Seas). It didn't in any way conform to my hopes or expectations given its title. But after knowing that, I read it again.

On second read, reading it for what it was (instead of what I wanted it to be), I found it to be enjoyable, cute, and sweet. It still wasn't what I hoped, but it wasn't bad either. That's the problem with expectations. It's also the problem when you are desperately searching for representation and mirrors in the world. It's hard not to place all your hopes and expectations into someone else's work and expect it to be what you need, rather than what they intended.

I wanted My Androgynous Boyfriend to really focus on a gender non-conforming individual and dig into the inner and social complexities of gender non-conformity and/or the non-binary experience. In many ways, I was hoping for a dramatic piece that would be a combination of the tone of "Our Dreams at Dusk" and the non-binary character Ciel from Sophie Labelle's comic "Assigned Male." I wanted to see that representation, to gain insight into their experience, learn from it, and find parts of my own experience mirrored in it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Our Wonderful Days volume 2 - who's it for really? (Manga Review)

two teen girls shopping for fruit at an outdoor market
Our Wonderful Days vol. 2 - 5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Our Wonderful Days volume 2 (Seven Seas) really left me wondering who the target audience is. Is it for girls and women who want to explore the intimate friendships and relationships that are possible between women or is it for boys and men who like to think about cute girls getting together?

In many ways, the closest analog I can find for it is the anime Minami-ke (I haven't read the manga, so I can only speak to the show). The Minami-ke manga is a seinen manga, and the show features a trio of sisters and their female friends, with only the occasional male character. It's one of those shows about cute girls doing cute things cutely. There's no real plot to it, sort of a slice of life, but with an underlying titillating tension of knowing that you are objectifying and sexualizing the girls.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Missed it Monday - Love at Fourteen volume 6 (Manga Review)

A middle school boy and girl in uniform walk outside in the fall leaves
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't read or watch when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 6 - 5/10 (*see full scoring rubric at the end)

Love at Fourteen volume 6 (Yen Press) continues the series' mix of amazingly cute relationships with some problematic elements. It has some really strong moments when it focuses on the main couple of Kanata and Kazuki. But there is a pretty concerning set of events between the teacher, Hinohara-sensei, and her student, Nagai, that detract from the volume in my mind.

Volume 6 is situated around two main events, the class trip and the school cultural festival. On the class trip, the girls are all talking about the boys, who's confessed to whom, and all that stuff. They assume that the "mature" Kanata has lots of love experience, but she's still pretty naive. On the other side, the boys are all talking about how awesome it is to see the girls in their pajamas and that sort of stuff. This gets Kazuki's mind spinning about how much he wants to move things along with Kanata.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Citrus+ volume 1 is actually really good (Manga Review)

Two teen girls in love, holding hands
Citrus+ vol. 1 - 7.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Much to my surprise, I really liked Citrus+ volume 1 (Seven Seas). It's got all the good parts of the original series, Citrus, with none of the exploitative parts. I was more than pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it.

For those who somehow missed the original series, Citrus, Yuzu's mom marries Mei's dad and the two become step sisters. Yuzu is rambunctious and loud-mouthed and full of joy and Mei is serious, reserved, the president of the school council, and hell-bent on taking over for her grandfather as the chairman of the company (and their school). Naturally, these two step-sisters fall in love with each other and (SPOILER) the original series ends with them coming out to their family and getting the grandfather's blessing for their relationship and "engagement" (which is actually sort of an amazing sequence for a manga).

All that is wonderful plot, and the growing affections between them, and the cuteness that follows when they finally get together make Citrus worth reading. However, it's also an extremely salacious series with way too much fan service. There were also some very questionable and manipulative side characters, particularly Matsuri, and lots of overly dramatic plot created by her and other sketchy characters. But I found myself so liking Yuzu and Mei that I tolerated the rest of what was a very problematic series overall. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Kase-san and Yamada volume 1 is sure to please (Manga Review)

Two college girls with their arms around each other on a background of flowers
Kase-san and Yamada vol. 1 - 8.5/10 (* see below for full scoring rubric)

Do you like kind, sweet, yuri? Did you like the Kase-san series? Did you wait with baited breath for the Kase-san OVA? Then you'll be happy to know that Kase-san and Yamada volume 1 (Seven Seas) continues in just the same sweet and rewarding fashion.

I for one really liked the prior series and so I was bound to like this too. What's nice, and what I'm excited about as this series continues, is that it is set in college. It's rare enough to have a manga set in college, rarer still for it to be a quality yuri manga, and even more rare to get a series that follows characters long enough to see them grow and change from adolescents into adults. Kase-san and Yamada is poised to cover all that. Will we even get to see them as post-grad adults some day? (yes, I'm already planning their wedding and raising kids, etc...)

In the first half of the volume, Yamada makes a friend at her horticulture school. She's invited to attend a group date and decides to go in order to strengthen her new friendship. As she's telling Kase-san about it, Kase lets her know that she's going on a sports trip during the week. Yamada also hears Kase-san's new roommate in the background. Getting jealous, Yamada insists on going on the group date over Kase-san's objections.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow volume 2 - is it teasing me? (Manga Review)

Two school girls, surrounded by fish. One smiling, one concerned
A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 2 - 6/10

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 2 (Viz) has the same cute insignificance as its prior volume, but because volume 2 doesn't go anywhere or develop anything, it feels more like I'm being teased than getting any real relationship development out of the characters. I'm not sure I really know what type of yuri series this is yet.

Background: Konatsu has moved to a small rural town and entered school where she meets Koyuki the head of the aquarium club. I think they're middle schoolers, and I'm going to treat it as such, because that's how they look and are presented emotionally. Koyuki is a loner without friends but talks to Konatsu. They become friends and Konatsu even joins the aquarium club. 

Before discussing volume 2 specifically, I feel the need to take a segue and talk about some of the different types of yuri manga and manga about lesbian relationships.