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.