Reviewed here at the request of the editor.Friedman, Erica, ed. Yuri Monogatari. Vol. 4. ALC Publishing, 2006. Summary
: An anthology of nine yuri-themed one-shots and short strips by writers and artists from around the world. Comments
: Though of course one must always expect a multi-author, small press anthology to boast contents that differ widely in quality, the sheer variation of this book on every level is absolutely dizzying. At its absolute worst, we have virtually meaningless (unless you think cute art is meaning enough) shorts like "Ichigo Hime" by Akiko Morishima that aren't worth even the minimal number of pages they consume in the anthology and interesting vignettes like "Tales of Destruction" by Beth Malone that are wholly done in by clumsy art and page layouts. Then there are the stories that evince tremendous--and most likely youthful--enthusiasm but are amateur in every respect and whose creators would never have been given the time of day elsewhere at another publisher. Right in the middle of it all, literally and figuratively, is "Cog" by Althea Keaton, retreading the overworn Android as Metaphor for Oppressed Minority Group dystopian sci-fi story. Neither her artwork nor her storyline truly match the initial ambition of the theme, but at least she hits upon an emotionally poignant moment when her human character cannot overcome her prejudices. Of quality, but likely to be underappreciated by American audiences, are the collection of four-panel slice-of-life strips by Rica Takashima. A technique and aesthetic made famous in Japan by Machiko Hasegawa's Sazae-san
, it has no equivalent in the US and is often regarded as overly insipid.
And finally, there are "Kissing the Petals" by Tomomi Nakasora and "Happiness" by Kristina K. Yuri fans already know that the Yuri Monogatari
series is a must-have on their own bookshelves, but these two stories make this volume worth checking out to any comic and/or manga connoisseurs. Nakasora gives her ladies manga a stylish lesbian flair and a graceful, traditionally Japanese undertone of unspoken tragedy. Meanwhile, Kristina K., an under-recognized talent anchoring the anthology series since at least the second volume, returns with a ghost story tinged with elegant magic realism that reminds me surprisingly of avant-garde mangaka Yuko Tsuno. (If you don't know who SHE is, check her out, too.) Both of these stories are well-worth the price of entry to any highbrow reader and are the sort of thing we in the US would never in a million years have had the chance to see if it weren't for ALC Publishing.
Overall, though, I feel that Yuri Monogatari
continues to lack genuine coherency. The self-proclaimed yuri theme just isn't enough! Quality and style, in particular, vary far too much. (Even the quality of the image reproduction seems to differ at random spots, with some pages clear and others pixelated. What the...?!) Stories like "Bittersweet Melody" just do not belong in the same book as stories like "More Rica 'tte Kanji!?"...and in the end the admixture does everyone a huge disservice. First of all, the painful inexperience of some creators unfairly reflects negatively on all. But even more importantly, are the manga fans who read stuff like Happy Mania
going to read Crayon Shin-chan
, too? Probably not. Moreover, the anthology at times tries to bridge the gap between Japanese manga and indie Western comics--which I think is an attempt that is destined to be DOA for the foreseeable future. So why do we assume those interested in yuri to be more monolithic? Any who try browsing the book (which came to me shrink-wrapped, but we all know how long that DOESN'T last in bookstores) aren't going to to be able to see what might appeal to them amidst all the stuff that obviously doesn't. The anthology paradoxically excludes new readership by casting its net too widely. Notes
: A5 paperback, 1st edition, 1st printing Rating
- A couple of luminaries here are sure to wow the discriminating reader, and this is indeed their best yet, but we've yet to see all the yuri genre--or ALC Publishing--has to offer.