Friday, March 17, 2023

The Girl that Can't Get a Girlfriend (Manga Review)

Two women on the front cover, one drawn in precise manga style the other in a more cartoony way. The precisely drawn one is putting her hand up to say "no" to the other who is presenting her with a heart shaped flower
    "The Girl that Can't Get a Girlfriend" by Mieri Hiranishi is an auto-biographical LGBTQ manga. In keeping with my general philosophy towards auto-biographical works, I will not be commenting on the story or characters themselves because those are real people and real events, so it's not for me to dissect them. Also, out of respect for the author, this is their work and their life, and they should be proud to have it out there for the world to see. That's a very brave thing.
    All that being said, I wanted to love "The Girl that Can't Get a Girlfriend" but I didn't. It was okay, just okay. I think it suffers in comparison to some extraordinary works, particularly "My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness" which is extraordinary on so many levels, that most things will pale in comparison. But I also think about graphic novels like "Fun Home" or "It's Lonely at the Centre of the Earth" or even "Hyperbole and a Half" and unfortunately "The Girl..." just doesn't compete.

Adachi and Shimamura Volume 4 (Manga Review)

Two high school firls walking past a stairwell in a school, one tugs on the others sleeve
    I know I'm going to take flak for this, but I just continue to not really like "Adachi and Shimamura" and even after re-reading Volume 4 several times, it's just not doing anything for me. Of course, your tastes might be different, what connects with you will be different than what connects with me, and I recognize that the light novels are much beloved. So take my thoughts with a grain of salt if you're a fan of the light novels.
    Volume 4 centers around Adachi becoming jealous/insecure that Shimamura is talking to other students in their new class, Shimamura reconnecting with a slightly strange old friend, and Adachi begging her way into a sleepover at Shimamura's house. 

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey (Book Review)

Two diamond engagement rings, one pointing up and one pointing down linked at the bottom of their band. The next of the cover is written around the book and upside down at parts
    I'm not a huge fan of contemporary fiction. That's not exactly true. I just don't read much of it because I'm not interested in much of it. But there is a lot of wonderful contemporary fiction out there and I'm very pleased to say that "The Echo Wife" by Sarah Gailey is one of those.
    I was in a bookstore, just randomly browsing, not intending to buy anything, but a clerk had written a brief description of this book and it was enough to make me want to buy it. This won't be a review exactly, but perhaps my attempt to do for you what that clerk's write-up did for me.
    "The Echo Wife" could be summed up as a modern gothic near-future (futurist?) feminist novel. It centers around a woman, her ex-husband, the other woman, and human cloning. Neither woman is exactly likeable, but both are easy to root for despite their flaws. This is feminism in the best sense in that we have empowered women, struggling against a variety of patriarchal forces, but they aren't perfect people. They are flawed and unique and messy (very!) and the fact that we empathize so deeply with both of them while also recognizing their flaws is an evidence of the author's mastery of craft. 
    The narrative and prose are tightly constructed and well executed. If I had any qualms, it's that I'm still digesting the very very very ending. After a first reading, it feels just slightly less thought through than the rest of the book which is so perfectly built that I'm not sure the ending works. However, it may also be an ending that grows on me over time. Or, perhaps, it is intentionally not as tight as the rest for one of two possible reasons: 1) it's showing the main character's increasing release from her past trauma in that she is less studious and purposeful, and/or 2) that we are meant to question how things might unravel after the novel. It's that last part that has me unsettled. I guess time and re-readings will tell.
    Basically, if you like gothic and victorian proto-feminist works but want a modern (slightly futurist) setting with less angelic characters who are flawed but engaging that is well written, "The Echo Wife" is sure to please. I highly recommend it.


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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