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~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Yuri Monogatari Vol. 4 by various 
2nd-Dec-2006 11:59 pm
Golden
Full Disclosure: 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: 5.5/10 - 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.
Comments 
3rd-Dec-2006 08:11 pm (UTC)
Maybie Im an awful person, but all Ive got to say to that project in general is "feh".
3rd-Dec-2006 08:34 pm (UTC)
Darkzel: Didn't you submit something to this once? I recall you speaking fondly of it back then, as a matter of fact you were the one who sort of intro'd me to it because at the the time I had no clue it existed until you said you'd submitted. :/

Kethylia: I've yet to pick it up myself, and because I have no interest in yuri, I likely wont, but I wonder...will ALC ever promote a 'line' of yuri from creators with graphic novel length works? I know with Iris Print's debut anthology When Worlds Collide, it was hard to tell if it was in fact manga, or comic in regard to how fans would take it. Do you think various styles in anthology format are a weakness or a strength?
3rd-Dec-2006 08:59 pm (UTC)
I think I can give you a pretty probable answer to your 'line' question: no. :/ If anything, I think ALC would be more interested in licensing the by-women-for-women yuri that will probably never be brought over by bigger companies. Considering that Yuri Monogatari isn't a paying anthology anyways, I don't think ALC has the budget to do a line of graphic novels.
3rd-Dec-2006 10:06 pm (UTC)
:/ Yeah...in terms of 7S, it seems to be that the only 'yuri' they're touting is the heavy fan-serve variety; but when you think about it--it's how most BL licensors started as well. No one brought over much substantial plot itensive BL titles--most of them, still don't 0_0. What annoys me is, anything western HAS to have some intellectual appeal, because if it doesn't, it gets raked over the coals. I digress.

3rd-Dec-2006 10:45 pm (UTC)
Waitaminute..."plot-intensive" BL!???? I thought that was a contradiction in terms. :P Err, what do you consider plot-intensive BL, anyway? (No, seriously.)

Actually, a lot of the earliest BL brought over to the US had some sort of plot. Like Fake and Kizuna--only problem being, of course, that even fluffier stuff did better. DMP brought over Antique Bakery (yeah, yeah, not BL, but the artist would never have done that sort of wonderful story if not constrained by Wings in the first place, so THANK YOU Shinshokan), which has quite a story, and they're starting to do Yamada Yugi, who is one of my all-time favs as far as good BL short stories go.
3rd-Dec-2006 11:06 pm (UTC)
Waitaminute..."plot-intensive" BL!???? I thought that was a contradiction in terms. :P Err, what do you consider plot-intensive BL, anyway? (No, seriously.)

You've got a seriously good point there. 0_0. Yamada Yugi wasn't the first wave though...her work did open the door at least, in showing that somewhere out there, was a manga with gay romance for older readers, that wasn't about gushy love juice, 20 positions in a span of 10 ten minutes, and AHN AHN AHN as actual legitimate dialogue.

Kizuna only suffers because of who's leasing it... >_> and Fake, hmmmm no.

I was happy to see BLU pick up G&J, but even DramaQueen picked up Love/Not Love from Kano Miyamoto - so there's hope yet for actual BL with...*gasp* plottage?

3rd-Dec-2006 11:18 pm (UTC)
I'm still waiting for someone to pick up Kunieda Saika. She's amazing, too. Right up there with Yoshinaga, Yamada, and Miyamoto.
4th-Dec-2006 02:27 am (UTC) - Sorry for the plot spam
Awwww The only thing I had translated for me that I like by her was Natsujikan. I even wrote a short story because I was so inspired by that manga--I called it, Summers Past. It's about this Jewish writer, who's at this book signing, and he looks across the room and he sees this popular gay BDSM writer who's known for his 'pro white stance'. Anyway, he reflects back on the summer he met the guy, [the guy was a local beach kid] and they had a fling--but he'd never take off shirt. So finally the kid follows him home, and finds that he lives in a decrepit trailer, with an abusive step-dad [the typical trash] and the sees from a distance as the guy he's made love to for the first time, finally takes off his shirt, and there's this big ass swastika tattooed on his this kids back.

It was his first heartbreak. Of course he ends up underneath the guy after the book signing, and that's how the story starts--he's trying to figure out what the hell he's doing underneath this guy...

I need to get a real copy editor and clean it up and submit somewhere. You know who intro'd me to that manga? Hou. This artist here: Hoh, http://nicola.jpn.org/
4th-Dec-2006 03:09 am (UTC) - Re: Sorry for the plot spam
The first manga I read of hers was Natsu Jikan, but, to be honest, I like the stuff she did as Sakai Kunie a lot more. Hanazakari no Niwa was just...WOW. It made Natsu Jikan look like mere indigestion after the fact.

Anyway, I offer my editing services, but I wouldn't call myself a "real copy editor" (whatever in the heck that is, so perhaps not what you're looking for). Though I'm highly trained in writing pedagogy. ^_~
4th-Dec-2006 03:26 am (UTC) - Re: Sorry for the plot spam
Dude, I'd love to have someone do clean up copy on my work--it's an 11 page story, but it's so poorly written, I think I'd embarrass myself. How much you charge per page?



4th-Dec-2006 02:47 pm (UTC) - Re: Sorry for the plot spam
I used to charge .5 cents per word for just proofreading and 1.5 cents per word for total editing. I'm not sure how intensive you want to get, but if you just want me to look it over and tell you what I think, well, I'd never charge for that.
4th-Dec-2006 03:12 pm (UTC) - Re: Sorry for the plot spam
Hmmm nah. I'm embarassed by it. >_> It's prose and I'm not good at that. :(
Yeah...even I have emo-issues when it comes to my work.
4th-Dec-2006 07:12 pm (UTC) - Re: Sorry for the plot spam
Ah well. It sounded like the perfect sort of story for one of those Alyson anthologies... XD
3rd-Dec-2006 10:37 pm (UTC)
ALC doesn't have a "line" per se, but they HAVE published two single-artist graphic novels: Rica 'tte Kanji!? and WORKS. The latter was originally a doujinshi.

Do you think various styles in anthology format are a weakness or a strength?

Personally, I think too much theme/genre/stylistic variation is an inherent weakness--one of those "trying to be everything but ending up as nothing" sorts of things--but you can get away with it IF the contents are consistent in quality. Otherwise, it's like putting, oh, Narise Konohara and Yukio Mishima in the same anthology. *cringes* Totally disastrous, especially from a marketing perspective.
3rd-Dec-2006 10:59 pm (UTC)
Otherwise, it's like putting, oh, Narise Konohara and Yukio Mishima in the same anthology.

But gee wizz, they'r both Japanese, right?
LMAO!
3rd-Dec-2006 11:04 pm (UTC)
And novelists who write sympathetically about men-on-men. So what's the problem? :P
3rd-Dec-2006 11:15 pm (UTC)
LOL! It's perfect I tell you. Let's toss it all together, print it, and put it out in stores.
3rd-Dec-2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
I must admit that it depresses me, though, when I see amazing artists back-to-back with well-meaning wannabes. Kristina K. in particular stands shoulder-to-shoulder with a lot of pro manga artists in Japan, and she's got a style that's A) instantly identifiable and B) LOOKS LIKE MANGA *gasp*.
4th-Dec-2006 04:49 pm (UTC) - A couple of comments from ALC
I want to take a moment to address some of your comments, in no particular order or urgency. :-)

I feel that your implication that shrinkwrapping the book is, in some way, meant to keep people from seeing the contents is a bit harsh. We were specifically requested to shrinkwrap the books by many sellers, because of the adult content.

Also the reproduction issue. It's not so much that the reproduction differs, as the original source art differs. Some of the stories are done as pencil drawings, which reproduce completely differently than do fully inked pages. You're used to seeing primarily the latter.

And not particularly last or least, I have to say that the very *point* of our anthologies is to have as wide and various a series of styles and stories. That is not accidental, or capricious. I refuse to put out a book with the same schoolgirl/coming out stories over and over repeatedly in roughly the same style over and over. If you look at the huge variety even in between the three Japanese artists for this collection, you can see that there is no one dominant style. Which is the way I want it.

I can't argue whether a story is good or bad...that's always totally personaly, but gosh I am sorry you didn't like "Ichigo Hime" - that's one of my favorite stories in the collection. I love Akiko Morishima's art, and I think it's a refreshingly cute little interlude.

Thanks for taking time out to review "YM4".

Cheers,

Erica

Looking for yuri manga where the girl gets the girl? ALC Publishing has what you want!
http://www.yuricon.org/shop/

Yuricon - "For real women who like their women...animated."
http://www.yuricon.org
1st-Jan-2007 06:18 am (UTC)
Review archived.
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