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.

The biggest take-away for me with this volume was three different stories all of which had remarkably good punch-lines on the final pages. "Happy Yellow Chick" by Musshu, "Always in Profile" by the great Nio Nakatani, and "The Princess and the Knight for Two Days a Week" by Taki Kitao all delivered that final perfect moment at the end of their stories. Sadly, the art in "The Princess and the Knight" left a lot to be desired, especially some bad facial anatomy in a couple of panels. One particular panel was so bad I'm surprised an editor let it through. Ah well, the punch-line at the end was worth it!

The bittersweet "Graduation Piercing" by Izumi Kawanami was short but poignant with an interesting perspective. It was told from the point of view of the girl who IS the crush, the one who couldn't reciprocate, rather than being told from the point of view of the girl with the unrequited crush. It worked (other than the ear licking scene - I'm sorry but that's got to be just as bad for infection as touching the new piercing with your hand - here's a wikipedia article on wound licking - apparently the evidence is mixed in humans on saliva's disinfectant properties).

"Let Me Keep This Secret" by Eri Ejima also had an interesting art style. It was an okay story, but the art definitely made it stand out. It reminded me a little of the style from "O Maidens in Your Savage Season." There was also a good moment of learning for me, right in line with what I'm working on with my therapist, where one girl denies the other girl a kiss because she beat around the bush and didn't just ask outright. I'm learning to put my needs and feelings into words more directly so that others have a chance to reciprocate. Maybe this will help me learn to do so!

Other stories like "Azalea Corner" by Kazuno Yuikawa were so confoundingly, and abstractly, written as to be nearly impossible to really follow. Whereas stories like "The Evolution of Bed Sharing" while cute, is not particularly realistic for how actual human beings interact. I get it, it's a comedy story, so it's fine for cute comedy, but...meh.

Of course, it wouldn't be a review by me if I didn't rail against the depictions of children and adults as couples in manga. There were two stories in which this occurred. In Canno's "The Unemployed Woman and the High School Girl" a high school girl is obsessed with an almost thirty-year-old lesbian and the lesbian actually befriends her and lets the girl in her house knowing how strong her feelings are. And in "Secret Sharing" by Auri Hirao one of the two girls is dating a high-school teacher.

At least in Canno's story, there is some critique about a relationship between a child and an adult being wrong. The adult pushes the child away as they almost kiss, thinking in her head that she would be "stealing all those possibilities [from her]" ie making her grow up too fast, not having the chance to meet people her own age, etc... She even says outright: "Didn't I tell you I wasn't interested in dating children?"

But in Hirao-sensei's story, there is never a critique of the high-schooler dating her teacher. Additionally, this story had some real untapped potential. It's features a girl who is actually a magical girl, but not in the big mythological sense of Sailor Moon or Madoka, just a random girl who just happens to be a magical girl. There are cute moments where she's trying to make sure her secret doesn't get out. The art also has an unusual style. But it was spoiled by a complete non-resolution to the teacher dating issue, and no real point to the story. It was unrealized potential.

There are many other stories as well in this volume. The ones I didn't discuss were the ones that were fine but middling. But of course, different readers respond to different things so you might like some of them. There are a total of 15 in this version. I get the sense that a 16th story was left out of the English printing. I have no idea why. Anyone care to share?

So, like most anthologies, it was quite a mixed bag. There was some great art by both known and lesser known mangakas. There was also some bland art and some not yet professional art. There were some great stories, some great moments, and there were some...other stories with...other moments. As always, YMMV! But overall, as a collection, I'd give it a 6/10, the good ones made it worth getting through the others.


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.

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  1. Your senses are right. Japanese edition has 16 entries. Perhaps Yen Press will explain better. But, short answer why one is missing: loli. Common for that artist who contributes to Éclair too.

    1. That would make sense, and frankly, wouldn't have improved my thoughts on this volume at all. Definitely not a loli fan. To each their own, I suppose! Thanks for the clarification.


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