Rating: 4/5 – When the cherry blossoms bloom, love is in the air…
Yaoi manga (stories involving relationships between two men) have been available for some time in the mainstream Western comics market, but it has taken a considerable amount of time for its counterpart – Yuri – to make the same pilgrimage. When I was a humble manga reviewer for another website, I was given a considerable amount of yaoi manga to review. Which I did, even though it really wasn’t my cup of tea (my wife, however, loved it, as yaoi manga has a huge female readership). I remained hopeful that one day I would get to read about the flip side, and review some yuri manga. Sadly, that day never came under the old gig, but since I’m here at Comic Spectrum, yuri has started to become available and by heaven, I’m going to review it!
Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink is a collection of short stories (built around one longer one) in an omnibus-sized tankobon about life at Sakurakai High School, an all-girls institution where love blooms among several young women in the student body. Created by Milk Morinaga, author of the excellent two-part series Girl Friends (also available from Seven Seas), it gives us short-form glimpses into the world of yuri, as well as one extended tale that shows how long it can take to build up to the eventual romantic climax.
It should be pointed out to those of you reading this and expecting to go out and purchase a certain type of story that, if you’re looking for that type of story, yuri will leave you disappointed. While you’ll find some nudity and the occasional graphic scene of sexual content, for the most part these are love stories. Those looking for page after page of fanservice, extreme sex or some kind of perverted male fantasy about what happens when two women are alone together, look elsewhere. Yuri deals much more with the psychological idea of a woman falling in love with another woman than the physical idea. In most of the yaoi I reviewed, it didn’t take long for the two male protagonists to get down to business. In the yuri I’ve read, there’s a whole lot of “foreplay” in terms of characters questioning whether what they’re feeling is really love, or if the other person loves them back, or what will everyone around them think. Looking for something a bit more lewd? To be sure, it’s out there, but you probably don’t want to look here.
That said, I enjoyed reading this book, as well as Girl Friends, because character development goes a long way with me, and Morinaga doesn’t pull any punches or shy away from certain elements like one character’s concern over what the rest of her classmates will think when the truth finally gets out. In the longer story, we’re faced with one girl who has known from the beginning that she’s in love with another, but it takes a considerable amount of time for the other person to come to terms with it. In other words, it’s the journey, not the destination, that makes a good yuri tale worth the read. Morinaga has a wonderful shojo-oriented style that she brings to each tale, so if you’re a fan of that particular kind of artwork, you’ll be pleased on that front as well. If the book fails anywhere, it’s only the same failing that many short story compilations face: some stories are simply better than others in the collection.
Overall, this would be a good way for those interested in exploring a different kind of comic storytelling to “dip their foot in the pool”, so to speak. My hope is that it will open the doors for other yuri titles to find their way over to our side of the western pond. Those expecting more prurient tales may be a bit disappointed in what they find, but anyone who enjoys a good love story with solid artwork will be glad they picked this one up.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – firstname.lastname@example.org
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